Chris and Verna Van Beek began giving their time helping to distribute food commodities to families in need. In 1982 they felt compelled to give something special to struggling families. “Buckets of Joy” began with 25 ice cream buckets they filled with basic clothing and a toy for the children. Within 5 years the number of buckets distributed increased 10-fold.
Over the years, the program expanded. Daughter-in-law Sharon Van Beek joined the effort some 30 years ago. She and her husband, Jon stepped in as the project grew and shifted from buckets to bags. Included now in each bag is a footed sleeper or sweatshirt, socks, stocking cap, mittens, toothbrush or wipes, colors and coloring book and a Nativity storybook. A blanket throw for each child was recently added to the gift bag.
Van Beek shops sales throughout the year to get the best bang for the buck. The project is funded generously by local churches and banks and numerous individuals. Items are stored at Primghar City Hall where the bundles are made and organized for distribution.
Van Beek was nominated by her daughter Laura Leonard to the Rural Electric Cooperative’s “Shine the Light” award. The charity received $2000.
The Bags of Joy are distributed as the Christmas season approaches. Children 0-5 years of age can get these through Upper Des Moines, DHS, Head Start and WIC programs. All recipients are residents of O’Brien County.

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