It’s time to brighten the holidays for children and families in the Osakis area.

It’s Mitten Tree time.

A paper “mitten” is made for each child in need and placed on the Christmas tree at City Hall. The mitten specifies a child’s name, sex, age, clothing sizes, and some gift ideas.

Members of the community can come in and pick up a “mitten” to shop for a specific child or children.

If members of the community would like to shop but are not able to get to City Hall during business hours, they can get a mitten by calling or texting Heidi Ciepielinski, Mitten Tree chairperson, at 320-217-3341.

The Osakis Women’s Association has conducted this local community service project for more than 20 years.

“Our goal is to work with the community to help provide children’s gifts to local families in need,” said Ciepielinski. “This project is a very difficult task that is only possible with the collaborative efforts of our community.”

Last year, the Mitten Tree effort helped provide a Merry Christmas to more than 35 local families and over 90 children.

“We strongly believe that there are more families that need help but are too proud or embarrassed to ask for our assistance,” Ciepielinski said. “We want parents to know that we work very hard to protect parent and child identities. Children are identified by the numbers on the mittens and parent names are given to only a very select few of our core Mitten Tree team.”

She added there is absolutely no judgement, only love and support.

“Many of us have had our own hard times and are glad, even thankful, to be able to pay it

forward and help another parent/family,” said Ciepielinski.

Deadlines have been extended a bit this year because of the shortened time period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Applications for including a child on the Mitten Tree are being accepted through Friday, Dec. 13. Forms are available at Osakis City Hall and on the First National Bank bulletin board. For an email or text version, contact Heidi at 320-217-3341. Paper applications should be dropped off at at City Hall or mailed to the OWA, P.O. Box 262, Osakis, MN 56360.

General toy/gift donations, unwrapped, will be accepted through Wednesday, Dec. 18 at City Hall, First National Bank of Osakis, the VFW and Dollar General. Ciepielinski noted there’s a significant need for boys and girls ages 12-18 and babies/toddlers. Cash donations are accepted at City Hall or may be mailed to the OWA.

“Not only do these donations decrease the amount of shopping the OWA has to do, the items are very important in helping us fill in the gaps and ensure that each child in the family gets about the same number/quality of gifts,” said Ciepielinski.

Sorting, shopping, organizing and bagging will occur the following week. Gifts will be ready for pick up by Friday, Dec. 20. If they are available sooner, the OWA will call parents and let them know.

All extra funds help provide each child with a new pair of pajamas – an idea that started in the last few years and nicknamed “The Pajama Project” – and each family will receive a gift certificate to Osakis Family Foods for food or a holiday meal.

The Osakis Lutheran Church also donates quilts each year for each baby and every new family that has applied.

“The effort is huge and the financial expense is great,” Ciepielinski. “All donations, both toy/gift and financial, are greatly appreciated. Last year, the Leadership Team from Osakis Public High School even helped us unpack after our shopping trip and with basic toy/gift sorting. It was a great experience for the students and a valuable lesson in giving back to the community.”

Mitten Tree rules:

1. Children must live in Osakis or attend an Osakis school.

2. Children between the ages of 0-18 will be included.

3. All applications must be filled out by a parent or legal guardian.

4. Each child may only be entered once (divorced parents may not apply individually).

5. Major electronics, electronic games, cash, and gift cards are excluded.