Tourism groups ready to accept warm clothing donations for Big Bundle Up programSubmitted: 11/30/2015
MERRILL - With the season of giving upon us, many will be looking for ways to help out those who are in need this winter.

This year, you will only have to go as far as your closet to help families living in the Northwoods.

Tourism groups across the state will be accepting coats, sweaters, hats, mittens, and other warm clothing for the "Big Bundle Up Campaign."

The Chambers of Commerce in Merrill and Rhinelander will be participating in the program again this year.

All of the collected items stay in the community where they are donated.

The Merrill Area Chamber waits to decide where the items will go until they see what has been donated.

"We have the opportunity to talk to the different organizations and see what their needs are when we're dispersing the goods, and that was really what pulled us in in the beginning, and that's actually what keeps us doing it from year to year," said Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Debbe Kinsey.

This is the fifth year of the charity drive.

The statewide program has collected more than 49,000 items for families in need so far.

Though the Merrill Chamber doesn't have a set goal, they always hope to get more items than the year before.

"Last year we brought in over a thousand pieces, and that number just goes up a couple hundred every year, so we were very thrilled last year to get that many pieces, and of course we're hoping to top that," said Kinsey.

The collection program starts Monday and goes until January 3rd.

To find a drop off location near you, click on the link below.

Related Weblinks:
The Big Bundle Up Campaign

Story By: Anthony DaBruzzi

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PARK FALLS - Many people in the Northwoods go to church on Sunday mornings, and for some of them it may be begrudgingly.

But there are plenty of people, often elderly or sick, who want to go to church but have a hard time doing so.

Peace Lutheran Church in Park Falls wanted to change that. Since May, they've been undergoing some construction. On Sunday, the church had a dedication ceremony for a special new addition—an elevator.

Now people like 100-year-old Ruth Olson can worship with greater ease.

Before the elevator, Olson said she would get to church by literally pulling herself up the stairs using the railing.

Olson's story is like many. As the older population grows, church buildings don't evolve with them. The buildings are often old and sometimes lack accomodating features for the elderly or disabled, and takes money to update the buildings.

"We have churches where the people are getting older and it's very hard for people to get around," said Rev. Dwayne Lueck, the district president for the North Wisconsin District Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod.

Some parishoners couldn't do what Ruth used to do, and so they would have to worship at a service held across the street in the day care center, instead of in the beautiful church.

"Now all the services can be over here," said Rev. Dale Heinlein, the pastor of Peace Lutheran.

The congregation at Peace Lutheran believed in an elevator, so they paid for it.

"We been talking and planning this for...a long time," said Dick Ross, president of the congregation. "Pretty hard for some of the people, and I think you saw them, pretty hard for some of the people to worship here, so it was time."

"You can see it in their eyes more than anything when they know they have access and when they come up here and just enter the building and no steps, it's a great thing," said Buzz Peters, a parishoner who helped design the new elevator and space.

"We can finally have access for everybody to get into the worship facility, free access, that's what this is all about," Heinlein said. 

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