Contestants community service project at county fair

From left, Miss Murray Riley Zimmerman, Miss Plattsmouth Riley Fitzpatrick, Miss Murdock Morgan Mills, Miss Elmwood Sydney Kunz, Miss Manley McKenna Jones, Miss Louisville Carsen Knott and Miss Weeping Water Taylor Essary participated in a community service project for the Cass County Fair Queen Contest. They gathered 319 bags full of clothing and accessories from local residents. They donated all of the items to Tabitha's Thread ministry in Weeping Water on Wednesday.

WEEPING WATER – Rachel Austin thought she would only need a few baskets to retrieve donated clothes from a Cass County Fair Queen Contest community service project.

She required far more containers than that to handle a huge amount of contributions.

The director of Tabitha’s Thread ministry in Weeping Water was thrilled to see 319 bags of gently-used clothing ready for her to pick up. Seven candidates in the queen contest gathered the clothes from members of their communities during the previous week. They then brought the items to the First Congregational Church-United Church of Christ in Weeping Water on Wednesday.

“The support from all of these young women has simply been amazing,” Austin said Wednesday night. “We’re very grateful for this. These donations are going to help a lot of people in a lot of communities.”

Cass County Fair Queen Contest Organizer Loxley Grafe-Drahn came up with the idea of including a community service project as part of the event for the first time this year. One of her top goals was to create an initiative that would benefit many people in Cass County. She also wanted to bring individual towns closer together by creating a larger countywide charitable effort.

Grafe-Drahn said Wednesday night that she was pleased with the results. Miss Elmwood Sydney Kunz, Miss Louisville Carsen Knott, Miss Manley McKenna Jones, Miss Murdock Morgan Mills, Miss Murray Riley Zimmerman, Miss Plattsmouth Riley Fitzpatrick and Miss Weeping Water Taylor Essary took part in the project.

“It went really well,” Grafe-Drahn said. “The girls did an awesome job. When I told them that this was what we were looking at doing they were pretty enthusiastic about it. I knew then that there would be a lot of clothes.”

Grafe-Drahn decided to partner with Tabitha’s Thread for the project. The ministry operates a number of social services for area residents from its headquarters in downtown Weeping Water. It served 1,355 households in the Cass County region in 2018.

Tabitha’s Thread wrapped more than 1,100 items for area children as part of a Christmas project last winter, and volunteers helped 121 children receive basic back-to-school clothes, shoes and backpacks in 2018. The organization provided swimming supplies for 41 children and 15 families so they could enjoy Weeping Water’s city pool.

Austin told Grafe-Drahn that clothing was one of the organization’s biggest needs at the moment. That led to the decision to make a countywide clothing drive the focus of this year’s community service project. She asked Kunz, Knott, Jones, Mills, Zimmerman, Fitzpatrick and Essary to collect at least one trash bag full of gently-used items.

The seven candidates spread the word about the initiative to their friends and families prior to the contest. They asked community members to donate shirts, pants, jackets, socks, shoes, jewelry and other objects.

All seven young women rose to the challenge by bringing large amounts of clothing and accessories to the church. The 319 bags of items weighed dozens of pounds and held a wide variety of items for both adults and children.

“I brought ten baskets to take the clothes back to the building, because I thought that would be enough,” Austin told the crowd at Wednesday night’s pageant. “Then I saw how much there was, and I was just floored. I’m not kidding, you folks, this was something very special to see.”

Austin specifically praised Kunz for her effort with the project in front of the audience. Kunz spent many hours collecting hundreds of items from residents in both Elmwood and Murdock. Members of the Kunz family traveled to Weeping Water that morning with a large trailer jam-packed with clothing bags.

“I have to give a special word of thanks to Miss Elmwood,” Austin said. “I was just overwhelmed with her generosity. When I saw that trailer pull into the parking lot full of items I was so happy.”

Tabitha’s Thread will have clothing available at its headquarters at 217 West Eldora Avenue for area residents. The ministry will sponsor many other charitable activities for students and families throughout the year.

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