The Oakdale Business and Professional Association is looking for some of Santa's helpers.
The OBPA Holiday Helping Hands initiative has started once again. Holiday Helping Hands is sponsored by the OBPA to provide Christmas gifts to children and families in need in the community.
OBPA has been providing Christmas gifts to families for the past 21 years. Over the years the Christmas gift efforts have grown. Last year Holiday Helping Hands provided gifts to 103 families and more than 400 children in Oakdale and the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale school district.
Holiday Helping Hands partners with social workers within the school district to identify families in need of a little extra help for Christmas.
OBPA member John Larson, who heads the Holiday Helping Hands committee in OBPA, said that families are only added to the list after being carefully screened by social workers.
"These are screened families, which is a wonderful thing," Larson said. "We know these families have needs."
Once the social workers identify the families, Holiday Helping Hands then partners with two groups to provide the gifts.
Holiday Helping Hands partners with Tartan High School students and community members to sponsor families by purchasing, wrapping and delivering Christmas gifts.
Tartan students in the past have sponsored 25 families. This year, Tartan will be sponsoring 29 families since a larger number of Tartan students want to get involved.
The community is then asked to provide for the remaining families identified by the social workers. Holiday Helping Hands seeks sponsors for each child as well as gift wrappers and shoppers.
"We continue to need more and more individuals who are willing to sponsor kids," Larson said. "We need shoppers and wrappers as well, but we really need sponsors."
Residents can become a sponsor by donating $50, which supports one child for their gift purchases. This is also the first year that donations are tax-deductible.
Those who can't afford to make a donation can volunteer their time to purchase the gifts with the donated money and wrap the presents, Larson said.
The OBPA will be dedicating $7,000 to the fund this year, which is slightly less than previous years, Larson said.
"In the past we've done more, but as our revenue has gone down we've also had to cut back," Larson said. "But since we cut back we've seen the community say, 'We're not going to slow down.'"
Starting now, people can begin sponsoring children and shopping and wrapping gifts. Larson said he hopes to have all the families taken care of by Thanksgiving.
On Dec. 8, Tartan students dressed as Santa's elves will deliver all of the gifts.
"We probably get between 50 and 60 students to dress up as elves and Santas. They get on about 10 busses or vans that come from the comunity and go door-to-door to deliver personalized gifts," Larson said. "It's a win-win situation all the way around."
For more information or to get involved contact Larson at 651-755-5591 or firstname.lastname@example.org.