An organization with a reputation as a selfless group of local dedicated to making sure every child in Jasper County has gifts under their tree is once again hard at work making Christmas wishes come true. St. Nick’s Christmas Club has served the area for more than three decades, collecting not only toys but new clothes and household essentials for those in need of a little extra help.
“People ‘adopt’ the families and shop for them, or people will donate money and the club will shop for them,” President of St. Nick’s Christmas Club Jessica Lowe Vokes said. “We had less asks this year than we have the last couple of years but we have quite a few larger families in need. Any time someone can adopt a family from the book it is huge.”
Lowe Vokes, who has volunteered since 2005, said the group was formed in the 1980s at the old Manhattan bar to make sure children in the county can celebrate the holidays. The originators saw a need in the community. Lowe Vokes heard stories where some volunteers actually delivered gifts to houses.
St. Nick’s Christmas Club has served up to 600 kids in years past. This year, 135 families with 361 kids are available for “adoption.”
“This year we have had a lot of people from outside of Newton request help from the club,” Lowe Vokes said. “More than we have had before.”
The community can contribute to the group’s efforts this year by adopting families through the St. Nick’s adoption book at the Newton YMCA, 1701 S. Eighth Ave. E. through Dec. 5. Gifts for the families can be dropped off 4 to 7 p.m. Dec. 1 and 2; 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 3 and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 7 p.m. Dec. 5 to 7 at the St. Nick’s Christmas Club headquarters in Legacy Plaza Building 20 in Newton with donations due by 7 p.m. Dec. 7. Donations of wrapping paper, tape, gift cards to local restaurants and businesses are accepted, as well.
Monetary donations for additional gifts, needs and food assistance cards can be dropped off at headquarters or be mailed to St. Nick’s Christmas Club, P.O. Box 162, Newton, IA 50208. Volunteers are welcome. Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or the group’s Facebook page.
“We can use a lot of help. We have a lot of folks doing great things bringing in extra toys, there is a drive happening at Theisen’s now,” Lowe Vokes said. “Our food bill is huge with each family getting a food gift card. We are also seeing a lot of need in warm winter wear, bedding, some necessities that are bigger ticket items.”
Along with generous donors, volunteers have kept the group alive and well for close to 40 years.
“The program is ran on 100 percent donations and volunteer time. The kindness of everyone who ensures these St. Nick’s children have clothing, food and some fun gifts is truly amazing,” Lowe Vokes said. “Seeing the true spirit of the holidays through this generosity of others is my favorite part of the program and of Christmas.”
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
• Visit the Newton YMCA and adopt a family. Ask the person at the desk to see the St. Nick’s book, and pick out a family to adopt. We have families with one, two, three, four or more children. Each child gets an outfit and a few items from their wish list. Do your shopping then label the items according to the instructions in your envelope and drop off the items at St. Nick’s Holiday Headquarters.
• Consider adopting a family with coworkers, friend or small groups, or other family members. Our larger families are harder to get adopted, and this is a great way to spread the love.
• Volunteer. We need lots of help taking inventory of gifts, distributing gifts to families in December and shopping for un-adopted families.
• Donate. It takes a lot of donations to make this program a success. If you would like to make a cash donation, please contact us directly for instructions. Donations are tax deductible.
• Each year St. Nick’s purchases items, too. If you have store rewards, Kohls Cash, Under Armour coupons, please share with us!