MAHASKA COUNTY — Many families have holiday traditions. Local organizations have well-loved holiday traditions as well.
Planning Christmas festivities takes time, effort, coordination and a positive attitude. That goes for families as well as local organizations that are preparing to help local children and families during the holidays.
Sieda Christmas program
Sieda Community Action Program Specialist Kim Parks said families that meet financial eligibility requirements may fill out an application at Sieda. Those who apply will list their children’s name, age, clothing sizes and a toy wish.
Community sponsors “adopt” families and fulfill the family’s wishlist.
“Once they get all the Christmas presents together, then we collect them,” Parks said. “We go to Central United Methodist Church here in Oskaloosa. Then the families come and they get to pick out the Christmas gifts for their children.”
Parks said Sieda wants every child to have a happy Christmas.
“This is just very good for the community. The children really love this time of year. It’s something that Sieda has always had a passion for. They have done this for very many years,” she said. “We work with the community to secure opportunities for people in need like advocacy, counseling, education, partnerships and all the supportive partnerships that Sieda does have. This is a program that has just taken off.”
The partnership with community businesses has been “wonderful,” Parks said.
“There’s lots of them that call and they’re very excited about it,” she said. “I just think it’s awesome that the Mahaska County Community is just so involved in this.”
Rotary Christmas food baskets
Another holiday tradition in Oskaloosa is the Rotary food baskets. The Rotary Club has been in charge of the food basket for at least a decade.
Rotary Club member Eddie Pierson said the food basket program relies on financial donations, and donations are still being accepted.
“Any money that we can get that can help us towards [the cost of the baskets] is very much appreciated,’ he said. “Again, this is all funded by donations that we receive.”
The baskets are filled with a variety of items that make up a traditional holiday meal, Pierson said.
“There’s a lot of people in our community that don’t necessarily have the means to have that type of meal for a holiday,” he said. “And we want to make sure that we can offer that type of meal for at least one meal during the holidays. So people know that they can count on that every year.”
Everything from ham, fresh fruits, canned vegetables, potatoes, fresh carrots and celery as well as milk and eggs are included in the baskets, along with macaroni and cheese.
Pierson said a cookie mix is also included in the baskets.
“One of the great traditions is making cookies with your kids and with your family,” he said. “It’s these foods that people on a tight budget may not be able to afford. And we just want people to know that they matter. “
A simple food basket, Pierson said, makes people feel good.
“We’ve had people in the past – kids – that see the milk,” he said, “and they’re like ‘mom, dad, milk!’ It’s great to see the look on especially the kids’ faces when they get that basket and see all the things in there that they don’t usually get.”
Distributing the baskets is a two-day process. On Friday, Dec. 13, the groceries will be picked up and with the help of Oskaloosa Middle School student council members, the goods are unloaded and organized at Central United Methodist Church. Different groups, including realtors, help build baskets and Oskaloosa High School National Honor Society Club members help deliver baskets.
Having young people help with the food baskets is nice to see, Pierson said.
“[It] gives them some perspective of a lot of these kids have the food, they don’t have food insecurity,” he said, “and for them to see the basket of food may only last a couple days or a week, but the impression that that basket makes on the people that receive it lasts a lot longer than that.”
Applications for food baskets must be postmarked by Friday, Nov. 22.
“The reason being,” Pierson said, “we don’t want to limit anybody from getting a basket, but we have to do a cutoff because we have to still order the groceries, we’ve got to get the letters out, letting everybody know that they will receive a basket.”
Everyone who receives a letter will get a basket, Pierson said.
“We’re not going to turn you away. This will be my third year doing it. The first year I got there and there’s a line out the door, up B Avenue, and then down heading south on the sidewalk,” he said. “These baskets are so important to these people.”
Donations to the Rotary Club Christmas food baskets can be sent to Oskaloosa Rotary Club, P.O. Box 222, Oskaloosa. Applications can be found in The Herald and Shopper, DHS, Sieda, United Way of Mahaska County, Mahaska County Community Services and the senior center.