Four Oaks Holiday Project Brings Seasonal Cheer To Clients

By Heather Hubbs, Reporter

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By Rachel Begle

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- Imagine a child waking up on Christmas morning with not a single gift under the tree, For some, whose families can't afford presents, that is a reality.

One local organization is working to make sure the kids they serve have a merry Christmas, despite their circumstances. Four Oaks has partnered with businesses in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City to get gifts donated to their Holiday Project.

They don't have long white beards and they are driving carts instead of a sleigh. But employees from NextEra Energy are Santa to the boys and girls at Four Oaks, delivering gifts and holiday cheer.

"We have volunteers who put up trees in strategic areas at the facility," said Renee Nelson of NextEra Energy. "Employees pick an angel from that tree and on that angel tag is the name of a child, age, and a gift or two that's appropriate for that age that the child has selected."

Angel trees are put up at a number of local businesses throughout the Corridor during the holiday season. With the generosity of the community, Four Oaks is able to help more than 1,000 children have a merrier Christmas -- when they need it most.

"We provide services for children and families who have had some type of trauma or loss and need help," said Ranae Hasselquist, Program Director at Four Oaks. "Many of the children and families we serve don't have the resources the rest of us may have to provide gifts for our families at Christmas."

These children, who at times may not know where their next meal is coming from, don't have bikes or iPads on their Christmas list, instead their wishes are far more basic.

"It really is the spirit of the holidays when you see they want something simple like socks or a sweater," Nelson said. "Other people wanted books or laundry baskets."

Four Oaks has now collected all donations from area businesses and has started handing them out to their sites. Over the course of the next week, each Four Oaks site will host a Christmas party where the kids will get to open their gifts, so it feels like Christmas morning.

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