At 7:15 p.m. Dec. 17, The Family Giving Tree, the largest gift and backpack donation program in California, served its millionth child.
“We threw some confetti, blew some horns and then went back to work,” said Founder Jennifer Cullenbine.
Cullenbine started The Family Giving Tree as a class project in 1990, while pursuing her master’s in business administration at SJSU.
“The professor gave us a challenge to add value to someone else’s life,” Cullenbine said, and so she did.
Over the past 23 years, The Family Giving Tree has grown to meet the needs of children across 16 counties by partnering with social service agencies to grant wishes through its annual Holiday Wish and Back to School drives.
“Our programs are about providing joy and happiness to the children who need it,” Cullenbine said.
According to Cullenbine, 85 percent of The Family Giving Tree’s clients are children 13 and under, while the remaining 15 percent range from senior seniors and adults with disabilities to older kids and teen moms.
And while the Queen Elf is busy filling the needs of children year around, she still makes time to promote volunteerism.
“I’ve had over 100 students come to me to talk about the program,” Cullenbine said. “I love being able to be a positive influence in young people’s lives.”
Michael Du, ’14 hospitality, recreation and tourism management, volunteered at The Family Giving Tree’s warehouse to fulfill a class requirement, but ended up getting much more from the experience.
“Community service is important because it helps broaden your world view,” Du said. “I used to be in this tight shell, but this has opened me up and made me want to help.”