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Christmas gifts for some special folks

By Staff | Dec 23, 2018

Debbie Halbakken, of Frost, takes a quick break from gift wrapping while other Caring Friends continue to work in the background.

A group of people are working hard to try and make sure everyone has a Merry Christmas.

Especially those who are forgotten about at this time of year.

A year ago or so, Debbie Halbakken, of Frost, discovered there were residents of group homes in Faribault County who had no family. That meant no one who came to visit them during the holidays, and no gifts under the group home’s Christmas tree for them.

“They had no one, no parents or siblings, at least none that were in contact with them,” says Halbakken. “They just had no family. I?felt it was important they feel inclusive in our society, and show them their worth as a person.”

So last year Halbakken and her family, which includes her husband, Rev. Arne Halbakken, the pastor at United Lutheran Church in Frost, decided to do what they could to get gifts to some of those residents.

This year, Halbakken and others from the church in Frost, as well as some other area churches, have formed the Caring Friends Project.

They discovered there were 13 residents in group homes around the county who had no family listed and so no family came to visit them.

“We decided how we can show them love is to provide them with gifts and cards at Christmas and their birthdays, Valentines Day, and more,” Halbakken says. “This is mission work, but right here in our own backyard. Not all work for missions happens overseas.”

The Caring Friends started raising some funds and doing some shopping.

Then on Tuesday, Dec. 4, the group of volunteers got together in the basement of United Lutheran Church in Frost for a gift wrapping and pizza party.

They had tables full of gift items, one table for each person they were going to surprise with some Christmas presents.

The group is not just from United Lutheran. They come from many churches in the area including Bethany Lutheran, Trinity Lutheran, South Blue Earth Lutheran and more.

“We would like to see this idea grow, and go into all communities,” Halbakken says. “Many churches do something similar, maybe in nursing homes, or have ‘adopted’ a place, but this idea is for those who are forgotten members of our society.”

She pointed out there are 22 group homes in Martin County and Halbakken would really like to see a group start there to take care of residents with no families.

All of the gifts are given name tags, and then during the week of Christmas, Halbakken and some others will deliver them to the group homes so the presents can be placed under the tree, along with the gifts for others at the home.

The word has gotten out about this project, and the group has received a lot of donations this year, from individuals, area churches and some businesses, such as McDonald’s, Juba’s SuperValu, Nordaas Homes and more, Halbakken says. Anyone wishing to donate can do so to the United Lutheran Church and designate it for the Caring Friends Project.

Halbakken confesses she has a bit of a personal interest in this work.

“We have a 28 year-old daughter, Laura, who lives with us,” she says. “Laura loves people and brightens up any room she is in, and brightens up our lives. But some people like her don’t have family, and I wonder what would happen if she didn’t have us. That made me want to do something for others, and ask ‘how can we show them love.’ The answer is as simple as giving them gifts, and just try and acknowledge them and show that someone cares.

“We can make a difference in someone’s life and change the world by starting in our own backyard.”