It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year
On Saturday, Dec. 15, the halls of St. John Lutheran Church in Mapleton were bustling with the volunteers who, in this busy holiday season, so graciously gave of their time to fill Christmas food boxes for Maple River Loaves and Fishes Food Shelf. The old saying “Many hands make light work” proved true.
The group assembled 170 boxes in short order before the doors of the food shelf opened to distribute the boxes to its patrons. In addition to the food boxes, patrons were given the opportunity to “shop” at a gift store set up in the basement of the church. Toys, coloring books and crayons, and knitted hats and mittens were donated through the generosity of a local family, who wished to remain anonymous. We’ll call them the Smith family.
About 12 years ago, the Smiths started a tradition on Thanksgiving Day. At that time they decided instead of exchanging Christmas gifts, the family members would make a monetary donation to the “Blessings” envelope and then choose a charity or maybe a particular family they know who has experienced hardship and is in need of something extra during the holiday season and share the blessings.
Each year an envelope sits in the kitchen window with the word “Blessings” on it and everyone places their contribution in throughout the day. Together the family decides who will receive the “Blessings.” They use what is collected to purchase gift cards for food, toys, or whatever the need may be. It is heartwarming to see how much the families appreciate their gifts.
This year the Smiths actually carried forward what was started last year by another family who had money left from an estate. They approached Loaves and Fishes Food Shelf Director Jon Klenk to see how this money might be used by the food shelf. They came up with the idea of providing a gift shop as an extension of the Christmas food boxes provided each year to families in need. Age appropriate toys and coloring books were provided and the shopping was set up where patrons of the food shelf were able to choose a toy to put under the Christmas tree. Hats and mittens knitted by local women were also included for families to take.
Both families wished to remain anonymous; however, they were happy to share their story in hopes that it might inspire others to consider stepping forward next year to continue the gift of giving of oneself so that others may receive through generosity.
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
Each year, Christmas comes and we all enjoy the sights and sounds of the holiday season. But do we really stop to think about who takes the time to make our towns in the Maple River area festive and bright? From hanging the lighted decorations on the light poles and making the Main Streets festive, to Santa’s visit and the holiday celebrations—all this takes time and manpower to plan and execute. There are many in the Maple River area who give of their time and talent to make this happen.
In Minnesota Lake, the Kremer House board comes up with a theme each year and decorates the historic building for Hometown Christmas. The fire department sees to it that Santa arrives on a fire truck and the Minnesota Lake Lions fill treat bags for Santa to give to all the good girls and boys who stop by to visit him.
This year, photographer Ashney Helleksen organized a free photo opportunity with Santa in Good Thunder with a donation of a toy for the Toys for Tots. In addition, a horse-drawn trolley made its way around the streets in Good Thunder.
In Vernon Center the annual holiday festivities include a soup supper, bake sale and a lighted parade. Despite a snowstorm that cancelled the parade on Saturday, Dec. 1, the bake sale and soup supper was held on Sunday and over 70 people came out to celebrate and get in the holiday spirit, thanks to the volunteers who hosted the event. Funds raised help support the annual Fourth of July celebration and fireworks. In Amboy, a decorated tree stands in the center of town next to The Depot and lighted spruce pots have been placed all along Maine Street. The fire department sponsors a chili supper and Santa’s visit every year.
Deck the Halls
The Maple River Chamber of Commerce begins working on plans for Mapleton’s Snowflake Dazzle in the summer months, each year adding something new to make the annual kickoff to the Christmas season a little different. They plan many activities for youngsters and the young at heart to get in the holiday spirit.
This year, the Sertoma Beautification Committee had the help of Lorry Denn and Tammy Schmidt, who shared their expertise and designed new decorations for the planters on the corner of each block along Main Street and added decorations to the street lights. Denn has helped Sertoma in coming up with the design for the planters throughout the whole year for each of the different seasons and Sertoma members provide the manpower in planting the flowers in spring and dissembling them to get ready for the fall and Christmas season. Summer maintenance and watering of the planters is also done by Sertoma members.
This year, Denn was able to repurpose wood from a fence that caught fire to make the street light decorations, and made the decorations in the planters from treated lumber. The city of Mapleton provides funds for the planters and many community members donated many of the materials needed for the different seasons as well.
The new decorations really add to the holiday experience and everything looks amazing. Schmidt said that someone commented to her that Mapleton’s Snowflake Dazzle was “just like a Hallmark movie.” Schmidt said comments like that mean a lot to all the volunteers who put in countless hours working to make the holiday season bright for everyone. They work together to make Mapleton a community that people want to come to.
Take time in this busy time to thank the people who work so hard during the holiday season and throughout the year in each of our Maple River communities. Merry Christmas Maple River!
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