ST. CLOUD -- A central Minnesota organization is raising money to empower women and girls, while also spreading holiday cheer and supporting locally owned businesses.

The Zonta Club of St. Cloud is hosting their second annual Christmas House Shop Hop this week. The event is a revamped version of the Zonta Christmas House fundraiser which is a 32-year tradition.

Club President Deb Kellerman says the socially distant spin on the event remains in place this year due to continuing COVID-19 concerns.

We just have not found a homeowner who is embracing the idea of having 1200 to 1500 people walk through their home, and there's no way we can socially distance them. So, we went back to the drawing board and said well, then it's shop hop again.

Kellerman says they are hoping to return to the original Christmas house format in 2022.

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The Shop Hop highlights 16 businesses around central Minnesota including some in Albany, Sartell, Sauk Rapids, St. Cloud, St. Joseph, and Waite Park.

To participate, you can make a $15 donation to the Zonta club in exchange for a punch card that you can take with you and get stamped at each location as you check out the holiday displays and do some Christmas shopping.

The proceeds will help fund Anna Marie’s Alliance and Terebinth Refuge as well as provide various scholarships. Kellerman says right now that support is more important than ever.

During the pandemic, violence against women rose. And so, organizations that we fund, like Anna Marie's and the sexual assault center, saw an increase in cases tenfold.

There are also discounts being offered at 10 central Minnesota businesses and over $4000 in prizes being given away.  The Shop Hop starts Tuesday and runs through Sunday.

The Zonta Club of St. Cloud was founded in 1950 and is a part of Zonta International.

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