A countywide program is celebrating 30 years of giving gifts to families in need and continuing the tradition again this year.

Houston County Care and Share is counting on people to pick up a tag at local businesses and buy the items listed.

The unwrapped items need to be returned to the location where the tag was picked up by Monday, Dec. 11.

“There’s a definite need in our county for families who, due to financial difficulties, health problems, loss of job or other reasons, need a little help at Christmas,” Jill Hahn, secretary and treasurer of Care and Share, said.

The goal of the program is “for every child in Houston County to have a nice Christmas.”

Care and Share complies a list of families from Houston County Social Services, the Houston County and area food shelves and public schools in the county who need assistance.

Families must agree to participate in the program before they receive donations. Then a form tells volunteers how many children are in the family, their ages, clothing sizes and items of interest.

Volunteers then take the forms and create gift tags listing the requested items.

Gift tags are placed on Christmas trees in area businesses throughout Houston County, including churches and banks. Individuals then shop for the items and return them to the tree or business where they picked up the tag.

Volunteers try to match items to families, but requested items are not promised.

The organization also accepts monetary donations as well, which will be used to buy food and items for donations.

Hahn added the program also purchases a grocery certificate for each family at their local grocery store to help with Christmas dinner, if funds allow.

“We are able to do this by the generous support from people like you,” she said.

While many of the gifts are for adults or children, Hahn said the group is always short on gifts that would be appropriate for teens.

The program will also be partnering with Toys for Tots again this year.

That partnership was started a few years ago when Toys for Tots reached out to Houston County Care and Share and asked to help, Hahn explained.

“We gave them a list of boys and girls in different age groups, we set up a meeting time, and they bring the toys to our location,” she said.

Last year, the program served 251 households, which included 361 children and also served 97 elderly or disabled persons.

This year, the program has a few more children than last year and will still accept families that are referred to the program, Hahn said.

The local program was started in 1987 by a small group of people, who wanted to give gifts during the holidays, but there was no organized program, and they didn’t have a way to express that.

When Hahn and others started the Houston County Care and Share program, it was incorporated and became a 501c3. Through generous donations and an army of volunteers, it has grown into what it is today.

“Please join us by donating gifts and/or monetary contributions to Care and Share,” Hahn said.

Monetary donations may be sent to Houston County Care & Share, 138 East Main St., Caledonia, MN 55921.

If anyone is interested in joining the committee, they should contact Hahn at 507-724-3157.