Heroes in the store

Captain Terry Eldien of the Fergus Falls Police Department received help from Fleet Farm’s Jamie Cunningham during  a shopping spree in the toy section for the children of less fortunate families.

When Fergus Falls’ Fleet Farm staff received a $500 donation from their corporate headquarters earlier this year they made a classy decision.

Following the old adage that “the greatest joy in living is the joy that comes from giving,” the local management group decided to spend it on Christmas gifts for children.

“It’s real exciting,” Fleet Farm store manager Eric Randall said Tuesday as two Fergus Falls police officers - Chief of Public Safety Kile Bergren and Capt. Terry Eldien - along with Fergus Falls Fire Safety Officer Craig Hebert showed up to participate in the store’s first “Shop with a Hero” foray.

In addition to Randall and operations manager Derek Hubert, several store employees were on hand to greet the uniformed “heroes” as they arrived for a 10 a.m. shopping spree.

Also on hand was community relations and youth director, Lynne Verhaagh of the Fergus Falls Salvation Army.  

“So far we have about 600 applications from kids,” Verhaagh said. 

Some of the requests surprised Verhaagh and at the same time touched her heart. They were not after toys. They wanted something much more precious.

“One child wrote ‘I just want my daddy home,’” Verhaagh said. “Another wrote ‘I just want my family to be happy.’”

To the best of her ability, Verhaagh intends to meet each request before Christmas arrives. 

“This is the first time we’ve gotten to do something like this,” Randall said. “We just wanted to have fun with it.”

Hebert found himself a little out of his depth. He had been handed the names of a dozen girls to shop for at Fleet Farm. With the help of a marketing pricing coordinator Tonya Lohse, he found himself spoiled for ideas.

Verhaagh also plans to draw on Salvation Army resources. The Salvation Army Toy Shop is gearing to distribute gifts to kids who would not receive them. Among the presents will be two gifts for each child, a family game, winter wear, a quilt for each family, stocking stuffers and a turkey.

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