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Volunteers, donations keep Community Community Baskets vibrant

Volunteers fill Community Christmas Baskets in this December 2012 photo. (Submitted photo)

WORTHINGTON — Every year since the 1920s, Nobles County residents have volunteered their gifts of both non-perishable and perishable food items to those in our communities who are less fortunate.

The Community Christmas Baskets program provides food, blankets, personal hygiene items and toys during the first week of December to dozens of needy families.

“I think that it’s incredible that this county is so open to volunteering, where the county shares with the needy at Christmas,” said Janelle Johnson, a member of the volunteer Community Christmas Basket board for more than 25 years and its the chairwoman for the past 20.

A total of 320 families — around 1,500 people — were provided with Christmas baskets last year. They were referred for receiving their baskets by social workers, churches and schools. Seven hundred of these 1,500 were children younger than age 12.

The Christmas baskets were originally packed in bushel boxes, but the “baskets” are now packaged in grocery carts as a result of the sizeable quantity.

“What impresses me most are the happy faces,” Johnson said. “The givers are just as happy as the receivers, and everyone benefits.”

The Community Christmas Basket has no official status, as the program has no paid staff, receives no gaming or governmental funds and is not a 501c3 organization. All of the work is entirely volunteer, and all of the support given is from people looking to give back to Nobles County.

For anyone considering the donation of items, the Community Christmas Basket is looking for:

  • Non-perishable food items such as canned or boxed fruits, vegetables, meats, soups, rice pasta or potatoes.
  • New (no used items please) adult gifts of warm clothing — especially gloves, scarves, hats or earmuff for men or women.
  • Mittens, gloves, caps, slippers or stockings for children.
  • New toys for children ages 12 or younger.
  • Toiletries such as new soap, toothpaste and combs.
  • Please bring items to the American Reformed Church on the morning of Thursday, December 6th.

If people want to donate items that need to be picked up, they may call Dennis or Marie Weeks at 376-9180. Items should be brought to American Reformed Church, 1720 Burlington Ave., Worthington, on the morning of Dec. 6.

Cash donations may be also be made to the program and should be mailed to Community Christmas Baskets, P.O. Box 552 Worthington 56187.

Additionally, Community Christmas Baskets is searching for volunteers to help package the baskets from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 6 at American Reformed Church. The program is also seeking volunteers to help distribute the baskets from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Dec. 7. To volunteer, phone Diane Waldner at 372-2419 or Johnson at 376-5479.

“What makes the Community Christmas Baskets so extraordinary is all of the donations are made by the community.” Johnson said. “The donations are strictly what the people of this county are willing to give. It’s an incredible effort, which is very unique.”

Johnson explained that It’s important to keep in mind — especially during the holiday season — that as you celebrate, you should remember those who have less. The Community Christmas Baskets in Nobles County has been around for more than 90 years, she said, and for the most part has remained relatively unchanged through all that time. The core principle is still the same, which is neighbor taking care of neighbor.

“In a world becoming increasingly polarizing, it is especially important to take time this holiday season to focus on our community and what we can all do to make it better,” Johnson added. “By donating to the Community Christmas Basket, you can do just that, and improve our community by giving those who are less fortunate something to be thankful for.”

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