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Fruit of Giving Tree project at Towson church is bountiful [Towson]

On Nov. 14, Immaculate Conception Church's Giving Tree team will meet in the church narthex to trim holiday trees with ornaments made by members of this parish team. Each ornament will bear a label listing a specific need submitted to the team by one of the 18 agencies contacted during the summer. Similar trees will also be decorated in the school.

Mary Knudsen, team coordinator, explains that although requests began going out to the supporting agencies during the summer, the 25-member team focuses its work at meetings in September, October and November.

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In 2013, the parish generously donated 262 gift cards, 1,310 gifts, and 55 books, which were given to one specific school. In addition, the Adopt-A-Family part of the program helped parishioners, school families, Scout troops, and parish workplace and community groups to "adopt" needy families referred by three of the 18 participating agencies. Last year, 40 families were adopted.

Recipients include The Franciscan Center, My Sister's Place Women Center, Our Daily Bread and The Assistance Center For Towson Churches, among others.

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After gifts are returned, team members, parish Confirmation students, and other volunteers collect the gifts and sort and pack them. Some agencies pick up their gifts and others are delivered.

"Our team works together for many months to offer members of the parish and school community the opportunity to reach out into the Baltimore area to offer support to as many needy individuals and families as possible," Knudsen said. "Our efforts are based on prayer that God will bless our work so that the gifts coming into the homes of others warm their lives with His love."

Volunteers for the Giving Tree project are always needed. If you want to help, contact Knudsen at mbknudsen@verizon.net.

In another act of giving, the Starboard Society is holding its annual Christmas Appeal event on Dec. 4 at Barrett's Grill in Hunt Valley. The Society, founded by Towson-area residents who aim to support working Maryland families struggling with loss or other unforeseen situations, fosters independence through financial assistance, education and other resources to help them get back on course.

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Shawn Dippel, executive director, recognizes that the people they help are rarely the ones looking for assistance. "They are contributors to society and work regularly," Dippel said. "Yet because of their specific unforeseen situation, they are simply unable to make ends meet."

Tickets for the event are $40 per person. For more information, contact Kelly Nolan at starboardtix@gmail.com or go to starboardsociety.org.

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