Certainly, the holiday season that comes with the approach of Christmas and New Year’s following Thanksgiving is a special time of year.
With the chillier temperatures and snow come the light and warmth of the season, with residents decorating indoors and out and making plans to gather once again to celebrate family traditions.
Along with the frenzied shopping and tree-trimming and party-going and card-sending that accompany the holiday season, Christmas is a time to give thanks, count our blessings, and to help those who need a dose of the season’s good cheer.
There are many ways to help the less fortunate in the Maquoketa area this holiday season. Once again, we present a list of some of the ways one can brighten the season for one person or a family — and leave the giver with perhaps the warmest feeling of all.
Christmas Star Program
The Maquoketa Community Services’ Christmas Star program marks its 33rd year of providing Christmas gifts for deserving senior citizens throughout Jackson County. The program will continue with a change made last year, to discontinue gifts for children and merge that function with the Toys for Tots program. The Star program will provide gifts for senior citizens as in the past.
Residents can pick paper stars from trees at the main or westside offices of Maquoketa State Bank or at US Bank on McKinsey Drive. The stars list the senior’s gift preferences. Donors shop and wrap the gifts and deliver them, with the star attached, to the Maquoketa State Bank main office by Dec. 13. Gifts will be distributed by Maquoketa Community Services board members on Dec. 20.
The program has distributed gifts to more than 18,000 children and seniors as of last year.
Toys for Tots
The Toys for Tots program, a nationwide program headed by the U.S. Marine Corps, has distributed toys to needy children throughout Jackson County at Christmastime since 2011.
The program gives new, unwrapped toys and other gifts to youngsters ages 17 and under who might not otherwise receive a gift at Christmas. This year marks the second year since the Jackson County Toys for Tots program merged with the children’s portion of the Maquoketa Community Services Christmas Star program. Toys for Tots provided gifts to more than 850 Jackson County children in 2018.
The application period to receive toys closes Dec. 1. The application is available online at www.jackson-county-ia.toysfortots.org. Forms may be picked up through Monday at Maquoketa Municipal Electric Utility at City Hall or Operation: New View at 904 E. Quarry St.
Toys will be distributed starting at 8 a.m. Dec. 21 in the former Jill’s Hair Care at 115 N. Main St., Maquoketa. Recipients in the Preston area can pick up gifts at 4 p.m. Dec. 22 at the Preston fire station. Recipient families will receive letters in early December with gift pick-up details.
Residents may donate to the program by purchasing a toy and leaving it in a dropbox at any of more than two dozen locations in Jackson County. Residents also may donate cash by sending by sending a check to P.O. Box 731, Maquoketa. Donations are tax-deductible.
Here are the drop box locations as of Wednesday. More locations may be added. Andrew: Maquoketa State Bank; Baldwin: Ohnward Bank & Trust; Bellevue: Bellevue Herald-Leader, Bellevue State Bank, Bender’s Foods, Fidelity Bank, Flatted Fifth at Potter’s Mill and Collins Aerospace; Maquoketa: Crestridge, Dollar General, Fareway Stores, Fidelity Bank, Jackson County Regional Health Center, Lechtenberg & Young Dental, Maquoketa Area Family YMCA, Maquoketa State Bank (both the downtown and westside offices), Smiles on Main, Theisen’s, Timber City Chiropractic, US Bank and Walmart; Miles: Clinton National Bank; Preston: Clinton National Bank, Dollar General, Maquoketa State Bank and Preston Grocery; Sabula: Clinton National Bank and Island City Harbor; St. Donatus: Kalmes Restaurant.
Toys for Tots will hold its fourth annual trivia night at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 6 at Timber Center in Maquoketa. Teams of up to eight players may participate. The cost is $50 for the team and one toy donation per team member. People interested in reserving a table may contact Megan Simmons, coordinator of the Jackson County Toys for Tots program, at (563) 357-4547.
In addition, Sue Mayberry of Mayberry Appliance and Farmers Creek Antiques has donated a KitchenAid mixer that will be raffled off as a fundraiser. Raffle tickets are available for one for $5 or five for $20 at the two businesses or by contacting Simmons.
After the collection period, volunteers will be needed on toy-bagging night to help gather and organize donated toys for pickup. Volunteers should come to the former Jill’s Hair Care location by 6 p.m. Dec. 18.
Maquoketa Community Cupboard
The Maquoketa Community Cupboard, which provides food to needy people in Jackson County, always needs donations of cash, paper products or nonperishable food items.
Donations may be dropped off at the Community Cupboard’s location at 902 W. Platt St. between 9 and 11 a.m. on Fridays, when it is open. Donations also may be sent to the Community Cupboard at P.O. Box 743, Maquoketa, or you can call me at 652-6610. I’m a Community Cupboard volunteer.
Cash is preferred because the Cupboard can purchase food items at deep discounts and because it gives the Cupboard the flexibility to purchase the items that are needed most.
The Bellevue Bread Basket and Preston Manna Center also seek donations.
Sentinel-Press Mitten Tree
The newspaper continues its tradition of collecting children’s mittens, gloves, hats, scarves, ear muffs, socks and pajamas, which are donated to area families through the Christmas Star program.
Drop the items off at the Sentinel-Press office, 108 W. Quarry St., by Friday, Dec. 6.
The tree each year fills quickly, as some donors knit items themselves, starting months before, and bring a bagful of items when the tree goes up. But there is always room for more.
Cardinal Backpack Program
Another worthy cause for holiday giving is the Cardinal Backpack Program, which has been expanded to all four schools in the Maquoketa Community School District.
It helps students who, recommended by their teachers, may not have enough food at home to ensure they have enough to eat over weekends. The program provides a nutritiously filled backpack of food for the weekend. Teachers shop for food items and on Friday fill backpacks that are given to the students to take home for the weekend. Students return the empty backpacks on Monday.
Cash donations are preferred; food items also are welcome. To donate, contact the school office or a guidance counselor at Cardinal or Briggs elementary schools, Maquoketa Middle School or Maquoketa Community High School.
Avenue of Flags
As a patriotic gift, consider giving a subscription to the Avenue of Flags holiday flag service operated by the Maquoketa Optimist Club.
For $35 — the fee hasn’t changed since the project was started about 15 years ago — the club will provide and set out a U.S. flag at the curb outside the designated home or business on five patriotic holidays: Memorial Day weekend, Flag Day, Independence Day, Labor Day weekend and Veterans Day. The home or business must be in Maquoketa.
To sign up for the service yourself or as a gift, pick up a form at KMAQ radio, 129 N. Main St., Maquoketa, or call Optimist member Jessica Wagner at (563) 542-5822 or me at (563) 652-6610.
Proceeds benefit the club’s community and youth projects. In addition, the club donates a portion of the proceeds to high school and other youth organizations whose members help set out and pick up the flags.
Dolly Parton Imagination Library
The literacy program founded by the legendary country singer sends one new, age-appropriate book each month free to Jackson County children from birth to age 5.
A board comprised of residents of Bellevue, Maquoketa, Preston and Sabula oversees the local program. The service is available regardless of family income.
Donations help pay the cost of books and postage. A $28 donation will provide 12 books — a year’s worth — for one child. A $140 donation will provide 60 books to one child, covering all five years he or she would be eligible. Donations of any amount are appreciated and are tax-deductible.
Donations should be sent to Community Foundation of Jackson County, P.O. Box 645, Maquoketa. Make the check payable to Dolly Parton Imagination Library or DPIL.
To register a child for the program, visit the Bellevue, Maquoketa, Preston or Sabula public library.
Some 670 children currently are enrolled in the Jackson County program, which has given out more than 64,000 books since the program began here in 2010.
This group, which is a part of the Friends of Jackson County Conservation, is selling reusable plastic plates that you would take, along with your own silverware, to fundraiser pancake breakfasts, spaghetti suppers and the like and family picnics to cut down on plastic or foam plates and silverware that fill trash bags and go into the landfill after one use.
The plates cost $2 each and come with a snap-on plastic cover. You can use them in the microwave at home and they’re top-rack safe in the dishwasher. Available in a variety of colors, they make great, inexpensive gifts that encourage environmental awareness.
They’re available in the gift shop at the Hurstville Interpretive Center along U.S. 61 one mile north of Maquoketa. Starting in December, the center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, closed on weekends until spring. While you’re there, check out the many other items, including local products that are great for stocking stuffers or giving to out-of-town friends and relatives.
River Bend Troop Support
Those wanting to brighten Christmas for our servicemen abroad from the Jackson County area may donate cash, which is used to purchase needed items that are sent to the troops. Jeannie Flagel continues to operate the program, which she founded about 15 years ago.
Tax-deductible donations may be made to the River Bend Troop Support account at any Maquoketa State Bank branch or sent to Jeannie at 13226 50th Ave., Baldwin, Iowa 52207. More information is available on the organization’s Facebook page.
This social service agency based in Davenport provides a wide range of services to families in eastern Iowa, including Jackson County. Services include mental health, substance abuse and comprehensive services for survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence.
Monetary donations will help victims receive the assistance they need.
Donations may be made on the Family Resources website, which provides more information about the agency’s programs and services. To make a donation specifically for Jackson County services, contact Nisha Ladlee, development director, at (563) 468-2140.
Operation: New View
The community action agency, which works in Jackson, Dubuque and Delaware counties, uses donations of money, gifts or services from individuals, businesses and service groups to assist low-income households in the three-county area.
To donate, contact the Maquoketa office at (563) 652-5197.
Jackson County Historical Society
The historical society accepts welcomes donations to maintain and add to its collections and facilities and to provide public programs. If the donor wishes, donations may be directed to either of its museums, at Pearson Memorial Center or the Clinton Engines Museum, to the Penningroth Machine Shed, or to the Orphan Train Research Center.
Contact Bonnie Mitchell, museum curator, at the museum at (563) 652-5020 or send donations to the Jackson County Historical Society, P.O. Box 1245, Maquoketa.
Jackson County Humane Society
Help our four-legged friends with a donation of pet food, treats, cat litter, laundry soap or bleach (high-efficiency only) or cash. Cora Sutton, shelter manager, said donations of Purina Kitten Chow are especially needed.
Take donations to the society’s animal shelter at Iowa Highway 62 at Dark Hollow Road a mile northeast of Maquoketa. The shelter is open from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, closed Monday.
Other gift-giving ideas include the several “friends” groups that volunteer, raise funds and otherwise support area services and attractions. Those groups include the Friends of Jackson County Conservation at the Hurstville Interpretive Center, Friends of Maquoketa Caves at the state park and Friends of the Maquoketa Public Library at the library.
Donations may be sent or taken to the respective locations.
Salvation Army kettle
And of course, what Christmas season is complete without dropping some cash in a red Salvation Army kettle while out shopping?
Again this year, volunteer Salvation Army bell-ringers will be stationed at the two familiar Maquoketa locations, Fareway and Wal-Mart. Proceeds help families in need, with most of the proceeds staying in the Maquoketa area.