Students Volunteer for Hope Beneath the Tree
As the holiday season draws closer, two St. Johnsbury Academy juniors are making sure there will be presents under the tree for area children. Henry Heilman and Jude Coe volunteer with Hope Beneath the Tree to send holiday gifts to children in families impacted by the criminal justice system. According to their website, the group matches children who have incarcerated parents with gift givers.
Hope Beneath the Tree is a Vermont organization founded in 2013 by Susan Randall and a small circle of friends and family. The program became popular, presenting gifts to 120 children in 2017 and 200 in 2018. It has since expanded and is now being run by high school and college students, and other volunteers. As part of their efforts, Henry and Jude have been facilitating the matching process and making calls to guardians. Over 350 gifts were provided to children impacted by the criminal justice system last year.
This year the program has been affected by the pandemic, limiting the amount of interaction between the volunteers and the recipients. In the past, sponsors would receive the name and age of a child and share their anonymous gift directly. This year the group is directly buying presents for the children with the money from donations. Henry and Jude have been buying presents and sending them out to the children.
While the group’s focus is on Vermont, in the past they have mailed gifts to families around the country.
For more information about the organization and how to donate, go to Hope Beneath the Tree.
Read and listen to a VPR story about Hope Beneath the Tree.
If you’re interested in learning more about this important cause, view this short documentary about Vermont kids impacted by the criminal justice system (some of these kids are on the list!)