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Published November 17 2010

Big need as ‘Season of Giving’ starts

Citing a “big need” this year, Fargo-Moorhead leaders called on the community Tuesday to get into the Christmas spirit by donating food, money and gifts for children in need, as well as for adults with special needs.

Santa and Mrs. Claus were joined at the Fargo Park District’s Santa Village by Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker and Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland, who read a proclamation on behalf of the four metro mayors to kick off the “Season of Giving.”

Fargo-based FirstLink is again soliciting gifts for the needy through its Giving Tree of Hope program.

The tree will be up an extra week this year, from Nov. 26 to Dec. 14, in the West Acres mall’s J.C. Penney wing for members of the public who want to buy a gift for someone in need, FirstLink Executive Director Cindy Miller said.

The tree has tags, each with the age and gender of a child or special-needs adult, based on referrals from schools and social service agencies.

About 70 churches, businesses and service clubs have their own giving trees that will contribute to the cause, Miller said.

“Some of the places that had programs last year are not giving gifts this year,” she said. “We’re getting lots of phone calls, so there’s definitely a big need.”

FirstLink didn’t set a goal for gifts this year, but it hopes to distribute about 10 percent more than the 4,957 gifts given last season, Miller said.

The gifts and baskets will be distributed Dec. 16 at the Fargo Civic Center. People wanting food baskets must pre-register with the Salvation Army, which distributes the baskets.

Santa Village at Rheault Farm is open on select dates from Nov. 27 to Dec. 23. Admission is free, but the Fargo Park District encourages donations of canned, new or gently used toys and cash, said Allison Bakke, program coordinator for the park district.

Donations will be distributed via the Giving Tree, Great Plains Food Bank, Sanford Children’s Foundation and YMCA 21st Century Learning Center.

Since it began in 1987, Santa Village has collected donations totaling more than $39,500 in cash, 153,000 pounds of food and 125 pickup loads of toys.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528