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Jamestown programs help make holidays more merry

Programs help families in need and kids have a merry Christmas.

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Children visit Wednesday with law enforcement officers as part of the Cops and Kids program. The officers from a number of agencies take the children Christmas shopping in Jamestown. John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun
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The holidays sometimes turn out to be a season of need with a number of programs around the community stepping in to meet those needs, according to Salvation Army Maj. Judy Lowder, corps officer, executive director and pastor of the Jamestown church.

"Oh my goodness," she said. "There is always a need, need has no season."

As of Wednesday, Dec. 22, the Salvation Army had helped 137 households have a Christmas dinner and helped make the holidays merry for 303 children.

"The number of households is up from previous years," Lowder said. "The number of children is up as well."

The Salvation Army operates an Angel Tree program where tags list the name of a child in need and gift ideas. These tags are picked up by community members, who purchase one or more gifts for the child and return them to the Salvation Army for distribution.

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Other programs also are seeing participation similar to last year.

Andrew Staska, officer with the Jamestown Police Department and leader of the Cops and Kids program in Jamestown, said they anticipated between 25 and 30 children would take part this year.

Law enforcement officers from a number of agencies take the children Christmas shopping in Jamestown. Each child has $100 to spend on holiday items.

"For a wide variety of reasons these kids won't have a great Christmas," Staska said. "Sometimes they shop for others in the family, sometimes for themselves."

Money for the annual program is raised through private donations, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Stutsman County Special Deputies Association.

No one seems to know when Cops and Kids first started in Jamestown although a 2010 article in The Jamestown Sun said the program had been going about 10 years at that point.

The Toys for Tots Program through the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve is another effort to help children have a happy holiday with a long history in Jamestown.

Toys for Tots has been a national program of the U.S. Marine Corps since 1946 and active in Jamestown since 2007. Sheila Ova is the coordinator of the Jamestown effort.

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Donation boxes for toys are placed at businesses around Jamestown with some locations also accepting cash donations.

"We had very generous donors in Jamestown and the surrounding areas," Ova said.

Volunteers organized and displayed the toys in a meeting room at the Gladstone Inn & Suites. Parents then selected the gifts for their children.

This year, the program helped 204 families and about 512 kids, Ova said.

"We are a little down from last year," she said, "but there is always a need."

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