The American Legion and The Coffee Mill are working together to give Santa a little help this year through a new gift program. Last week, a Gifting Tree was set up in the lobby of The Coffee Mill that features 24 ornaments representing individuals throughout Tehachapi who are in need of a little seasonal assistance for the holidays.
According to Michelle Wattenburger of the American Legion Riders and Auxiliary, the original idea for the Gifting Tree was to provide holiday cheer to local veterans. However, the idea has since expanded to local seniors and others in the community.
After American Legion Cmdr. Kevin Davey contacted Wattenburger with the idea, she in turn contacted Louis and Chaelsea Tolentino, owners of The Coffee Mill, and enlisted their help.
The Tolentinos agreed to host the Gifting Tree, which was erected inside The Coffee Mill last week. The public is encouraged to visit and select one of the ornaments and fulfill a wish.
After purchasing the gift, individuals are asked to bring it back to The Coffee Mill unwrapped during business hours.
"Each tag, or ornament, will have a code on it for returned gifts so that we can make sure we get that gift to the person it was intended for. On Christmas Eve, if not sooner, I will get them distributed," said Wattenburger.
“It is such a tremendous opportunity to give during this economic environment and holiday season. As a veteran and a caregiver for the special needs adult/elderly community, my wife, Chaelsea, and I understand the financial need as we’ve experienced several Christmases in our past when we couldn’t afford to celebrate the holidays and have come close to homelessness," said Louis Tolentino.
"The Gifting Tree is our way to give back to veterans and the elderly, while also allowing others to participate. I hope that those who are capable will participate by giving to others at this time of need,"
The deadline for the Gifting Tree is Dec. 23.
The Coffee Mill is located at 120 S. Mill St. Hours are Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.