Many community members may want to do something thoughtful to help others during the Christmas season, but they might be unsure of where to go or what to do.
One way to help is to make Christmas more special for Crow Wing County families in need.
Jeanne DeVries, a county family-based service provider, said there are many families and individuals in the county who may otherwise not be receiving a Christmas gift if it weren't for the support of several area churches, organizations and businesses, like The Dispatch, that purchase gifts and groceries for them.
For those living in poverty, it can be hard to buy Christmas presents when they still need to buy groceries and monthly bills need to be paid. Parents may not buy gifts for each other and instead buy a few things for their children instead, said DeVries.
So for more than 20 years, Crow Wing County Social Services has created a list of individuals and families that community members can adopt during the holiday season, purchasing a few items, like toys and clothing, for each family member and wrapping them. Many community members also deliver the gifts, too. Families in need who want to participate and receive holiday gifts write down clothing sizes and list a few things they would particularly like to get for Christmas.
"This is their Christmas," explained DeVries. "We try to provide clothing, things that are needed in the family, and this includes mom and dad, too."
Each year for the past five years, Brainerd Dispatch employees have sponsored two families each year. A list of items is posted on a bulletin board near the company lunch room and employees sign up to buy one or more things for the family members. Often a group of employees, like the entire newsroom or the press crew, pool their money and buy several items on the list.
Then The Dispatch buys food for Christmas Eve snacks, Christmas morning breakfast and a Christmas dinner for both families.
"It's awesome to see the response from the employees, to see who signs up to purchase the gifts and how many gifts," said DeAnn Barry, Dispatch public relations coordinator. "Employees enjoy giving to those who don't have much. It's what the season is supposed to be about. We do it not because we want the credit for it. It's because we want to help other families have a great Christmas."
DeLynn Howard, newsroom receptionist, often helps Barry shop for groceries for the Dispatch's adopted families. They each grab a shopping cart and load up both carts.
"The feeling I get from grocery shopping for needy families is just awesome," said Howard. "Sometimes those of us more fortunate than others tend to take things like filling a grocery cart up with food for granted. As we're going up and down the aisles, I imagine the families' reactions as they fill up their cupboards and refrigerators with the food we bought for them. It makes me feel good that I had a hand in making their holidays a little bit brighter."
DeVries said area churches tend to adopt the majority of families in need in the county, but there are other businesses and organizations that adopt families. Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Brainerd adopts 90 individuals. So does Crosslake Lutheran Church, she said. Churches either adopt the entire family or split the family members up so that people can adopt one person at a time.
DeVries said there are about 200 people on the list. Several people are still available to be "adopted" if any other businesses, organizations or families would like to sponsor them for the holiday season.
To adopt a family or individual and shop for them for the holidays, contact Crow Wing County Social Services at 824-1140.
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