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Giving Tree program reaches all
The Rupert Giving Tree continues to branch out and help others.
What began six years ago in JB and Diane Rupert's home has expanded into something much greater for those in need during the holiday season.
"People used to bring bottles of wine and hostess gifts to our holiday parties," Diane Rupert recalled. "So I said instead of doing that, let's put something toward a needy cause — a giving tree."
That night the Ruperts collected $3,800 in donations from their generous friends, and a new charity was launched.
It has grown considerably over time, becoming one of the Auburn area's biggest relief efforts of its kind.
In 2009, Rupert partnered with the Auburn Rotary Club and Auburn Parks, Arts and Recreation Department. Partnering with Rotary has resulted in larger, tax-deductible donations and many new volunteers. The parks department coordinates lists of families in need through the various service agencies in Auburn.
This year the drive has expanded, bringing in new partnerships, donors and possibilities.
At last count, Rupert's mission had collected about $40,000 in contributions for his season.
Thanks to Rupert and her team of volunteers, as many at-risk children and needy families as possible are being helped.
"We don't discriminate, we take everybody," said Rupert, whom the City of Auburn honored earlier this year for her dedication in gathering funds and gifts for local agencies and residents of Auburn.
"Going on our sixth year ... it has gotten huge," she said of the program. "We buy every child a coat, we buy every child clothing, we buy every child toys. ... We also take care of senior citizens in the local community."
This year's efforts have brought out the best in businesses and individuals.
Walmart in Auburn donated a substantial grant, and the money was spent on gifts and food in the Auburn Walmart store and distributed to local human services agencies. The store also provided discounts and donated wrapping paper, Rupert said.
The Federal Way and Covington Costcos donated 158 turkeys to help the Auburn Community Supper program and Auburn Food Bank.
Trapper O'Keefe, owner of Trapper Sushi restaurants, continues to be one of largest contributors to the program each year. The restaurant – with locations at the Kent Station, Covington, Bonney Lake, Tacoma, Silverdale and Bremerton – donated $15,000 to the cause through raffles where 100 percent of the proceeds went to the Giving Tree.
Costco in Federal Way raised money in a contest among department managers, totaling more than $3,200. Rupert and her volunteers used the proceeds to purchase items and merchandise from the store, distributing it to local agencies.
Costcos in Covington, Puyallup and Sumner played a part in raising money and donations.
The Tacoma Model T Ford Club raised $400 when its member, Keith Lee, learned of the efforts where he works at the Costco Sumner Distribution Center.
For Rupert, the Giving Tree program touches home.
"It means everything," Rupert said. "I've been there. I know what it's like to be one of those kids. ...
"We have been very blessed," she said. "It is our responsibility to take care of people in our own back yard."
Rupert is the face of the Giving Tree, but many people help to make this happen through their donations of time, money and expertise.
"JB and I want to thank each and every one of my friends and families, and business associates who have reached out to help all these families who have nothing."
For those wishing to help or to donate, email Diane Rupert at email@example.com