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Red Lake Nation Toy Drive to Provide Gifts to Nearly 2,000 Native Kids

The Red Lake Nation will donate Christmas gifts to more than 2,000 Native American children.

More than 2,000 kids at the Red Lake Indian Reservation will have a happier Christmas this year thanks to dozens of volunteers, and donations from scores of businesses and individuals.

Normally, the U.S. military out of the Twin Cities sends toys up to Red Lake for Christmas, but due to poor donations this year, they were unable to provide toys outside the metro area. Red Lake Tribal Treasurer Darrell G. Seki, Sr., his staff, and other tribal headquarters staff quickly took charge to find toys for the kids at Red Lake.

Lynn Armitage, a member of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin

Volunteers sort toys at the former Custom Doors warehouse in Redby, Minnesota.

Seki cut a radio commercial asking for donations of toys or cash for Red Lake kids. In return for a $5 unwrapped gift or cash, donators received a coupon for a $5 play at any of the Seven Clans Casinos.

According to Barbara Beaulieu, secretary to the tribal treasurer, the volunteer group then sent out letters asking for help from the many vendors who do business with Red Lake programs or government.

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“The team raised nearly $40,000 in mostly cash donations. Red Lake government employees chipped in by donating more than $1,200 in payroll deductions and all in five weeks of solicitation.”

“About 2,200 kids, ages 0 to 17 in the Ponemah, Redby, Red Lake and Little Rock communities will now receive gifts,” said Beaulieu. “Parents who wanted to sign their kids up for toys had to fill out a form and demonstrate need. Duluth tribal members will also receive toys as they are also out of the area that the military formerly served.”

Volunteer teams go out and buy toys with the cash donations. They bought a variety of toys from a variety of stores who either donated to the cause, or communities where tribal members live, including Park Rapids and Thief River Falls. Volunteers buy for both boys and girls and according to age groups; 0 to 3, 4 to 8, 9 to 13, and 14 to 17. Teams will go out and shop one last time to fill the needs of kids who signed up late, and for any age groups that might be short on toys.

“Kids won’t have to wait for batteries for toys that use them either,” noted Beaulieu, “shoppers also bought batteries and will tape the needed cells to toys that use them.”

The drop-off sites will also be open until December 21. “We will sort toys on December 19th and the district’s will start picking up their toys on December 20th,” said Beaulieu. “Toy distribution at each of the Community Centers will be on December 21 and 22.”

Toys and cash donations are being accepted right up to Christmas. Excess toys and money will be used as seed money for the 2012 Christmas season. Those who wish to donate should drop off an unwrapped toy at Seven Clans Casino, Red Lake, at the Red Lake Accounting Office or Red Lake Tribal Headquarters. As a way of saying thanks for your toy or donation valued at $5 or more, you’ll receive a $5 free play casino coupon. A receipt showing the gift is $5 or more is required in order to receive the $5 free slot play coupon.