By Diane Stamm
The Imperial Republican
Toss the numbers out the window when discussing The Gift. They don’t begin to explain the holiday spirit flowing through the Imperial community and across Chase County.
Though 73 households officially received gifts this holiday season thanks to the generosity of Chase County friends, neighbors and area businesses, organizers say other needs were met as a result of the relationships that were formed.
It gets even trickier from there.
“I can’t even begin to estimate the number of volunteers or dollars,” said The Gift coordinator Amy Prior. “There was a lot of thought and time and energy put into the project.”
Nine area churches, Zion Lutheran, St. Pat’s Catholic Church, Westside Church of Christ, Lighthouse Fellowship, Berean, Crossroads Wesleyan, Imperial Bible Church, Christian Faith Outreach and United Methodist, and numerous businesses and organizations, some of which wanted to remain anonymous, accepted families across the county to help.
“The community support was phenomenal,” said Prior. “This is truly community supporting community.”
Catholic Social Services donated food left over from its recent Imperial food drive.
Chase County FFA donated fruit and the high school’s FBLA and FCCLA groups packaged it and took it to the United Methodist Church for distribution.
Area businesses benefited from purchases made by people to donate to The Gift. These businesses in turn made their own donations through gift certificates and the donations of their employees.
It never failed, just when Prior would start worrying there wouldn’t be enough to go around, someone would recognize her downtown and make a cash donation or a gift certificate would show up. “It was wonderful and overwhelming,” Prior said, adding, “It is the true spirit of the season.”
All of it culminated last Wednesday morning when the boxes, bags and volunteers started rolling through the doors of the United Methodist Church, the designated distribution point.
The coming and going continued throughout the day and into the evening. At 8 p.m. the Catholic and Methodist youth groups were still busy wrapping the purchases they had made.
Prior insists that the impact on the area’s youths, giving and receiving, is one of the greatest gifts of The Gift.
“We had kids recognizing kids, kids offering to help and donate and kids actually recognizing the needs of others,” she said.
“One kid took fruit to his neighbor that he knew wouldn’t have any. This year just seemed to be about not only the kids in need but kids in general,” she noted.
Not only are Chase County households having a happier holiday, but the word is spreading around the area.
Prior received a call from a former Imperial resident now living in Arnold asking how the program is run.
Along with all the other activity at the United Methodist Church last Wednesday, a television crew from KNOP in North Platte was on hand to tape a segment with the United Methodist Church’s representative Sue Moore.
The giving continues all year long with a related, but separate account at Adams Bank and Trust for The Community Gift that is available for those with unexpected expenses.
Angie Paisley said that it’s neat at Christmas time to see all the giving, but people have needs year around.
“Sometimes it’s a gas card to get to an appointment or money to get a prescription filled,” Paisley said. “You never know.”
Committee members Paisley, Mary Wilson, Marcy Nesbitt, Kristi McNair, Rob Browning and Kristi DuPeire keep their eyes and ears open for those in need, then distribute the funds.
Prior felt a thank you note they received best summed up the year:
“Dear everyone who was part of helping our family during Christmas. I was just overwhelmed by all the gifts, gift certificates for food, fruit basket and food bank food. We really appreciate everyone’s kindness and true spirit of the season! Thank you SO much.”
Norma Dannatt, representing Crossroads Wesleyan Church for the project, said, “I’m very proud to be included in this community program. With the churches all working together, it’s all God. Not about whose church did what.
“The bottom line is what we can all do for people in our part of the world that need a little help and show that they do matter,” she said.
Prior had her own thanks to give.
“A special thanks goes out to all the churches and community for helping make this project a success. Thank you all for sharing the reason for the season and your gifts,” she said.