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Volunteer opportunities abound this holiday season

The holiday season is on the horizon, and people are gearing up to help out other members of the community.

Monetary donations are always welcome, but if you're looking for ways to actively participate, there are several options.

Thanksgiving Dinner

For over 12 years, Ronda Bierbrauer has been organizing the Community Thanksgiving Dinner at the Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin at 151 S. Washington Avenue on Thursday, Nov. 25, at 1 p.m.

Prepping, cooking, serving, packaging and delivering meals for more than 200 people in various communities takes quite a bit of coordination, and a lot of volunteers. She starts soliciting donations for the free community dinner in September.

The dinner itself is two-fold: there is a sit-down meal that is served family-style by volunteers in the church basement, and other volunteers deliver the meals to people who are not able to come to the church in person.

Bierbrauer said although she needs people to help serve that day and prep the food, she could really use people to deliver the meals. Families are served not only in New Richmond, but also in Star Prairie and Somerset.

"There is a lot of food to cart, multiple boxes: turkey, potatoes, gravy, stuffing, corn, beans, squash, sweet potatoes and a 'cold pack' of pie, butter, cranberries, olives, pickles, and rolls," Bierbrauer said.

However, she stresses that she prefers volunteers deliver one meal, not just because of the volume of food, but because of the nature of the delivery.

"This is not a drop from a fast-food restaurant," Bierbrauer emphasized. "You aren't just handing over food and leaving. A lot of the people are eating alone, so volunteers need to expect to spend a few minutes with them talking.

"Also, I would like the food delivered hot," she added.

She also needs people to peel potatoes on Wednesday, Nov. 24, at 5 p.m. and clean up after the meal on Thursday.

"If someone is not able to be there in person, we can always use gift certificates from local businesses to hand out to people we deliver to," Bierbrauer said. "Anything would help, like a $5 gift card from Subway."

To send monetary donations, make checks to Immaculate Conception Dinner sent to Ronda Bierbrauer at 523 N. Shore Drive in New Richmond.

For more information about volunteering, call Bierbrauer at 715-246-2086.

Love Baskets

When the New Richmond Love Baskets program and Somerset Grace Place Secret Santa program merged a few years ago, they combined servicing families in need for both the Somerset and New Richmond school districts.

The program is designed to supply families in need with a turkey dinner and gifts off their wish list. The presents are bagged and distributed at a holiday party Dec. 19.

The program works with Toys for Tots to gather toys, as well as setting up Angel Trees throughout New Richmond and Somerset. The trees have "Angel Tags" on them that list gift suggestions; people can take the tags, buy the items on the tag and deposit them back at the tree. The gifts are then taken to one location where they are sorted by age and packed into family bags by volunteers.

The day of the party - which includes distributing frozen turkeys as well as games and crafts - the gift bags sit in the gymnasium for families to pick up.

"We can really use some help sorting and packing the bags about a week before," Kay Brooks, one of the organizers of the Love Baskets program, said.

Although they have plenty of volunteers for the duration of the party, Brooks said they could use help before and after the party with setting up and cleaning up.

To get more information about how to volunteer for the New Richmond/Somerset Love Baskets, call Pat at 715-246-6441.

It should be noted that Roberts and Hammond (St. Croix Central school district) have a Love Baskets program that packages and distributes dinners for both Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is a separate organization and is already well-staffed with volunteers.

Kettle Campaign

For those people who would like more flexibility in their volunteer options, there is always the Salvation Army Kettle Campaign.

According to Lori Scheder of Grace Place/Salvation Army, that is a major source of their funds.

"That money goes to help out people who have had their utilities disconnected, gasoline vouchers, evictions," Scheder said. "Sometimes people don't realize exactly where that money goes."

There are some community service organizations that have already signed up to help ring bells. The New Richmond Kiwanis club, for example, has volunteered to ring bells outside Family Fresh on Friday, Dec. 3, from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. According to Charlie Cadenhead, anyone who is interested is welcome to help out that day.

If another day would be better for you, call Lori at the Grace Place/Salvation Army at 715-247-2944 to sign up for a time slot.

"We usually say we have two-hour time slots," Scheder said. "We're very flexible."

Grace Place also said they are looking for volunteers to drive the organization's vehicles when their clients have job interviews or appointments in the area. Scheder said that the volunteer could sign up to be on-call once a week, for example.

Grace Place also needs volunteers to help distribute food in the food pantry Thursday nights from 5-7 p.m. They are also looking for one or two people to volunteer answering the phones and doing some filing in the office a couple days a week.

NEXT MONTH: Stay and Play looks at Christmas tree farms in the area.