New faces to chair local Toys for Tots efforts

Liz and Luke Elsenpeter (right) will be chairs of the Maple Lake Toys for Tots and Silent Santa program next year. Debbie Biegler (second from left) has chaired the program for 22 years, with the help of her daughter, Stephanie Biegler (left).


Twenty-two years ago, Toys for Tots and Silent Santa shifted from serving all county residents out of the Wright County Human Services office in Buffalo to serving people out of each individual town.
Debbie Biegler became Maple Lake’s chair of the program at that point.  
“Because it got so big, they were looking for people in each town to take it over,” Biegler recalled.
It seemed like a natural fit for her.
“We started doing the Giving Tree here at St. Timothy’s Church and taking it to Wright County,” Biegler said. “Now, everything donated here stays in Maple Lake.”
She’s thankful for how much has been donated over the years.
“I’ve never had to worry about having enough,” Biegler said. “The town has rallied behind it. 
“People call and ask what we need,” Biegler continued. “I’ve had some people come up and say thanks, shake my hand and leave a $100 bill in my hand. Maple Lake takes care of their people.”
After more than two decades of overseeing the generous program, Biegler is passing it on to Luke and Liz Elsenpeter.
“After 22 years, I decided it was time for others to take over,” Biegler said.
The Elsenpeters had shown interest in being involved. A year ago, they picked up donations at area businesses. 
Once Biegler decided she’d like to start stepping down, she did a bit of recruiting.
“I went to Krista Elsenpeter-Tarbox and asked to see if Luke and Liz would be open to it. She went to Luke and Liz and promised to babysit and paved the way for me to give them a call.”
Biegler has promised to stay with the group for two more years to make the transition smooth and help in any way that’s needed.
“There are a lot of things behind the scenes that people don’t know I do,” Biegler said. “Things are different from year to year.”
On average, about 35 families take part in the local Toys for Tots program. That number is down to 23 families representing 93 people.
“Depending on the economy, that ebbs and flows,” Biegler said. “We’ve had as many as 46. Those who know people in need talk to them so the word gets out because it is a small town and everyone looks out for everyone else.”
More information appears in this week's Messenger.
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