‘The Giving Tree’ sprouts at Carlson

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published December 27, 2018

 Timothy Slater, special agent in charge of the FBI Detroit Division, presents a gift to a Carlson Elementary student during “The Giving Tree” event Dec. 20 in Warren.

Timothy Slater, special agent in charge of the FBI Detroit Division, presents a gift to a Carlson Elementary student during “The Giving Tree” event Dec. 20 in Warren.

Photo provided by the FBI Detroit Division

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WARREN — Although the Christmas season has come to a close, a group of 29 Carlson Elementary School special needs students will long remember this holiday season.

On Dec. 20, agents from the FBI’s Detroit Division visited the school’s Physically or Otherwise Health Impaired and Cognitively Impaired students for a holiday celebration and a gift exchange known as “The Giving Tree.” Santa Claus also made an appearance. Carlson is part of Van Dyke Public Schools.

The students received gifts of toys, clothes, board games, shoes, stuffed animals and more. FBI Senior Community Outreach Specialist Will Council started the program five years ago.

“We recruit the agents, civilian employees and friends of the FBI to ‘adopt’ a child during the holidays,” said Community Outreach Specialist Rhonda Kennedy, who added that they use their own money to shop for the students and they visit them in person.

“It’s been very successful,” she said. “It gives the community the opportunity to see the FBI in a more positive, face-friendly environment. It also gives all of our agents the opportunity to do something more pleasing than arresting the bad guys.”

While the FBI Detroit Division, which covers the entire state of Michigan, has primarily volunteered with schools in Detroit, Kennedy said the agents wanted to try to reach other areas, hence contacting Carlson. “The Giving Tree” is offered at one school per year.

Eight-year-old Hoayas Vang was thrilled with his Lego set. He thanked Santa for the gift and said he was going to use the pieces to make airplanes.

Nine-year-old Fallou Diouf thought the event was “really good.” He received a video game from Santa Claus.

“He is a great man,” Diouf said.

“The agents are doing this out of their own pockets. It has just been heartwarming,” Carlson Principal Joann Iras said. “The children are excited. It’s really making their Christmas.”

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