Christmas came early for close to 400 area families.
Last week, Waupaca’s Miracle Tree gave bags of gifts and food to 291 families, while the Weyauwega-Fremont Christmas Giving Tree gave boxes of food and presents to 98 families.
“The generosity of the community was just overwhelming. It always amazes me what the churches come through with and the businesses,” said Brenda Burow.
Burow and Dawn Eller are the coordinators of the Miracle Tree.
The families that applied to receive gifts and food went to the former location of Walgreens on Dec. 22 to receive them.
Last year, 323 families received gifts from the Miracle Tree.
Burow said they saw many new families this year.
“There’s a lot of unemployment, some family separations and just not enough money to make ends meet,” she said.
Eller said that this year, 550 children, about 340 adults between ages 19 and 49 and about 115 people age 50 and older were recipients of the Miracle Tree.
“Every family gets a ham or a turkey,” she said.
Eller said that Burow shops throughout the year for deals for the Miracle Tree so that families receive gifts and also perishable food and home care items.
Eller has been helping Miracle Tree for about 15 years, and for Burow, this was about her fifth year being involved.
Both women used vacation days last week to organize the bags of gifts, with assistance from many volunteers – including their children.
“It’s my Christmas,” Eller said. “I love it when I get that mother who says to me, ‘Thank you so much,’ and she’s crying. It makes it all so worthwhile.”
Burow said, “I raised six kids, and I taught my kids that you have to give back. They all help in one way or the other.”
She said helping with the Miracle Tree is not about recognition. “We’ve all been in that position where we didn’t know,” she said.
Eller said, “There are people out there who really do need it, and they really do appreciate it.”
In the Weyauwega-Fremont School District, more than 400 people received gifts this year through the Christmas Giving Tree.
Don Planz is among those who volunteer for it, and he said more than half of this year’s recipients are children.
The families picked up their gifts on Dec. 17 at Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Weyauwega.
Children received clothing and toys. Families also received non-perishable food items, potatoes, boneless hams and food vouchers to be redeemed at KD’s IGA in Weyauwega.
Like Waupaca’s Miracle Tree, Christmas trees were set up at various locations, allowing people to choose the age of a child or adult that it wanted to give a gift to.
In about its fifth year, the Weyauwega-Fremont Christmas Giving Tree accepts donations throughout the year at First National Bank in Weyauwega.
Planz said they work closely with the Weymont Food Pantry to identify families in need. The number of families that received gifts this year was about the same as last year, he said.
“I thank everybody that’s contributed – not only the donations but the workers. We couldn’t do it without all the help we get,” Planz said.