The little bar with a big heart

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Pocket City Pub owners Bart and Linda Knight sit with Sally Schneider (center) among the roughly 50 presents collected through the giving tree. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

Great River Care Center residents were thrilled to receive their gifts from Santa on Friday, Dec. 23. (Submitted photo)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

The Christmas season was a bit brighter for residents at McGregor’s Great River Care Center this year thanks to the patrons of Pocket City Pub.

This year, “the little bar with a big heart,” located in downtown McGregor, established a giving tree. Instead of hanging ornaments on it, however, the tree was covered with tags, each noting gifts residents at the care center would like for Christmas. 

Similar to the MFL MarMac Angels Helping Angels program many took part in by giving winter clothing, toys and other necessities to area kids, the giving tree was anonymous. Residents’ names were not listed—just their gender and a description of their Christmas wish.

Gift items varied, from Almond Joy candy bars and blankets, to coloring books, puzzles and handheld games.

Throughout December, patrons took a tag—or two—off the tree and purchased the gifts, returning them in time for the goodies to be distributed by Santa last Friday, Dec. 23.

The giving tree idea was spawned by Pocket City Pub patron Sally Schneider, who also works at Great River Care Center. She’d seen it done at another facility she worked at in Caledonia, Minn. 

“There are programs all over for little kids, but there’s not much for the elderly,” she noted.

Schneider hoped the idea would catch on in McGregor.

“I was worried I was going to have to buy a bunch of presents,” she admitted, “but the tags just flew off the tree.”

Some people even came into the bar hoping to pick up a tag, only to find they’d all been taken.

“I think we ended up with almost 50 tags,” said Pocket City Pub owner Bart Knight. “Thirty different people took tags, and some took two. It’s just another example of our giving community.”

In fact, giving is nothing new for Pocket City Pub. For over 10 years, they’ve collected non-perishable food items for the Clayton County Food Shelf around the holidays.

Knight was quick to deflect the credit, stating, “It’s not me, but the patrons of the bar. I’ve never lived anywhere that’s been such a good community—McGregor, Marquette and Prairie du Chien. All the bars do a lot of nice things.”

That sense of community was part of why he and his wife, Linda, bought Pocket City Pub, Knight shared.

“We bought this little bar because of the good people, and it’s those kinds of people who just ate this up,” he said.

Knight, who described Schneider as “having a heart of gold,” said he was appreciative that she decided to implement the project at Pocket City Pub.

“Our customers really appreciated it,” he remarked. “Now, this can become a yearly deal like our food drive.”

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