Monday, December 25, 2000

Gift program sees growth in donations

'Wish Tree' offers presents for needy

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Bob Wetterer's Wish Tree program, which started out 16 years ago with one tree to collect Christmas presents for needy children and adults, is a full-blown forest today.

        Mr. Wetterer, 47, a Mount Washington real estate agent, said donations to the project grew more than 20 percent from last year, accumulating to more than 50,000 gift items this holiday sea son.

        Mr. Wetterer's Christmas trees are set up at local restaurants and stores with ornaments that have a wish list for an underprivileged child or adult.

        Shoppers and diners pick an ornament off the tree, buy the gift, and then return it to the store or restaurant to be delivered to the child.

        The project has grown from one tree at Beechmont Mall to more than 220 across Greater Cincinnati.

        “Thanks a million,” Mr. Wetterer said on Sunday.

        “It was much appreciated. Everyone who donated made others smile with their generosity.”

        He got his idea for the Wish Tree program when he worked at the Beechmont Mall's old Shillito's store and sold some television sets to the St. Joseph's Orphanage for its Altercrest Home for neglected, abused and emotionally troubled children.

        Now the program helps people from many agencies, including the Children's Hospital Medical Center.

        He read about a similar program in Indiana, and placed a tree at the mall's center court, where he received nearly 60 gifts for the Altercrest residents that year.

        Several years ago, he named WLW-AM's Jim Scott as spokesman for the gift drive, and the response was remarkable. There are about 25 regular volunteers, including Rose Blomer, who coordinates everything through a computer.

        Businesses who helped with the program include JLG carpet store in Ludlow, Mike Albert Leasing, in Cincinnati, and U-Haul of Cincinnati.

       For information, call (513) 852-1895.



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