Making spirits bright

By Lori Gottula

On Sunday, Nov. 9, a gorgeous fall afternoon, volunteers on horseback, hayrack, and horse-drawn sled trotted and rode through Falls City to collect toys for needy children. The program, called the Jingle Bell Ride, is sponsored by Southeast Nebraska Community Action, and coordinated by volunteer Sherry Huddleston. Cathy Davis, Bev Chesnut and Anne Youde also serve as volunteer coordinators. The program, originally founded by Bev Chesnut, is now in its eighth year.

This year, the Jingle Bell Ride was even bigger than normal because the group partnered with Thrivent Financial Group for an overall event called “Championing Charities.”

According to Huddleston, Thrivent Financial Group invited local charities to set up booths in Prichard Auditorium before and during the ride, so that each group could distribute information, and raise funds. The charities hung stockings by their booths, and accepted donations throughout the afternoon.  The charity that collected the most money received an additional $300 from Thrivent. Second place was $200, and third was $100.  The Jingle Bell Ride and the Richardson County Humane Society tied for first, so each received $250.  Third place went to the Richardson County Arts and Humanities Council. Checks were presented to each group by Thrivent Financial representatives Steve and Joan Stoller, and Amanda Hersh.Meanwhile, horsemen and women who had spent hours grooming and hauling their horses, preparing hay racks, and cleaning sleds, gathered with more than 50 volunteers to collect toys.  The masses were separated into four different groups, and each group trotted and rode through a Falls City neighborhood, to collect toys from pre-determined locations. Santa Claus even rode along on one of the hayracks.

At the end of the ride, the groups gathered at Prichard Auditorium, to combine their toys. The stash was overwhelming.  Piles of new toys were stacked on the cement block outside Prichard. And 100 percent will be distributed to local children in need.

The sponsoring organization, SENCA, will distribute the toys to qualifying children on Dec. 19 at Northridge Church, 1820 Morton St.  

According to Melissa Hardenberger, the Richardson County Family Development Specialist at SENCA, the times for distribution are from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., and 1 to 3 p.m.

“Families are welcome to apply for the toys by filling out an application form that they can pick up in my office on the first floor of the courthouse,” Melissa said. “The forms need to be returned no later than November 26th.”

For more information about the application, contact Melissa at (402) 245-5284. To donate toys or money to the Jingle Bell Ride, call Sherry Huddleston at (402) 245-3191.

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