Sixteen eighth-grade students from Fisher (Minn.) High School provided their muscle power to the Santa Claus Girls on Monday, Dec. 9, in preparation for Christmas gift distribution to needy families in the community.
The students volunteered to move dozens of boxes of toys and gifts from a second-floor storage area to the first-floor Hope Church Youth Center, the former Bingo Palace, at Grand Cities Mall.
Whalen’s Moving and Storage employees brought flat, wheeled carts and also helped to move boxes, said Julie Ekberg, president of Santa Claus Girls.
Volunteer drivers will be needed to deliver the gift bags to families Thursday, Dec. 12, Ekberg said. However, instead of The Herald building in downtown Grand Forks, distribution will take place from Grand Cities Mall.
For years, distribution took place Fridays, but this year it was moved to Thursday due to a scheduling conflict, said Ekberg, who is hoping the change will not negatively impact the number of delivery drivers who turn out.
“We are so grateful for your help,” Ekberg told the students Monday.
Several of the students formed a line in the staircase and passed the boxes down, person to person, to be placed on carts and wheeled to the youth center in another part of the mall.
The volunteers emptied a storage room full of boxes within a couple of hours.
“I don’t think we could’ve done it without their help,” said Ekberg’s husband, Darrell Ekberg, later. “It would have taken much longer.”
Sonya Lundstrom, a counselor at Fisher High School who has been involved in Santa Claus Girls for 10 years, arranged for the students to help.
“I thought it would be good to get the kids involved,” Lundstrom said. “It’s important for them to see how a community can come together and see how a project that may seem big is actually small when we all get involved.”
Her students learn teamwork when they help with community projects, Lundstrom said.
“You’re never too young to learn how to give back to your community," she said.
“In showing gratitude and giving back you learn to be grateful as well. And there are many different ways to do that, no matter how big or how small," said Lundstrom of the kids' contribution was in keeping with "the spirit of the season."
Vincent Herberg, 14, wanted to participate with the project because it was all about “helping people,” he said. “It’s good because some people don’t have enough money to buy their own gifts. It’s good we can help them.”
Meaha Marshall, 14, “It’s good to help the community, because it helps people in need.”
The project represents “a good cause and it helps people,” said Lindsey Anderson, 14. “It spreads joy throughout the community.”
This is the first time Fisher High School students have participated in the Santa Claus Girls project, Lundstrom said.
Students in grades 7-12 volunteer for various community service projects throughout the year, including raking the yards of Fisher residents and working at a food bank, homeless shelter, nursing homes and humane society.
They also make fleece blankets “for children who are ill, physically neglected or in difficult situations,” Lundstrom said.
“We schedule time within our day for this activity,” said Principal Catherine Steinmetz.
As an organization, Santa Claus Girls, a small group of dedicated volunteers, has been brightening the holidays for less-fortunate families for 103 years.
The group is in dire need of donations so it can continue its charitable mission, Ekberg said.
Reserve funds were spent to make this year’s effort a success, but donations are needed to begin buying gifts and toys for next Christmas, she said. Right after Christmas, she and her daughter, Jen Ekberg, begin scouring stores for the best post-holiday deals.
Gifts of any amount are appreciated, Ekberg said. No one associated with Santa Claus Girls is paid.
Last year, 1,150 kids received Christmas gifts from Santa Claus Girls, Ekberg said.
How to give to Santa Claus Girls
Tuesday, Dec. 10 (begins at 5 p.m.) -- sorting the boxes of toys and gifts
Wednesday, Dec. 11 (begins at 4 p.m.) -- packing the bags for each family
Thursday, Dec. 12 (7:30 a.m.-7 p.m.) -- delivery of gift bags
Checks (payable to “Santa Claus Girls”) may be sent to:
Santa Claus Girls
℅ Grand Forks Herald
P.O. Box 6008
Grand Forks, ND 58203
Or, take your donation to the Grand Forks Herald, 375 Second Ave. N.
For more information, contact Julie Ekberg, (701) 740-8560.