by Jim Boyle
Gifts Anonymous has provided 645 children from 246 families with Christmas gifts, thanks to a late surge in donations and the efforts by local schools to collect unwrapped gifts.
The pace at which gifts were coming in made for some anxious moments for the members of the Gifts Anonymous, which is now organized for the communities of Elk River and Otsego by the Otsego Lions.
Otsego Mayor and Gifts Anonymous Otsego Lion Jessica Stockamp said organizers suspected warmer than average temperatures earlier in the season had perhaps prevented people from getting “into the season, but the community came through.”
The biggest assist came from drives at schools in Elk River and Otsego.
“They really stepped up,” Stockamp said. “That was nice.”
Gifts Anonymous was able to use about $4,000 from cash donations along with money from fundraisers during the year that included a kickball tournament and manning the brat stand at Cub Foods.
There were 14 “elves” who helped pick up gifts at drop-off sites and then sorted them between medium and large.
Each child gets two medium gifts and one large to ensure the operation has enough gifts to go around.
Each family also gets a family game and each child gets some stocking stuffers.
Students with the Compass program, for students age 18 to 22, also helped with the sorting at Prairie Center in Otsego.
“They were very helpful,” Stockamp said. “We also had lunch with the students.”
Community Aid Elk River, the local food shelf, used to run Gifts Anonymous but the Otsego Lions have taken over the task. Families who visit CAER were still, however, able to sign up to be recipients of gifts as well as the community at-large.
“I just want to give a big shout-out to the communities of Elk River and Otsego for coming through,” Stockamp said.