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Concordia Sisters of St. Joseph

Concordia Sisters of St. Joseph

Loving God and neighbor without distinction: A pontifical institute of women religious of the Roman Catholic Church

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Sisters of St. Joseph give Resource Center a helping hand

The Cloud County Resource Center is a busy place during the holiday season. There are donations of food and toys to sort, volunteers to organize and families that are in need of assistance.

On Tuesday, Dec. 8, some of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia joined Tonya Merrill, director of the center, to lend a hand in sorting food donations to fill holiday food baskets and sort and wrap presents to brighten area children’s holidays.

[ngg src=”galleries” ids=”348″ display=”basic_slideshow”]Sisters Denise Schmitz, Christina Brodie and Ann Ashwood, along with CSJ candidate Angela Jones, dug right in on sorting the food donations. Bundles and boxes of nonperishable food needed to be unpacked and sorted into similar groups to make it both easier to fill the holiday baskets and to see what additional items needed to be purchased to fill the gaps. It sounds like a lot of work, but it can be rewarding for volunteers.

“Today was an amazing experience with Tonya at the Resource Center,” said Sister Denise. “Listening to what and how they help in Cloud County, along with other entities like the Girl Scouts and ABATE to make Christmas better is unbelievable. The generosity of donors can make the difference and help that many more folks, especially since we are experiencing Covid-19.”

Merrill said the Resource Center had just under 200 requests for holiday assistance. Families applied for the food baskets before Thanksgiving, although she said that the center does try to cover people who have had emergencies or people who have just moved to town and were unable to apply by the deadline.

In a normal year, many of the toys being wrapped at the center would go to the center’s Holiday Store. Due to Covid-19, the store was cancelled.

“In an average year we’d have two days of Holiday Store and those are usually 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. days. We’d take in about 100 kids a day, so we’d have between 50 and 100 volunteers total,” Merrill said. “Obviously that’s not possible through Covid so we changed to some new programs so it’s more contactless.”

“What we did instead is we booked groups of volunteers who already had contact with each other and who probably would be safe working together knowing that there would only be a couple of us as volunteers here so that there would be minimal risk on both sides. We have a couple of different groups coming all on different days,” Merrill said as she watched the sisters sort food items onto long tables in the center. “We’re just sort of getting started today. On Thursday we’ll do it again, and then next week we’ll start handing out what we already have packed to make room for the next rotation.”

“It was fun helping them with the food baskets, shopping and wrapping presents for children,” Sister Denise said. “There are many projects we can help with down the road. Cloud County is blessed to have Tonya and the Resource Center. There is still so much to get completed before Christmas, I hope that we can make another day to help them meet their goal this Christmas. Manna House enjoys our partnership with the center.”

In addition to the items already at the center, more toys will be coming.

“By then, (next week) gifts should be coming in off the Angel Tree so we’ll be matching them up with food boxes and the letters from Santa and then they will go out,” Merrill said. “The letters from Santa is a new program that took the place of the Holiday Store where families can apply to us for things that they need as a family. So if they need new shoes, or new coats or bedding — we’re trying to fill those needs as best we can. It’s normally stuff we’d cover with the Holiday Store, but since that can’t be contactless enough to keep everybody safe, we just had to shut it down. Which is a shame, but it’s the only way.”

The Cloud County Resource Center works closely with other agencies to help everyone in the community have a happy holiday.

“We try to fill all the gaps the best we can between the three agencies,” Merrill said. “The Girl Scouts will buy a bunch of toys for the little kids under 12, the ABATE Toy Run will cover the kids who are over 12 up to about 16 or 17 and then we’ll cover whatever is left and we’ll do all the food baskets.”

Merrill said she works closely with Kathy Ashland from the Girl Scouts and Camey Thurner from the ABATE Toy Run to make it happen.

“Everyone at the Cloud County Resource Center is so grateful for all of the volunteers that are willing to take time out of their own busy holiday schedule to help us out,” Merrill said.

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