Hundreds of children benefit from Christmas Project

By Elizabeth Sias

Hundreds of local children in need this holiday season will wake up Christmas morning with smiles on their faces as they see presents under the Christmas tree.

And it’s all thanks to the generosity of the community and organizations that teamed up for the Isanti County Christmas Project, now in its 28th year.

Coordinated by the Isanti Lions Club, the project allows families in need in Isanti County to apply for food and toys during the holiday season.

Geri Morley, far left, and Judy Jones wrap presents for the Isanti County Christmas Project, coordinated annually by the Isanti Lions Club. Local children in need receive the gifts, which are toys and games donated by community members and local businesses. Photos by Elizabeth Sias

“It’s a chance for those who have to give to those who don’t have in a very special time of year,” Isanti Lions Club President Gordon Jacobson said.

This year, 363 families signed up, consisting of 874 children. This is down from over 400 families last year, but Project Coordinator for the Isanti Lions Club Tom Pagel thinks applications will continue to flow in through Christmas.

Individuals and businesses donated thousands of presents and food items. Then, inside the Isanti Community Center, volunteers spent countless hours organizing, boxing  food and wrapping thousands of presents — dolls, bicycles, board games, Barbies, stuffed animals, action figures, balls, My Little Pony figures, Play-Doh, knitted hats and much more.

The Isanti Lions Club also donated hundreds of hams to help families cook a special Christmas dinner.

Hundreds of toys and games filled the Isanti Community Center.

“It’s almost overwhelming the amount of people we’ve had who have come to volunteer and give stuff,” volunteer Wanda Mau said. “The generosity of people is just incredible. There’s a lot of good, generous people out there.”

Parents and guardians fill out the applications and specify names, ages and genders of their children. They can also suggest items on children’s wish lists, and volunteers from the Isanti County Christmas Project will try their best to match gifts with children.

The project all came together Dec. 17 when families lined up to receive the hand-wrapped presents for their children.

“There are people we can help that are so appreciative,” Mau said. “If you just have even one person who’s appreciative, you feel like you’ve really done something to help somebody.”

Monetary donations can be made payable to the Isanti County Christmas Project and sent to the Isanti Lions Club, c/o Tom Pagel, 28339 Bayshore Dr. NW Isanti, MN 55040. For more information, call Tom Pagel at 763-444-6560.