By Natalie Conrad
Herald Staff Writer
While many are hitting up the mall to get last minute Christmas gifts, there are some who struggle to find the means to celebrate the holiday season.
Residents young and old are volunteering their time to make sure these families have food and gifts to celebrate Christmas.
“It’s so important for the kids,” Giving Tree volunteer Linda Pingel said. “We want to make sure they have a good holiday. Everyone deserves a present under the tree.”
Volunteers gave time and talents assembling and handing out sharing tree gifts and food baskets on Tuesday at City Hall. Camanche Kiwanis facilitates the Christmas food baskets each year with help from local church and school groups.
“It’s a real community effort,” Kiwanis member Marilyn Rasmussen said.
More than 100 families benefit from the event each year. The group also provides and delivers meal boxes to the elderly.
“It makes you feel so good to help other people,” Kiwanis member Pat Haley said.
For these volunteers it is part of a yearlong effort to benefit the community. Much of the food that goes into the boxes was gathered during the trick or treat for canned goods event in October along with donations from the Quad-Cities Food Bank.
“Seeing a smile on someone’s face and knowing you were helpful is the best part,” Camanche High School student Quan Matthew said.
Nearby at the Camanche Masonic Lodge, Deb Wiese and Linda Pingel, have gathered up toys for less fortunate young ones for more than 20 years. The two women have organized the giving tree gift bags with help from friends and other volunteers. This year they also had help from toys for tots.
“We are very thankful for Toys for Tots and everyone who donates time and money to help out,” Pingel said.
From the lady who decorates the bears for the giving tree to the woman who donates china dolls each year, there are many people who lend a hand to brighten the holidays for those in need. Wiese shops for deals year round to supplement the gift drive each year.
“All of us could easily be in their shoes,” Wiese said. “It’s nice to know that there is someone there to help. Plus I enjoy shopping.”
In addition to the gift bags for families, the group also holds a used clothing sale. This year, Nikki Carber and Kristy Matyasse organized the collection that offers families a place to pick up some extra items.
“We’ve had a great response from the community,” Carber said. “It’s very gratifying, but a lot of work.”
Perhaps the most important lesson in charity is from those who have little to give.
“One man came in to pick up a bag for his family and came back later to drop off some old toys,” Pingel said. “We’ve had others who have brought things to donate when they come to pick up their gifts too. I think that says a lot about our community and the people in it. Everyone wants to help no matter how much or little they have.”