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New coordinators take over toy collection program

Tanja and John Zentz, a daughter-father team, are coordinating this year's Toys for Girls and Boys and Tiny Tots program. (Shannon Geisen/Enterprise)

A local, gift-giving initiative returns for the holiday season with a new name and new organizers at the helm.

John Zentz and Tanja Zentz, a father-daughter duo, will coordinate this year's Toys for Girls and Boys and Tiny Tots.

The charitable program distributes presents to less fortunate children in Park Rapids, Ponsford, Osage, Nevis, Akeley and Menahga.

Families in need of Christmas gifts may register for the program from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 11 or Saturday, Nov. 18 at the Park Rapids American Legion. Parents must sign up in order for their children to participate.

John, 85, managed companies throughout his career. He decided to get involved in Toys for Girls and Boys and Tiny Tots after reading about the need for coordinators and a recent conversation with his wife.

"My wife said to me, 'What are you doing today?' I said, 'Absolutely nothing.' She said, 'That's what you did yesterday.' I said, 'I know, but I wasn't finished,'" John said. "So I really had nothing to do. I've run companies all my life and now I've got nothing to do, and I can't stand that."

John recruited his daughter, Tanja, to assist.

Years ago, when her ex-husband was in the Army National Guard and deployed, Tanja said her family benefited from a similar toy-giving program.

"I think it's great that the community helps out the less fortunate," she said. Tanja is a 1993 Park Rapids Area High School graduate.

Community service has been important to the Zentz family.

"My mom and dad were always giving to people," said Tanja.

The Zentzs encourage churches, families, businesses and organizations to "adopt" a family this Christmas. Gift-givers have two options. One is to sponsor a specific family and purchase new, unwrapped toys for a child or children. Sponsors receive a suggestion list, along with the child's age and gender.

The second option is to donate an item to Toys for Girls and Boys and Tiny Tots. Gift ideas include a small toy, gloves, scarves, hats, jewelry, makeup, perfume or cologne. Donations must be made by Dec. 11. They will be distributed Dec. 15.

Drop boxes are located at participating merchants, such as the Park Rapids Enterprise, ACE Hardware, Park Rapids Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, Essentia Health, Great Northern Cafe, Pizza Ranch, Jake's Barbershop, DeLaHunt Broadcasting, Burggraf Wireless and Jerry's Budget Auto.

For more information about donating, volunteering or signing up, contact John at 218-255-5014 or Tanja at 218-255-6056.