Giving tree provides gifts for Tioga County foster children

WELLSBORO – Pop’s Culture Shoppe did something nice for Tioga County’s more than three dozen foster children on Christmas this year.

Owners Anja and Julian Stam decided to set up a “Foster Giving Tree” in their store window at 2 East Ave. The tree was tagged with gift ideas for each child that customers could purchase.

Tara Gordon, a sales assistant at the store, is a foster parent and came up with the idea for the tree.

“How we initially got their names is I called the (county) Human Services Agency to provide just gender and age and once we got the gifts purchased and wrapped, the workers came and picked them up and delivered them Christmas week to the foster parents,” Julian Stam said.

“We put ‘From Santa’ on the gift tags or the person that bought them for the kids,” he added.

To spread the word about the need for foster parents in Tioga County, the store sent out a flier, as well as advertised it in the local weekly paper.

“Those who do open their homes to children in need of a safe haven often have a full house with extra mouths to feed, diapers and clothes to buy and, of course, gifts to purchase. Join Pop’s in making the holidays brighter for children in the Tioga County Foster Care program,” the flier stated.

People also could see the sign on the tree when they came in, Stam added.

“Customers could choose a snowflake from the tree and purchase a gift for that child at Pop’s,” he said.

“There was a snowflake on the tree, with an age and it would say girl or boy, and we would help them find something they would want. We would try to find an educational game or toy in the store,” he added.

In return, the customer purchasing a toy for the program received 25 percent off that item, plus a $5 gift card to use in the store. They then replaced the snowflake with a Christmas ornament.

According to Julian, the tree went over well with customers.

One couple, Edie Seeman and Loren Nowak, owners of Stained Glass Reflections, Wellsboro, decided to buy gifts for two children, an 11-year-old girl and a younger boy.

“We bought an art project for the girl and an easy game for the young boy,” Nowak said.

Nowak said he thought it would be a good idea because his son, who lives in Messina, N.Y., has taken in foster children for several years and also adopted two of them.

“It’s a tough time of year. A lot of kids will end up in foster care with the stresses of the holidays,” he added.

Nowak said he and Seeman thought it was “an easy, inexpensive way to provide a little joy to kids who can use an extra boost this time of year.”

The Stams moved to Tioga County from Boston about 10 years ago, but Julian continued his work as the preservation librarian for Boston College.

“As much as I liked my job, I was gone 12 hours a day and I was missing my kids growing up, so we opened an online-only store, selling collectible miniatures and trading cards after we moved here,” he said.

The online store is on Ebay, and Pop’s also has a Facebook page, he said.

The store in Wellsboro is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

It sells games for kids of all ages, Stam said.

“For younger kids, we have Roll ‘N Play, a cloth dice that is soccer ball-size, and you roll it or throw it and it has different colors on each side,” he said. “When it lands, you find a card that matches and it has learning how to count, colors, give a hug or a happy face.

“That game is very popular with preschool teachers and families with little kids,” he added.

Stam said the name of the store came from “a combination of things.”

“I used to sell comic books at conventions as a hobby, so there is a major pop culture connection. We do have a lot of pop culture-related items,” he added.

There also are training card games for My Little Pony, Star Wars and Star Trek Firefly.

“We try to stick with games and promoting social interaction and hands-on learning and fun such as games, art kits and art supplies as well as some educational toys,” he said.

Call Pop’s at 570-723-4263 for more information.