Warming hearts, filling needs: Community Christmas Baskets deliver this week

WORTHINGTON -- Since the mid-1920s, the volunteer-fueled Nobles County Community Christmas Baskets program has been doing its part to brighten the holidays for area families in need.

Marthaler Chevrolet General Manager Sean Boots (left) and New Car Manager Anthony Lumsden pose with a truck containing items the dealership is donating to Community Christmas Baskets. Ryan McGaughey/Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON - Since the mid-1920s, the volunteer-fueled Nobles County Community Christmas Baskets program has been doing its part to brighten the holidays for area families in need.

This December is no exception.
On Friday, approximately 300 county households will benefit from the generosity of area individuals, businesses, churches and organizations as the annual distribution of food, clothing and toys (for infants to pre-teens) takes place at American Reformed Church.
“People here have been very faithful about supporting the Community Christmas Baskets,” affirmed Janelle Johnson, the non-profit program’s volunteer chairman.
With at least 100 volunteers - everyone from planners to drivers to delivery personnel to on-site distribution assistants - involved, Johnson confirms that it truly “takes a village” to bring the effort to fruition every 12 months.
And for a third year, the program has received an added lift with the participation of Marthaler Chevrolet, which has made a point of donating $20 for each vehicle sold at the Worthington dealership in November.
“Then we take the money, shop locally for food, clothing and toys and fill up a truck in our showroom with the requested items,” explained Sean Boots, general manager of Marthaler Chevrolet, adding that the 2015 donation amounted to $1,680; Marthaler also donated more than $1,000 worth of goods to the program in each of the preceding two years.
“We’ve had a pretty good response from customers, too,” Boots continued. “Some people have bought a car from us one day and come back the next day with donations themselves.”
For the past several weeks, a black 2016 Chevy Silverado LTZ has served as the receptacle for the Community Christmas Basket items.
“We keep it (the donation-filled truck) on the show floor so people can see what we’re trying to accomplish, and hopefully it makes them interested in donating, too,” said Boots.

“And our employees get excited about seeing the truck fill up.”
Johnson assures that recipients of the Community Christmas Baskets are screened for true need; churches, schools or social service agencies refer each recipient household to the program.
“With 300 households benefiting, that amounts to just under 1,300 individuals, about half of whom are children,” said Johnson, who willingly shared her personal motivation for helping.
“For the most part, I’ve known nothing but happy Christmases, and I’m driven by the idea that there might be somebody who needs help to do the same,” she said.
“Even as a child, I remember hearing about the need to give so that some other kids would receive gifts at Christmas.
“When you’ve been so blessed, you want others to have that same blessing.”
Boots’ willingness to support the Community Christmas Baskets stems from a similar sentiment.
“At Christmastime, there can be a lot of people who don’t have enough food, and a lot of little kids who don’t get too much, so this is about trying to make sure that everyone gets something,” said Boots.
Johnson believes the rekindled Albs concert - scheduled for 3 p.m. Dec. 13 at Memorial Auditorium, with its free-will proceeds dedicated to the cause at hand - will also aid the program.
“We’re looking forward to the Albs concert, which will either help us cover the remainder of our costs from this year or give us a good jumpstart on expenses for next year,” said Johnson.
But first, Johnson and several dozen other volunteers will concentrate on organizing the donations that will arrive at American Reformed Church Thursday and distributing them to the roughly 300 selected households on Friday.
“This is something that really helps others in our greater community,” declared Boots, “and we are happy to be involved with it.”

Cash donations for purchasing food and clothing may be sent to: Community Christmas Baskets, P.O. Box 552, Worthington 56187. Items needed include: non-perishable foods; new adult-size warm clothing (especially gloves, hats, scarves and earmuffs); new child-size mittens, gloves, hats, slippers or stockings; new toys for kids from birth to age 12; and toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, soap and combs. Donations may be brought to American Reformed Church, 1720 Burlington Ave., Worthington, from 8 to 10 a.m. Thursday. Questions about donations may be directed to Marie and Dennis Weeks, 376-9180.

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