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The Angel Tree at the DL Boys and Girls Club store. Photo by - Paula Quam

Go ahead, make a kid's Christmas

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

The Boys and Girls Club Thrift Store has once again put out the tree that ends up making local residents Christmas angels.

This is the second year the store has set up its angel tree, and already the need for help has grown from last year.

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The tree is full of names of local kids in need, complete with age, gender and wish.

Just since the angel tree was put up last Friday, 108 children's names have been placed on the tree, which is more than the number of presents they collected the entire holiday season last year.

"Out of those 108 names, 30 of them have already been taken down though," said Store Manager Cary Perell, who expects to see many more names rolling back in as people are starting to call inquiring about the program.

"And that's great -- that's why we do this ... for the children," said Perell, who says they obtain many of the names from local agencies who work with families struggling financially. He said he was thrilled to find out that many are already being helped by other organizations doing similar things, which he says is fantastic.

"I knew Detroit Lakes has always been very proactive in this sort of thing, so I wasn't surprised to hear how much everybody was helping with this, too," said Perell, adding that he has high hopes that they will once again be able to fulfill the need this holiday season after helping 80 local families last year.

"The only thing we're doing differently this year is we're specifying that we want the gifts to be new," said Perell, who says last year some people would buy used items at the thrift store to give to the program. "The store ended up going out and buying some things to replace those items, so it worked out, but this year we need people to know that we're looking for new."

It's an easy process to participate, as Perell says they've asked families in need to be very specific with what their child's wishes are so that there is no guessing involved.

They are also once again putting a $25 maximum on the present and are hoping people stick around that dollar amount.

"That way if a family has three children on there and they are all picked by different people, there won't be any hard feelings because one child is getting $100 present and another is getting a much smaller present," said Perell, who says he doesn't care where the presents are purchased or even if they are wrapped.

"We don't want that to be a sticking point -- if somebody doesn't get a chance to wrap it, that's fine, we'll be happy to," said Perell, who says an important thing to remember is to keep the tag with the presents that indicates who the present is for.

Perell says if they end up getting more names than presents, the store will do what it can to kick in to fulfill the rest.

But with black Friday coming up, he's hoping people will be both in the buying mood as items are deeply discounted, but also the giving mood.

The cutoff for purchasing a gift for the angel tree is Dec. 20, which will give store personnel time to contact the families and get the gifts distributed by Christmas -- a job that proves to be a bittersweet one this time of year.

"It's not only heart-warming, but heart-wrenching," said Perell. "It's so meaningful because they come in and they're so thankful for the gifts. For many of them, it's the only gifts those children will receive, and even if they're not, they're still much needed."

To find out more about the program, call the Boys and Girls Club Thrift Store at 844-6556.

Walmart in Detroit Lakes also has its Giving Tree up with a similar goal.

Their tree is currently holding over 300 children's names, all of which are being helped through the Mahube Council.

"We're going to run out, though," said Store Manager Chris Malecka, "Our customers and associates are going to take care of all of those, but I know we'll be receiving more names, too."

Malecka says they are also experiencing a growing need, as well as a growing response for their Giving Tree -- a trend that goes up and down at the local Kmart.

"I'd say this year is pretty average so far," said Store Manager Kevin Johnson, who says they so far have 61 names on their Giving Tree, "but that can change, too because they'll often bring more names as these go."

Johnson says they like to get all of their gifts in by the 14th or 15th of December because they, too, will go to Mahube.

"It's a good feeling though, to see all of that giving and all of those names flying off as fast as they do," said Johnson.

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