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Holiday Helper Tree

The 2023 virtual Holiday Helper Tree opens November 1st!

Celebrating 30 years of spreading Holiday Cheer!

Join the Office of Leadership and Community Engagement as they celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Holiday Helper Tree! One of Georgia Southern’s True Blue traditions!

Each year, Georgia Southern students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community come together to fulfill the Holiday wishes and needs of vulnerable populations in Bulloch and Chatham Counties.

The Holiday Helper Tree serves as a reminder of the spirit of giving and allows our campus to be part of spreading holiday cheer to our community! The Holiday Helper Tree opens each year with a kick-off celebration and runs throughout the month of November. In 2020, amid the COVID-19 Pandemic, the tree was converted to a virtual platform, making the tree accessible for anyone, anywhere.

*Login is required. Community members wishing to participate will need to create an account the first time they access the tree, and pulled tags will be saved to your account.

You can get involved by…

  • Giving a Gift:  Pull a tag from the tree!  Each tag has a gift wish from a member of our local community. You can pull as many tags as you would like.
  • Donating gift wrapping supplies: OLCE will be collecting gift wrapping supplies (wrapping paper, bags, tissue paper, bows, name tags, tape, ribbon, etc.) to donate to the organizations who will wrap the gifts before delivery. If you have supplies you would like to donate, you can drop it off at the Office of Leadership and Community Engagement (Forest Drive Building – please note our office temporary location change on the Statesboro campus) Monday-Friday from 8:00AM-5:00PM.
  • Donating funds for unclaimed tags: Another way to participate is to donate directly to one of our partner agencies to help with any tags that are not claimed. Email to be connected with one of our partner agencies.

Important Dates

November 1st

The virtual tree opens! Join us for our in-person Kick-Offs:

  • Statesboro Campus –
    • November 1st | 10:00-11:00am | Russell Union Commons
  • Armstrong Campus –
    • November 2nd | 11:30am-1:00pm | Student Union Commons
December 1st

Deadline to pull tags and ship gifts. Don’t forget to check the Delivery Confirmation on the Reserved Tags page to let us know when your gifts have been shipped.

Contact Information

If you have questions about the event, or a desire to get involved, please contact the Office of Leadership and Community Engagement at (912) 478-1435 or

More about the Holiday Helper Tree

“From the humble beginnings of the Holiday Helper Tree program in 1994 to present day, it has been a rewarding experience each year! As a member of our compassionate Georgia Southern family working together in this massive collaborative effort, we have supplied the needs of thousands of individuals over the past 30 years. Eagle Nation, your caring and giving spirit for your community has been nothing short of breathtaking!”

Eileen Sconyers Smith, Director and Co-Founder of the Holiday Helper Tree (retired)

The Holiday helper Tree program was started in the fall of 1994 by Georgia Southern staff member, Eileen Sconyers Smith, who served as the senior administrative assistant in the Department of Sociology & Anthropology for 33 years. Mrs. Eileen has always had a passion for serving others, and in the early days of her career began searching for a way to involve the campus community in serving others. In 1994, the first Holiday Helper Tree was opened and students, faculty, and staff provided gifts for approximately 250 individuals from 5 organizations in Bulloch County.

As the program and need for volunteers to keep the tree functioning grew, the program came to be housed in what was then the Office of Volunteer Services, now the Office of Leadership and Community Engagement. Ms. Victoria Du Ree, the Director of Volunteer services at the time, continued to partner with Ms. Eileen and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology to continue meeting the needs of individuals in our community.

Today, the Holiday Helper Tree is a Georgia Southern Tradition, and each year meets the needs of around 800 individuals from over 20 community organizations and agencies.

The tags on the Holiday Helper Tree represent individuals who are part of or receiving services from one of our over 20 partner organizations in Bulloch and Chatham Counties. These organizations are Community Partners with our office, which means they are either 501(c)3 non-profits, government agencies, or publicly funded organizations. Below is a list of the organizations represented on this year’s tree, along with their mission:

  • Action Pact is a community action agency deeply rooted in the promise of improving lives and communities. The Bulloch County Action Pact operates a senior care center, as well as a meals on wheels program for older adults.
  • Captain’s Cupboard Food Pantry is located on the Armstrong Campus of Georgia Southern and provides enrolled college students with access to non-perishable food items as well as cleaning and hygiene products.
  • Caring & Sharing Home for Boys is a residential care facility or group home in Register, GA whose mission is to seek out and nurture the hidden potential of each youth.
  • Child Advocacy Services seeks to recruit, screen, train and supervise volunteers who advocate for the best interest of abused and neglected children as well as provide supervised family visitation for children who have been placed in foster care in the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit.
  • Child Advocacy Services – Visitation Program provides children in Foster Care with a safe environment for supervised visitations with their biological families.
  • Claxton Head Start is a federally-funded Head Start program They provide childcare and other social services to families in Evans County.
  • Coastal Pet Rescue is a non-profit animal rescue located in Chatham County
  • Eagle Essentials Food Pantry is housed on the Statesboro Campus of Georgia Southern and provides enrolled college students with access to non-perishable food items as well as cleaning and hygiene products.
  • Emmaus House Soup Kitchen is a community soup kitchen providing individuals in the Chatham County area with access to hots meals, clean clothing, and a hot shower.
  • Four Seasons of Love Group Home, LLC is a youth group home for boys in Bulloch County.
  • Friends of Cats is an animal welfare organization based on the Armstrong Campus of Georgia Southern University which seeks to care for the feral cat population that lives on and around the campus. They provide feeding stations, veterinary care, and operate a Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR) program.
  • The Front Porch is a a community-based risk reduction program in Chatham County designed to identify youth and families at risk of becoming involved with the Court and link them to community resources to divert them from the court system.
  • GSU Senior Companions assist adults who need extra support to live independently in their own homes. They serve frail older adults, adults with disabilities, those with terminal illness and offer respite for care givers.
  • Heritage Inn is a Senior health and rehabilitation center in Bulloch County providing both short-term and long-term care.
  • High Hope, a Pineland BHDD facility, is a center for adults with Developmental Disabilities.
  • Homebound Services is a non-profit resource in Bulloch County whose mission is to educate, assist and provide services that enable local economically-challenged elderly and disabled citizens to maintain their health, social welfare & independence.
  • Live Oak Migrant Education Program is a federally-funded program designed to support comprehensive educational programs for migrant children to h​elp reduce the educational disruption and other problems that result from repeated moves.
  • Ordered Steps Home for Girls is a youth group home for girls in Bulloch County.
  • Park Place Outreach Youth Emergency Shelter provides services to at-risk youth and their families in Chatham County to increase their functional level and reunify families whenever possible.
  • Pineland Community Housing Pineland BHDD services is a public, not-for-profit community based organization that helps children, adolescents, adults and seniors who have mental illness, developmental disabilities and addiction challenges to live more full and productive lives. Their Community Housing program provides individuals with safe housing while providing them with needed resources, training, and health care.
  • Statesboro Head Start is a federally-funded Head Start program. They provide childcare and other social services to families in Bulloch County.
  • Statesboro Summit Apartments is a low-income assisted living facility in Bulloch County that provides residents with a number of services required for them to live functional, independent lives.
  • Westwood Nursing Center is a long-term care and nursing facility located in Bulloch County
  • I bought my gifts in person, how do I get them to the organization/agency?
    • We certainly understand the joy of shopping for gifts in-person, and while shipping is the preferred method, we do have a few options for those of you who shopped in person for your gifts.
      • First, you can contact the agency who will be receiving your gift directly and ask them if you can drop it off. We ask that you do not “show up” at the agencies without calling first as many of them work with populations that have increased risk of illness from COVID-19 and the Flu, and we want to minimize their exposure as much as possible.
      • The other option is for you to drop the gifts off at the Office of Leadership and Community Engagement (Forest Drive Building on the Statesboro Campus; Student Union Suite D234 on the Armstrong Campus). Please email if you plan on dropping off your gifts, so we can anticipate their delivery.
  • How can I contribute funds for unclaimed tags?
    • While a direct donation to one of our partner agencies is always an option, we do encourage that if you can, please pull tags as that is our way of guaranteeing funds/gifts go directly to the individual who requested the donation. If you’re not wanting to do a lot of shopping, there are a lot of tags that request gift cards; you can make a donation in the form of individual $30 gift cards (e.g. Visa, Amazon, Walmart) that we can disperse to individuals, or you may choose to donate a single giftcard with a larger amount that can be used to purchase requested items. Otherwise, we have a few options:
      • If a direct monetary donation to an agency is your preferred option, we certainly understand, and it is definitely appreciated! If that is the option you’d like, please reach out to Urkovia Andrews ( so she can connect you with one of our partner agencies!

Below are the impact stories of individuals who have played a part in the Holiday Helper Tree and helped to make it a success over the past 30 years. If you have a story about how the Holiday Helper Tree has impacted you, please share it with us at!

My brother was a sophomore at GA Southern when he passed away in 2017. I remember a conversation I had with him where he said that he felt sorry for the people asking for gifts since they asked for so little and he felt bound to help.

His name was Matthew Taylor and each year I donate to the tree to deliver gifts in his name.

Michael Taylor, brother of Matthew Taylor – former GS student who passed away

The legacy, for me, of the Holiday Helper Tree is the joy that it brought to our campus and community. Our team in the Office of Leadership and Community Engagement has always had a foundational focus on building bridges between Statesboro and Georgia Southern. The joy that arises from the Holiday Helper Tree is one of those bridges. The joy began with the little ones who came to sing for everyone at the annual lighting ceremony. They were always giddy with anticipation! Then, the students who wheeled new bikes or brought baby dolls or toy trucks – the joy of the season simply shone from their faces. That joy and those bridges are the legacy of the Holiday Helper Tree for me. 

Dr. Todd Deal, former Director of the Office of Leadership and Community Engagement (2008-2018)

Growing up, the Christmas holiday season was always special to me and my family. On top of visiting family members, receiving and giving gifts and rewatching all of the throwback seasonal movies, my family always made sure to do something as often as possible to provide a little joy in someone’s life. Whether it was dropping off a fruit basket to a church member or helping clean up an elderly individuals’ yard, my parents instilled the importance of being selfless and helping others in a variety of ways in me and my sisters. When I first heard about the Holiday Helper Tree, it was a no-brainer that I would get involved and give back to the community. Initially, I planned to only pull one tag; however, I spent a couple of minutes scrolling through all the tags and looking at all the requests and it was evident that I couldn’t just pull one tag. The individuals from tags that I pulled were teenage girls requesting items like gift cards to Ulta, Target, makeup and much more. I remember the joy I felt as a teenage girl receiving gift cards to some of my favorite shopping places and I was determined to provide the same joy to those individuals. As a student, the Holiday Helper Tree allowed me to reflect on the idea of putting others before myself; a motto heard throughout campus. By helping others, I was able to help myself remember to not take anything for granted and to be thankful for those surrounding me. While the Holiday Helper Tree provided gifts to individuals during the holiday season, the Holiday Helper Tree provided me with a sense of belonging, community and gratefulness for the Office of Leadership and Community Engagement and other departments/programs who provide students with these types of experiences.

Kimmy Smith, Alumni (2023) and OLCE student leader

The Holiday Helper Tree has been an integral part of our team for many years and provides us an opportunity to come together for a common cause to make a difference.  For me personally it provides real meaning for the season and reflection of how blessed I am.  I set aside time specifically to attend to my Holiday Helper shopping list and look forward to searching for the items requested each year.  I am thankful for the Office of Leadership & Community Engagement for spearheading this effort each year.

Gene Sherry, Executive Director for Campus Recreation and Intramurals

While enrolled in undergraduate courses at Georgia Southern, I learned of the Holiday Helper Tree and began volunteering.  After joining the Georgia Southern Department of Human Resources in 2006, I collaborated with my colleagues to support this dynamic program.  We supported the Holiday Helper Tree because it provided an opportunity to help local families.  To whom much is given, more is required.  I thoroughly enjoyed working with Eileen Sconyers and am pleased to know this invaluable program has continued even though she retired.  Congratulations to the University community for continuing to lift those amongst us that need support.  

Demetrius Bynes, Georgia Southern Alumni & City of Statesboro Director of Human Resources

Child Advocacy Services SEGA, Inc (CASSSEGA)  has been an organization that has seen the impact of the Holiday Helper Tree since 2019. CASSSEGA is the sponsoring agency for CASA Ogeechee and the Ogeechee Visitation Centers; both serve children in foster care. The holiday season for a child in foster care is difficult, but with Georgia Southern University’s support, we have fulfilled 100% of our wishlists. Over the last four years, 277 children have received gifts! Unlike most organizations, those who support the children we serve never get to see the reaction, but we, as an organization, do. 

Every year our CASA Volunteers and Visitation Coordinators sit down with the families to gather ideas for their list, knowing there is a $25 limit. There are two gifts in particular that I think about every time it’s time for the Holiday Helper Tree. One gift was for a teenager who wanted blue Nikes and was adamant about listing it even though it was over budget. I cannot even describe the emotions that filled the room when they opened their box to find blue Nikes. The second gift was also for a teenager who said they enjoyed Hamilton. They received a copy of the signed script from the play.

We are excited to celebrate the 30th Anniversay of the Holiday Helper Tree! The last several years of being able to be a part of this event have been remarkable! When students and faculty pull a tag, they have no idea they are about to shine a glimmer of hope into the lives of strangers. 

Kristen Kramer, Director of Business Operations, Child Advocacy Services SEGA, Inc.

When Bruce and I arrived on campus in the summer of 1999, we were quickly introduced to the many traditions that make Georgia Southern such a special place.  One of those was the Holiday Helpers program.

I was honored by Eileen Sconyers to participate in this initiative each year by being the first person to select a gift recipient’s name from the beautifully decorated tree which was set up in Lakeside Cafe.  I always looked forward to this event as the perfect way to begin a season of giving!  The requests were so modest yet so important to those whose names appeared on those branches. I was always gratified by the large number of students and staff who donated their time and resources to give those less fortunate a happier holiday.   

As the person who developed and implemented Holiday Helpers, Eileen Sconyers deserves all the credit.  The time, organization, and effort necessary to successfully execute this each year surely was immense but she did it all with a smile and a loving heart.  Through this program, Eileen provided a wonderful model of giving and community service to the students of Georgia Southern University.  Eileen is the true spirit of Holiday Helpers!

Happy Thirtieth Anniversary!

Kathryn Grube, Georgia Southern University First Lady (1999-2009)

When Eileen first talked to me about leading the Holiday Helpers project for Georgia Southern, my unspoken response was, “That sounds like a great thing to do and you are the best person to make it happen.” By then I knew her very well. She was and is a people person, not as a one who is at ease in every crowd but as a truly caring person. Over the years, she managed the work of scores of student assistants, many of whom think of her as “big sister’ rather than boss. She had outstanding organizational and management skills and did not hesitate at meeting new challenges. There was in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology a culture of doing more with the professional preparation and imagination with which we are blessed,. Many faculty members invested themselves in institution building initiatives and public service activities, such as the development of the Georgia Southern Museum and the instructional focus of the Catface Country Turpentine Festival. Eileen thrived in that culture, found her own project in Holiday Helpers, made it work from the very beginning, and served devotedly. No surprise to me.

Roger G. Branch, Ph.D., Chair of the Department of Sociology & Anthropology (ret. 2000)

Holiday Helpers was a wonderful part of my college experience. While navigating all of the requirements to be successful in my undergrad years, being able to consistently give back to the community was important and I still think about every year to this day, especially when giving during the holidays. I was introduced through our fraternity, Kappa Sigma, as the members had been involved for years prior. Eileen’s passion and dedication was infectious and I caught the bug. I was determined to do our part and help this program grow. Beyond giving and dedicating time, it had an even bigger impact on me building relationships and skills that are part of my life to this day.

Beau Turpin, Former President of Kappa Sigma Fraternity, GS Alumni (2009)

Last updated: 10/31/2023