WORTHINGTON - Approximately 155 gifts wrapped in pretty packages, tied up in bows or hidden in gift bags filled an area inside the Farmer’s Room of the Nobles County Government Center Tuesday afternoon.

The gifts, purchased by county employees, will be given to more than 30 children from 13 families who are in need this Christmas season.

Nobles County’s Employee Empowerment Team coordinated the project with the Southwest Minnesota Opportunity Council (SMOC). SMOC provided information on ages and genders of children, along with a few things on their wish list, and county employees divided the lists and volunteered their time and money to shop for gifts.

Employee Empowerment Team member Darci Goedtke said the program started four years ago when an employee suggested something be done to give back.

“The community gives so much to us as county employees,” she said.

The program is voluntary, and employees who would rather not shop are invited to contribute financially so that gifts can be purchased for each child. Goedtke said some employees make it a family outing, shopping with their spouse or children to find just the right gift for a child.

“A lot of times they’ll ask for coats, hats, gloves and fun things like dolls, trucks, books, puzzles,” Goedtke said. “Some of the kids asked for tricycles or bicycles.”

Employees weren’t given a set dollar amount to spend. Instead, “we just let the generosity of whoever’s buying it be their guide,” Goedtke said. “We like to make sure that each of the kids has at least one gift - one thing to open under the tree.”

Commissioner Bob Demuth Jr. coordinated the gift gathering among commissioners, with each one having two children to shop for.

As the gifts were brought in on Tuesday and began to pile up, Demuth said he was pleased with participation of county employees.

“I was just encouraged that the county employees have a giving attitude this time of year,” he said. “I look forward to it every year - it’s the right thing to do.”

“I think this is the most we’ve had,” Goedtke said of the piles of gifts. “As the employees get more aware of how the program works … the participation has increased.

“I want to thank the county staff for their participation in the program,” she added.

All of the gifts were collected Tuesday and delivered to the agency that will handle distribution to the families.