DARKE COUNTY — It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Greenville Public Library as staff spent Monday decorating. However, amongst the baubles, lights, and theme of a Reading Wonderland, a particular Christmas tree stood out with a collection of hats, gloves, and mittens on its branches.
The Mitten Tree will collect donations of winter gloves, mittens, and hats that will be given to children enrolled in Darke County Head Start programs and their families from now until Monday, Dec. 16.
Susi Halley, director of the Greenville Public Library, shared this is the first year the library has participated. The tree is located in the children’s area of the library, next to the checkout counter. It already boasts many donated items thanks to the GPL staff, and they welcome the public to do likewise.
Halley shared the Mitten Tree is a pet project of Marilyn Delk with the Fish Choice Pantry of Darke County, which assists area families with emergency food needs. The organization has been aiding residents since 1967.
Delk, as the coordinator for the Mitten Tree project, shared a wealth of information in regard to this unique holiday event, one that has been going strong for over fifty years.
It began as the brainchild of “two lovely Fish volunteers” Alice Wagner and Maxine Katzenbarger wrote Delk in an email that evokes the nostalgia for Christmases of the past.
Katzenbarger owned and operated the Yarn Dome, formerly located on East Main St., Greenville, which sold yarn and other knitting and needlework supplies. The first Mitten Tree stood in the shop where it collected homemade and store-bought mittens and gloves for needy children.
Those collected items were distributed during a Christmas party held by Fish, where children of families the organization had assisted throughout the year were invited, and the mittens distributed.
The unique event also featured storytelling and holiday songs.
A Mitten Tree was also erected at the G.C. Murphy Company store, formerly located on Broadway in downtown Greenville. The variety store was host to the tree each year until its closure with a few other locations used over the ensuing years.
Delk noted it became easier to match needy children with the winter accessories after Head Start was established. Fish and Head Start work together to distribute the donations to Head Start students at their Christmas parties. Anything left over is used for when the youngsters’ mittens get lost.
“Which needless to say, is not a rare event,” wrote Delk.
Mitten Trees can be found at Montage Café, Brethren’s Retirement Community, Greenville Public Library, and at Fourman’s Variety Store in Arcanum.
“Through the years, many organizations, churches, and businesses, as well as individuals, have participated in the project,” continued Delk. “Some erecting their own tree for the members, staff, and patrons to decorate with colorful gloves and mittens, which is a much-appreciated response.”
A reminder, the Greenville Public Library will host their annual Friends of the Library cookie extravaganza and holiday open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 14. It provides a prime opportunity to donate to the Mitten Tree and also enjoy live music, a book sale, holiday puppet show, and the Grinch will make a special appearance.