December 2011. St. Luke Greek Orthodox Church,Broomall, Pa. The Giving Tree is a bridge that quietly links the Saint Luke Community with one of the poorest communities of children in Pennsylvania. Since 1999, the Saint Luke parishioners have anonymously provided over 5,748 beautifully handwapped gifts to the young children living in the four public housing communities in Chester. Some with notes attached, many with candy and all with love.
Each Thanksgiving Giving Trees, decorated with the names and ages of the children, are located in the narthex of Saint Luke so that parishioners, young and old, can select a child or two. In addition, For Those In Need, a community service group of Saint Luke, sponsors an entire community buying on average 180 gifts. These gifts are then wrapped by the Saint Luke GOYANs at their annual Christmas celebration.
Within days of Christmas — the gifts journey to Chester and Maria Zissimos, legal counsel for the housing authority, coordinates their delivery to the communitites, where the gifts are received with sincere gratitude and appreciation. In some communities Santa delivers the gifts from a large sleigh as the highlight of their Christmas party, in others, parents place them under their trees on Christmas Eve.
The program has grown since its early days based on the simple love and generosity of each parishioner.