Embracing the Spirit of Giving

Marist College Celebrates its 26th annual Giving Tree Mass

By Brian Edsall

On Sunday night Marist College held its annual Giving Tree Mass, continuing a tradition of charity which has been ongoing since 1991.

Hundreds of students and others filled Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Chapel bearing gifts. Eyes and smiles were visibly glistening in the presence of the festively decorated room and the astounding accumulation wrapped presents.

“The sheer number of donated presents displayed…is staggering,” said President David Yellen. “It’s a physical manifestation of the great kindness and generosity of the Marist Community.”


Campus Ministry contacts social service agencies in the Poughkeepsie area in early September to determine families that have the most need. The five families nominated by these agencies may request four household needs. In addition, each child may request five needs and three wishes.

These needs and wishes are metaphorically used as ornaments to decorate giving trees throughout campus. Students, faculty and staff then pick these ornaments, providing families and children with gifts in time for Christmas.

Over 1,000 gifts were requested this year from 31 families with 128 children. The gifts will be counted on Monday, December 11, along with monetary donations which continue to pour in.

Though members of campus ministry do not get to meet the families owing to confidentiality, Brother Frank Kelly, Director of Campus Ministry stated that the agencies are always overjoyed.

“The Giving Tree Ceremony is a unique and inspiring event because its focus is on giving to those who have been less fortunate than us and genuinely caring about the wellbeing of fellow community members,” said Yellen.

“Service to others is a central part of the Marist mission,” he continued. “It’s a value handed down to us by the Marist Brothers, and the Giving Tree is a wonderful way for us to fulfill our mission.”

Statue of Saint Marcellin Champagnat - founder of the Marist Brothers - featured outside of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Chapel.

Statue of Saint Marcellin Champagnat - founder of the Marist Brothers - featured outside of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Chapel.

The commitment to service is one of Marist College’s three core ideals—predicated on the “belief in the dignity and value of every human being.” With this event, students commit to this ideal by helping to “make Marist a better place to live and learn while developing a sense of personal responsibility and civic engagement.”

Kelly emphasizes that this great outpouring of generosity from students year after year affirms the perpetual commitment of Marist students to give back.

Sophomore Carly Horowitz, member of campus ministry, appreciates the sense of unity formed through this commitment. “You can see how much everyone contributed right in front of your eyes,” she said. “I think the ceremony is a great opportunity that Marist provides for the students and the community as a whole.”

Waking up to presents on Christmas morning is a luxury which millions of families cannot afford. Through this ceremony, Marist continues to spread joy during the holiday season. Giving back, especially to those less fortunate, is a gift in itself. As St. Francis of Assisi once said, “For it is in giving that we receive.”

Brian Edsall