It’s a good season for Goodwill

Shoes and mittens and Santa, to boot!

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Cecilia Holmes, 4, talks to Mrs. Claus about her Christmas wishes as Sophia Rubio, 4, poses with Santa. Santa and Mrs. Claus, played Monday night by Sandi and Dave Lee, and Rudolph (their granddaughter, Jenna Lee) were on hand for photos with all the kids, not just those taking part in the Shoe and Mitten party.

It’s been a few years since the Goodwill store in Fort Dodge has held one of its annual shoe and mitten parties.

But across the region, this holiday giveaway has been a tradition since 1941 for Goodwill of the Great Plains.

“Our headquarters is in Sioux City. We do it in all of our stores,” Regional Manager Mark Hantla said. “Here, Mason City, parts of northwest Iowa. We also do it all across the state in South Dakota and a little bit in Nebraska and Minnesota too.

“Altogether we serve well over 1,000 kids.”

About 40 preschool age kids were chosen this year, Hantla said, with help from the school system and other organizations.

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Trinden Cole, 4, gets his new shoes with help from Julie Larson.

“We’re giving away new shoes, socks, hats, gloves, books, stuffed animals, and we’ve got snacks and drinks over there,” Hantla said. “And of course we’re doing photos with Santa, and we print it up and give it to them.”

There are no restrictions on who can be part of this event, he said.

“I understand there was another agency doing something similar (in Fort Dodge),” he said. “And we decided to fill in the age gap they weren’t doing, which was the younger kids.

“All of our other locations, we do this for elementary school age kids. We decided here, there’s someone doing that, but we’ll do it for the younger kids.”

Goodwill buys the shoes, but they also take donations for the event. And some knitters provide in-kind donations of items.

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Sophia Rubio, 4, looks over the new socks, mittens, and hats available at Goodwill Monday evening. About 40 lucky preschoolers received brand new shoes for Christmas thanks to Goodwill’s annual shoe and mitten party.

The store workers weren’t alone. They had some help from third-grade Girl Scouts, and from the Fort Dodge Senior High bowling team, who volunteered to serve as guides and hand out snacks.

“We take them back to the room and tell them what to do,” said Girl Scout Makayla Liska, of Fort Dodge.

It’s not the only place the scouts will volunteer this season.

“We go around places and help out,” Liska said.

“We ring bells,” Zoey Balm added.

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Edgar Johnson, 2, is ready for a brownie from the sweets table after getting new shoes with his siblings at the Goodwill store’s shoe and mitten party Monday evening.

What’s the best part of coming to these events?

“The snacks,” Aryah Fennell said.

The event will grow next year, Hantla said.

“Next year we will probably have up to 50 or 60 kids,” he said.

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Enrique Holmes, left, 6, Sophia Rubio, 4, and Cecilia Holms, 4, get fitted with new socks and shoes with help from Julie Larson and LaCie Casey at the annual Goodwill shoe and mitten party Monday night. While the Fort Dodge location hasn’t done this for a number of years, the annual giveaway has been a tradition in Goodwill of the Great Plains stores since 1941.