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Community reaches out to needy families
November 13, 2015 Jerry Purvis   

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Photo by Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen Becca Tompkins with First State Bank stands by the Tree of Names, a Christmas wish list for local children in need. The public is invited to help by picking a name and going shopping.

Since its beginning as the Dress a Doll Contest 34 years ago, the Gift of Love 2015 program continues to help brighten the Christmas season by reaching out to local families in need.

“Gift of Love is a collaborative effort,” said Becca Tompkins, marketing director at First State Bank. “Valley Christian Neighbors in Need pick about 100 families to assist each Christmas season.”

In addition to Valley Christian Neighbors in Need, other groups involved in the program are the Knights of Columbus, Community Action Partnership of Western Nebraska (CAPWN) and other entities that assist, such as First State Bank.

From the list of families that receive assistance, all children’s names go onto the Tree of Names. Trees are set up in both the Scottsbluff and Gering branches of First State Bank. The name tags list the kids’ wish list items, and that’s where the public can help. People are invited to pick a name from the tree and purchase at least one item from the list.
Items need to be delivered unwrapped to the bank by Dec. 9.

“The Knights of Columbus wrap the gifts and the Valley Christian Neighbors in Need put together a food basket for the family,” Tompkins said. “All the items are delivered the week before Christmas.”

Also at both First State Bank locations are collection boxes for the Coats 4 Kids program, because a coat isn’t a want – it’s a need. Until Dec. 31 people may bring in news kids’ coats, which are then given to CAPWN for distribution as needed.

A canned food collection is also part of the program. Local schools and their Adopt-a-School partners are challenged to collect as many canned goods and non-perishable food as possible to help stock the area food pantries. School kids then make displays with the food, anything from castles to bridges. The displays are judged and the winners will receive a donation to the school’s booster club. Members of the National Guard also visit the schools to pick up the donations.

On Saturday, Dec. 12 from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m., the Truck of Love will be parked at First State Bank in Scottsbluff to accept donation of new and good used toys. Santa will be there to take cash donations. The National Guard’s Humvee truck will accept non-perishable food items and the Lakota Lutheran Van will accept new and good used coats.

A new event this year is the Jingle Jog, co-sponsored by First State Bank and the City of Scottsbluff. It’s scheduled for Dec. 4 starting at 4 p.m. Families are invited to jingle all the way on the three-mile route from downtown Scottsbluff, past the library, out to the Monument Mall and back downtown for the Christmas on Broadway event. Entrants receive a Santa T-shirt and jingle bells to help celebrate the season.
There will also be “treat stations” along the route, offering cookies and hot chocolate.

“The registration fee is $30, but if people bring in a new, unwrapped toy, we’ll take $10 off,” Tompkins said. “Those toys go onto the Truck of Love for distribution to local families.”

After the Jingle Jog, everyone is invited to the Mini Park at 18th and Broadway in Scottsbluff to help ring in season. There will be fire pits, photo booths, letters to Santa, and of course, more cookies and hot chocolate.

“We live in a very giving community,” Tompkins said. “We do these events each year to help make sure all families have a great Christmas.”
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