The spirit of Christmas arrived a week early for some area families.
Close to 96 families in the Weyauwega-Fremont area received Christmas gifts and food from the Weyauwega-Fremont Christmas Giving Tree on Dec. 18.
Distribution took place that morning at SS. Peter & Paul Catholic Church, where for the two days prior to that, volunteers organized the many donated toys and clothes into boxes for the families.
“The need was up and the donations were down,” said Don Planz, who is a member of the local Knights of Columbus 13702 and among those who helped organize the giving tree.
He said that when the donations were down, volunteers sought support from individuals and businesses to fill the gap.
“They did a tremendous job,” Planz said.
Many people continue to be struggling in the present economic conditions, he said.
The number of people seeking help was up from a year ago.
Last year, the Weyauwega-Fremont Christmas Giving Tree distributed gifts to 75 families – a total of 304 people.
This year, 96 area families received gifts. Volunteers estimate that approximately 450 people were helped this Christmas season.
In its third year as the giving tree, area residents were able to donate items at about five different locations. At the drop-off points, nonperishable food, household goods, gifts and cash could be donated.
In addition to a box of gifts and food, each family received grocery store vouchers.
Major donations this year were from Yogi Bear Campground, World Class Manufacturing, Marvin Metals, a local bank, the Weyauwega-Fremont High School Student Council and the Weyauwega-Fremont High School FFA.
The Weyauwega Knights of Columbus Council again coordinated the event and conducted the pickup and distribution of the collections.
In Weyauwega, the First Presbyterian Church, St. Peter Lutheran Church and SS. Peter & Paul Catholic Church members jointly participated.
Also involved were the St. Vincent de Paul Society, Weyauwega Health Care Center and the Wolf River Community Club.