Big birds are needed in Lake Nebagamon.
Kids in Nebagamon, a nonprofit that serves families in the Maple School District, is seeking about 30 additional frozen turkeys for its Christmas project food baskets. The wish list also includes non-perishable food items for the organization’s Dec. 19 distribution date.
“Everybody gets enough for a nice Christmas feast but then enough for the next week or so, because you need to eat after Christmas too,” said Cathy Ketola, Christmas project chairwoman.
The nonprofit provides gifts and food to families going through financial difficulties due to illness, job loss or a traumatic event like a house fire. A total of 41 families, with 100 children, will receive help this year.
“They're such a caring and compassionate group of people,” said Kara Hietala, guidance counselor at Northwestern and Iron River elementary schools. “It has a tremendous impact on these families because these are kids that may otherwise go without anything during the holiday season.”
Families are nominated by school counselors, and Ketola calls the parents or guardians to identify what kids need for the winter -- jackets, boots, snow pants, PJs, sweatshirts, socks and more. This year, seven out of 10 children are in need of winter jackets.
“And then when we’re done with that I ask for some ideas what the kids would like for Christmas, because nobody wants to get socks and PJs for Christmas,” Ketola said.
Volunteer shoppers will be filling those lists, and checking them twice, over the next few weeks. The gifts and food baskets will be distributed out of St. Anthony Parish Hall in Lake Nebagamon.
This year’s recipients include a family who lost their house in a fire, a mother of six facing a life-threatening illness and a woman who was in a car accident.
“These are people that you probably see every week in the bank or the grocery store or the library. These are your neighbors,” Ketola said. “I mean, any one of us can be one or two paychecks away from needing help.”
KIN holds fundraisers throughout the year and sends out letters seeking business donations. Community members also pitch in, with everything going to local families. The nonprofit helps people who may fall in the cracks between government or faith-based programs.
“There are a lot of people out there just scraping by and even though we can’t fix their world, I think it makes a big difference when they know somebody out there has their back,” Ketola said.
Recently, they provided an Aldi’s gift card to a mother who had three children under the age of 10 celebrating birthdays close together. She used it to buy them birthday cakes. In October, KIN donated $1,000 to the School District of Maple’s Angel Fund to help pay negative student lunch account balances. The group is providing bedding and pillows for a family that had a house fire.
“It’s all year, but this is when everything kind of gels, at Christmas time,” Ketola said.
KIN, also known as Kids In Nebagamon and Kids In Need, has been serving children in Douglas County since 1992. It wasn’t on Ketola’s radar until the former Christmas project chairwoman, Ann Rankin, invited her to get involved six years ago. It’s become an integral part of her holidays.
“This is my Christmas present to myself,” Ketola said. “I love doing it. The conversations I’ve had with those 41 families are just wonderful. They just make you glad that you’re here and you can do something.”
The group’s efforts are appreciated.
“They just continue to be a tremendous blessing year after year,” Hietala said.
Turkeys can be brought to St. Anthony's Parish Hall. Donations made out to KIN can be sent to P.O. Box 422, Lake Nebagamon, WI 54849. Visit kinnorthwestern.org or the KIN Facebook page or email email@example.com for more information.