Operation Santa served 107 families in Crawford County

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Karly and Ellie Kramer, daughters of Curt and Angie Kramer, assisted with the Operation Santa project this year, along with their parents. (Submitted photo)

By Correne Martin

Operation Santa in Crawford County had one of its most beneficial years in a long time, for the Christmas season of 2018. The numbers served included 107 families consisting of 300 people, according to Chair Sara Boxrucker. 

“We also gave out extra toiletries this year and additional food items we hadn’t given before. I think we knocked it out of the park for the first year,” said the Rotary Club member and former Jaycee. 

The Prairie du Chien Rotarians picked up the project for the first time upon the local Jaycees’ dissemination last year. “We had a lot of people step up,” Boxrucker noted. 

She explained, each family that signed up for Operation Santa assistance—which ranged in age from 18-year-old heads of household to those in their early 80s—received quite a large distribution of food, and toys if applicable. They took home a food basket and coupons for ham, potatoes, oranges, apples, vegetables, pie, butter, bread and milk. For the first time, they could also pick from toiletries, such as toilet paper, paper towels, dish soap, laundry soap, shampoo, conditioner and body wash. Families with children under age 4 could take diapers. Coats, hats, mittens and pillowcases for children were also available.

Certainly, gifts such as toys and chamber bucks were important to the families with children under 18. Thanks to an overabundance of toy and monetary donations from across the county, the Rotary Club filled the basement recreation room of Hoffman Hall in Prairie du Chien. Parents who signed up for Operation Santa could then select toys that fit their children’s ages and interests. Any youth 10 and older received Prairie du Chien Area Chamber of Commerce chamber bucks, which are usable like cash at any participating chamber business in the area. This year, 50 chamber certificates were handed out. Furthermore, every family could take books and arts and crafts items as well.

“Distribution was very humbling but also overwhelming,” Boxrucker stated. “We had Christmas music playing, we were wearing Santa hats and we had Linda Hanson make cookies. Most of the people were so thankful.” Boxes and bags were carried out to people’s cars thanks to assistance from the Prairie du Chien wrestlers. 

A sampling of the major contributors ($500-$2,500-plus) who held special fundraisers or drives for the project is actually quite extensive this year, she noted. 

Pizza Hut hosted guest server night and matched $1,000 of the tip donations toward Operation Santa. Prairie Industries’ employees fund raised all year long for programs like this. The Women’s Auxiliary from the Eagles Club held a duck race and raffle, while Leisure Time also helped with a  meat raffle. Milo’s Towing stationed its trailers across Prairie du Chien for a toy drive. The Pickett Fence and its sewing family donated 300 handmade pillowcases. Kwik Trip, Zinkle’s Piggly Wiggly, Mississippi Meats, AMPI-Crawford County Dairy Producers, the Prairie du Chien FFA and Sunset Orchard donated the food items. The Prairie du Chien Police Department held a Stuff the Squad fundraiser for toys. Also, organizations like the Lions Club, Knights of Columbus and Kiwanis were strong supporters who brought in many sought-after items. 

Remaining food—both perishable and non-perishable—were paid forward to the Couleecap Food Pantry in Prairie du Chien, which serves low-income and homeless residents of the area. 

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