Anoka Christmas Committee extends giant thanks

Anoka Christmas Committee board members presented a giant token of their appreciation to the Anoka National Guard when they delivered a four-foot tall, overstuffed Red Bull mascot to the Anoka Armory Jan. 16.

Anoka Christmas Committee President Bill Hammes presents a giant token of thanks to Anoka National Guard SFC Adam Kelly and Staff Sgt. Dan Hoffman. The Red Bull mascot – complete with dog tags – is an overstuffed representative of the Red Bulls, a mechanized infantry division in the U.S. Army National Guard of which the Anoka National Guard is a part. Photo by Sue Austreng

Anoka Christmas Committee President Bill Hammes presents a giant token of thanks to Anoka National Guard SFC Adam Kelly and Staff Sgt. Dan Hoffman. The Red Bull mascot – complete with dog tags – is an overstuffed representative of the Red Bulls, a mechanized infantry division in the U.S. Army National Guard of which the Anoka National Guard is a part. Photo by Sue Austreng

For more than three decades, the Anoka Christmas Committee has collected donations of food and toys, then organized and packaged those items to be given to hundreds of northern Anoka County families in need.

Each year, Anoka National Guard members open the Main Street Armory to be used as packing and distribution site for the project. Not only that, guardsmen and women freely give their time and energy to the cause as well.

“Where would we be without this building and the guardsmen who help us out every year? We couldn’t do this without their help, without this space. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” said Anoka Christmas Committee President Bill Hammes as he presented the giant Red Bull to Anoka National Guard SFC Adam Kelly and Staff Sgt. Dan Hoffman.

The Red Bull mascot – complete with dog tags – is an overstuffed representative of the Red Bulls, a mechanized infantry division in the U.S. Army National Guard of which the Anoka National Guard is a part.

During the Jan. 16 Red Bull presentation, Christmas Committee board members also recognized and thanked Mickman Brothers, Inc. for its donation of more than 1,200 custom made sprays and wreaths.

That Christmas greenery is given as an added gift to families receiving the Christmas Committee packages.

This year, 1,080 families received packages and Christmas greenery and still, there were 186 sprays and wreaths left over. But those festive adornments didn’t go to waste.

Five Christmas Committee members took those wreaths to Fort Snelling National Cemetery and, with Mickman Brothers’ blessing, laid them on 186 Civil War and World War I military gravesites there.

“That is one of the most humbling and rewarding things I’ve ever done … to place a wreath and thank a soldier … It’s something I’ll never forget,” said Hammes.

And Mickman Brothers founder/owner Chris Mickman said, “It’s truly heartwarming to be able to help.”

“My brother (John) and I are real happy to work with the Christmas Committee to give back to the community and to thank the soldiers.”

For the past five years Mickman Brothers has donated sprays and wreaths to military cemeteries throughout Minnesota, Mickman said.

And Mickman Brothers also gives back to the forest, according to Mickman.

“We have a goal to plant one million trees in every state of the union in the next four years,” Mickman said. “So far we have planted 400,000 trees in 19 states … Every year we also plant in Minnesota, our home state.”

Expressing their own gratitude and appreciation for service to residents of Anoka County in need, Anoka National Guardsmen presented certificates of appreciation to Hammes and to Chris Mickman and Jeff Sutter, general manager of Mickman Brothers.

According to Hammes, it takes 200-300 volunteers each year to accomplish the giving that the Christmas Committee achieves.

“It’s all kinds of groups from the area – schools, businesses, retirement groups, realtors, police and fire – it takes so many people to make this happen it’s almost overwhelming,” Hammes said. “Today, we’re recognizing the National Guard and Mickmans. What would we do without these guys?”

To learn more about Anoka Christmas Committee, visit ChristmasCommittee.com.

Sue Austreng is at sue.austreng@ecm-inc.com

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