Three Giving Trees at the Manchester fire company brim with "wish ornaments" that offer opportunities to brighten the holidays for others.
Three Giving Trees at the Manchester fire company brim with "wish ornaments" that offer opportunities to brighten the holidays for others. (Submitted photo)

The Manchester fire company and the Tree of Friends Foundation have come together to provide a better holiday season for more than 175 North Carroll-area kids this year.

The fire company has held a Holiday Drive since 2004 by accepting donations of new, unwrapped toys and clothes for infants through teens as well as personal-hygiene items and household items that would then be delivered to local families in need. While the fire company will still accept these things, the focus this year is more specific — driven by three ornament-laden Giving Trees located in the fire station, along with Giving Trees at several other locations.


Each "wish ornament" has a child's age, gender and one item that he or she would like to receive. All of the children are from Ebb Valley Elementary, Manchester Elementary, North Carroll Middle or Manchester Valley High schools.

"I will be thrilled to have all of the wish ornaments selected by the community. If we can accomplish that, we will make a huge impact on local kids," Wayne van Dommelen, Holiday Drive coordinator, wrote in an email.

"I contacted ToFF out of the blue last year to possibly partner and improve our Holiday Drive. The goal is to help as many local children in need as possible. It had become difficult to find people with genuine need over the last few years due to increasing privacy laws. We typically helped 30-50 kids prior to ToFF's involvement. We have over 175 this year. I am frankly worried if we can get them all 'adopted' by the community," van Dommelen wrote.

On its website, the Tree of Friends Foundation lists several ways the community can be part of helping with this gift drive, starting with being a ToFF Santa, those who pick up a wish ornament and buy a specific gift to donate. The foundation is also looking for ToFF Ebenezers, people who donate money that can be used to fill some of these holiday wish lists, and ToFF Shoppers, to purchase gifts on ornaments not chosen and other necessary items. ToFF Elves are also needed to transport gifts from local places to the collection area or to compare the items purchased with items requested to find out what is still needed, and ToFF Reindeer to help deliver gifts to families Dec. 18 and/or Dec. 19.

Full details can be found at or http://www.toffoundation.

Dec. 13 is the deadline to drop off gifts at the fire company, 3209 Main St., Manchester.

The Town of Manchester, the Manchester Police Department and all area schools are also assisting with this holiday drive. In addition, Brownie Troop 10194 has been a big help this year with girls from the troop coming out to decorate and hang wish ornaments on Giving Trees at the fire company, each girl taking a "wish" to fulfill and working to make the community aware of this holiday campaign.

For more information about the drive, contact Wayne van Dommelen at 410-239-2286 or Darcey Hott, from the Tree of Friends Foundation, at 443-507-0667.

Fun with Santa

St. George's Episcopal Church Outreach Commission is sponsoring Fun With Santa from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Dec.13 at the church, 2434 Cape Horn Road, Hampstead.

This annual event is free and features games, crafts, story time with Mrs. Claus, a gift shop to do some Christmas shopping with free gift wrapping and more. Santa will be available to visit and pictures will be taken for free.

A complimentary light lunch and snacks will be provided for the children, and a bake table with goodies for sale will be available.

Be sure to see the special magic show at 11 a.m. presented by Anthony Ware. The magic show is a new feature of this event.

For more information, contact Diane Martin at or call 443-789-9185.


Jill Murphy covers Hampstead, Manchester and neighboring communities in the North Carroll area. She can be reached by email at or by phone at 443-604-8619.