The Walmart Foundation recently provided a grant through its Local Giving Program at the Rhinelander store to the Christmas Belles, an area organization that provides Christmas gifts to underprivileged children.

The Christmas Belles program began as a cookie exchange between six women who decided after two years that they could do something more meaningful at Christmas. 

In 2001, the six purchased gifts for the children of one foster family. The program has grown by word-of-mouth every year since. 

This year, 158 women are participating, bringing Christ­mas to 157 foster (and other needy) children in three social service agencies.

The Rhinelander Walmart has been supporting the Christmas Belles for more than 15 years. 

The four chairwomen of the Christmas Belles Program are Mary Bongratz, Corinne Duerkop, Barbara Benson and Ann Adamovich. 

“But there are still more children to be served, and the Christmas Belles would love to welcome more women into the program, especially those who live in Vilas County,” said Benson.

More information about the program is available from Duerkop at (906) 544-2425 or Benson at (715) 477-0144.