Holiday Gift Giving program is in its 16th year

By Tina SnellStaff Writer

The Holiday Gift Giving Program, coordinated by Judy Buckingham of Little Falls, is in its 16th year. The forms have been returned and  she is ready to begin the organization of the many gifts that will be bought.

“People are struggling for many reasons,” Buckingham said. “This is a way for people to show support for their community and for others.”

Last year, the Holiday Gift Giving Program helped 316 families. With an average size of four people per family, the total number of people helped in the community came to about 1,250.

Starting Thanksgiving Day, the tags will be on trees at Walmart, Coborn’s, Pap’s Sports Shop, The Gumdrop Tree, St. Mary’s Catholic Churches in both Little Falls and Upsala.

“All one needs to do is take a tag and shop for the gifts listed,” said Buckingham. “Then bring the unwrapped gifts, with the tag, to either Walmart, Coborn’s, The Gumdrop Tree or Pap’s Sports Shop.

Buckingham and her many elves will be retrieving the gifts, wrapping and storing them for pick-up Saturday, Dec. 22.

Buckingham knows there are people who want to help, but just don’t have the time to shop. She said cash donations are just as important.

“Not all the tags get filled,” she said. “At the last minute, we need to go shopping to fill the ones left on the trees. Every child gets a gift at Christmas.”

Buckingham said her two head elves, Karen Primus from Sobieski and Jane Yorek from Little Falls, are with her from beginning to end and she couldn’t do this without them, or the 10 or more who help wrap and distribute.

Sixteen years ago, the Salvation Army helped Morrison County families in need during the holidays. Camp Ripley worked with both Toys for Tots and the Salvation Army. When  the organization no longer assisted families in the area through Toys for Tots, Camp Ripley representatives looked for someone to take over the responsibility.

Buckingham said she would help, but no one stepped forward. So, she took the job on, temporarily. The first year she had help from Morrison County, but after that she was on her own.

“Each year came and no one else stepped forward to take it over,” she said. “After a while, I felt responsible for the program.”

Buckingham said she continues to head the Gift Giving Program because she sees such a need in the community.

“The day of distribution is unexplainable,” she said. “I get an incredible feeling knowing I have helped so many who may not have had a Christmas at all.”

For more information or to volunteer, contact Buckingham at (320) 630-8497