They don’t ask for much.
Sometimes all the seniors say they want is toilet paper, boxes of Jell-O or small cans of vegetables.
People like Mary Atkinson find that very sad — especially when the seniors are asking for these as Christmas gifts.
So Atkinson and other staffers then try to add some other special items as gifts given through the “Be a Santa to a Senior” program.
Once again this year, Home Instead Senior Care in Fremont is hosting a program in which area residents can buy Christmas gifts for about 300 seniors who otherwise might not get one.
The seniors’ names and what they’d like for Christmas are placed on ornament-type tags and hung on trees or wreaths at businesses in Fremont, Wahoo and Blair.
In Fremont, participating businesses are: Fremont Mall, 860 E. 23rd St.; Wise Olde Owl, 433 N. Main St., downtown; and First State Bank and Trust, 1965 E. Military Ave.
Shoppers select a tag or tags, buy the gifts and then bring them to the participating business or the Home Instead office.
“We prefer that it (the gift or gifts) are not wrapped,” said Atkinson, the client care coordinator. “We want to make sure that everything that’s on the tag gets purchased. So if they’re not able to purchase everything on the tag, we will then supplement it.”
That way, the seniors can get pretty much everything they’ve requested.
“We also get monetary donations from either a facility or a church organization and we’ll use that money to buy extra gifts for those tags that don’t get chosen,” Atkinson said.
Carly Norton, administrative assistant, pointed out how sad it is when some seniors ask for things like toilet paper, tissues, paper towels or canned food items.
“It breaks your heart,” Atkinson agreed.
In those cases, Home Instead will supplement the gift requests.
“We’ll give them a lap blanket, a pair of slippers or perfume, if it’s a woman, so they can get something they didn’t expect, which is really what Christmas is all about. It shouldn’t be just about what you need,” Atkinson said.
After gifts are collected, Home Instead staffers wrap them and members of the public are invited to help. A wrapping party will start at 2 p.m. Dec. 20 at the Fremont Friendship Center.
Once the gifts are wrapped, they then will be taken to the different facilities so they can be distributed in time for Christmas.
“Christmas is about giving,” Atkinson said. “Some of them (the seniors) don’t have families — so to be able to do something for them to brighten their day and make their holiday season a little brighter is what the program is all about.”
Gift recipients typically live in some type of long-term care facility. Some recipients’ names come from the Fremont Friendship Center or from Gifford and Stanton Towers.
Many gift-givers will choose a tag with the same name of a loved one they’ve lost.
“If their mom’s name was Doris and she has passed, they’re purchasing a gift for this person in their mom’s honor,” Atkinson said.
For some families, “Be a Santa to a Senior” has become a tradition. They wait until one of the trees goes up, then take their children and let them select the tags.
Last year, a woman and her daughter walked into the Home Instead Senior Care office and asked about being a Santa to a senior.
“It was toward the end of the program and we only had five or six tags left and they took them all and bought everything that was on every tag for those five or six people,” Atkinson said.
To Atkinson, it was a heart-warming moment.
“It did touch my heart,” she said. “I thought they wanted one tag and they said, ‘No, we’ll take all you have.’”
And already, the woman has contacted Home Instead to see when this year’s program would start.
SCRIBNER—It’s not often that the act of giving a gift impacts the makeup of a town, and generations of people that live there.
Unlike all the toys, trinkets, and turtlenecks that will undoubtedly be unwrapped this Christmas and inevitably tossed in a drawer by Spring, a gift that was given by Ken Furstenau to the City of Scribner will be enjoyed residents for years to come.
In 2014, Scribner city officials learned that Furstenau had bequeathed the town $3M to erect a new city building on Main Street.
Furstenau grew up near Webster in rural Dodge County and graduated from Scribner High School in 1945 before moving to California. While he spent the rest of his days living on the west coast, he never forgot about his little hometown in Eastern Nebraska.
In 1993 Furstenau entered into an agreement with the City of Scribner to make a testamentary disposition of $1-2M under the condition that the city would use the gift to construct an architecturally designed new building to be owned and used by the City, and to be located on, or adjacent to, Main Street.
When Furstenau passed away on March 1, 2014 the city learned that the gift would be $3M and began planning to construct a municipal building that met Furstenau’s conditions, as well as town needs.
After breaking ground in April of 2016, Furstenau’s wish became a reality as doors opened and employees moved into the new Furstenau Municipal Building that houses city offices, library, police station, and a community center earlier this year.
“The building committee did an awesome job of planning and not only incorporating the needs of our community, but doing it in a way to preserve the spirit of Ken,” Kathy Lodl, Scribner economic development director, said. “He was a very private man and a simple man and the whole design is understated and really just fits his wishes.”
With the project completed and services up and running, the City of Scribner is inviting the community to the brown brick building on the East side of Main Street at a dedication ceremony and open house event planned for Saturday, December 2 at 2 p.m.
The event is meant to honor Furstenau’s gift, as well as members of the Furstenau family who will be attending the event as special guests of the City.
“Without Ken’s generosity this would have never happened, and we are just excited and really want to show our appreciation to the Furstenau family,” Lodl said.
At the Furstenau Municipal Building dedication event doors will open at 2 p.m. with a short program beginning at 2:15 p.m. that includes a speech by Scribner Mayor Ken Thomas.
Following the program there will be a ribbon cutting ceremony and tours of the new facility.
The 9,375 square foot brown brick building sits on the East side of Main Street across from Lee’s Food Mart with a prominent Furstenau name plate above the main doors.
Furstenau Municipal Building is divided into three sections with the library located on the south end, community center and police station on the north end, and the city offices in between.
The police station includes an office, interview room, evidence room, one car garage, as well as its own entrance.
The community center is a large open space with room for up to 80 or 90 people with a large automatic retractable projection screen, as well as a kitchenette with a dishwasher, sink, refrigerator and microwave.
The city offices house a reception area at the front, four offices for city personnel, a small meeting room, and a storage room with reinforced ceiling and doors that can serve as a tornado shelter.
Along with providing the funds for the impressive structure in downtown Scribner, Furstenau’s gift continues to impact the future of Scribner.
“There were still left over funds and we were able to get started on our new fire station,” Lodl said. “It really is the gift that kept on giving.”
The Hooper Chain of Friends is preparing to host its fourth-annual Main Street Extravaganza in Hooper from 4-7 p.m. Dec. 3.
For 43 years, the Hooper Chain of Friends has worked to make the community a little bit better for everybody encompassing it. On the first Saturday of every November the group hosts its annual boutique, around Easter it hosts an egg hunt at the Hooper Care Center and in February a dance is held for area sixth, seventh and eighth-graders.
“We have maybe a dozen active members or so,” Chain of Friends member Roxanne Meyer said. “All of our funds that we raise go to fund the four main events we host annually, as well as toward community projects. Like the city park might get a new piece of equipment, money goes toward the Hooper Library reading program, and the junior wrestling program at Logan View. We also donate to Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts who help us run some events.”
The Main Street Extravaganza should provide a good time to all in attendance. There will be kids’ games, drinks and pie with a free-will donation, a bonfire, s’mores and hot chocolate. From 4:30-5:30 p.m., La’Rue Pony Rides are being held just north of the Hooper Library on Elk Street.
“We wanted to do something a little outdoorsy,” Meyer said of the new event. “We used to have a gal who moved to Iowa come with a horse and carriage, but then she wasn’t able to make it last year so we decided to do something a little different since we don’t have her anymore. So now, we will have the La’Rue pony rides available.”
Another attendee favorite is when Santa Claus arrive at the Hooper Senior Center riding on a firetruck.
“When he pulls up on that firetruck it’s quite the scene,” Meyer said. “And the kids just absolutely love it. “He will arrive at 5:30 down on Main Street and will be available to give kids treat bags and to have them tell him what they want for Christmas.”
Throughout the course of the afternoon, Meyer said she expects around 150 attendees.
“Everyone always has fun and a lot of good memories are made,” she added.