The Star-Herald

Santa’s Sleigh returns to aid local families

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — For more than 15 years, United Way of Aroostook has been helping to make the holidays brighter for children from one end of Aroostook County to the other.  

Along with great partners and many donors, UWA was able to provide gifts for 939 children through its Santa’s Sleigh program last year.  It’s expected even more families with children will need help during the holidays this year.

“We wouldn’t be able to help brighten the holidays of so many families without the generosity of the many, many donors who participate,” said Sarah Ennis, Executive Director of UWA. “We’ve received assistance from Rotary and Kiwanis of Presque Isle as well as several other organizations, but we count on the support of individuals from every community to fill the wish lists of the towns.”

The Santa’s Sleigh Team will have a float in the 30th annual Holiday Light Parade in Presque Isle on Saturday, Dec. 7. They will be collecting new, unwrapped toys for children of all ages, including teens. Gifts can also be left in the drop boxes located just outside United Way’s office located at the Aroostook Centre Mall and as well as at the University Credit Union Office located at the Campus Center at the University of Maine at Presque Isle. All branches of The County Federal Credit Union and United Insurance have collections boxes as well. St. Mary’s Catholic Church is also supporting the efforts with its annual giving tree.

“We are incredibly grateful for the support of so many community organizations,” said Athena Hallowell, program coordinator for United Way. “This program helps to demonstrate the generosity of the people here in Aroostook.”

This year a new form of support is coming by way of a workplace wellness challenge.  Employees of SAD 1, MMG, Aroostook County Action Program, Northern Light A.R. Gould, and the County Federal Credit Union are being encouraged to increase their physical activity and donate gifts to United Way’s Santa Sleigh program though their healthy competition titled “Reindeer Run/Walk.” This event will take place on Dec. 5 at the Sargent Community Center.

Margo Dyer of MMG, tri-chair of the Reindeer Run/Walk Committee, said, “It’s the committee’s passion to involve our employees in collaborative wellness activities, as well as being stewards of the communities in which we live.  This is the perfect opportunity to do both.”

United Way officials say donated gifts for teenagers are often lacking.  To compensate for the shortage, UWA is also seeking monetary donations so they are able to shop for gifts for any last-minute gifts to ensure all children in need receive a gift this holiday season. Donors are encouraged to mail monetary donations directly to their office at 830 Main St, Presque Isle, ME 04769

Once all donations have been received, the gifts will be packed up for distribution to towns who’ve requested them.  Each town then gives the gifts to children who need them in their community.

Parents/guardians needing help getting gifts for their children are to contact their local town offices. Residents of Presque Isle should contact the Sargent Community Center for assistance.

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