By Jason Schock
According to Southeast Nebraska Community Action documentation, every fiscal year approximately 1,000 volunteers dedicate some 16,000 hours of time to SENCA-related programs. That calculates into about $220,000 in non-federal match funds, but most importantly, it shows that folks around here take care of one another.
No case, perhaps, better illustrates a willingness on the part of a vast array of different people — crossing generational and socioeconomic divides — to come together for neighbors in need than the latest “Toy Story” involving SENCA, Falls City High School and Eastview Apartments. Certainly no case passed with such vivid bright colors.
FCHS instructor Roger Windle’s Woods I students took scrap wood and carved out sturdy vintage trucks, trailers, planes, a train, circus animals and a steamroller begging to be painted Big Red. And it was, because Mr. Windle contacted SENCA’s Richardson County Family Development Specialist Melissa Hardenberger, who got with Eastview Activities Coordinator Misty Frederick, who then asked residents if anyone was interested in painting the toys. And it just so happened that there was not only ample interest, but there was an in-house artist with a passion for painting and an imagination big enough to design 26 timeless treasures – each one as unique as the kid who will play with it.
After several residents, including Bambi Schawang and Shirley Dias, applied the primer, which enables a flat, opaque, and smooth finish, resident Richard King’s creativity kicked in. With acrylic paint and a small paint brush, Mr. King’s mental snapshots came alive in bursts of vibrant colors. The aforementioned Husker steamroller (with Herbie at the controls and flattened Big Ten Conference logos on the roller); a plane with the granite presidential faces of Mount Rushmore gracing one wing, the majestic Rocky Mountains the other; a bulldozer with, naturally, a furious fire-snorting muscular male cow charging off the blade with violent intent; a trailer adorned with a blazing sunset scene, with a mare and her colt in the foreground as Earth’s lifeline descends below the western horizon; the toy train, with Santa Claus, the Hee Haw donkey and others along for the ride; and iconic American brands, from Sesame Street to Coca-Cola and M&Ms, all meticulously painted, with much attention to detail.
King said he painted a toy per day and each one took at least four hours to complete.
The classic wooden toys will be gifted to children here in Richardson County, undoubtedly bringing wide smiles to 26 young faces who may otherwise all too often express feelings of hopelessness. Judging by the faces of those who made it happen: Mr. Windle and his students, SENCA folks and Mr. King and his Eastview neighbors, the concerted effort to lend a hand and the gift of giving in a way made Christmas come early this year.
By Jason Schock