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Patti Regan, executive director of AID Inc., middle, is flanked by longtime AID Inc. Self-Help Center & Thrift Shop volunteers Phyllis Baker, left, and Joan Weber inside the thrift shop in Mandan.

For low-income families, the holidays can be particularly stressful.

AID Inc. Self-Help Center & Thrift Shop has been helping struggling families in Morton and Burleigh counties through a variety of programs, including its annual Care and Share Program, which has existed since 1985.

Through the Care and Share Program, the nonprofit distributes food baskets with about two to three weeks of meals and provides holiday gifts to children. This year, the program handed out 225 food baskets and 368 toys.

"If a family is low-income, struggling is day to day. So, to be able to say, 'Well, I'll take that extra $5 I got this month to pay for toys or a turkey,' probably is not within the realm of what they can do," said Patti Regan, executive director of AID Inc.

The goal of AID Inc. is to prevent homelessness, Regan said.

"We're emergency temporary assistance to those working to help themselves," she said, adding they provide assistance by paying past-due rent, utilities and giving out food.

"Generally, it's a crisis that has come up," she said, such as a broken down car, health issues or related to employment.

"The examples of what happens to people, anything you can imagine happens to people," Regan said.

People must meet certain requirements, including income requirements, to receive help through AID Inc.'s programs.

The Care and Share Program provided food baskets to families and toys to children on Dec. 8. A committee of AID Inc. raises the money for the food baskets, and this year the toys were provided by Toys For Tots, Regan said.

Each year, AID Inc. relies heavily on the help of volunteers during the holidays, because the organization has only six part-time employees. For the Care and Share Program this year, about a 100 volunteers turned out to pass out food baskets and toys.

Volunteers Joan Weber and Phyllis Baker help AID Inc. during more than just the giving season. Weber, 78, has been volunteering there for 18 years, four days a week for several hours each day.

"I guess God has always been good to me, and I like to give back to the community so others can benefit from what I've experienced," Weber said.

When Weber was diagnosed with cancer and went through chemotherapy several years ago, volunteering gave her focus and a purpose.

"It not only helped me, but I in turn was helping other people. It kind of helps balance the scales," she said.

Baker said she volunteers at AID Inc. five days a week "for the greater good" and because of all of the support it provides to the community. Baker, 56, retired after a surgery went wrong in her right arm. She left her job as a certified nursing assistant and now finds joy through being able to give items to people in need.

Regan said AID Inc. will continue to help families through Christmas, and donations of food and toys are welcomed. However, volunteers and donations in the form of cash and gift cards are need year-round. For more information, visit www.aidincnd.com.

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Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com

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Education and Health Reporter