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Presents for area charities gather under UHV's Giving Tree

By KBell
Dec. 1, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Updated Dec. 2, 2011 at 6:02 a.m.

Karina Fernandez, 19, trims the top of the University of Houston-Victoria Giving Tree on Thursday. Fernandez, a member of UHV's student senate, decorated the tree as part of UHV's Christmas community service project that will donate to five area organizations.

In the entry of the University of Houston-Victoria's University Center now stands a 15-foot Christmas tree, trimmed to the top with Jaguar jewels.

But the tree sprinkled with red, black and gold ornaments and animal-print bows was more than a reflection of UHV's pride. Deemed "The Giving Tree," UHV is using the tree as a reminder to return its blessings this Christmas.

"It's a chance for UHV - between staff, students and faculty - to give back to the community of Victoria," said Emily Bergstrom, student senate president.

For the ninth year in a row, students, staff and faculty on Thursday trimmed the tree, which will shelter gifts for five area charities.

With cookies and hot chocolate as their reward, members of UHV spent more than half an hour hanging the ornaments and handmade bows, some even braving a ladder to reach the top of the tree.

UHV affiliates and members of the community are encouraged to bring unwrapped gifts to place under the tall tree. Student senate members will gather the gifts each night and deliver them to the organizations just in time for Christmas.

Bergstrom said the student senate picked which charities to help out this year, based partly on the interests and convictions of UHV students. This year's organizations are Adopt-A-Pet, Food Bank of the Golden Crescent, Mid-Coast Family Services, Old Landmark Committee of Victoria and Help One Student to Succeed, or HOSTS.

UHV President Philip Castille was at the tree-trimming event with his wife, Shannon, and their 4-year-old son, Edward - or Ned, as Castille called out to the blonde-haired boy decorating the tree's lower half.

Castille said The Giving Tree is an opportunity for UHV to show its appreciation to Victoria.

"The community has been so generous in supporting us, so we look forward to giving back," he said.



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