The St. Johns Food Shelf in Wykoff is making sure everyone gets to enjoy Christmas as the doors of the church will open to local residents in need of not only food, but also other gifts.

A special Christmas event this weekend that will distribute special dinners and other items is one of many changes to arrive at the food shelf, which is expanding its services under a new board of directors.

"Mrs. Claus is coming to hand out candy canes, and we're getting ready for Christmas dinner boxes to be given out to families this coming Saturday, Dec. 21," said St. Johns Lutheran Church Food Shelf treasurer Lori Meyer, anticipating how much it will look like Christmas even in the basement of St. Johns Lutheran Church in Wykoff.

The church basement is home of the food pantry and now also an exchange center for new and gently used clothing and other items that persons in need might like to have. Volunteers in addition to Mrs. Claus have been busy getting the food shelf ready for its Christmas distribution.

St. Johns Food Shelf has a new board of directors. Meyer's husband, Merlin, is head director, Meyer is, of course, treasurer, and Susan Hofschulte is secretary. The directors, including several other members of the congregation, are looking forward to opening the church doors to share a basement with two full rooms of food, clothing and toys this coming Saturday, but also to expanding the services that the shelf offers.

"The directors changed six to seven months ago, and we decided that we should offer more than just food," Lori Meyer stated.

"We're trying this out, have been doing it for a few months now, and it's going well," she said. "There are people who have a need for these things, especially with all the government cuts to food stamps. If you got $15, you could buy a couple gallons of milk, but if you're not even getting that, you don't know what to do, so we're doing what we can to help."

The food shelf has more than food, including hygiene and baby items, clothing, whatever someone wants to donate. The hygiene items include items such as shampoo, deodorant, soap, toilet paper, toothpaste, toothbrushes. The baby table has items "that are very big...we go through size four, five and six diapers like water, so we appreciate donations of all those things. We take anything and everything, and if we can't use clothing that's donated, we'll do our best to find it a home. It'll either go on the church rummage sale or to a thrift store," said Meyer.

The helping hands that make the food shelf's work happen are volunteer hands. On an average Thursday, the food shelf has five to seven volunteers sorting food, and on Saturdays, it needs more people because they have a lot of food boxes to carry out. Right now, Meyer said there are more than 20 volunteers for this coming Saturday, including church members and a lot of people who aren't even members of the church.

Additionally, the food shelf's directors are pleased to welcome partnerships with local retail and discount stores that allow them to purchase even dollar items at a discount. Meyer thanked the staff of Alco and Dollar General in Spring Valley for their assistance, and related that the St. Johns Food Shelf is also working to cooperate with the Spring Valley Area Food Shelf to better serve patrons and visitors.

"We want to work alongside the Spring Valley shelf because a lot of our people come from Spring Valley," she said.

Finally, Meyer shared that the volunteers at St. Johns are coming together to help their neighbors in need, but with a philosophy, as well as with soup and soap.

"We're trying to bring a big smile to their faces, we're talking with them, trying to make their day by giving them what they need but also doing our best to preserve their pride," said Meyer. "It helps to smile, say hello, ask how they're doing. We want to make a difference."

The food shelf, located at 241 Line Street South, is open the third Saturday of every month from 9 to 10:30 a.m. For more information on upcoming events at the St. Johns Food Shelf, call (507) 352-2296.