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Holiday program pooling resources

In these troubled economic times, more families are looking for help - especially with the holiday season around the corner.

"We want to combine efforts to better serve New Richmond-Somerset school districts," said Mona Flanum, a member of the Love Baskets group.

For several years, the New Richmond Love Baskets program has made the rounds among local churches and organizations. Flanum said when she became involved two years ago, it was at the Armory.

At that time, families who were pre-selected based on need, were given a number to redeem at the Armory for a basket/box containing items for a holiday dinner.

"It was labor-intensive," Flanum said.

Over in Somerset, Grace Place also sponsored its own Love Baskets program. Families were invited to a party where they would be presented with all the fixings for a turkey dinner to take home.

Last year, the New Richmond Love Baskets served 217 families and Grace Place Love Baskets served 150.

By uniting the Love Baskets programs, they are hoping to serve between 350-400 families this year.

"The way the economy is, we expect a lot more families," Duana Bremer, director of Grace Place, said. "We had 75 volunteers last year; this year we'll probably need about 200."

Applications forms will be sent out through the schools and screened by a guidance counselor. Social Services will also help refer families to the program.

If accepted, the families would be invited to attend the holiday party on Sunday, Dec. 21 at the Somerset Middle School.

The party will feature photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus, craft tables sponsored by local businesses/groups, cake and punch, free haircuts for the kids, choose a hat and mittens from the "mitten tree," and a place for the children to select presents for their parents and gift wrap them.

Those attending will also receive their "love basket" - a donated turkey and gift certificate to Econofoods.

Anyone wishing to sponsor a family, volunteer at the event or make a donation, call 715-338-9283. Non-wrapped gifts will be collected at Anchor Bank and Walmart. Monetary donations can be made payable to Five Loaves/Love Baskets and mailed to P.O. Box 222, New Richmond, WI 54017. Donations are tax-deductible.