Sections

Weather Forecast

Close
Advertisement

Many groups extend a helping hand

Email

Heartland Community Action Agency

Every day more people are walking through the doors at Heartland Community Action Agency's offices in Kandiyohi, McLeod, Meeker and Renville counties seeking assistance from various programs the agency provides, like heating assistance.

Advertisement

The economy and the holiday have increased the stress of clients, said Joan Macik, executive director.

"Our clients are more stressed than ever. You can hear that urgency in their tone of voice," she said.

Heartland is sponsoring the Meeker County holiday project that includes donations of toys, clothing, cash and gift certificates. The project has been taking place for more than 30 years.

Community volunteers, including businesses and individuals, organize a toy drive for the project. Donations can be brought to the Meeker County Courthouse and Center National Bank at 301 N. Ramsey Ave. in Litchfield. For more information contact Shayna Neighbors at 320-693-7911 or 1-800-770-4081.

At a designated time eligible families in need come and "shop" for their children at the courthouse. Some families and local organizations also adopt needy families for this cause.

"Santa's Closet" project takes place in Renville County. For information contact Lori Clasemann at 320-329-8202 or 1-877-325-2217.

Donations are also needed for Children's Christmas gifts in McLeod County. For information call 320-864-3144 or 1-800-247-1756.

Salvation Army

The Willmar Salvation Army has seen a 20 to 25 percent increase in the number of children on their list this year for their angel tree project, said Captain Deb Jolly.

While the response has been steady, the generosity of the community has not quite been able to match the need, said Jolly. "We're really going to need some more stuff."

They're especially short of winter clothing for infants.

Jolly said she hopes a surge this week will fill the Christmas baskets for the children.

People who want to participate can pick up a tag from an "angel tree" at banks, businesses and churches (see list). The tag includes the first name of a child, the age, clothing size and a wish list item, like a toy. Purchased items can be brought to the Salvation Army's Willmar office at 521 Fourth St. S.W.

The Salvation Army is also distributing Christmas food baskets and is continuing its Red Kettle drive.

School angels

Most area school districts conduct some form of Christmas donation program, like a mitten tree and gift baskets, to provide low-income students with winter clothing or a toy. In the Willmar School District, child guides and "angels" in and outside of the schools help connect families in need with resources.

The New London-Spicer National Honor Society, in conjunction with the United Minnesota Bank in New London, sponsors an angel tree project that seeks donated Christmas gifts to give to students in need. The project has been going on for at least 20 years, said Julie Clark, administrative assistant at the bank.

The tree, on display in the bank's lobby, typically has about 100 paper angels of NLS students of all ages, including younger siblings.

The angels, which include the child's age, clothing size and a toy from a wish list, can be obtained at the bank. Wrapped gifts, with the angel tag affixed to the outside, need to be returned to the bank by Dec. 16.

Clark said a lot of families participate in the project by selecting angels from the tree and purchasing gifts. Many like the project because it helps local families.

National Honor Society members collect change from students in a "stuff the stocking" campaign that's used to purchase gifts for any angels that are remaining on the tree. In January, the students will raise money for the county-wide heating assistance program when they'll sleep outdoors in their "freezin' for a reason" effort.

For more information about the NLS angel tree project, call the bank at 320-354-2277 or the school at 320-354-2252.

Contact your local school district for similar programs.

Shelter House

The Shelter House, which is expected to be at capacity over the holidays with women and children seeking safety from an abuser, is in need of gift items for their holiday party, said Executive Director Connie Schmoll.

Area businesses and churches have boxes for donations that will be given to families who use the shelter's programs in an 18-county area. (See list of locations).

The donated gifts will be set up in a "store" at a local church and mothers will be allowed to select items to wrap up for their children. Likewise, children will be taken to a different room in the church to pick out something to give their mothers on Christmas. Church members help the children wrap the gifts.

"It is just a tear-dropper," said Schmoll, adding that domestic abuse always increases around Christmas -- in part because of the lack of money and the stress of trying to meet society's expectations for the holiday -- and in January when the bills for Christmas arrive in the mail.

Community generosity usually means there are enough gifts for the party, but Schmoll said the shelter is expected to have a $60,000 shortfall in operating funds, which means a reduction in staff, programs and services at a time when more women and children than ever are coming to the door of the shelter in Willmar and the satellite offices in Olivia, Montevideo and Benson.

"It's been a horrendous year and a half," said Schmoll.

The 16-bed shelter, with the capacity to hold six families, has been full many days and the shelter has had to rent motel rooms for women and children escaping abuse.

At the same time more women and children are seeking safety in shelters, state funding is down, competition for grants has grown stiffer and there has been a 25 percent decrease in local financial donations.

The shelter usually receives about $100,000 a year in local contributions but that's down about $25,000 this year, said Schmoll.

"This is our giving season," she said. But it won't be enough.

The sexual assault and domestic assault programs offered at the shelter are mandated, which means that another program they offer, like "project impact" will suffer. That program works with young children who have grown up witnessing abuse in an attempt to "break the cycle" for the next generation.

The shelter has already made cuts to staff, salaries and programs, including the Harmony Visitation Center that it oversees.

Besides cash donations, other ways to help the shelter make ends meet include volunteer labor or purchasing various paper products, like baby diapers, toilette paper and tissues. "Our bill for that is huge."

Schmoll said she's grateful for the individuals and churches who "wrap their arms around us" and help keep the shelter going and help keep saving lives.

Teen moms

Lutheran Social Service is seeking donations for young children. The items will be distributed to teen moms who are involved with Kandiyohi County's youth programs so that they can give a gift to their child.

A box for the donations is located at the Lutheran Social Services in Appletree Square, located at 1601 Highway 12 E. in Willmar.

Basic items are also needed for the teen moms, including many who are struggling with homelessness.

For more information call Lutheran Social Service at 320-235-5411.

Warm the Children

Monies for the 2009 Warm the Children campaign are running slightly behind this time last year. Goal of this year's drive is to collect $38,000 in order to help provide warm winter clothing for more than 500 children.

Shopping has already been arranged for more than 400 children throughout the region.

All donations, 100 percent, go to help the children. The program is administered through the West Central Tribune, with assistance from area social service agencies and schools making referrals. The families are then taken shopping in order to purchase warm winter clothing for the children. Each child is allowed an estimated $80 in purchases. A volunteer shopper calls the family and arranges to meet the family at the store, assists with clothing purchases and handles the paperwork to charge the purchases to the Warm the Children program.

To date, contributions total $22,916 have come in from 292 different donations, including 51 anonymous donations.

Last year, the Warm the Children campaign took in $41,684, exceeding a goal of $37,000. The donations received helped to clothe 515 children throughout the area. Now in its 16th year, the Warm the Children campaign has helped some 5,398 children from an estimated 1,998 families over the past 15 years.

Donations may be mailed to: Warm the Children, PO Box 839, Willmar MN 56201; or dropped at the Tribune offices at 2208 W. Trott Avenue in Willmar.

Applications are made through your local social service agencies.

Anyone interested in being a volunteer shopper with the Warm the Children program is encouraged to contact the Tribune at 235-1150.

Willmar Area Food Shelf

Over the last two years, the number of families served at the Willmar Area Food Shelf has increased 40 percent.

By November of 2009 the food shelf had served nearly 1,000 more people than it did for all of 2008 -- and there's still December to throw into the calculations. The number of families is up compared to last year. By last month 673 families had been served compared to 534 families for the same time last year.

Thanks to a large bequest received early in 2009 and to regular contributions from individuals, they've been able to keep up to increased demands so far, said Christie Kurth, director of the food shelf.

"We've been very fortunate. We've been able to meet the needs of our community."

More individual donations are being made this year, but the amounts people are giving are smaller. There aren't a lot of $200 to $300 donations, said Kurth. Average donations are in the $20 to $30 range. "And that's wonderful, because every dollar counts for us," she said.

In September a satellite office was opened in New London. Nearly 12 percent of the Willmar Area Food Shelf's active files live in the northern part of Kandiyohi County.

Participation at the New London facility, located in the former clinic, is gradually increasing, with 90 families, including 25 new families, getting assistance so far. Kurth said they have the capacity to serve more.

Cash donations for the Willmar and New London food shelf can be made to the Willmar Area Food Shelf, 624 Pacific Ave. S.W., Willmar, MN 56201

Wreaths for veterans' grave sites

Vietnam War veteran Ron Mackedanz of Kandiyohi is seeking donations from churches, individuals and organizations to buy 500 Christmas wreaths to be placed at the grave sites of fallen soldiers from Kandiyohi County.

Checks should be made out to: Blue Star Mothers Minnesota Chapter 1, and be mailed to: Robyn Powers, 6620 132nd Ave. N.E., Spicer, MN 56288.

Advertisement
Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
Advertisement
Advertisement