As challenging and, at times, depressing 2020 has been under the cloud of COVID-19, as the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season approaches, that angst may become even more pronounced – especially for families struggling to make ends meet.
In an effort to try to help these families, the Wright County Emerging Leaders, a group of 18 employees from several county departments, is looking to help bring a little normalcy back for struggling families at the holidays through its “Season of Giving” initiative.
Erin Baker and Kara Kampa, both social workers in Wright County Health & Human Services, spoke to the Wright County Commissioners explaining that they’ve come up with the idea of hosting a specific food drive to create “baking boxes” – boxes filled with items specific to baking breads, cookies, pies and other treats – to give families something they rarely can get at local food shelves.
“As part of our program, as well as developing our future leaders for the county and encouraging growth not only for ourselves, but for the rest of our departments across the county, we’ve taken on looking to execute a community project as part of our program,” Baker said. “Currently, myself and 17 other participants have come to a consensus to execute a food drive of sorts under the hashtag Season of Giving.”
Wright County Emerging Leaders are staff members that are in leadership training in the county. The program is designed to engage and foster staff growth. As part of that training, the group was tasked with a team project.
The group threw out several ideas and landed on the Season of Giving theme.
“We brainstormed on what to do for our project for some time,” Kampa said. “Our goal is to get the word out to people that we’re collecting baking-related items to create baking boxes. People who want to donate can do it directly to the food shelves. We don’t handle any money donations because that gets complicated. Donations would be made directly to the local food shelves.”
There are 10 local food shelves in Wright County. These are the locations and the communities they serve: Annandale (Annandale, Maple Lake, Silver Creek Township and South Haven), Buffalo (all of the 55313 zip code), Clearwater (Clearwater and Clear Lake), Cokato (Cokato and Dassel), Delano (Delano), Elk River (Otsego), Hanover (Albertville, Corcoran, Hanover, Loretto and St. Michael), Monticello (Monticello, Silver Creek), Rockford (Rockford and Greenfield) and Waverly (Howard Lake, Montrose and Waverly).
The idea for the baking boxes was to provide families in need with items they ordinarily wouldn’t find at food shelves. From the basics like sugar and flour to items like chocolate chips, sprinkles, canned frosting and implements like cookie cutters, the intention is to give families access to what makes the holiday season special for so many – meals together as a family and the treats that are associated with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday.
At a time when more families than ever are struggling to keep their head above water financially, providing them with products that can put a smile on the faces of families is a primary goal of the project.
“We all understand the way 2020 has been and as unpredictable as it has been, the need for celebrating the holidays at its fullest has not gone away,” Baker said. “We could even say that there might be a little more out there that we could possibly do to step into that void. We’re looking to establish a food drive to take up donations to help with holiday baking. We’re with in coordination with local food shelves, because local food shelves provide the staples, but they don’t provide those extras, like being able to make cookies or pies with your family over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season.”
The time frame for this initiative is from Oct. 26 to the week before Thanksgiving. Over the course of the next month, Wright County Emerging Leaders will be undertaking an outreach program to get the message out to community groups and individuals to help provide the supplies they need to fill the baking boxes and provide them to all 10 county food shelves. That messaging will be going out through flyers and a social media campaign to increase awareness of the program.
County Board Chair Chris Husom commended the group for its effort, saying that the Wright County Emerging Leaders represent the best the county has to offer in terms of young employees who represent the future of county government moving forward.
“We certainly appreciate your efforts to step up to provide this service and get more people in the county involved to recognize what has been going on with the community,” Husom said. “I appreciate that.”
As the campaign gets underway, more information will be provided as to where those looking to donate baking-related items can drop off their donations.