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Non-profits preparing for events with different looks this holiday season

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX 47) — Annual holiday traditions like the Christmas Anonymous Toy Drive or the Salvation Army Tree Lighting at Apache Mall will look different this year. One big factor is there won’t be people gathered at the events.

Other annual fundraisers will also be impacted such as the Seasons Hospice A Live & Love Affair Gala and the Hiawatha Homes Foundation Festival of Trees.

“We had to pivot very quickly as most nonprofits did,” said Carolyn Piepho, the Director of Development and Communications at Seasons Hospice. “We did make the decision that we wanted to maintain our presence and let folks know that we are still here and providing services.”

Things will also be different for the annual Christmas Anonymous Toy Drive. In normal years, people donate toys and help load the back of a box truck in the FOX 47 parking lot. This year, there will be no trucks or people donating in person.

“We made all these changes so that we could still serve the kids that need our help in Olmsted County,” said Vice President Gail Sauter.

Toys can be bought through Target’s website using a Christmas Anonymous registry. From there. those who register and are selected to receive these donated gifts, they will participate in a drive-thru pickup. More information about the event can be found here.

The Salvation Army Sharing Tree Lighting at Apache Mall will also look different. Usually the event draws a big crowd with a band and children’s choir. This year, there will be no crowd. You can watch the lighting live Friday, Nov. 20 during our sister station KTTC’s 6 p.m. newscast.

People can still donate toys by leaving them under the tree. The Salvation Army will pick up donations left under the tree frequently through the season.

Other fundraisers are going virtual or into hybrid mode. The Hiawatha Homes Foundation Festival of Trees celebration is one example of that.

Patrons can buy tickets to a drive-thru event to get food. The Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi will open Assisi Heights for the drive-thru on Nov. 24 from 4 to 7 p.m. The annual gala will be held on the Hiawatha Homes YouTube channel starting at 6 p.m.

And what about the decorated trees and their locations? They’ll be scattered throughout the city and surrounding communities. The foundation will be releasing a map for those who want to see all of them this year since they all can’t be housed inside the Mayo Civic Center. More information about the event can be found here.

Another fundraiser gone completely virtual is the Seasons Hospice A Live and Love Affair Gala. Patrons were able to purchase tickets for food and will also be able to participate in a silent auction online. The gala still will have 45 minutes of live music for people to watch and dance to inside their homes. The event will be this Saturday from 6:45 p.m. until around 8:40 p.m. More information about the event can be found here.

All four non-profits say that they couldn’t do this without the support of the Rochester community.

“I just can’t underestimate the value of the community support that we’ve received,” said Director of Development and Communications for Seasons Hospice Carolyn Piepho.

That’s especially true during the pandemic where people are under more burdens and stress than years prior.

“Financially across the board people are finding themselves in a place of need and a place of struggle,” said Director of Community Engagement for the Salvation Army Rebecca Snapp. “And what we want to be able to do is try and provide for that need as best we can and in as many places and for as many people as we can.”

Zach Fuller

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