by Joni Astrup
The Gifts Anonymous program is launching its gift drive for the upcoming holiday season.
Gifts Anonymous was created about 41 years ago in Elk River in an effort to centralize outreach to area families who are financially unable to provide Christmas gifts for their children.
Last year the program provided Christmas gifts to 798 children from 305 families.
Families may apply for assistance by picking up an application at the CAER office, 19279 Watson St., Elk River. Parents are then able to come to the distribution center at a scheduled time to shop (free) for gifts for each of their children. A food voucher for a ham or turkey for each family is also funded by the program.
The Gifts Anonymous program is dependent upon cash donations, fund drives such as the Lions Pancake Breakfast and donations from churches, service organizations and businesses in the area.
Cash donations may be mailed to CAER Gifts Anonymous, 19279 Watson St., Elk River, Minn. 55330 or deposited in the CAER Gifts Anonymous account at The Bank of Elk River.
In addition, there will be decorated collection barrels out at locations in Elk River and Otsego where people can drop off new, unwrapped gifts. All of the barrels will be in place by Monday, Nov. 21.
Everything collected through Gifts Anonymous stays in the Elk River and Otsego area. Although some businesses in the Elk River area collect for Toys for Tots, those donations are sent to Minneapolis. Elk River does not receive anything from Toys for Tots.
Here are some of the locations where gifts may be dropped off in Gifts Anonymous barrels through Thursday, Dec. 15.
•Olde Main Eatery, 313 Jackson Ave., Elk River
•Denny’s, 9020 Quaday Ave., Otsego
•Anytime Fitness, 18130 Zane St., Elk River; and 14142 Northdale Blvd., Rogers
•Klein Bank, 15751 87th St., Otsego
•The Bank of Elk River locations
•First National Bank, downtown Elk River and Elk Park Center
•Menards, 19521 Evans St., Elk River
•Star News, 506 Freeport Ave., Elk River
Gifts Anonymous barrels also will be out in several local churches.
Gifts are needed for children of all ages. Some of the items that have been popular in recent years include electronics, radio- or remote-controlled cars (with batteries) and walkie-talkie sets.