More than 150 families signed up with the Toys for Girls and Boys and Tiny Tots program to receive Christmas gifts for their children this year. The program needs the community’s help to make sure all of the children have presents to open on Christmas morning.

The charitable program distributes presents to children in need in the Park Rapids, Nevis, Akeley, Menahga, Osage and Ponsford areas.

This is the third year that John Zentz and his daughter Tanja Zentz have been running the program.

“I also have a wonderful volunteer, Andrea Otto, who also helped me last year,” Tanja said.

She said every year there are stories that touch their hearts. “One girl who grew up here just moved here back with her family from another state,” she said. “She was staying with her mom with the kids sleeping on the living room floor and was happy this program was available so her kids would have some kind of Christmas while she was looking for a job and a place to live. Then another gal had come out of treatment and didn’t have a job or a place to live. She was going from hotel to friend’s house to friend’s house with four kids.”

The Zentzes encourage churches, families, businesses and organizations to “adopt” a 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 for those not sponsoring a family is to bring new toys and other gift items such as fleece blankets and for teenagers items such as shampoo and conditioner, body wash and sprays and makeup.

Donation boxes are located at the American Legion, Hugo’s, Coborn’s, Walmart, Walgreens, the radio station, the Chamber, Jake’s Barbershop, Cwikla Ace Hardware, Park Rapids Enterprise and Jerry Deblieck's Budget Auto Lube and Tire in Park Rapids. Ike’s Heating and Cooling in Nevis also has a donation box this year.

Donations should be dropped off by Dec. 9 and will be distributed to families Dec. 13 at the Lakes Area Vineyard Church in Park Rapids.

Donations of money and phone, gas or other gift cards can be brought to TruStar in Park Rapids or Nevis.

“Hubbard United Methodist Church is also helping this year,” Tanja said. “They’ve been wonderful. They have already donated cash and taken families to sponsor.”

For more information about donating or volunteering to help with gift pickup and distribution, call Tanja at 218-255-6056.