Christmas baskets disbursed

Thirty-seven families came to Minot Municipal Auditorium Friday to receive gifts of food, clothing and toys collected by the Minot Salvation Army. This included 250 children, who will be able to celebrate Christmas with gifts this year.

“They were already lining up at 8 o’clock,” said Captain Teri Nauta, who organized this year’s distribution.

Families in need went through an application process last month, though the Salvation Army began preparing for its drive in August.

While a number of these families have participated in previous gift drives, Nauta estimates that around half have applied for the first time.

“We get a lot that are new in town,” she said.

At various locations around Minot, cards dangled from Christmas trees with each describing sizes and a general wish list for children enrolled in the program. Participating donors would use these cards as a guide when making their purchases, then return them either to the Salvation Army office or to prepared drop locations near the trees.

There were a couple of hiccups in this year’s collection with around 60 of the cards still unaccounted for as late as Wednesday. Better than half remained so by the Thursday deadline, though the volunteers were able to meet the difference in time.

Some of those orders may yet come in. “It will become part of my fillers for next year” if they do, Nauta said.

Once received, Nauta and a handful of volunteers went through sorting, arranging and bagging of each order, and adding to them as necessary. They try to keep the items in each gift basket as similarly composed as possible.

There was an added bonus of books, as well. Barnes and Noble held its annual book drive, providing books donated by its customers over the holiday season to the Minot-area United Way. Through them, 500 childrens books found their way to the Salvation Army’s drive. Kids enrolled in the gift program were able to pick out two apiece.

The Christmas basket program is distinct from the group’s familiar red kettle drive, with money collected by those going toward the church’s operating funds for the year. From the Salvation Army’s website, an average of 82 cents for every dollar collected is used to support its various aid programs, which in Minot include its food pantry, rent and utility assistance, emergency services, as well as men’s, womens’ and youth ministries.

While not the only fundraiser for the organization, the Christmas-season red kettle drive is its biggest.

“That carries us through” for the year, Nauta explained.

However, in Minnesota and North Dakota this year, such collections have been comparatively down. In order to give the drive a boost, the Salvation Army announced Thursday that donations made through today will be matched by an anonymous group of donors, who had raised $2 million for that purpose. This includes monies given online or phoned in.