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For some, it is the season for Christmas Cacti.

And assorted gift bags.

Small succulent plants are among the gifts being handed out by a group of local Secret Santa’s as part of the Giving Tree program for residents of Slope and Bowman counties.

According to Edna Paulson, the local director of the Giving Tree program, the cactus and travel medical gift bags have been organized at the Bowman Senior Center.

By Friday, she said that most of the gifts she had accumulated would be in their new homes.

Some items on the wish lists were easy to find. Some took shopping trips to Baker, Hettinger and even Dickinson. Other things forced Paulson to order online to find them.

“Everything that could be purchased locally was. We hopped online to order most of the rest of the stuff or went other towns close by,” she explained.

“All the items are basically being organized right now,” she said over the weekend.

When the families pick up their wish lists of gifts, there will be some work to do. “Most of the families are going to wrap their own gifts, which gives them some ownership – and that is pretty cool. They get pretty excited about that.”

Many of the gifts have already been picked up, she added. Most of the rest will be gone from her temporary staging area. “My goal is by mid-week to have everything distributed. Every year I have to find a space to ‘land in’ and organize,” she said.

One day, she is hoping to find a location that can be home to the program, she added.

The Giving Tree program is designed to help families that are struggling during the Christmas season and throughout the year and has been around for many years before COVID-19 came to North Dakota, she explained.

But it also is not limited to providing help just during the Christmas season. “People think the Giving Tree is just a once a year thing. It is not. We help people all year long, as needed.”

Earlier this year, the group had been using some locations as temporary storage. Then the senior citizen center was gracious and let us use their space to organize the traveling medical baskets, she said.

“I usually order fruit for assisted living and some of the senior citizens.  Anyway we can lift their spirits and reach out to as many as we can,” she added.

The wish list drew a bigger response than 2019. “This year was tough for everybody. I knew we would have a rise in families.

“This year, we are servicing about 33 families.”

For the families that lost someone during the year, there was a special gift selected from local florists, she explained. “We deliver Christmas Cactus to those who have lost loved ones. I usually order about 60 of those and they all pretty much have a home.”

She even gets responses to the prickly gifts. “I’ve gotten donations and they have a little note in there that says their Christmas Cactus from last year is blooming … it is just beautiful,” Paulson added with a smile. “That is just a warm fuzzy because they have been able to watch it grow.

“It is in memory of their loved ones so they can look at the plant and get a warm fuzzy.”

In 2019, the group distributed more than 60 traveling medical baskets. This year, the numbers of medical baskets are down a little bit.

Paulson also asked that if people know of local residents who have lost someone or if they know of people who are traveling for medical treatments, that hopefully they will try to contact her.

Paulson said she has been part of the program for about a decade and it had been around for years before that.

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