The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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November 14, 2012

Area predictably meets holiday giving demands

MANKATO — No matter how many years Liz Brown handles the details of the Holiday Sharing Tree Program in Mankato, the stories of the need in the community never fail to amaze her.

“We had one (program participant) that all he wanted was toilet paper,” Brown said. “Another guy just wanted socks and a belt.”

Stated needs such as those, Brown said, put into perspective how lucky people are who have a stable family and enough resources to engage in gift giving at Christmastime.

Luckily, she said, the Mankato area has always made sure that every person in the Sharing Tree program gets some kind of gift. Same goes for the Santa Anonymous program (visit mankatosanta.com). They’ve never come up short. And last year, the Salvation Army met its ambitious fundraising goal.

“We’re doing pretty good,” said Heather Spann, coordinator of the kettle collection program at the Mankato Salvation Army. “We have 6,000 hours total to fill. Last year we filled half, which is a typical year. Our goal this year has been to focus our recruitment on getting all our kettle hours manned. And we’re doing better.”

Over at Toys For Tots, the plan this year is part business as usual, part new twist.

The business-as-usual part is this: Just like every year, there are dozens of spots all over Mankato and St. Peter to drop off unwrapped toys for the program. (Visit mankato-mn.toysfortots.org for a full list of more than 40 drop sites.)

The new-twist part: They’re no longer going to sleep in a tent in the Best Buy parking lot to drum up donations.

“That brought a blizzard to the Mankato area every year,” said Sue Thompson, who along with Bernie Thompson coordinates the program.

Toys For Tots will hold a free kick-off event Friday at the Verizon Wireless Center from 3-9 p.m. with their corporate partner Three Eagles Communications.

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