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Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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NewsCommunityQueen Elf Jennifer Cullenbine is retiring from the Family Giving Tree

Queen Elf Jennifer Cullenbine is retiring from the Family Giving Tree

Family Giving Tree (FGT), the renowned Milpitas gift-giving nonprofit, announced today that its founder and CEO Jennifer Cullenbine will be retiring at the end of 2024. As of now, Jill Mitsch, who has been with the organization since 2020 and has served as its Director of Development and Deputy Director, is fulfilling the role of interim CEO.

Cullenbine, widely known by her nickname “Queen Elf,” founded FGT 35 years ago. During her run, 2.25 million people have been gifted during the winter holidays and back-to-school time.

Andrea Borch, Chair of FGT’s Board of Directors, said in a press release, “We are immensely grateful for Jennifer’s vision and kindness in starting Family Giving Tree and making our programs fixtures in communities across northern California. Her impact on the organization and the lives of those we serve cannot be overstated.”

In an interview with The Milpitas Beat, Cullenbine shed some light on the circumstances surrounding her exit: “I never thought I’d retire but I’m having enough memory problems that I think it’s time to step back and be with my family,” Cullenbine said. 

Reflecting on her time at FGT, she added, “I feel warm and fuzzy every time I think about the Family Giving Tree and always will…When a family takes a wish card and they take their kids shopping and explain that ‘this little girl wants a Barbie and doesn’t have one and which Barbie do you want to choose?,’ I believe it makes a bigger difference to the kid choosing the gift than the one experiencing the joy of receiving it.” 

In the months ahead, FGT will host events to celebrate Jennifer Cullenbine’s joyful legacy.



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Eric Shapiro
Eric Shapiro
Eric Shapiro is a writer & filmmaker. As a screenwriter, he’s won a Fade In Award and written numerous feature films in development by companies including WWE, Mandalay Sports Media, Game1, and Select Films. He is also the resident script doctor for Rebel Six Films (producers of A&E’s “Hoarders”). As a journalist, Eric’s won a California Journalism Award and is co-owner and editor of The Milpitas Beat, a Silicon Valley newspaper with tens of thousands of monthly readers that has won the Golden Quill Award as well as the John Swett Award for Media Excellence. As a filmmaker, Eric’s directed award-winning feature films that have premiered at the Fantasia Film Festival, Fantastic Fest, and Shriekfest, and been endorsed by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Eric’s apocalyptic novella “It’s Only Temporary” appears next to Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” on Nightmare Magazine’s list of the 100 Best Horror Novels of All Time. He lives in Northern California with his wife, Rhoda, and their two sons.

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