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Opportunities abound for giving

Seven-month-old Vivian Burkman got her first glimpse of Jolly Old St. Nick (Dick Rutherford) while brother Brock Leiran, 3, chatted with him.

'Tis the season for giving and avenues for charitable contributions and volunteering are plentiful in the area.

Ringin' in the season

The traditional red kettle has become an integral part of the Christmas scene.

And this season is no exception.

Volunteers for the Salvation Army will be at five sites in Park Rapids, ringing the bell Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 19.

The bells will toll in Akeley Saturday, Dec. 5, Dec. 12 and 13 in Nevis and Friday, Dec. 18 in Menahga.

"The money helps the working poor," explained Lori Longworth. As treasurer of the local chapter, she is recruiting bell ringers.

The majority of checks she writes average $20 - a transitory need to cover the cost of a tank of gas, with requests for assistance to pay heating bill also common.

All those requesting assistance have been screened through Social Services, she said. Most of the funds raised are distributed locally.

Jerry Forsberg founded the holiday tradition in Hubbard County in the mid-'80s, the volunteers raising about $2,000, initially.

Today, about $25,000 annually is dropped in buckets, earning a warm smile and thanks from volunteers.

Forsberg, currently recovering from surgery, plans to spread some holiday cheer in area nursing home facilities by distributing Teddy bears to residents.

"I get a lot of hugs," he said. "They are very appreciative."

He also plans to ring the bell in Menahga this year.

The Christmas dinner, now being hosted by the Park Rapids American Legion, raises another $2,500 in freewill donations for the Salvation Army.

"Openings" remain for bell ringers. Individuals and groups are welcome.

Call Longworth at 573-3692 to ring in the season.

The cat's meow

Looking for the purrrrfect gift? Take a cat "Home for the Holidays."

Adult cats may be adopted from the Headwaters Animal Shelter for $25 in December, with 50 furry felines from which to choose. ($85 is the standard fee.)

Recipients of the gift, who may be traveling during the holidays, have until Jan. 31 to adopt.

Or make a donation in someone's name. The animal shelter will send a notice of the gift. Monetary gifts may be made for a specified use or animal.

Stockings will be hung on the kennels (with care) in hopes that some dog bones and treats soon will be there.

Have a dog at home? Make it a part of the holiday gift giving by sharing some goodies in its name.

The generosity of kids - generally girls - has spawned a "name the critter" initiative. Kids who make a $10 donation (or receive notice of the gift in their Christmas stocking) can name a dog or cat after themselves or choose a name for an animal arriving at the shelter.

The shelter is always in need of laundry and dish detergent, paper towels, trash bags, towels and washcloths. Walmart donates dog food, but cat food is usually in short supply, Diane Nash reports.

Or give the gift of time. Visitors are welcome to walk dogs or spend time with the critters that have taken up temporary residence at the shelter.

Puppies are available for adoption this holiday season.

The animal shelter offers a two-week foster trial period. If adoption of the dog or cat doesn't work in a household, the animal may be returned to the shelter.

The shelter, located at 901 Western Ave. South, may be reached at 237-7100.

Remember, honor, thank

The time-honored tradition of the village Christmas tree is enhanced with St. Joseph Hospice's Light Up a Life on Main.

The bulbs on the tree symbolically represent the life of a loved one - in honor or in memory. The $5 donation benefits the organization providing palliative care, end of life spent at home surrounded by loved ones.

"It spreads good will in the community," said Betsy Meyer of 20-year-old partnership with the Chamber to officially ring in the Christmas season.

The gift does not have to be in honor of someone who's terminally ill or who's died, said Meyer, Hospice volunteer services coordinator.

"It's to remember, honor and thank."

Donations may be sent to St. Joseph's Hospice, 600 Pleasant Ave., Park Rapids, MN 56470.

'A lesson in gift giving'

Reading, writing, 'rithmetic - and benevolence are subjects on the Century School curriculum.

The PTA is once again hosting a holiday shopping event for kids, providing precocious consumers with an opportunity to buy gifts for brothers and sisters or parents or grandparents - and pets (at 50 cents each) - gift wrapping included.

"It's so much fun," said Andrea Morgan, chair of the event. "It's precious to watch."

This year's event was in danger of extinction due to lack of a chair. So the mother of a first grader decided to take it on for a second year. "I couldn't see it not happening.

"This is a lesson in gift giving," she said of the weeklong event, beginning Dec. 14.

Donations of money or gifts (new or slightly used) are being sought, as well as volunteers to assist with the event rivaling Macy's.

Board games, stuffed animals, picture frames, tools, gloves and toys have proven to be hot ticket items, she said.

Donations can be dropped off at the Century Elementary office through Dec. 11.

Contact Morgan at 252-4866 for more information or to serve as one of Santa's elves.

Toll on Hubbard's cupboard

The Hubbard County Food Shelf traditionally provides holiday meal baskets to augment the Caring and Sharing gift baskets and Toys for Tots.

And this season is no exception. Director Dave Long is anticipating "at least" 434 holiday turkey dinners will be distributed this season via the two initiatives.

Requests for the Caring and Sharing baskets are up 12 percent from last year when approximately $11,000 was spent to add Christmas cheer to holiday tables.

And this generally mirrors the month-to-month requests at the food shelf, up approximately 12 percent from last year.

"Caring and Sharing has been our yardstick," Long said.

Local unemployment numbers, cuts in hours, layoffs and the closing of Pamida are factors in the upsurge, he said.

Donations may be sent to the food shelf c/o Long at 15701 Essex Rd., Park Rapids, MN 56470.

Harvesting holidays

Two decades ago, the Antique Tractor Club put holiday gift giving for kids into gear, and Toys for Tots has been building steam ever since.

The program began at Ness Motors, Larry Heyers recalled, moving to the Eagles five years later, having out grown the facility.

Last year, 192 families were served by the program. Approximately 700 children's Christmas were enriched by community generosity. A full Christmas dinner accompanies the gifts.

Toys for Tots has spurred giving from individuals and organizations, the Osage Lions foregoing a gift exchange to buy toys for kids.

The reward: Hugs from mom, tears welling.

Drop-off locations for new gifts are in Park Rapids, Nevis, Menahga, Osage and Snellman. Toys will be distributed in these cities and Ponsford.

Cash donations to Toys for Tots may be sent to Wilbur and Carol Norman, 58310 CSAH 42, Park Rapids, MN 56470.

The program works in conjunction with Caring and Sharing to avoid duplicity. Registration for the program is being accepted through 5:30 p.m. today (Saturday). All information is confidential.

Wrapping will be underway Saturday, Dec. 16 at 9 a.m. (volunteers welcome) with distribution Dec. 18.

The Giving Tree

Or "shop" Park Rapids Area Library's Gift Tree.

Ornaments on the tree hold book titles for kids, teens and adults - fiction and non-fiction.

If desired, the book may be donated in memory or in honor of someone, a plate inserted in the book.

Most of the books are under $20.