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The Tree of Hope from Brunswick Family Assistance: Bringing Magic

by | Dec 19, 2017 | Nonprofits, North Brunswick

Take a tag from the Tree of Hope, and you will find a wish. The printing on this label is simple: an age, a gender, and a brief request for a Christmas present. These details reflect the demographics of local children and seniors in need and their modest requests for the holidays.

Every year, the good people, churches and organizations of Brunswick County come together through the facilitation of Brunswick Family Assistance to bring a little magic and merriment to some of the more economically challenged families in the area.

“We depend on the support of the community to make this program successful, and they always follow through,” says Stephanie Bowen, executive director of Brunswick Family Assistance.

The team at Brunswick Family Assistance has collected gifts for children and seniors in need during their Christmas Basket/Tree of Hope program for nearly a decade. The way it works is simple: participants, or “sponsors,” choose an anonymous tag from the tree and then purchase the requested gift.

“People can become involved in our community in a positive way,” Bowen adds. “They can participate by sponsoring a child under the age of 12, or a senior 60 years of age and over. We keep the cost for the wish below 25 dollars per piece for each sponsor.”

Families who may struggle throughout the year can have a day of reprieve, and the impact is profound. It is one of the organization’s largest programs, and through the proceeds of last year combined with donations received over the year, BFA distributed Christmas presents and/or food baskets to more than 2,000 individuals in Brunswick County.

“There has been an overwhelming response this year. There are no tags left. Every single family has been sponsored! We have told people to come on back next year for a tag, or pointed them towards other ways to help,” says Bowen. “Our goal is to distribute to every family in the program, and we have met that goal. Out of 150 tags, every single family has been sponsored.”

Volunteers drop off the presents at the Brunswick Beacon offices, and this year distribution day took place December 13, 14 and 15.

“The office just gets filled with boxes,” she beams. “This year, so many people have sponsored a family on the Tree of Hope. This is such a beautiful reflection of our community.”

Even if no tags remain, volunteers and sponsors can look no further than the food pantry to support families in need.

“Our food pantry is a different side. You can help distribute or donate, or you can provide a basket of food for Christmas dinner. We have sponsors who donate turkeys for the food baskets,” says Bowen.

In the meantime, Stephanie Bowen is taking a much-deserved trip with her husband–a sort of late honeymoon. Before leaving, she made sure everything was in place so when she returns for gift distribution, the delivery will go off without a hitch.

Not only that, but the organization will be celebrating in 2018 with the opening of a new branch in the northern part of the county: a full-time office in Leland off Village Road.  BFA just signed a lease, and this office will house a food pantry. Bowen says the projected grand opening should take place in January. “We are in need of volunteers. We’ll need help with the front desk, and we will train.”

“Knowing how much people care is the best part of directing the organization. We all know there are people who need an extra dose of holiday spirit. I just want to tell the community: thank you for coming together and making this program happen,” she says.

If you or your organization would be interested in participating in this program and more like it, please call the BFA office at 910-754-4766 and visit the website at

Sponsored by ATMC

About The Author

Allison Parker

Allison is a writer and English instructor living in Wilmington, NC. She moved to Nags Head, NC from Delaware in 1996 to attend community college. Then she moved to Wilmington to attend UNCW, where she graduated with a BA in English in 1998, and an MFA in poetry in 2001. While at UNCW, she wrote and edited for the Seahawk and performed at poetry slams. Over the years, she has written for NBM, StarNews Media, Encore, the Pender Post and Her poetry has appeared in Poetry East, Cobalt, Fjords, Lilies and Cannonballs, The Oklahoma Review, Scissors and Spackle, and The Lyricist. Her one act play, Heathens, was produced by Big Dawg Theater Company at Thalian Hall, and she wrote and performed with the all female performance art troupe Brawdeville from 1999 to 2003. After spending time on stage, she switched gears and taught English full time at Southeastern Community College in Whiteville, NC. She now works at Cape Fear Community College as an adjunct English instructor and a writing facilitator in the Writing Center. In her spare time, she performs with her husband, Carl Kruger, in the sound art troupe 910 Noise. She has a kind, smart and beautiful 14-year-old stepdaughter, and a 14-year-old tortoiseshell cat named Zoe Mushka, aka Mooshy.

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