Brenda Morin and her husband Harold decorate their front yard differently every holiday season—one year they transformed it into Candyland and last year they displayed a train made out of milk crates.
This year they decided to make a giant Advent calendar in their front yard, fill it with gifts and give them to children in their tight-knit Île-à-la-Crosse community.
“I thought ‘An advent calendar, why not?’ I was just sitting out there and I was telling my husband, I said we should put gifts in there for the kids, so we went shopping and we bought 24 bags of gifts for the kids in our community.”
At 5 p.m. every day until Christmas Eve, Morin’s grandson Chanse pulls a child’s name in a draw to dig into a compartment and find a gift. So far the gifts have included Lego, colouring books, toy cars, mittens, candy canes and gingerbread houses.
Morin documents each kid choosing a gift from the Advent calendar by doing live videos on Facebook with Chanse’s help.
“It’s heartwarming,” she said. “Their parents bring them over with a big smile coming into the front yard. After they look in their bag they say ‘Thank you.’ It’s good to see the kids smile.”
“I get positive feedback every day, (even) just walking to the store.”
She said her husband cut plywood for the base and built it in the shape of a tree. They then decorated it with garland and twinkling lights, adding milk crates decorated with wrapping paper to hold the gift bags. The project turned out to be 12 feet high and 10 feet wide.
Morin initially made the announcement on Facebook, and the community had three days to call in with their kids’ names to be put in the draws.
They alternate between a pot filled with 78 names of boys and another containing 76 names of girls in the community. The children range in age from zero to 18.
But the 24 winners aren’t the only ones who will be getting gifts thanks to Morin’s initiative.
She said she’s received donations from individuals and businesses in the village to put together about a dozen extra presents. On Christmas Eve, she’ll be drawing from the leftover names to decide who receives them.
Morin said she’s inspired to give back because of her late mother’s kindness.
“My mother was very good with the kids when she was alive. She always had something for them,” she said.
“I just thought I should carry on her tradition.”