Oakdale Holiday Helping Hands gives families holiday gifts

Going strong for more than 25 years, the Oakdale Holiday Helping Hands group has provided gifts for families struggling with the added expenses and expectations of the holiday season. 

It started when Oakdale Area Chamber of Commerce members caught word of one family limping into the merry, expensive time of year without gifts for the children. Chamber members bought, wrapped and delivered gifts and holiday cheer to the family in need.

After seeing what joy it brought this one neighbor, the chamber expanded its outreach.  

Today, the group gets gifts for some 90 families each year, brightening Christmas morning for upwards of 300 kids. 

The program, said chamber member John Larson, uses chamber funds and donations. Children and families are selected by North. St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale school district social workers. Then children from those families, newborn to high school age, submit requests for gifts. 

Volunteers choose between being a shopper, wrapper, or to donate — some do all three. 

About 20 years ago, said Larson, someone had the idea of getting students from Tartan High School involved. Students go into classrooms and ask other students if they would sponsor a family. 

“Students single-handedly support 25 percent of gifts,” Larson said. “It’s a remarkable thing.” The students raise the money themselves, as well as shop for the gifts on their own. 

The delivery day this year is Dec. 8 at 9 a.m. Some parents prefer to pick up the gifts, too.

For some sleighbell-delivery fanfare, volunteers gather at Tartan, dress as Santa Clause, and student volunteers — as elves — deliver gifts. 

Larson invites the community to come out. “Have a good time of eating and having coffee and juice,” he said. 

Tartan High School is located at 828 Greenway Ave N in Oakdale. 

It’s too late to give gifts, but donations to cover the cost of this year’s delivery, and for next year’s costs, are being accepted. 


—Solomon Gustavo

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