Metro-East News

The goal of this Charlie Brown tree? A gift for every child

What is the meaning of Christmas, Charlie Brown? In Edwardsville, someone is trying to answer.

The little tree stands at the side of the road, on an embankment not far from an elementary school and clusters of new houses. It is bent over at the top, just like a particularly famous animated tree, and bears one large, red ball ornament.

At its feet are a collection of presents left by passers-by, with a large sign that reads, “Need a present for someone? Take one.”

Some of the presents are wrapped, marked for a child age 3 and up, or a teenager, or a 7-year-old. Others are unwrapped: a Barbie doll, a pair of sneakers, a Nerf gun, a football.

The tree obviously mimics the tree in “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” the 1965 animated special starring the characters from “Peanuts” by Charles M. Schulz. The perpetually-depressed Charlie Brown becomes disheartened searching for the meaning of Christmas, and his Christmas tree is dismissed by his friends, who are obsessed with presents and shopping. But in the end, the tree becomes the symbol of the spirit of Christmas.

In Edwardsville, the spirit seems to be anonymous, at least for now. It sits along Governor’s Parkway, a short distance away from Goshen Elementary School and the new Governor’s Way subdivision. The sign is professionally printed, and there is a lighting system set up to allow the tree to be seen at night. Representatives of RLP Development, which is developing Governor’s Way, could not be reached for comment.

Edwardsville Mayor Hal Patton said of course no one knows who set it up — it’s obviously a spirit.

“I would like to thank those responsible for coming up with this wonderful holiday idea and for those people who are sharing the spirit of the season — the spirit of giving,” Patton said. “It truly does feel just as good to give as it does to receive.”

And while it is public land along the parkway, Police Chief Jay Keeven assured that the Edwardsville police will not be playing the part of the Grinch. The most they might do is put the presents in plastic bags if it looks like rain is coming, he said.

“We surely do enjoy living in a community that would do something like this and remember those less fortunate than us during the holiday,” Keeven said.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald