A Season for Giving

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt Volunteers at the New Ulm Food Shelf fill boxes for needy families from the shelves of donated food items.

NEW ULM — The holiday season is in full force and many people are hitting the shops to find gift items, but is also the time to think of those in need.

In the New Ulm area there are several opportunities to donate to worthy causes this time of year. In Brown County, Santa’s Closet it one of the most popular programs. The Santa’s Closet program originally started in Sleepy Eye with individuals donating used toys that would later be rehabilitated.

The request for assistance around the holidays was significant and the program soon partnered with Brown County Family Services and later, the Sertoma Club.

Sertoma Treasurer Ken Vonderharr said the club took over running the program from Family Services over 25 years ago because the need was large and had expanded beyond Family Services capabilities. Family Services still provides referrals to the program. They provide Sertoma with the age of a child in need and the organization buys an appropriate present for that age.

“We partner with the area high schools,” Vonderharr said. The students are given the child’s age and a price to select the gift. The program works well because the students have a better idea than the adults about what items are popular.

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt Members of the New Ulm Girls Hockey Association Ava Brennan (left), Mya Hornick (center) and Ashley Schaefer decorate a Christmas tree at Frandsen Bank with gloves, mittens and hats. This tree was sponsored by the Women’s Literary Club. On Friday, Dec. 14, members of the Sertoma Club will collect the cold weather apparel from the tree for the Santa’s Closet program.

On average the Santa’s Closet program receives 400 to 450 referrals, but the number has been as high as 600.

Those who wish to donate to Santa’s Closet may do so in multiple ways. Cash donations are the most popular. Monetary donations may be sent to Sertoma Club, PO Box 692, New Ulm, MN 56073.

New toy donations are accepted as well and can be dropped off at several location including the New Ulm and Sleepy Eye Chambers of Commerce. Walgreens, Menards, Runnings, Cash Wise, Bic Graphics and many of the local schools.

In addition to the toys, there are three locations in downtown New Ulm accepting donations of hats, gloves and mittens. Special Christmas Trees at Frandsen Banks, Alliance Bank and The New Ulm Chamber of Commerce Building are set up as collection sites for the cold weather gear. On Friday, Dec. 14, Sertoma will collect the items on the tree and transport them to Santa’s Closet.

Donated items for Santa’s Closet will be collected on Friday, Dec. 14 and distributed Saturday, Dec. 15. Sertoma does accept donations year round.

Staff photo by Clay Schuldt A mitten tree at Frandsen Bank collects gloves, hats and scarves for Santa’s Closet.

Other donations are more time sensitive than others. With the early arrival of snow and the cold of winter many families in need are looking for warm clothes, such as a coats, hats, mittens, gloves and boots.

The Clothing Depot has been a great resource for those in need in Brown County by providing free clothing items.

No referrals or applications are necessary. If someone is need of warm clothes this winter the Depot will help. Volunteers at the Clothing Depot said with the early winter, coats have been flying off the racks in the recent week. The need for coats, hoodies, sweaters, and anything warm is crucial. The Depot needs items for children as well as adults.

The Clothing Depot has around 30 volunteer workers and has been a part of the community since 1971. In addition to clothing the Depot will take bedding, curtain, drapes, dishes, cookware, purses, kids toys, games and books.

Those looking to donate to the Clothing Depot or those in need of a clothing items can contact Manager Lori Hoffmann at (507) 276-6302.

Submitted photo Evy Olson (left), president of the New Ulm Rotary Club, delivered 150 warm hats and 150 pairs of gloves and mittens to Lisa Toltzman of the New Ulm Kiwanis Club for the Kiwanis Coats for Kids program. The hats and mittens will be delivered along with the coats the Kiwanis Club delivers to kids to help them stay warm this winter.

The New Ulm Kiwanis Club also provides warm winter gear for kids with its annual Coats for Kids program. The club raises funds to buy warm coats and jackets. It is joined in the effort by the New Ulm Rotary Club, which buys hats and gloves through the Rotary District 5950 “Warm Hands, Wams Heads, Warm Hearts” program to provide 150 hats and 150 pairs of gloves and mittens to go along with the Kiwanis Coats.

Another constant need is access to food. For years, the New Ulm Food Shelf has as the top resource for providing those in need with food supplies. The New Ulm Food Shelf on S. Valley Street and seeks food items year round.

Manager Brad Kirk said canned foods are always a good item to donate, whether its soup or canned vegetables. The benefit of canned foods is it has a long shelf life, is easy to store and durable. Items in glass jars run the risk of breaking. The mental cans might dent, but they won’t break even if dropped.

Kirk said food donations have been up the last few months, but the Food Shelf also needs cash donations. In recent years the Food Shelf has installed new freezers units, which increase the electrical demand. In addition, the insurance rates have gone up meaning the Food Shelf needs extra cash donations to keep the lights running.

Anyone able to donate is encouraged to send checks care of The Food Shelf to P.O. Box 761, New Ulm, MN 56073.

The New Ulm Jaycees are also accepting donation for the Annual Christmas Basket Fund Drive. The group will be assembling and delivering baskets of food to over 100 local families this holiday. Monetary donations can be sent to New Ulm Jaycees P.O. Box 331, New Ulm, MN 56073.

Another type of donation to consider is the donation of blood. The Red Cross is in constant need for life giving blood. Red Cross Blood drives are regularly setup throughout Brown County.

Recently the Red Cross Blood Mobile stopped at Alliance Bank, Tuesday.

Linda Neigebauer said the bank has been hosting drives every few months since 2014. It started as a convenient way for staff to donate, but it has grown to involve the community. Anyone who is able can donate at the Alliance Blood Drive. Neigebauer said their next blood drive was Jan. 25.

All charitable organizations are in need of extra assistant to keep running. Area residents are encouraged to donate their time, not just during the holiday season, but year round.

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