NEOPIT, Wis. (CNS) — Not one toy.
Bags of flour, boxes of cereal, cans of vegetables, cases of juice, bundles of blankets, bottles of shampoo –they all came off a bus packed with items for the food pantry at St. Anthony Church in Neopit, Wisc.
Boxes filled with toothpaste, tissues and toilet paper were carried into the community center Dec. 15 by some of the young people from the parish school and religious education program at Holy Spirit in Kimberly. They’d been collecting them all Advent.
But not a toy in sight.
Gifts of toys for less fortunate children who live on the Menominee Reservation, located north of Shawano, have been part of the tradition since Holy Spirit began this Advent project eight years ago. But in 2017, the needs are different in Menominee County, Wisconsin’s poorest county.
“This year we couldn’t afford the luxury of toys,” explained Mary Harte, St. Anthony Parish office manager. “We needed the basics.”
Harte told the 28 youngsters from Holy Spirit who made the trip, “The toiletries and food you brought mean a great deal to our community. This is worth more than toys to some families.”
Sarah Elmer, youth minister at Holy Spirit, said that in the past, collections for Neopit had included food as well as toys – and the switch to life’s necessities this year provided a great teaching opportunity.
“We told the kids, ‘Think about what’s on your Christmas list. For some of the people in Neopit, food items take precedence because they really have a need for that.’ That really hit home. The next week we had double the donations,” she told The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay.
Elizabeth Raddatz, 17, a senior at Kimberly High School, was one who got the message. “I can take a lot for granted that others might not have access to,” she said.
A couple of juniors called the project fun: Billy Krieg, 16, said he took part “just to help others and try to make a difference.” Max Treu, also 16, said the Advent collection is now a tradition. “It’s a lot of fun, and it takes a load off (those in need) and makes their holiday better.”