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’Tis the season to give: Organizations gearing up to help those in need

The Masons welcome Santa Claus each Christmas season. The money they raise from Photos with Santa goes to help local charities and families in need that could use a little extra help. DL NEWSPAPERS/Brian Basham

“Maybe Christmas,” the Grinch thought, “doesn’t come from a store…”

Dr. Seuss may have been on to something there, as many residents around Detroit Lakes are busy getting ready to give without any intention of receiving.

This is evident as the Angel trees are erected in the Boys and Girls Thrift Store, Kmart and Walmart.

Many families make it a yearly tradition to snatch a name off the tree and selflessly shop for a little boy or girl who comes from a family in need.

“We know there’s a lot of kids in this area that go without or with very little at Christmas time,” said Monica Renteria, who started the Angel Tree project at the Boys and Girls Club Thrift Store.

Renteria says they already have 42 names on the trees, with a waiting list of 36 and expectations of getting more in.

“The number of names we get grows every year,” said Renteria, who says some years every single name on the trees are picked, other years, they’re left scrambling.

“We do have a few new toys that we get donated throughout the year that we save just for this,” she said, “and there have been years where we’ve needed it.”

Renteria says they always try to fulfill a family’s needs together before putting more names on the trees to ensure there isn’t a situation where a couple of siblings get a present and one is left out.

This is also why there is a $25 limit on the presents people are asked to buy — so that one child doesn’t get a big, expensive present and another child an inexpensive present.

Gifts for kids

Members of the Jaycees are also getting ready to shop until they drop, as their Gifts for Kids event is right around the corner.

Not only does the group have donation boxes set up at stores such as Norby’s, JCPenney, Menards, Kmart, L&M Fleet, Central Market and the Washington Square Mall, but they are also taking a big chunk of the funds raised from their fall stag event to buy presents for children in need.

“We’ll shop for all kinds of presents for boys and girls of all ages,” said Jaycee member, Julie Bommersback.  Then on December 7, the Jaycees will be setting those gifts up on tables at the senior center portion of the Holmes Theatre in Detroit Lakes and wait.

“People will come in to find a gift for their children or grandchildren who are in need, and the only thing they need to bring to qualify is their medical assistance card from Becker County,” said Bommersback, who says the Jaycees spend roughly $2,500 on roughly 200 gifts each year.

“We try to estimate how many we’ll need each year, and if we run out, it just means we’ll be rushing out and getting some more,” she said.

Sometimes, she says, the kids will come in with the adults to pick out their own toy.

“And we wrap them up, send them home with them and they can open them up on Christmas — simple as that,” said Bommersback.

Gifts for Kids goes from 8:30 to 10:30 that morning.

In the meantime, local residents have a chance to help the Gifts for Kids program while enjoying a Bison Football game.

A past Jaycee member has donated two end zone tickets for the December 7 playoff game at the Fargo Dome.

Those tickets will be auctioned off from on Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Funds raised will go to the Gifts for Kids program.

Photos with Santa

A picture may say a thousand words, but in the case of this event, they’re worth even more in dollars for the less fortunate.

The oldest organization in Detroit Lakes, the Masons Mt. Tabor Lodge, No. 106, will once again be setting up a photo shop in the Washington Square Mall, where the big man himself — Santa — will be on hand.

Photos with Santa begins right after the Parade of Lights Monday night and continues every weekend until Christmas.

Shoppers can pop in to the old Sprint location in the mall, where kids can get their photos taken with Santa, and parents can purchase those photos in a variety of sizes while snacking on free popcorn and cider.

The money raised goes towards local charities or families that the Masons hear of who might need some extra holiday cheer.

“I remember one year there was a family that had their house burn down on Dec. 23 just north of town here,” said Chuck Magnusson, the Lodge’s secretary treasurer, “and not only did the family’s Christmas presents all burn up, but their son’s birthday was the 24th and so all of his birthday presents burned up too.  So we helped them out.”

There was also a year Magnusson says when the Masons heard about a local family who was just about to get their gas shut off because they couldn’t afford to pay the bill.

“And so we went out and bought them propane to fill their tank, and it lasted them most of the rest of the winter,” he said.

The Detroit Lakes group also get a matching fund from the Minnesota Masons organization, which typically brings them up to somewhere between $5,000 to $8,000 every Christmas season.

“We’ve been doing this (Photos with Santa) for about 15 years now, and we just think it’s a good way to give back to our community and the people who really need it,” said Magnusson.

Paula Quam

Paula Quam is the editor for Forum Communications Co. newspapers in Detroit Lakes and Perham, both in Minnesota.

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