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Couple helps out to spread cheer
Harlow and Ila Duerst have been involved with the Monroe Womans Clubs Christmas Stocking program since they moved to Monroe 18 years ago. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)

About the Christmas Stocking Fund

The Christmas Stocking Fund is an annual effort of the Monroe Woman's Club. The club collects money and other donations, and distributes clothes, toys and vouchers for shoes and boots to children in need in the Monroe school district. Families also receive food boxes, complete with ingredients to prepare a holiday meal, delivered before Christmas. Cheer boxes are also delivered to the elderly.

Every year, the Christmas Stocking benefits hundreds of families. Names of families in need are offered confidentially by school officials, counselors and area churches. The effort requires a multitude of volunteers who shop for families, bake cookies and pack and deliver food boxes.

To donate to the Christmas Stocking Fund, send contributions to 901 16th Ave., Monroe, WI, 53566. All contributions are used locally to fund the program. A pre-addressed envelope is also included inside today's edition of the Times.

MONROE - For 18 years, Ila and Harlow Duerst have helped give elderly people in Monroe a merry Christmas through the Monroe Woman's Club's Christmas Stocking program.

The couple, married for 61 years, help create and deliver the Christmas Stocking's "Cheer Boxes," packages of food treats delivered to senior citizens who don't have families of their own.

Monda Hess, one of Christmas Stocking's Cheer Box coordinators, said the program will put together about 180 Cheer Boxes this year, containing items such as homemade cookies, banana bread and Swiss Colony mints and petit fours.

The Duersts will compose and deliver 15 Cheer Boxes this year, Ila said.

The couple's roles in the program are defined: Ila purchases and bakes the contents of the boxes and Harlow helps with the deliveries.

"Why do we do it?" Harlow said. "Why do you brush your teeth? Why do you wash your face?"

"It's for the community," Ila said. "They're always so grateful when we come to deliver them."

The Duersts moved to Monroe from Prairie du Chien 20 years ago when they retired. Ila joined the Woman's Club soon after the move.

Ila said each year they find new people to deliver to, and that "there are always more" senior citizens with nobody else to care for them.

"It's really sad sometimes," Ila said. "But sometimes they meet you at the door ... they're always so grateful."

Hess said residents of nursing homes also get donated items from Christmas Stocking and other charities - socks from The Salvation Army and lotion from the Christmas Stocking, among other things.

"The Club is a tremendous force for good in Monroe," Ila said, adding that it is largest woman's club in Wisconsin. "It's grown tremendously since we joined."

Hess said the Cheer Boxes will be delivered Dec. 17. Christmas Stocking volunteers will also deliver their food boxes for families in need Dec. 22.

"The food boxes could always use more volunteers," Hess said.