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Love Basket packing in Roberts set for Saturday

For close to 20 years Roberts residents have packed baskets with love and food for the holidays.

The Love Baskets program provides a holiday meal, and more, to residents in need around the holidays.

Doreen Kruschke has been part of the Roberts Love Baskets program for about 15 years.

She says the program has grown a lot since it began.

"It started off really small. The main purpose was to provide a small dinner for Thanksgiving," Kruschke said.

In the beginning there were around a dozen volunteers. Since the Hammond Lions and Hammond Snowdrifters got involved with program, there is an average of 40 volunteers at each packing event.

The number of volunteers isn't the only thing that's grown though.

The number of people in need of service during the holidays has risen and the amount of food in each basket has increased, thanks to Hammond Lions and Roberts Lions fundraising events, donations from businesses, the food shelf, school fundraising activities and local residents.

Overall, the local Love Baskets program costs between $6,000 and $7,000 a year, Kruschke said.

She says one of the largest outside contributions comes from United Way St. Croix Valley grants ranging from $1,000 to $2,000, depending on the year.

Residents who donate to United Way St. Croix Valley can also request that their donation goes toward the Hammond and Roberts Love Basket program.

Each basket contains around $50 worth of food, with items ranging from a turkey or ham to cereal and vegetables. In recent years, on average, about 100 boxes of food are distributed before Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Individuals who want to help out in other ways can donate their time to pack and deliver Love Baskets for residents.

Kruschke says Love Baskets is a fun and fulfilling service project.

"All you have to do is deliver one basket to one family and have them appreciate it and you don't ever question why you do it," she said.

Kruschke said she actually finds the delivery "road trip" just as enjoyable as the assembly line-like packing process.

"It became a tradition for certain people to pair up together and it was fun," she said. "It's really rewarding."

Fruit baskets

The holiday meal isn't the only service provided through the Love Baskets program.

"We also do a fruit basket at Christmas for people that have a reason to be remembered," Kruschke said. "Maybe they lost a loved one. They've been ill. A loved one's been ill. Maybe they have some special need. Maybe they don't need a food basket but just a fruit basket to say we're thinking about you."

Kruschke says the Love Baskets program shows that people in Hammond and Roberts truly care about other people.

She encourages everyone to "pay it forward," and she assures it will be rewarding.

"It makes you appreciate what you have. It's fulfilling to know you're helping somebody," she said.

Hammond and Roberts residents will pack boxes around 8 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 17, in the Roberts Village Park Building. For more information, call Karen Benysek at 715-749-3017 or Linda Hawkins at 715-796-5210.