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, to 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 32nd year of providing Christmas gifts for the needy throughout Jackson County — with one big change this year. The program will continue to provide gifts for senior citizens as in the past, but is discontinuing gifts to children. Instead, Christmas Star is merging that function with the county Toys for Tots program.
Residents can pick construction paper stars from the tree at the main office of Maquoketa State Bank downtown. The stars list the senior’s gift preferences. Donors shop and wrap the gifts and return them, with the star attached, to the Maquoketa State Bank main office or to US Bank at its west-side office.
Gifts must be returned to the trees by Dec. 14. Gifts will be distributed by Maquoketa Community Services board members to seniors on Dec. 21.
Applications to receive gifts are available at the Operation: New View office in Maquoketa (904 E. Quarry St., 652-5197) and at Maquoketa State Bank. Referrals will be accepted.
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.
Applications to receive toys are available at the Operation: New View office, 904 E. Quarry St., Maquoketa, or at Maquoketa City Hall, 201 E. Pleasant St. Applications must be returned by Dec. 1 to those locations or they can be mailed to Toys for Tots, P.O. Box 731, Maquoketa. Applications also are available online at www.jackson-county-ia.toysfortots.org.
The application asks for the child’s place of residence and adult contact information, but does not ask for family income information.
Toys will be distributed on Dec. 22 in the former Aldi supermarket building at 907 W. Platt St. Recipients should come to the east door at the front of the building, in the area that formerly housed the Maquoketa Community Cupboard and the Maquoketa Community Services retail store. Parents will receive a letter giving the time that day when they should arrive to pick up the toys.
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, Iowa 52060. Donations are tax-deductible.
Here are the dropbox locations: 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 Rockwell Collins; 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 west side 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 third annual trivia night at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 7 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.
Volunteers will be needed to help gather and organize donated toys for pickup. Volunteers should come to the former Aldi location at 6 p.m. Dec. 19.
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 new 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 Dec. 3.
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 Club
Another worthy cause for holiday giving is the Cardinal Backpack Club. It helps Cardinal Elementary School students who, recommended by their teachers, may not have enough food at home to ensure they have enough to eat over weekends.
Cardinal teachers shop for food items and on Friday fill backpacks which are given to the students to take home for the weekend. Students return the empty backpacks on Monday.
To donate, contact the Cardinal Elementary School office.
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.
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.
To arrange a subscription, print out a form that’s available on the club’s Facebook page. Fill it out and send it with a check for $35 to the Maquoketa Optimist Club, P.O. Box 803, Maquoketa, or drop it off with Lois Fischer at KMAQ radio or Jessica Wagner at the Hurstville Interpretive Center.
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 to the library 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.
The Jackson County organization has given out more than 53,000 books since the service began here in 2010.
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.
The Jackson County Coalition Against Family and Domestic Violence accepts donations to assist Jackson County residents served by the YWCA Domestic Violence-Sexual Assault Resource Center in Clinton.
Monetary donations will help abuse victims receive the assistance they need. Needed services include therapeutic counseling, day care, tuition and expenses, vehicle repair and sheltering families.
Donations may be made payable to the Local Emergency Mission Fund, P.O. Box 893, Maquoketa.
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 (564) 652-5197.
Help our four-legged friends with a donation of pet food, treats, cat litter, laundry soap or bleach (high efficiency only) or cash.
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, Salvation Army bell-ringers will be stationed at the two familiar Maquoketa locations, Fareway and Walmart. Proceeds help families in need, with most of the proceeds staying in the Maquoketa area.