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FORT DODGE, Iowa (AP) — Organizers of a holiday donation drive in central Iowa say that after more than 60 years, this year’s event will be the last because of logistical issues and a lack of younger volunteers willing to take on the huge task.

Operation Christmas in Fort Dodge is run by Church Women United, The Messenger reported . The group collects winter clothing, household items, holiday decorations, personal hygiene products, toys, food and other items that are given to needy families around Christmas time, said Ruth Reed, the program’s co-chairwoman.

In recent years, about 500 families have been helped each year. Reed, noting she’s now 81, said she can no longer run the operation.

“It really is (disappointing), and it breaks my heart to do this,” Reed said. “But you know, we are all getting older, and we don’t have younger people taking over.”

The program has also run into other problems. There are fewer local stores to buy items and storage space has become scarce, said Gwen Anderson, another co-chairwoman.

“We don’t want to come to a point where, here’s a year where we don’t have any space. That almost happened this year,” Anderson said.

She also noted that some larger stores, like JC Penney, are no longer in town and that sales are hard to come by without leaving the area.

The group will begin accepting donations for this year’s event on Nov. 14 and start taking applications from families on Nov. 27. Donations will be delivered Dec. 15.

Anderson said there are other local groups helping those in need that should be able to do similar work in the future.

“There will be somebody who steps up and does something. There are other agencies in town. It just won’t be exactly like ours,” Anderson said.


Information from: The Messenger,