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Christmas Leprechauns

November 6, 2018
Emmetsburg News

Food, drinks and laughter fill the kitchen. It is Brook's first time meeting my extended family. As far as any of us can recall, the story of the Christmas Leprechauns has never been told. And pieces of it never will be. It started with a phone call, an argument and maybe a drink of course. How many drinks remains up for debate.

"I told Rose to hand me the phone, this was back when you had the huge cordless phones that sat on a charger, and the phone book. She wanted to know who I was going to call and I wouldn't tell her. She finally gave me the damn thing and I made a single call to run an idea by a friend. He thought it would work and dropped a check for $100 off the next morning and that started everything."

"Everything" that year was a small group of first cousins visiting residents of Emmetsburg's nursing homes and long term care facilities, accompanied by Santa and Mrs. Clause themselves. The still anonymous $100 donation along with a few others financed the simple gift of a handkerchief for each resident.

"That was well before most of us in our generation had moved back to start our families and careers here," I explain to Brook,

Mikel Jones took over planning the annual event three years ago and is the now non-profit group's treasurer, "Actually I was still in high school."

"Right, I forgot how old I was there for a minute. Thanks."

Now, close to forty family members visit hundreds of residents each year. "That was huge," Linda's husband, John says, "The residents just love seeing little kids walk through the door." The few moments spent with each person is a welcome reprieve for a population that is largely under served and suffers from isolation induced depression, anxiety and loneliness at an alarming rate.

The little kids love handing out presents, they don't see or feel the "otherness" of long term care facilities that tends to make adults uncomfortable. And, if we're being honest, as kids usually are, "People in nursing homes always have candy."

It's a win win situation.

Mikel rewrote the mission for 2018:

"The goal is to make a bigger splash that will have ripple effects much farther than just the residents of nursing homes. Maybe if we are also able to help families in need, especially young families, they will one day understand and appreciate what they were able to receive and want to somehow pass it on to someone else. Maybe the grand-kids helping will learn at a young age that giving is always better than getting. Maybe we can grow this thing with this new vision and bring new passions to the group to help ramp up donations. Maybe, if nothing else, we can sit at home watching our families on Christmas and know in the back of our minds a family is able to eat a good meal or receive a gift from Santa because we cared."

The past two years, donations to the non-profit have totaled around $3,600, leaving plenty of room to purchase gifts for the residents and make large monetary donations to local nonprofits who serve families in need. Contact points are set at local schools, ensuring that students have access to sporting equipment, winter gear, and supplies they may not otherwise be able to afford. The Feed Our Kids Program, which sends food home with hundreds of kids who face food insecurity is on the list of beneficiaries too, as well as Upper Des Moines Opportunity Outreach's food pantry.

2018 is also the first time that the group will expand their reach outside of Emmetsburg. ShopKo Hometown has been a benefactor of the Christmas Leprechauns since the store opened in 2016. General manager Matt Buss wanted to do more this year. He and his girlfriend, April Masters, regularly visit her grandfather in the Ruthven Care Center. They quickly noticed how much need the other residents have for visitors. "It's such a cool thing to do, we wanted to join in to help residents in that facility too." Part time employee Frank Garrison and his son's Boy Scout Troup {#46} will join their crew.

"What is the fundraising goal for this year?"

Mikel: $4,000.

Linda: $4,500

It's yet another number that remains up for debate, for now anyway. Stacks of donation letters wait to be stuffed, addressed and stamped. Christmas Magic is a big job, and Santa's Irish helpers need to get to work.

All proceeds collected by the Christmas Leprechauns are used to purchase gifts and supplies and donated back to local groups to help families in need. Donations can be dropped off at Five Island Spa Co, 905 Broadway or sent to:

Linda Higgins

PO Box 795

Okoboji IA 51355

{This article was originally published on www.fiveislandlife.com}

 
 
 

 

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