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Holiday Angels fly again this season

Angels have started to fly around Hammond and Roberts to help make sure local kids have presents this Christmas.

Holiday Angels is a local organization that raises money to buy Christmas presents for kids in the St. Croix Central School district that are in need during the holidays.

Sandy Goulette, Holiday Angels coordinator, said she's already gotten calls from families asking for help this holiday season.

"I believe that I am up to five families right now," Goulette said.

Goulette works with Alyssa Matzek, St. Croix Central Elementary School counselor, to collect information from all the families interested in receiving gifts from Holiday Angels. Matzek said she has spoken with 30 interested families so far this year and she expects to see that number grow a little.

Goulette and Matzek will meet later to compare notes and make sure no one is on the list twice.

Families who want to sign up for the Holiday Angels program need to do so by Dec. 13, Goulette said. She said she and a team of volunteers will shop for the presents on Dec. 15. Each volunteer shopper is given a certain number of families for whom they will shop.

Each family is assigned a number and the volunteers only know the families by their numbers, Goulette said.

"We use one family per shopping cart," Goulette said, "And when that family is done, the people that bag it put the number of the family on the bag."

Last year, 46 families signed up, Goulette said. Holiday Angels has had as many as 50 families sign up in a year. Although numbers fluctuate from year-to-year, Goulette said there has been an increase in the number of kids needing presents each year.

Goulette is head of the Holiday Angels' eight-member committee. Goulette took over 16 years ago. She said she doesn't know how long Holiday Angels had been in existence before she took over the program. She said the program is very important to her.

"The whole process is important, from beginning to end," Goulette said. "It isn't just one thing."

Holiday Angels can't function without the help it receives from donors, Goulette said, including larger community groups like the Hammond and Roberts Lions clubs, local businesses and individual donors.

Goulette said paper "angel" icons are available in several Hammond and Roberts businesses. People can donate the amount of money of their choice, write their name on the angel icon and post it on the wall at the locations.

The Hammond and Roberts bars compete with each other to see which establishment can collect the most donations, Goulette said. A plaque and a traveling angel goes to the bar that raises the most money for Holiday Angels in Hammond and another plaque and angel go to the bar that raises the most in Roberts.

Goulette said the St. Croix Central schools also raise money for Holiday Angels each year.

While Goulette said it can be a long process--from gathering information from the families, to buying and organizing the presents to distributing the gifts to families--Goulette said it is very fulfilling.

"When the parents come and are so appreciative for what we've been giving to them," Goulette said, "that's probably the best."

But most important to the Holiday Angels, Goulette said, are the children.

"If there's any way that we can help a child have a merry Christmas," Goulette said, "that's what we're there for."

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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