Revamped Christmas Basket exceeds goal in shortened, virtual event

FILE PHOTOS BY MIKE CARROLL AND CURT NETTINGA OF THE PLAINSMAN Top: Huron Middle School vocal music instructor Teresa Smith directs the HMS mixed chorus at the 2019 Salvation Army Christmas Basket program. Bottom: Salvation Army Christmas Basket co-hosts Frank Palleria, left, and Kelly Hennrich from the 2018 event.

HURON — Even with  COVID-forced changes to the 2020 Salvation Army’s Christmas Basket Fundraiser was able to meet and exceed it’s goals for last fall’s event.

The Christmas Basket Telethon was held three days this year instead of the usual four days. All performances were pre-recorded or a re-run from past years.

The “event” was held at the Huron High School Auditorium. Hosts were Frank Palleria and Kelly Hennrich. Cara Osier found volunteer phone operators for the three days.

Video/audio and web presence was supplied through the Tiger Network from Michael Dramstad and Midco Communications from Bob Borgan.

Due to the COVID pandemic, many long-time volunteers chose to step away from the program, to protect themselves from the extra contact exposure.

The Salvation Army’s Lieutenants Matthew and Kaylee Darrow, as well as their staff, pulled together in the absence of several volunteers. They filled the positions of taking applications, filling out angel tree cards, distributing the angel tree cards, and organizing and distributing the angel tree items.

During this time, the Salvation Army also lost its long-time food pantry coordinator, and although the position was filled, the staff member was very new at the program.

Lt. Matt Darrow shared the grand totals to date for the fundraiser: The Christmas Basket Telethon had a budgeted goal of $35,000, of which was met and exceeded to the total of $48,306.

Other income for the entire program includes monetary donations to the Angel Tree program to the food pantry and to the red kettles, which altogether makes a grand total of $78,650 for the 2020 Christmas Campaign.

This does not include the items purchased by our generous community to fulfill the angel tree cards, which has been estimated at more than $20,000.

The week of distribution takes lots of physical labor when organizing the food and gifts.

Along with the Salvation Army staff and some members of the planning group, other volunteers during distribution week were from the Huron High School Honors Society, the Huron Kiwanis Club and the Huron Squad of the S.D. Highway Patrol.

On Distribution Day, participants were asked to report with assigned numbered cards to two different locations, one for food and the other for gifts. Thank you to People’s Transit Staff and Board Members for allowing access to an area of their facility for organizing and distribution. All distribution was complete with minimal contact, so as not to spread the virus.

The Salvation Army Christmas Basket Program committee thanks all who helped with the 2020 Christmas Program, and extends thanks to the Huron and surrounding communities for their generous support of the 2020 Salvation Army Christmas Basket Program, and the support you all give all year to the Salvation Army.

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