The Twin Lakes Teen Giving Tree program celebrated its eighth year last week by fulfilling Christmas wish lists for 39 area teens, ages 12-18.
“I am thrilled how it went,” said Twin Lakes Grocery and Liquor store owner Vicki Ambrosio.
Traditionally, Ambrosio and her staff and volunteers gather together at a local fire station to have a gift giving party. However, pandemic restrictions led to gifts being handed out to cars.
“They loved it! No lines,” Ambrosio said. “Most of them didn’t even get out of the car.”
The teens received stockings, toiletry bags, food, masks and lots of Christmas presents.
“We gave away four bikes, two televisions, a couple of Hoverboards and an iPad,” Ambrosio said. “Blue light cancelling glasses were the most asked for item, I suppose due to school being on the computer screen so much.”
Community members came forward to bring gifts to the kids, fulfilling requests that were included on the Giving Tree inside Twin Lakes Store, 88940 Highway 101 north of Florence.
“These young adults need things,” Ambrosio said. “They get jaded at Christmas. I wanted to put the spirit in their hearts. Many don’t have a Christmas at home, so this is it for them.”
The night before the event, strong winds forced the program to regroup and borrow toy haulers to keep everything dry during the event.
“The community has been so helpful in so many ways,” said Ambrosio, who also handed out a letter to each teen along with their presents.
“This 2020 Christmas is unlike any other we have experienced,” the letter said. “All the fun with family and friends has been taboo this year. We hoped to have a party for us to enjoy as in previous years, but we had to modify because cancelling was not an option.”
Ambrosio emphasized that lesson — cancelling is not an option.
“Sometimes in life our plans get derailed by something outside of our control,” she wrote. “Quitting or giving up is certainly the easiest of choices to make. Most accept that. I recommend never taking that route; that route is a path to nowhere.”
Instead, people need a Plan B. Then a C, and maybe a D.
“I am now on ‘Plan E,’” Ambrosio wrote. “I have had to come up with a plan, and when that wouldn’t work out, I came up with another one. And another. All I know is it is going to work out and be fabulous no matter what plan number we are on. I have faith in that, and I could not let you down.”
Ambrosio said she was unsure how homeschooling was working for students, a majority of which are doing comprehensive distance learning.
However, in the letters with their gift requests, she was happy to see a “huge” improvement on punctuation and spelling.
“So as you are getting older, I hope you will practice independence,” she continued. “You are an individual. Society wants to collective, but it takes independent thinking to think outside the box and come up with an idea like our neighborhood Teen Giving Tree.”
She also wrote it takes bravery to execute a plan in spite of naysayers.
“Trust in yourself and your ability,” Ambrosio wrote. “If you don’t have the ability, then get the education you need to gain the ability. It truly is all up to you. When you stumble or stall, take a breath and think of ‘self talk’ to get you up and going. It is nice to be proud of your accomplishment, no matter how big or small that accomplishment is. Give yourself permission to be proud, it’s a great feeling.”
She wished everyone a merry Christmas, in spite of the pandemic.
“If you receive any gifts you aren’t thrilled with, perhaps you can think of someone who might like it and give them a holiday surprise by paying it forward,” she suggested.