Baskets help brighten Christmas

Jennifer Holcomb pauses in the process of tying turkey/ham vouchers to the gift baskets. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)


By Karen Larsen
Empire Press Correspondent

Jessica Smoke brings a filled basket over to be wrapped during a Christmas basket event held by Gateway Ministries and United Lutheran Church Dec. 22. She is accompanied by her sons Waylon and Wyatt. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)

For the third consecutive year, Gateway Ministries and United Lutheran Church worked together to create baskets for families in need in Waterville and the surrounding area.

Tables in the fellowship area of United Lutheran Church were filled with canned goods, other non-perishable items, fruit, potatoes, baked goods and stuffed animals the morning of Dec. 22 as a group of people prepared to assemble 35 baskets to be given to 20 families in the community.

Kieth Finkbeiner, who started the project in 2016, said he feels that creating the baskets is a way to serve people in the community in the name of Christ.

Jackie Finkbeiner and Jennie Munson wrap Christmas baskets. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)

In its third year, the number of people donating items for the baskets and working to assemble them has increased quite a bit from the first year of the project.

?We really have an abundance this year,? Finkbeiner said as he looked at the tables laden with items for the baskets.

In addition to the items on the tables, a voucher for a turkey or ham from Waterville Family Grocery was included with each basket.

Those helping to assemble the baskets included many children and young people.

Elsie Munson, an eighth-grader at Waterville School, worked quickly to add items to baskets.

?I think it?s fun and I feel good for helping,? Munson said.

Olivia Smoke, who is a seventh-grader, was helping for the second year.

Holly Finkbeiner ties stuffed animals to baskets for families with young children. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)

As she loaded up a basket she said, ?I pretend I?m shopping; I like it.?

Shirley Long was one of the adults who helped. She bought 10 large bags of potatoes to be divided into smaller bags and included in the baskets.

Long said, ?The people will appreciate it. They need it.?

Jessica Smoke, who is Olivia Smoke?s mother, brought her six children to help assemble the baskets.

Smoke said that it is easy for children to become focused on receiving gifts during the holiday season.

?It?s so good for them to be giving for a day. It?s good for their perspective,? she said.

When all 35 baskets were assembled and wrapped, groups delivered them to the families.

Finkbeiner said that every year when the baskets are delivered, the recipients are excited and grateful.