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Family Giving Tree CEO set to step down after 34 years

Family Giving Tree CEO set to step down after 34 years

After 34 years at the helm of Family Giving Tree, founder and CEO Jennifer Cullenbine is set to retire at the end of the year.

Cullenbine, affectionately known as the “Queen Elf,” founded the Milpitas-based nonprofit 35 years ago. Under her leadership, Family Giving Tree (FGT) has served 2.25 million community members through its annual Holiday Wish and Back-to-School drives.

“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,” said FGT board chakir Andrea Borch in a statement. “Her impact on the organization and the lives of those we serve cannot be overstated.”

Cullenbine will assume the role of transition and donor development director through December to facilitate a smooth leadership transition while continuing to support FGT’s fundraising initiatives.

Jill Mitsch has been appointed as interim CEO, effective immediately. Mitsch, who joined FGT in March 2020 as director of development, has been serving as the nonprofit’s deputy director since May 2023.

“The board has complete confidence in Jill’s ability to lead FGT,” Borch said.

FGT plans to organize events in the coming months to celebrate Cullenbine’s legacy and introduce Mitsch to FGT’s supporters and partners.

Family Giving Tree provides holiday gifts and school supplies to those in need across 14 California counties.