Secret Santa sponsors needed for Stearns County foster children

The Compassion Connection is looking for help to provide a merry Christmas to children living in foster care in Stearns County.

The non-profit organization based in Becker has a partnership with Sherburne County and has been providing Secret Santa gifts for foster children there for the past four years, according to founder Amy Drehmel. Stearns County contacted her in late November seeking help for their foster families, she said.

“Sadly, the organization that Stearns County partnered with for Christmas has folded,” Drehmel said. “[Stearns County was] struggling to find an organization willing to take on the foster kids in their county that are living in group homes and have no family and would otherwise not receive any Christmas gifts.”

The Foster Closet, which helped with gifts for Stearns County foster families, folded recently but suggested the county reach out to The Compassion Connection, according to Jodi Eickhoff of the Family and Children’s Services Division of Stearns County Human Service.

“The Foster Closet was absolutely amazing and put us in connection with Compassion Connection to assist with Christmas gifts,” Eickhoff said. “We are so thankful they were willing to help out these kids and hope this will be the beginning of a wonderful partnership.”

The organization is currently collecting the children’s wish lists and Drehmel is hoping to match them with donors soon.

Compassion Connection founder Amy Drehmel collects donations for this year’s Secret Santa. The gifts will be distributed to children in foster care in Sherburne and Stearns Counties before Christmas. (submitted photo)

“For the last four years, we have been able to provide a Christmas party and Secret Santa program to the kids in foster care in Sherburne County,” Drehmel said.  “With COVID this year, unfortunately, we are not able to host the party, but we will still be providing the kids with gifts and, as of now, all of our Sherburne County kids are sponsored.”

According to the state Department of Human Services, in Minnesota, approximately 185 children each week go into foster care, some of them with only the clothes on their backs. The Compassion Connection serves as a resource for those in need in the community with a specialized focus on those foster families.

In addition to helping with Christmas gifts, The Compassion Connection fields requests each week for items for families with foster children as well as other families in need. They accept monetary donations, new or gently used clothing and children’s gear year round, Drehmel said.

To participate by shopping for a wish list, please contact The Compassion Connection directly through their Facebook page or email at  If you are not a shopper but would like to offer a financial donation or gift card, they will shop for you. All donations and gifts are needed no later than Dec. 20.

“We do not want any child to go without at Christmas,” Drehmel said. “We want them to feel loved and seen through the generosity of others.”

Author: Dianne Towalski

Dianne Towalski is a multimedia reporter for The Central Minnesota Catholic Magazine.

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