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By Jaimie Schmitz & Natalie Bruzon
Christmas is the season for remembering all of the blessings received over the past year.
It’s also a time to give back.
Around 40 families from across Antelope County will have a few more gifts under their trees thanks to donations from other families through the Ribbon Tree program.
Patti Brady, Antelope County’s director of Health and Human Services, said the program has been graciously running in Antelope County since 1985.
“The whole community pulls together. All the gifts under the trees are from the community,” Brady said. “We have a really giving community.”
The program is also a great service project for students, including those at Neligh-Oakdale and St. Boniface.
The Neligh-Oakdale FCCLA helps the program throughout the season from the early stages up to organizing the packages.
“We cut all the ribbons and then Patti sends us the white cards and we put them on the tree,” said Tia Smith, president of the FCCLA. “Then, other people buy the presents and we bring the presents (to the courthouse).”
Late last week, the courthouse classroom was full of gifts, all for local families who are needing a little extra help this holiday season
Brady said there is an application process for those receiving gifts. While many are families with young children, there are also elderly recipients as well who need assistance on their fixed income.
“They fill out an application and then we code it,” Brady said, explaining the anonymity of the program. “Like, one family is A1, A2, A3. So that is one family and this how they are sorted here. And, after I code them I give them to the (FCCLA) and they do the ribbons up. And then the other gifts outside of here are all from St. Boniface.”
Smith said FCCLA students spend much time cutting out the hundreds of ribbons and setting up the trees in both Pinnacle and Heritage Bank in Neligh.
“We spent quite a few hours tracing and cutting out all the ribbons,” Smith said. “And now the next process is just cutting out the labels and taping them on, and that doesn’t take quite as long.”
To personalize the gifts and to show how much time and care has went into the project, the FCCLA chapter also writes Christmas cards for each family represented by a ribbon.
“We wrote Christmas cards, and on the inside of the Christmas card it had a date that they come and pick up their presents,” said Smith.
Every year, most of the ribbons are taken. However, there are always some left behind. Students said they hope that they hope to see every ribbon taken each year to ensure everyone has a special gift, regardless of their financial situation.
“It’s amazing how many people do participate and do get a ribbon,” said Brady. “But there are always still ribbons on the tree. It would be really cool if all the ribbons could be taken from the tree every year.”
For those ribbons not taken, the teacher’s association sponsors gifts.
While putting the Ribbon Trees together, organizing the presents and the overall project is time consuming, the students agreed it was well worth their effort.
“We are pretty fortunate at Christmas time,” said Smith. “And we have a lot of people in our community and school who are not as fortunate”