CEDAR RAPIDS — Some area veterans are receiving a special gift this Valentine’s Day thanks to a more than decade-old tradition between two Linn County departments.
On Monday, staff with the Linn County Treasurer’s Office presented Don Tyne, director of Linn County Veteran Affairs, with 17 gift baskets containing such items as a spaghetti dinner, canned fruit and vegetables, jello and some candy.
Also on Monday, Tyne presented certificates and glass awards to members of the Treasurer’s Department staff to thank them for the gift — and the gift baskets the department has been donating to local veterans almost every holiday for more than 10 years.
“Our staff had gotten together and decided we wanted to do something special for them, it’s really helped out lots of veterans,” Tyne said. “Many of these baskets are the only holiday meal these particular veterans are getting.”
It started as a simple gesture in the early 2000s — some people on staff at the Linn County Treasurer’s Office donated a few gift baskets to the county’s Veterans Affairs office. The donated items were to go to the family of a soldier serving in Iraq.
“They started bringing over gift baskets for the holidays. As I recall, it started in Christmas for some kids whose father was over in Iraq and it kind of grew from there,” Tyne said.
Linn County Treasurer Sharon Gonzalez said baskets are filled and donated almost every major holiday, including Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas, to name a few.
“It’s pretty much every holiday,” Gonzalez said.
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To fill the baskets, the department allows its staff of about 35 people to wear jeans every Monday — in exchange for a donated food item or $1 to purchase items.
Each basket has about 10 items and staff raises close to $160 per holiday, Gonzalez added.
Tyne and his staff then distribute the baskets to area veterans — typically those who could use them the most.
“It all goes to those in the most need,” Tyne said. “We just wanted to say thank you.”
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