In December, 2018, the Rossows along with some fantastic friends and community members, hosted the first Kirby's Christmas Closet. The doors opened at 10 am that morning, but parents were lined up down the block long before that. After only an hour, nearly all of the books, winter coats, toys, gifts, and stockings were distributed, and the final tally showed the crew had helped 160 kids have a merrier Christmas.
The Rossows were overwhelmed with the response to their fledgling effort to help others. In 2019, the number jumped to 210 children from 68 families. Parents and guardians came from 10 different communities, and over 800 items were distributed. "Family Baskets" were added to the line up containing household and hygiene items that may be used by the entire family.
Shortly after the Minnesota state government announced "lock-downs", Hilary shopped for staples and assembled and distributed 18 baskets of food, hygiene, household cleaning, and boredom-busting items to high-risk individuals in Lakefield and Jackson, MN. This was made possible by a grant earned from the University of Minnesota's RSDP program.
The COVID-19 issue caused special adjustments to distribution including fewer parents in the gym at the same time and the elimination of gift-wrapping. Wrapping paper was given to each family instead, and the quickness with which parents were able to go through the shopping process was increased. Age-appropriate children's Bibles were added to the items distributed, and over 350 children from 21 communities were given gifts.
In the summer of 2021, over 200 "Classroom Baskets" were assembled and distributed to classrooms in Windom Area, Jackson County Central, Heron Lake-Okabena, and Immanuel Lutheran schools. These baskets included pencils, dry-erase markers and board erasers, sanitizing wipes, hand sanitizer, and a note in a plastic bin.
The fourth Kirby's Christmas Closet, held in 2021, was affected by a big blizzard the day before the event. Still, 328 children from 25 communities benefitted from the event, and over 50% of the families that shopped were attending their first Kirby's Christmas Closet.
Classroom baskets will be filled and distributed again to the same schools, but facial tissue, red pens, and colored pencils will be added in addition to crayons in elementary grades.
Kirby's Christmas Closet in 2022 will be October 22. Bibles will be added to the items distributed. Kirby's Closet's board is planning for 130 families to attend.