American Fork Mitten Tree accepting donations until Dec. 22 for shelters, refugees in Utah
American Fork’s annual Library Mitten Tree is up again this holiday season, ready for its branches to be filled with the warmth of winter clothing until they are donated just before Christmas to local shelters, usually Tabitha’s Way in American Fork or a homeless shelter in Salt Lake County.
In addition to the long-standing tradition of the Mitten Tree, a tradition that began last year of donating items to refugees in Utah has continued this year as well. The service project was started by a family that reached out to the library with the idea. Ornaments with a household item written on them — such as paper towels, diapers, clothes and vacuums — are hung on the Mitten Tree for people to take, purchase the item then bring it back to the library.
The family will pick up the items donated and give them to Lifting Hands International, which will disburse them to refugees resettling in Utah to help them set up their apartments, explained Library Director Casandria Crane.
The Mitten Tree has been an annual tradition since before Crane started working at the library in 2015. Crane said they continue to put the tree up each year because, “It’s just a really easy way for people to contribute.” Those who want to donate to the tree can bring in new gloves, mittens, hats or scarves and hang them on the tree themselves. The donations for the refugees can be turned in to the library front desk. The American Fork Library is located at 64 S. 100 East.
During the holiday season, people come more often for events the library hosts, which means more people have the chance to see the Mitten Tree and possibly donate. Another annual event that’s held is called “Christmas in the Rotunda,” which consists of concerts a couple of times a week by local choirs, a string quartet and other musicians. Among the other events this season, the library will also have a one-man show of “A Christmas Carol” on Dec. 18.
Since there are more people visiting during the Christmas season, the library does several service projects throughout December. The Mitten Tree started on Dec. 1 and will be open for donations until Dec. 22, as will the refugee service project. Donations are accepted any time the library is open. Normal hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It is closed on Sunday.
Crane said, “It’s a very American Fork thing to do, to want to give back during this season, and we have a lot of concerts and activities going on, so a lot of people are here. So we’re providing an opportunity for them and connecting our community to people in need. So we’re just really kind of a middleman, but it’s a really great, great opportunity for us to do that.”
The tree is already quickly filling up with mittens, hats, gloves and scarves, Crane said, and they expect much more to be donated based on past year donations. Each year, they have about three large bags full of donated items to help keep those in the shelters warm during the winter season.
Crane said there have been times when the tree has gotten so full they had to take down the donations to allow for more, and it filled completely back up again. That may happen again this year, she said.
There is a steady stream of donations like usual, she added, because the people in American Fork know the tree will be up each year and are ready to donate. “People around here are really generous, and it’s a great opportunity,” Crane said.