WORTHINGTON — The search is under way to award a Worthington area family with the Best Christmas Ever.

The program, established by a resident of Duluth in 2011, has made its way to Worthington thanks to the Astrup Family Foundation. The Astrups founded Sterling Pharmacy and operate stores in several Minnesota locales. Its foundation offered to donate matching funds up to $7,500 for the local effort.

“The Astrup Family Foundation gives money to worthy causes,” said Bob Tims, co-coordinator of the Best Christmas Ever program for Worthington.

Last year, the foundation was asked to give a donation to a family for Best Christmas Ever, and really appreciated that the entire donation went to the family in need. This year, the foundation wanted to bless a family with the Best Christmas Ever in several of the towns where they have pharmacies.

Tims was tapped to lead the Worthington effort via his son, Matthew, who does social media work for the Best Christmas Ever program. In turn, Tims reached out to the Phillip and Amy Benson family, with Philip serving as co-captain. The Tims and Benson families comprise the six-member committee that will ultimately select a local winner.

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Criteria for nominating a family

People are invited to nominate a family to be considered as the recipients of the Best Christmas Ever (with gifts and financial assistance that could total $15,000 or more, based on local donations) by Nov. 1 at bcemovement.org/nominate-a-family-.

Three criteria must be met — the family is in a tough spot due to no fault of their own; they must have children living at home under the age of 18; and the nominator must not reveal their identity to the family because the program is meant to be a secret.

“What we’re asking the public to do is, if you know somebody that you’d be willing to nominate, to let us know,” Tims said. “The desire is to have this be a life-changing event.”

What the committee is looking for in nominations is essentially an essay about the family and their needs. Tips include being direct and honest, such as if there is another fundraiser taking place to help the family. Nominators are also asked to write in story format, not just the facts, and to introduce themselves and how they know the family. Nominators are also asked to explain why they are nominating the family.

It isn’t just about giving Christmas gifts to the family, Tims shared, noting that past recipients in other communities have received things like two years worth of car payments, a new furnace for their home or something else that is needed.

“Every family situation is going to be unique,” Tims said. “This is to help them in some life-changing way to get them in the right direction.”

Recipients of the Best Christmas Ever will also be awarded a Dave Ramsey financial planning course with a $1,000 gift, and attend programming on health and nutrition with another $1,000 in gift cards awarded to them to spend on groceries.

Donations being accepted

The public is invited to help make this Christmas extra special for one local family by making a donation toward the fundraising goal to meet the Astrup Family Foundation’s matching grant requirements.

As a 501(c)(3) organization, the Best Christmas Ever is a tax-deductible nonprofit. Donations can be made online for the Worthington event at bcemovement.kindful.com/bce2021/worthington-mn-bce-best-christmas-ever. Those who would prefer to make a cash donation locally can do so by stopping in at Benson Funeral Home, 1225 Ryan’s Road, Worthington.

The committee will begin looking through nominations following the Nov. 1 deadline, with selection to be made by Nov. 8. At that time, they will work with the individual who nominated the family to learn about specific needs and gift ideas.

Once that is determined, a giving tree will be placed at Runnings in Worthington and people will be invited to take and fill a request from the tree, with items returned to Runnings. A gift-wrapping event will be Dec. 12 at Benson Funeral Home, and the gifts will be delivered to the family between Dec. 17-23.

“We appreciate the Astrup Family Foundation, Sterling Pharmacy, Runnings and Benson Funeral Home,” Tims said. “It’s exciting to have (this program) come to the Worthington area.”