Live United: There are many opportunities for giving this holiday season

Published 8:45 pm Friday, December 3, 2021

Live United by Erin Haag

It’s  time for me to share the holiday lineup. First off, is our second annual holiday lights contest. Formerly called Gift of Lights, we’ve re-branded and are calling it “Sparkle.” We’re hoping to be famous one day, like Cher. Sparkle is a holiday light contest with both a business and residential category. It’s $15 to enter for residents and $25 for business. Lights will be on by Thursday, Dec. 16, and the winners will be decided by community members donating! It’s a dollar a vote, and there’s no limit to voting. The prizes aren’t too shabby either — $500 is the top prize! We’ve got a total of $1,750 in prizes to award, all sponsored by an anonymous businessman who really needs a superhero code name. For the business category, the monetary award will go to a nonprofit of their choice (some exceptions apply) in Freeborn County. They’ll also get a sweet award to display and the opportunity to go and present the winnings to the nonprofit.

Erin Haag

Like last year, we’ll work up a map of all the registrants and have them available. I’ll write more about the maps/voting closer to time, but the basic info is that we’re working with The Convention & Visitors Bureau on this. You’ll be able to register, vote and pick up maps at their office downtown. Voting and maps will be available on Dec. 17.

Email newsletter signup

There’s more though! We are launching a new fundraiser for Dolly Parton Imagination Library. We learned that we get sponsorships around Christmas time, and then the donor goes out and buys an ornament to combine with the gift. We thought we could elevate that a bit and worked with 10,000 Custom Designs by Jason to design your choice of a unique bookmark or ornament to go along with a sponsorship. Forty-five dollars will give you a beautiful gift and sponsorship card all ready to go for gift-giving. I have a beautiful example in our office, so feel free to stop by and take a look.

An update on our community needs. Currently we have a few items needed for specific clients. We’re looking for a 4XL coat, and snowsuits or at least warm coats for 6-9 months old — three of them! We also are celebrating a young couple moving into their apartment next week. They moved here for steady jobs, but their housing situation proved to be unsafe. Of course, that’s understating the matter — it was truly an awful situation. They’ve been living in their car, going to work every day and making the best of a challenging situation. They’re expecting their first child in January. If you have furniture items that would be useful, such as beds or other household items, we can connect you to this family. They have built up some friendships and have a friend with a truck that can assist them with moving the items. There’s a team of people that have been working and rooting for this couple. We’d love to help them expand that sense of community to help them establish their lives.

For more information on Sparkle, to order an ornament, our community needs list or to be connected to this young family, please call our office at 507-373-8670. We have other opportunities for giving during this holiday season. This is the time that I remind everyone that I may not have a formal program for something, our mission is to connect people and resources to improve lives. That type of flexibility means we can be innovative. In our office, we are generally aware of families that have needs. Often these families don’t qualify for services for one reason or another, but still have needs. Sometimes it’s as simple as a few cans of Spam or Quaker Minute Oats to make a senior on our homebound list happy. Sometimes it’s providing a few gifts for a family that wouldn’t have a Christmas otherwise, or providing meals for overworked public health nurses. Nikolle, Heidi and I have their stories written on our heart. We celebrate their successes and empathize with their challenges. I know that there are community members who would like to write those stories on their hearts, too. Whether it’s giving to our annual campaign (look for the pledge card in the paper!), or choosing one of the ways to give of your time, talent or gently used items, we thank you today and every day for living united.

Erin Haag is the executive director of the United Way of Freeborn County.