Local Kiwanis Clubs brighten the holidays for children and families in need

By Mike Lange
Staff Writer

    Weeks before the first major snowfall hit the region, the Kiwanis Club of Dover-Foxcroft Christmas Project was well underway. Letters were sent out to individuals, churches, businesses and clubs who generously “adopted” children last year.

BU-ColorGivingTree-DC-PO-49Observer photo/Mike Lange

    GIVING TREE — The Zone Radio Giving Tree has been collecting items for the Dover-Foxcroft Kiwanis Christmas Project for several years.

    This year, Santa’s list is a lot longer, said Barbara Austin, who has chaired the Christmas Project for the past three years. “Usually we get 10 requests during the first week,” she said. “This year, it was 30. So I anticipate that we’ll fill about 100 requests.” The names of children in need who live in RSU 68 are forwarded to the Kiwanis for “adoption.”
    Although the local service club gets a lot of credit for the Christmas Project, Austin said they couldn’t succeed without individual donors, clubs and businesses. The Kiwanis Club in conjunction with Penquis, which acts as a clearinghouse for the local communities in the area, Austin said. “It’s a lot easier than trying to process individual donations,” she said.
    Donors that have returned this year include Pleasant River Lumber, New Balance, the Miosac Club and Abner Wade Masonic Lodge of Sangerville. In addition, Kiwanis members will make Christmas brighter for 27 children, including four sponsored by the Foxcroft Academy Key Club.
    Many Pleasant River employees donate directly through a payroll deduction and the company “rounds off the amount” with its own contribution, Austin said.
    New Balance, with a factory and outlet store in Skowhegan, donated more than $5,000 worth of athletic shoes and sportswear last season and is contributed again this year. “They’ve been extremely generous to us,” Austin said. “If we have any shoes left over, we always find another charity to donate them to – or in some cases, the local schools or Penquis will know some youngsters who need them who aren’t necessarily on our Christmas list.”
    The Abner Wade Masonic Lodge in Sangerville will donate a turkey dinner once again to all the families who pick up their gifts on Saturday, Dec. 13 in Dover-Foxcroft and at the conclusion of the drive in Milo as well.
    Another tradition that continues this year is the Zone Radio (WZON/WZLO/WKIT) Giving Tree, promoted by Sherry French. With the help of friends, sponsors and social media, dozens of gifts are packed around the tree at her office next to the Piscataquis Observer in downtown Dover-Foxcroft. “We are way ahead of last year,” said French. “A lot of response has come from Facebook viewers this season.”
    The Miosac Club helps the Kiwanis by shopping for around 30 gifts every year, said Austin, who is also a club member. “They get involved in just about every community project,” she said.
    Although the drive officially ended Dec. 1, Austin said that last-minute donations are always welcome. She can be reached at 564-2281 or Mrsmoore2@aol.com.
    In the Milo-Brownville area, the Three Rivers Kiwanis Secret Santa Program is expected to serve more than 100 families this year, said chairperson Bonnie Washburn. “We gave out gifts to 214 youngsters last year and we’re seeing a lot of new faces in town,” she said.
    While the drive officially concludes on Friday, Dec. 5, last-minute donations are gratefully accepted, she said. Maine Savings Bank has a collection box for donated toys at their Milo branch for donors’ convenience.
    The Three Rivers Kiwanis also donates a lot of knit socks, mittens and hats each year, thanks to the generosity of JSI Store Fixtures and other volunteers in the community, Washburn said. “JSI gave us around 200 pair of mittens and socks last year,” she said. “This is something that really comes in handy for a cold winter. This year we’re also adding a book to each youngster’s package, either a reader or a nice coloring book.”
    In addition to JSI and the Abner Wade Masonic Lodge, the United Bikers of Maine toy drive and the Toys for Tots is also a big help in filling the Christmas wishes of Milo-Brownville youngsters.
    For more information, contact Washburn at 943-5645.

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