Carlton candy store, Duluth carriage service partner for picturesque holiday charity
Sweetly Kismet Candy Store and Top Hat Carriage Service will offer horse-drawn sleigh rides at discounted rates to those donating winter gear for local shelters.
CARLTON — Minnesota winter doesn't get much more picturesque than riding a horse-drawn sleigh through the snow to a candy shop nestled within a pine forest.
To make the experience even sweeter, Sweetly Kismet Candy Store in Carlton and Canal Park tour operator Top Hat Carriage Service are partnering to offer a discount to riders in exchange for donations of adult and teenage winter gear.
"Please come enjoy a horse-drawn sleigh ride with the family or friends and support those most in need this winter," Sweetly Kismet owners Jon and Ashley Parrott wrote in a news release. "We are hoping that the community can show these individuals they are supported this holiday season!"
Items will be collected from Dec. 9-18 at Sweetly Kismet Candy Store, located at 1707 Highway 210 in Carlton. Each rider must bring in a donation of new or gently used winter jackets, snow pants or boots to receive 50% off admission. Boots are the No. 1 need at this time.
"We would just like to get as many donations of winter gear as possible so any youth that come in can get a coat. That would be the dream," said Cheyenne Alisankus, Life Hacks Coordinator of Life House Youth Center. She has been with the center since 2015.
Each year, Life House serves approximately 700 to 800 homeless or at-risk youth between the ages of 14 and 24 from the area. Alisankus said the center is seeing an increase in homeless and street-engaged youth in comparison to years past.
"The housing crisis has not made it easier. Most shelters are full, and finding an apartment is really challenging. It's a real struggle," Alisankus said.
These youth can stop by the drop-in center to access the basic needs room, which provides free clothing, hygiene products and food.
"With how cold the weather has been, we really haven't seen as many coat and glove donations as years past. We have a lot of youth staying outdoors, in cars, under bridges and in other places not meant for human habitation. Sometimes they want two coats; one to wear and one to use as a blanket," Alisankus said. "I was really thankful when Jon reached out to help."
CHUM also provides a warming center — a safe, overnight drop-in for people who are experiencing homelessness or stranded — through mid-April from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. It is located at the old Lincoln Park Senior Center at 2014 W. Third St.
Over the course of last winter season, 554 people checked into the warming center, according to CHUM's website.
Admission for the sleigh rides is $20 per adult, $10 for children ages 4-15, and free for children 3 and under. Included with a paid ride is hot chocolate, popcorn, hot dogs and marshmallows to roast. Blankets are also for sale.
Fifteen-minute horse-drawn sleigh rides will be offered on Friday, Dec. 9 from 4-8 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 10 and Sunday, Dec. 11 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 16 from 4-8 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 17 and Sunday, Dec. 18 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Reservations are not required.
Children of all ages can also write a letter to Santa and place it in a special drop box located at the store. Stationary is provided at the store along with envelopes.
Mrs. Claus will be at the store on Sundays through Dec. 18 to collect the letters from 1-4 p.m. Santa and the elves will reply.
"We look forward to another great Christmas season of putting smiles on your little ones faces!" the Parrotts wrote on the Sweetly Kismet Candy Store Facebook page.