Annual Children’s Christmas Benefit is an exercise in giving
ORFORDVILLE For the last 14 years, rural residents have come together to help strangers have an unexpectedly merry Christmas.
In return, those rural residents are treated to a pork chop dinner, music and the fellowship of friends and family at the American Legion Hall in Orfordville.
The event is the Children’s Christmas Benefit, and here’s the best part of it all: You can’t tell the givers from the receivers, the haves from the have-nots.
Brian Knudson, Brodhead, planned it that way.
“When we went through tough times years ago, there were always people to help us out,” said Knudson. “That’s something you never forget.”
Knudson has been a member of the Rock County Board of Supervisors since 1998. He represents Orfordville, part of Brodhead, and parts of the towns of Avon, Spring Valley, Magnolia Newark and Plymouth.
“When I went door-to-door during the campaign, I really saw a lot of need,” Knudson said.
He knew that these people wouldn’t be served by larger organizations—and probably wouldn’t ask for help.
So Knudson started the Christmas benefit.
Now more than 150 volunteers and dozens of local organizations are involved in the effort.
“A lot of good people work very, very hard,” Knudson said.
For the dinner and party, organizers ask for a free-will offering.
“Nobody knows how much anyone puts in that box,” Knudson said. “We want to have a blend of people there—people who don’t have the means to give and those people who are donating—we want them to have good fellowship together.”
Many diners bring donations of toys, clothes or food—but that’s not a requirement.
After the party is over, all donations are divided into care packages. Social workers, teachers and others give Knudson names of families in need, and he assigns each one a number to protect their anonymity.
A team of shoppers uses the money that has been donated to shop for whatever else is needed.
Volunteers are not allowed to deliver care packages near their homes.
Colleen Kuelz, an adult adviser for 4-H, has been helping organize the event for more than four years. Like many volunteers, she feels like all the hours she puts in for the event are worth it. Her favorite part of volunteering is delivering the care packages.
Volunteers are encouraged to deliver their packages with little fanfare.
Kuelz loves spreading the joy. She is moved by people’s responses.
“They always say, ‘We want to know who to thank, who should we send a thank you note to?’” Kuelz said. “We tell them that’s not necessary—we just want them to have a merry Christmas.”