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It’s official: the 8th annual Santa in a Shoebox is in full effect, and for the first time, will also benefit neighbors in Kenosha.

Founder Diana Higgenbottom made the announcement Oct. 29 on the event’s Facebook page.

“The GOOD news is, Santa in a Shoebox is expanding into Kenosha!!” she wrote.

This is eighth year that Diana Anderson Higgenbottom is leading the charge to make a difference in the lives of kids of all ages – quite literally from babies to 100 years old – throughout the greater Racine community.

Santa in a Shoebox has grown from a small operation in Higgenbottom’s basement to a community-wide celebration of kindness. She was listening to the radio in 2009 when she heard about Santa in a Shoebox in another community and thought it would work well here.

The program is a simple concept: provide needed items like socks, razors, soap, shampoo and other toiletries along with small gifts like candy, hair ties for women and girls or cologne for men and teens; package them in a shoebox and then wrap the box and deliver it to a person in the appropriate age group. Higgenbottom recruited family and friends to help her with her project, and in 2011, they delivered around 200 boxes.

“Santa in a Shoebox is all about distributing blessings,” the flyer for this year’s event reads.

In 2014, that number swelled to almost 800 boxes, reached nearly 1,500 boxes last year, and with the addition of Kenosha County, the goal is 2,500 boxes.

Neighbors have until Dec. 16 to drop off both unwrapped and wrapped shoeboxes at the following locations:

Racine – Malicki’s Piggly Wiggly (5201 Washington Avenue); Racine Harley Davidson (Highway 20 & Oakes Road); and Javier’s Cuisine (2011 Lathrop Avenue)

Kenosha – Stinebrink’s Piggly Wiggly (7600 Pershing Blvd.); Education Support Center (3600 52nd Street)

Unwrapped boxes – both filled and those that need to be made – will be wrapped Dec. 16 for the Kenosha program at Stinebrink’s Piggly Wiggly.

The traditional wrapping party in Racine is Dec. 17 at Malicki’s Piggly Wiggly.

Packages go out for delivery Dec. 17 in both counties.