In a small downtown warehouse, among the bustle of those enjoying the charm and festivities of Christmas By The Lake, hearts were warmed by gifts of love shared by Clear Lake residents.
The line formed early for the Engage! Winter Outerwear Distribution. Hot chocolate, cookies and muffins were served to those waiting to receive their gifts of warmth. The doors opened at 10 a.m. and the “shopping” began. Personal shoppers were on hand to help people find what they needed.
“What a joy it is to be a part of this,” said Colleen Thompson, coordinator of the event. “I’ve met wonderful people, some giving and some receiving. Gracious, generous hearts.”
Among those waiting was Mackenzie Stoffer and her mother, Elizabeth Vogt. Mackenzie was all smiles in a new coat with a matching scarf, hat, mittens and boots.
This year volunteers at the event wore a donated scarf around their necks during the distribution. And when they saw an outfit being created that needed their scarf, they would offer it.
Thompson said she had just finished letting everyone in line know how things were going to work inside when Mackenzie looked up at her and said, “I really like your scarf.”
“I couldn’t have found a sweeter recipient,” said Thompson. “Her eyes danced as I wrapped the scarf around her neck.”
Volunteer Kaari Kreilow helped Mackenzie and her mother assemble all the pieces needed to keep warm this winter.
In addition to those attending the distribution day, Thompson noted donated items were also given to those served by Francis Lauer Youth Services, Prairie Ridge, Caring Pregnancy Center, Crisis Intervention Service and Salvation Army.
“People coming through the doors may be struggling financially right now, but many leave us so much richer because of the gratitude and love they share as they receive these gifts,” Thompson says. “Sharing God’s love is what this is all about, and it flows in both directions.”
Barbara Thompson helped with the preparations, as well as on the day of distribution. “Those of us who are privileged to be a part of this are grateful for the opportunity to share,” she says.
This is the fourth year of the Engage! Winter Outerwear Drive. This year, 466 warm winter coats were collected in sizes ranging from nine-months to extra large sizes. Also dropped in donation boxes throughout town were 457 hats, 159 scarves, 84 snow pants, 295 pairs of gloves, 61 pairs of boots and 14 vests.