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Donaldson Employees Sponsor Holiday Cheer for 32 Years

From 10 Volunteers to more than 200, thousands of families served by The Family Partnership have received requested holiday gifts.

Aileen Hill & Sandy Nies

Thirty-two years ago, Aileen Hill and Sandy Nies recruited 10 people to help sponsor holiday gifts for families at The Family Partnership. Year-over-year the tradition has grown with Hill and Nies’s promotion to more than 200 volunteers.

This year, Donaldson employees are putting smiles on 230 faces with requested, wrapped gifts in time for the holidays. Over the three-plus decades, thousands of families have received gifts. From 2015-2021 alone, employees sponsored 2,081 individuals (from 521 families) with gifts valued at more than $150,000.

“I’m really social so I just invited people to join in and each year we recruited a few more co-workers,” said Nies modestly. “We have been doing it so many years it self-promotes.”  

Donaldson, a global filtration solutions company, promotes the holiday gift campaign each November to its 1100 campus employees at the corporate headquarters in Bloomington, Minnesota.  Nies (Manager, Finance Business Systems), Jessica Hahn (Engine Air Product Manager) and Anna Toninato (Sr. Executive Assistant) led this year’s employee drive while Hill, although retired, remains actively involved.

Supply Chain Efficiency  

Shopping Crew

The Family Partnership provides a list of families and requested gifts to Donaldson. “We have a lot of Donaldson groups that buy and wrap gifts together to promote team building or employees that participate with their families,” said Nies.

Gift Wrapping on Super Sunday

About 55 percent of the employees buy gifts directly while 45 percent donate funds. On the big Shopping Sunday, a team of 20 employees, family and friends work efficiently to buy gifts at Kohls and Target. Nies manages checkout with a sales associate, and has already ordered gifts elsewhere that she knew might not be available.

Operation Gift Wrap occurs after shopping with these same volunteers. The mountain of gifts at Hill’s house is sorted, boxed, wrapped, labeled and bagged. “Each gift is individually wrapped and identified with a number for the family and a tag for each specific person corresponding to the request list,” Nies explained.

Volunteers Make the Magic

Sandy Nies, Kate Fehrs, Maria Holtmeier, Frannie Holm, Troy Peterson & Josh Huntley

Then it is time to transport the hundreds of bagged gifts to The Family Partnership. Nies’s oldest son, who has been involved since birth, uses his vehicle and enclosed trailer for about half of the gifts. Donaldson donates their cargo van for the rest. On delivery, the gifts are sorted into designated rooms for collection by program staff for family delivery.

“We have three and four generations of families participating in bringing joy to others, and it is a highlight of our holiday season,” said Nies. The gifts are a highlight for families The Family Partnership serves too!

The Family Partnership thanks Donaldson and its employees for their incredible support at the holidays as well as during the back-to-school backpack drive. We are also grateful to the Donaldson Foundation, which provides generous support to The Family Partnership.

THANKS TO ALL OF OUR HOLIDAY HELPERS – We are thankful for the additional holiday sponsorships provided by Mortenson, Allina, Aldi’s, and countless other families. A special thanks to all who volunteered their time, including St. Thomas students and members of Alpha Gamma Delta at the University of Minnesota. 

If you are inspired, learn more at our Ways to Give and Volunteer pages.

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