by Sarah Squires
From: Deb Nahrgang
On behalf of the Saint Mary’s University Gifts for Winona program
A small, red bike was wheeled out from the back room. The sight of it brought a young mother to tears. Her four-year-old son, she said, would likely cry with excitement upon seeing his new Christmas gift.
An older gentleman grabbed a cookie and sat down to chat while he looked inside his gift bag. When he spied his grocery cards, a smile spread across his face.
The “thank-yous” from this year’s Saint Mary’s University Gifts for Winona distributions were plentiful.
Yet, the many generous supporters of this community gift-giving program never see the excited children, hear the gratitude or see the plentiful smiles.
The generosity we see from this community is as heartwarming as handing out the presents. We heard about a young mother who used the program to teach her young children about how important it is to give back this time of year. We spoke with the woman scouring the Internet for exactly the right toy on a child’s wish list. We met the secret Santa who has been anonymously giving gifts to area children for more than 30 years. And we watched carload upon carload of gifts flow in, many with special messages of hope and wishes for Christmas blessings.
Because of the generosity that flows through this town, Saint Mary’s University’s Gifts for Winona program – now in its 13th year — is able to fulfill the wish lists of hundreds of children and seniors.
This year the program helped more than 1,400 individuals and families who registered, and we couldn’t have done it without you. Because of you, everyone received more than just gifts; they also received the knowledge that someone truly cares.
As we count our blessings for the past and upcoming years, we should also remember those less fortunate whose material blessings are a little harder to come by this year. We hope and pray that 2015 will have many wonderful things in store for these families.
The Saint Mary’s University Gifts for Winona volunteers extend an extra special thanks to all of you, including:
• the program’s additional partners, Winona Radio, the Winona Post, and Winona Volunteer Services;
• the many Saint Mary’s shoppers, haulers, data-entry volunteers, sorters and organizers, including many students who put in long hours without complaint;
• the many sponsoring businesses, schools, churches and organizations who helped groups of 10 or more;
• local businesses, and Jim Eddy from the Hiawatha Valley Marines, for their generous donations;
• the Valéncia Arts Center for allowing us to use their space for one of the gift distributions;
• every individual who took a tag off a tree or donated money;
• the local businesses that sponsored giving trees;
• referral agencies who provided support;
• Volunteers at the Resource Center in St. Charles for helping to distribute gifts;
• and the area media for helping spread the word about this program.
We continue to be very blessed to be part of such a caring community.