Giving Tree prepares for distribution

Before Christmas, there is sorting.

The Children’s Giving Tree which was available at Walmart has been taken down, and volunteers spent all of Monday sorting through the packages, adding things to some of them, and preparing them for disadvantaged children to pick up this morning.

The donations filled the fellowship hall at St. Olaf Lutheran Church.

Organizer Audrey Best said boys from the Rabiner Treatment Center came at 8:30 a.m to bring all the donations to the church, and her volunteers began working around 9 a.m.

“We’ll be here until 8 or 9 (o’clock) tonight. We have about 500 kids to fill,” Best said.

Names of children 12 and under were provided by Head Start, the Domestic/Sexual Assault Outreach Center, the YWCA women’s shelter and area social workers. Shoppers filled bags with items for each child, especially warm clothing.

Some people spend more and some spend less when they donate a bag, Best said. When a bag for a child doesn’t have toys, the volunteers had one room of boys’ toys and one room of girls’ toys, and could pick one or two to give out. There were also plenty of extra clothes.

“They’re stored in the church basement all year long,” Best said. “You’re always looking for deals. It’s an everyday affair.”

Each child also got three age-appropriate books in their package, donated by retired teachers.

When the children come in the morning, their gifts will be brought out to them. Some may not have expected to get anything at all this Christmas.

“You should see their faces,” Best said.

The volunteers seem to enjoy it too.

“A lot of these women volunteer every year,” she said. “They keep coming back.”