Employees and members of the Poet Biorefining plant in Glenville are getting the chance to be Santa Claus this week to 27 area families.
As part of a program called Ethanol Cares, local Poet employees are taking donations they’ve raised from themselves and the company’s members to make the holidays a little brighter for 61 people.
How does the program work?
Freeborn County Public Health and Worth County Public Health submitted the names of families in need, along with information about what their needs are and what types of things they enjoy.
Then on Wednesday, 12 people with the company went through the aisles of Wal-Mart for two hours to try to fill those needs for each family.
Pat Mook, who has been involved with the program for several years, said the group filled 15 carts full of toys, clothes, and other items. When they took all 15 carts up to the cash register, the clerk rang up all the items and had tears running down her face when she saw the total, she said.
While many of the gifts are brand new, this year the company has also asked for gently used donations as well. They’ve collected items such as a baby bed, a table and chairs, a dresser and lots of winter coats, among many others.
“There’s always a child who has something they’ve never played with they can give,” Mook said.
Though the Christmas season is the major time for the Ethanol Cares program, the program actually is a year-round one.
Just recently, one of the public health departments told them about a single mother who had a stove with only one working burner. They handed out a flier to the drivers coming by the plant, and within six hours they were able to raise $400 for a new stove for the woman.
“If it wasn’t for the members we wouldn’t have Ethanol Cares,” Mook said.
Because the company is a cooperative, it serves families in both Minnesota and Iowa.
The company and its members never know the names of the families helped.
While shopping for the families, the members of the group went into the store with their lists in hand, also carrying sticky notes, markers and garbage bags to try to stay organized.
Mook said they usually spend about $50 on a child and about $25 on an adult. That sometimes varies though with the economy. Sometimes single parents get more, too.
“I’m very blessed in my life, but a lot of people aren’t,” said Paulette Anderson. “It’s very humbling.”
She and many of the others expressed their gratitude for working for a company that supports this kind of initiative.
“It’s overwhelming how generous everyone is,” Kellie Anderson added.
Kellie said when they were shopping, she saw some people in Wal-Mart who she knew. When she told them what they were doing, “they thought it was so cool,” she said.
“It was a pretty emotional night, even after we went home,” said Brenda Sorenson, who did the shopping with her two daughters and one of their friends.
Sorenson said her 11-year-old daughter showed concern for who the families are and whether they go to school with her. She wanted to deliver the packages herself.
“They said they had so much fun and wanted to do it again next year,” she said.
The group was planning to spend much time on Thursday and Friday to wrap the gifts, especially with Christmas being less than a week away.
After all the gifts are wrapped, they will go back to the respective health departments, who will either deliver the gifts or let the families come in and pick up the surprises, Mook said.
The families will receive their gifts at the beginning of next week.
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