Grateful Grannies play Santa to Cedar Rapids families

    Grateful Grannies started out in a kitchen wrapping gifts for five kids. Now they serve over 150 children and have outgrown the kitchen.

    A group of generous grandmothers are doing what grandmas do best: spoiling their grandkids. All 150 of them.

    They may not be related by blood, but the kids a group of generous grandmas are giving back to are all important to them; so much so, they're making sure every member of their family has a happy holiday.

    It started sixteen years ago. Or maybe it was fifteen.

    "We can't remember,” says Jeanette Ernst, president of Grateful Grannies. “It's either 2002 or 2003."

    Either way, it began with five kids and two families and a group of grandmothers wrapping gifts in Ernst's kitchen. Now they’ve outgrown the kitchen.

    "I would say at least 150 kids and that might be a low figure," Ernst says of their current Christmas demand.

    Inside the Local 125 Training Center, the large group of grannies wrap those hundreds of gifts a day ahead of delivery. Around 68 families will now have all they need for the holiday.

    "There's a great amount of need in Cedar Rapids, truly," says Claire Sharp, a Grateful Grannies member.

    Counselors from five different schools help the grannies identify kids in need. They try to focus on high schoolers, who often “fall through the cracks” in other charitable drives.

    "The counselors know these kids, they see them on a daily basis,” Sharp says. “They know the kids who are really trying hard to break that cycle."

    Donations help provide everything from clothing, detergent, and food are provided for the entire family of the nominated teen. Women at Holy Redeemer Lutheran Church even donate handmade quilts and pillowcases.

    In a back room, a group of “grandpas” load up boxes of food, purchased from Hy-Vee at a discounted price.

    "One of those,” one of the men points out some pasta. “Put a long one in there."

    With the spaghetti sticking out of the box, the two men wheel their cart around the table, stocking it up for a family in need.

    Grannies, and grandpas and sometimes grandkids, giving back because these grandmothers are grateful their loved ones had enough growing up.

    "We're trying to pass on a legacy, if you will," Claire says.

    So fifteen (or sixteen) years later, they still give thanks.

    "We feel like God wants us to do this and He still wants us to do it because it's still working," Jeanette says.

    You can donate money to the Grateful Grannies. Donations are accepted at the Cedar Rapids Community Schools Foundation -- just make sure to let them know it's for Grateful Grannies.

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