Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Nov. 29, 1999

Make-a-Difference Tree will do just that for needy families

By Luis Puga

The Make-A-Difference-Tree will be coming to Winsted for the Christmas season this year.

Steve Wilson, director of the Adult Training and Rehabilitation Center (ATHC), said the tree is an opportunity to give back to the communities that have helped the ATHC. The tree will benefit needy children in McLeod County.

The tree will have ornaments sent by the county that will have the Christmas wishes of a child in the county.

Anyone can come in and take the ornament off the tree and bring the present back unwrapped, with the ornament attached. Wilson said the requests can range from toys to more practical need, like clothes.

The children represented will range from infants to teenagers.

The gifts will then go to the county which will distribute them. Since the tree will provide gifts throughout McLeod County, some will most likely be going to children in the Winsted area.

This is the second year the ATHC will have the program to help needy kids. Last year, the tree had 40 ornaments, but received 47 presents.

Wilson has upped the number of ornaments to 125 this year and is confident the wishes will all be filled.

The tree is intended to be a part of this year's winter festival in Winsted. It will be set up Wednesday, Dec. 1 and moved to the Legion Club for the winter festival weekend Dec. 4 and 5.

However, the drop-off site will still be the ATHC and the deadline period will be from Dec. 6-10, with doors open until 7 p.m.

Wilson said he wanted to include the tree with the winter festival so the tree would be considered a community-sponsored program.

Sharon Mulligan, from McLeod County Social Services, said the trees all over the county have helped 654 families in the past. Families are not required to be on county assistance, but just express a need.

"There is no particular type of person these gifts will go to help. Some are on assistance, but some are just having back luck," she said.

Other drop-off sites in the area will also participate in programs that will send gifts to the county for needy children.

Community Bank in Winsted will have its own Make-a-Difference-Tree with 50 ornaments.

Casey's General Store in Winsted will have a drop-off site for unwrapped presents.

St. Mary's Care Center has adopted a family to help for the season.

Also, the Evangelical United Church of Christ in Lester Prairie will also have a program for gifts for needy families.

All of these sites point to a strong spirit of giving in the area.

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