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 29th 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.
“There’s people who come in here and you really do see how thankful they are,” volunteer Wanda Mau said. “Some of them are brought to tears by it, so you feel like you’re fulfilling a need.”
Mau said she’s also overwhelmed by the volunteers who donate their time and money, either buying gifts or spending time wrapping presents.
This year, 376 families signed up, consisting of 912 children. Last year, 363 families and 874 children were signed up.
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.
“There’s so many people in need and it’s wonderful that people will give to help some other families that aren’t as lucky as we are,” said volunteer Rita Johnson.
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. 15, when families lined up to receive the hand-wrapped presents for their children.
“It went really well,” project coordinator for the Isanti Lions Club Tom Pagel said. “There’s a really good outpouring from the community.”
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 Drive N.W., Isanti, Minn. 55040. For more information, call Pagel at 763-444-6560.