When Valley City’s Rosie Larson was a young child, she saw a tree decorated with mittens in the window of a bank in Detroit Lakes. That tree happened to be a charity campaign that helps those in need during the holiday season.
“Being from a poor family myself, I didn’t have mittens or boots, and I thought when I get older, ‘I’m going to make sure they have the necessities,’” Larson said.
And so for the 35th straight year, Larson, being the director of a local, independent charity organization called Valley City Cares, has organized an annual mitten tree in Valley City.
Valley City Cares has a “very active food bank” throughout the year, Larson said, but the mitten tree campaign was started just for the holiday season. Larson’s children helped her in the beginning, and now her grandchildren are helping her manage the campaign, which she says has grown each year.
“It started with just mittens and hats and scarves, and now it’s grown into toys and quilts and coats,” Larson said.
The tree is located at First Community Credit Union, where people can drop off donations.
Other drop-off sites are at Miller Motors, The Mane Tamer, MarketPlace Foods, and Barnes County Extension Office. Donations can also be dropped off at Larson’s house by calling (701) 845-0688.
Larson said she chooses the recipients of the gifts and food herself based on need.
“I have a lot of help through the year, and I usually kind of keep an eye on one or two families throughout the year,” she said.
Sometimes people will call her directly. They don’t need any forms to visit her house because she’s not government-affiliated, according to Larson.
She also receives recommendations from churches and local organization Faith in Action.
“I guess I kind of get to the ones who fall between the cracks who don’t qualify for this or that, and I feel if they call for food, they’ve got to need it of they wouldn’t call,” Larson said.
When asked about the future of the mitten tree, Larson responded that “we’re going to do it as long as we can.”
Both she and her husband Daryl, who helps her with the campaign, were diagnosed with cancer in recent years, but they are both now healed.
Larson said they see the need getting worse and worse each year.
“For some, they can’t afford to even get the hats and mittens,” she said. “That’s why I appreciate the toys, because it’s their Christmas.”
“Yesterday, a man called and said, ‘You’re my angel.’ I’ve been called angel a lot. I know it’s not me, but that’s how much they really appreciate (it),” Larson said.