Gift of Love Program History
In l981, First State Bank began a "Dress A Doll" Contest. The Bank purchased dolls, which were given to area women to dress, and then the dolls were given as gifts at Christmas time to less fortunate children. The next year it was decided that boys were being left out...so a "Create A Toy" Contest was added with wooden toy kits (airplanes, trucks, etc.) purchased by the Bank and given out for people to sand, paint, and finish. These gifts were then distributed to both boys and girls. This continued for several years until the quality of the dolls and toy kits became inferior and another source could not be found. The name was changed to "GIFT OF LOVE", and the program changed to include food and gifts for all ages. In 1986 First State Bank purchased the Bank of Gering, and inherited their tradition of the "CAP AND MITTEN TREE". At that time all of the toys and gifts where displayed in the Scottsbluff lobby, and the caps and mittens in the Gering lobby for everyone to enjoy before they are delivered the week before Christmas.
Each year the program has grown so that many more people are being touched. Some ladies crochet and sew all year long for the program. Some have purchased gifts. Many purchase an extra sack of groceries when they are at the store. Some give cash. Some classes have held fundraisers and then purchased gifts themselves. Shop classes have made toys. Schools classrooms compete against each other to see who can collect the most can good items. Santa has gone to some schools to pick up their gifts and food, etc. The children are told how important it is for them to reach out to someone less fortunate than they and especially how meaningful it is for the recipients when they receive their "GIFT OF LOVE" from someone they don't even know.
Several years ago an effort began to develop a "screening process" for recipients of food baskets and gifts from the various organizations in the community. This was done so there would be less duplication and thus, more people on the receiving end. CAPWN maintains the list, which is comprised of applicants from their Holiday Wish List application process, every October.
Today our program consists of 4 components:
Our Tree of Names, beginning the first Thursday of November, First State Bank hosts a business after hours and kickoff the entire Gift of Love program. That evening will be the first availability to pick a child’s name with their individualized wish list for Christmas. These gifts we ask to be returned by the Wednesday before our Truck of Love.
Usually the second Saturday of December from 9-2, we pull in the NTC Truck of Love into the parking lot of the Scottsbluff location. That day we will take gently used toys, as well as, new toys to help the Knights of Columbus round out the wish lists of each child. We also have the Lakota Lutheran Center Van in our parking lot that we like to fill with gently used coats, which go to their center. The National Guard is on hand to pick up any non perishable foods items that are dropped off. And of course we ask Santa to come join in the giving and hand out candy canes and hugs!!
This is what makes it all so GREAT...by giving to our Gift of Love Program, you can truly reach out and touch the lives of others ...
Each year we challenge the schools to create a display out of non perishable and canned food items that the school collects. The two weeks before the Truck of Love, Santa, the National Guard and Santa’s helpers from First State bank go to the schools. Santa’s helpers at First State Bank judge the entries in the two divisions, Elementary and Upper level. The first place display in each division wins $200 for their booster club, second in each wins $100, and third wins $50. After a picture is taken for judging of the display, the canned food and non perishable items are loaded up and delivered to the Valley Christian Neighbors in Need food pantry to be used in the Holiday meal baskets and to help stock the pantry. The Valley Christian Neighbors In Need Organization (VCNN) is given the list of families and they make up food baskets for as many as possible. Cash donated to the Gift of Love program, is in part given to VCNN to purchase perishables to be part of each holiday basket. Each basket contains the necessary items for a complete Christmas dinner plus other staples.
The final component is the Coats for Kids program. We believe that a coat is not a want it is a need so we supply CAPWN with a supply of coats to give to children who are applicants in the Holiday Wish List program. When the application comes to be reviewed, if the child has a coat listed on the wish list, the goal is to be able to hand that child a coat at time of application, instead of waiting until Christmas to receive this need. We place collection boxes in the lobbies of both Scottsbluff and Gering locations and around town. In these boxes, we ask for new coats only. In recent years, the Shiners Baltes Fund has helped First State Bank with helping to provide additional coats for this program.
All toys, dolls, and gifts are taken to the Knights of Columbus who wrap each gift. They receive the age and sex of each family member (to correspond with the VCNN list) and together, the two groups deliver the food baskets and gifts during the week before Christmas. This is done anonymously -- the only ones who know of the families on the receiving end are the ones who have the pleasure of making the deliveries.
This is what makes it all so GREAT...by giving to our Gift of Love Program, you can truly reach out and touch the lives of others ...AND KNOW THAT IT STAYS RIGHT HERE IN YOUR COMMUNITY!!