When it comes to helping people from near and far to make their holidays more jolly, the staff members of Able Thrift and Decades are more than ready.

Able Inc. has two stores in Dickinson, both offering low prices on donated goods.

For them, getting ready for Christmas and the holidays is a year-round effort.

"We start when Christmas is over," Nita Weikum, Able Thrift manager, said. "People will start donating and we'll start packing up for next year. Christmas is a process."

Everything is boxed up and put into storage, then brought out starting as early as October.

"We start putting lights and trees and garland and stuff out," Weikum said, "and just trickle it in until Christmas."

The items move very quickly.

"We've been done with the stuff we'd had stored since the first of December," Weikum said. "Everything else is stuff people have brought in since from their own homes. And we just keep putting it out."

Customer anticipation is always great.

"They ask about ugly Christmas sweaters," Weikum said. "We didn't put them out until Black Friday and they were asking a couple of weeks before that. 'When are you putting them out?' That's kind of a big thing here."

This year, there was no shortage of lights, stuffed animals, Christmas clothes, tins, and other decorations.

Of special interest are homemade items.

"Someone will take some really wild material and make a stuffed animal out of it," Weikum said. "People like the really odd things. We have a customer right now who's just looking for weird stuff to give for Christmas."

The same spirit can be found at Able's vintage and antique store, Decades. There, the staff takes a quirkier approach to displaying holiday items.

A paint step ladder, strewn with lights and adorned with wreaths, serves as shelves for small gifts and curios, for example.

"We are very original when putting stuff together," Heidi Clark, Decades manager, said. "We get a lot of compliments on how we do it and the clients just love doing different things with Christmas."

Donated holiday items are collected throughout the year.

"It's stored in a certain area," Clark said. "Generally, all the clients are involved in packing it, unpacking it, displaying it. We do one or two boxes at a time. It is amazing how much we get."

Even Clark is surprised by some of the items.

"We never always see everything that's packed in boxes when you're not here," she said.

One especially memorable item was an ornate, mercury glass ornament.

"It was beautiful. They don't make stuff like that anymore," she said. "It's really awesome to experience that kind of stuff, because you don't see it very often."

For many visitors and customers, Decades is a trip down memory lane.

"Grandma had it, great-grandma had it," Clark said. "It's fun to watch people and see their reaction to a lot of different things. That's why we're called Decades. People walk through to the decades."

Weikum especially enjoys being able to help people.

"We have people from out of town come in and say, 'Last year I didn't have a Christmas tree'," she said, "and they can buy one here and some ornaments and spend $20 and decorate their house. That's nice."

Both stores benefit Dickinson's adult mentally and physically persons.

"They all have jobs here," Weikum said. "That's our main goal, to get them involved in something, get them a job, so they feel like part of the community, and that's a good thing."

A great joy is working with client staff to ready the store for the holidays.

"A lot of our people that we support have helped put up much of our decorations," Clark said. "They love helping and coming up with ideas themselves of things we can do for displays."

At Able Thrift, there is a Christmas party ever year with gift-giving.

Clark is never surprised by the generosity of the people of Dickinson.

"I'm overwhelmed most of the time," she said. "It's just amazing that we're in a community that is so generous with helping and donating."