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Jaycees giving gifts, Masons meeting Santa

Local charitable organizations are in full swing these days, as groups across the Detroit Lakes area scramble to make the holidays brighter for those in need.

Jaycees: Gifts for kids

The Jaycees are now zigzagging across town picking up toys from the drop boxes they've had placed at area businesses.

Their annual Gifts for Kids program is a long-standing tradition for the organization, as the Detroit Lakes chapter collects anywhere from 300 to 500 new toys for area children.

Collection boxes have been sitting at the Washington Square Mall, Central Market, JC Penney, the DLCCC and Curves.

Today, members of the Jaycees are collecting them for their big give-away on Saturday.

Gifts for Kids is being held at the DL Senior Citizen Center at the DLCCC from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

"All people have to do is show up," said Teressa Schlieman, event coordinator for the program, "some people bring the kids so that they can pick out their own presents, others don't."

Schlieman adds that because the program is for Becker County kids in need, parents or guardians must show their medical assistance card to show financial need.

"So, if somebody is on WIC or some kind of county program like that, they'd qualify," Schlieman said.

Not only will the gifts from the drop boxes be handed out, but the Jaycees also go shopping for about $3,000 worth of toys, using money raised during their yearly fundraisers.

Schlieman says although it's a first-come, first-served basis on Saturday morning, if they begin to run low of presents, they'll run out and quickly buy some more.

"We won't turn anybody away if they have the proper I.D.," said Schlieman, who adds that getting to see the recipients on the other end of this event gives the Jaycees a wonderful feeling.

"Especially when the kids are there because their faces just light up -- it's for them and mom and dad don't have to worry about paying for it," said Schlieman, "it's such a warm feeling to be able to help these families."

For those still wanting to donate to the cause, either drop off an unwrapped toy or monetary donation at the site Saturday morning or call Teressa Schlieman at 218-849-0284.

The Masons: Photos and wishes with Santa

The Masons are hoping a picture is worth thousands of dollars again this year, as they continue their yearly tradition of raising money for families in need.

Photos and Wishes with Santa is set up at the Washington Square Mall, where the Big Man himself shows up for the event.

"It's a program we started 15 years ago," said Detroit Lakes Mason Chuck Magnusson with Mt. Tabor Lodge #106, "We get the names of local people who've had some bad luck and we'll help them out with the money we raise here."

The all-volunteer team of Masons sets up the event, which includes shooting the photos, printing them right there and selling them on the spot.

Photo sizes and prices range from $4 to $20 for a package with the option to buy an $8 disk.

Proceeds from Photos with Santa are then traded in for Chamber Bucks before giving them to the families in need.

"That way we know they cannot be used for anything but food or necessities," said Magnusson, "No tobacco or liquor -- we're not helping to further their habits."

Magnusson says they'll give anywhere from three to 10 families at least $100 in Chamber Bucks, as well as $300 to $800 to different organization like the Salvation Army, the Refuge and the Becker County Food Pantry.

The group ends up distributing $5,000 to $7,000 every holiday season to people who need it the most.

Photos and Wishes with Santa will continue to be at the mall this Saturday and Sunday, as well as next weekend from noon until 4 p.m.