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Volunteering as Santa's Helpers once again this year, Wanda Anderson (left) hands another gift to Mary Joy to add to the pile of toys for needy children in the Blackduck area. The two have spearheaded the effort that each year brightens the Christmas holiday for local families.

Merry Christmas starts here, now

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Merry Christmas starts here, now
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

The two ladies looked around, then at each other and smiled.

Wanda Anderson and Mary Joy have done it before and have an undiluted faith that the children in the Blackduck community will have a happy holiday once again.

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Then they chorused a list of organizations who again this year have been major supporters of the annual collection of toys and gifts that began with the American Legion Auxiliary's Christmas in July program.

"The Garden Club" Mary began "and Tri Sigma" Wanda added, going on to list the Lions Club and the Fireman's Relief Association. As quickly as one remembered the Presbyterian Youth, another thought of the dozen fishing rods that came again from 'Take a Kid Fishing.'"

Both have devoted many years of volunteer work to the annual Christmas program aimed at getting gifts into the hands of youngsters in homes where celebrating the holiday might otherwise have been difficult in these tough economic times. For themselves and the volunteers who join them at gift wrapping time, it's a time of enigmatic service: all gifts are prepared from the barebones of who is in the unidentified family, what the age and gender of the child is and that's it.

All other information remains confidential and families are notified and given a date, time and an identification number for picking up the gifts for that family.

Wanda noted one need that's a constant every year -- the need for cash donations.

"We get toys and things for kids, mostly up to about 10 years old, but for those on up to 18, we need to get something that helps us make sure everyone is remembered. That usually means buying something to fit a young person's needs and that really often means shopping for a teen-aged boy or girl. For that, we need money and cash donations really help," she said.

Money donations may be left at Deerwood Bank.

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Pioneer staff reports
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