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The UpBeat: Feeding families during the holidays, one Christmas tree light at a time

Ottawa Citizen More from Ottawa Citizen
Published on: December 5, 2014Last Updated: December 5, 2014 9:29 PM EST | Megan O’Meara

Cindy Smith, executive director of the Caring and Sharing Exchange, said the goal is to raise $25,000 through the Caring Christmas Tree initiative.

Purchase a light on the Caring Christmas Tree and help feed those in need this holiday season

If you happen to see a partially lit Christmas tree on the lawn of city hall, don’t worry, the lights are not burnt out. This is actually the Caring Christmas Tree, a new fundraising initiative of the Caring and Sharing Exchange, home of the Christmas Exchange Program.

For only five dollars, community members can purchase a light in order to help light this tree! As funds are raised, the tree will light up in sections, leading up to a tree lighting ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 17 at 5:30 p.m. At this time, Mayor Jim Watson will officially light the entire tree, celebrating the conclusion of this community-wide campaign.

All funds raised will go directly toward feeding Ottawa’s individuals and families in need this holiday season. This assistance is provided through the nearly 100-year-old Christmas Exchange Program.

“We are so thrilled about this new initiative,” said Cindy Smith, executive director of the Caring and Sharing Exchange. “It is such a fun and festive way for those in our community to get involved, and it will be wonderful to watch as more and more lights are lit.”

The Christmas Exchange program receives requests for assistance from approximately 20,000 individuals in Ottawa every year. Smith said the goal is to raise $25,000 through the Caring Christmas Tree initiative, which would be used to provide either hampers or vouchers for a portion of the people on their list. These funds will be combined with other donations received by the organization in an effort to provide assistance to as many people as possible.

“Last year, we were very proud to provide assistance to 16,725 people in the Ottawa community,” said Smith. “Unfortunately, on Christmas Day, we were still left with a waiting list of nearly 3,000. Our hope is that this new initiative will help us bridge that gap.”

The charity was extremely grateful to obtain the support of city hall for the Caring Christmas Tree campaign.

“Since we help those in need across our city, our dream location for the tree was city hall,” said Smith. “We reached out to them hoping for the best, and were overjoyed when they came back to us with an enthusiastic ‘yes!’, offering us the most central and lovely tree we could have hoped for!”

The tree lighting services for this initiative have been generously donated by Christmas Décor from Nutrilawn. In fact, the original concept for this initiative was put forth by Thom Bourne, president and GM of Nutrilawn Ottawa.

“We are very happy to be partnering with the Caring and Sharing Exchange in helping bring Christmas to those in need in our community,” said Bourne. “Each level of lights that is lit on the tree will be a visual representation of hundreds of generous community members who have helped us spread Christmas cheer across our city.”

If you would like to purchase a light, or even a string of lights, please visit Lights are $5 each, or $25 for six, or $100 for 25.

If you are interested in seeing the direct impact of your contribution, you might enjoy sponsoring a hamper this Christmas. Through the Christmas Exchange Program, you can now be matched with an individual or family in need, allowing you to purchase supplies for, pack and deliver a hamper directly to their door. This is a truly incomparable and heartwarming way to give back this holiday season. If you are interested in sponsoring a hamper, please visit or email for more details.


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