Vale drug store’s gift tree puts gifts under tree for local kids

Marci Morrow, Vale, chats with Santa at Malheur Drug’s ‘Kids Only Shopping Day’ last week. In addition to that special event, the local business works with the Vale School District to host a giving tree program that provides toys and other items for needy families at Christmas. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

VALE – Adam and Jen Tolman want everyone to have a good Christmas.

That’s why the owners of Malheur Drug in Vale work with the Vale School District to sponsor a giving tree that provides gifts and other needed items to local families during the holidays.

Lisa Barrett, Vale High School counselor, spearheads the program.

“Teachers, school secretaries or any staff member, submit names based on comments from parents. Their name then goes on a list. Then I send out a letter inviting them to participate in the program,” said Barrett.

The letter, said Barrett, seeks clothing size and toy suggestions.

“Our goal is to get them one outfit and a toy so there is at least something under the tree,” said Barrett.

Barrett promoted the program for more than 20 years and said volunteers play a big role wrapping presents and delivering the gifts just before Christmas. Barrett uses a color-coded tracking system to ensure the gifts and cloths get to the right family.

“Some people do exactly what is on the tag and some do more,” said Barrett.

She said typically the program helps out between 10 and 15 families a year.

“Vale is very generous,” said Barrett.

Once the tags are filled out, Barrett delivers them to Tolman, who places them on the small giving tree at Malheur Drug. Local residents who want to help out a family during the holidays, pick up a tag.

“You grab the tag and buy what you want. You don’t have to buy everything,” said Tolman.

Tolman said the tags don’t stay on the tree very long. This year, he said, the tags were gone in a week.

“I had one customer come in when I was just getting the tags loaded. They grabbed eight tags and came back later with 10 bags of supplies and then picked a couple more,” said Tolman.

The Tolmans have supported the Christmas cooperative effort for more than 10 years.

“It is just what you do at Christmastime,” said Jennifer Tolman.

Adam Tolman said as soon as the tags are on the tree he gets the word out via Facebook.

“And a lot of times it is word-of-mouth,” said Tolman.

Local residents, he said, expect the giving tree to be at Malheur Drug.

“People will walk in and ask, ‘Do you guys have the giving tree up yet?’” said Tolman.

Tolman said there isn’t a limit on the number of tags.

“We take as many as they will give us,” said Tolman.

Once a tag is filled, Tolman said he stores the gifts and other items.

“We go through and make sure everyone has items they need and toys. And we always help supplement,” said Tolman.

Malheur Drug, said Tolman, also accepts donations to support gifts.

 “I tell lots of people that stocking caps, gloves, mittens, even just generic board games and puzzles are good gifts that kids can use,” said Tolman.

Barrett said the effort is worthwhile.

“It is very humbling to me because I get to go into the homes of the children and understand the struggles kids are coming to school with. But I am also reaching out to parents so hopefully they feel comfortable that the school cares,” said Barrett.