Good Neighbors volunteers

MIRANDA BREDEHOEFT. a student at Lutheran High Northeast in Norfolk, carries a box of gifts at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Norfolk on Friday morning. Lutheran High has been helping Good Neighbors with this part of the gift-giving process for about six years.

Every holiday season, you’ll see boxes and boxes of toys and clothes in the basement of Norfolk’s Mount Olive Lutheran Church, destined for families who wouldn’t otherwise have a Christmas.

Like the Whos down in Dr. Seuss’ Whoville, those associated with the Good Neighbors in Norfolk like Christmas a lot — so much that they want to share the holiday with as many as possible.

The Norfolk Area Good Neighbors has been operating in Norfolk for more than 50 years to provide assistance to the less fortunate, said Allene Johnson, director of Good Neighbors.

Collecting donations is a year-round process but especially during the Christmas season.

This takes a lot of volunteer power, she said. Last Friday, for example, nine Lutheran High Northeast students from Perry Miller’s theology class provided people power by moving boxes of donations from the Good Neighbors office in downtown Norfolk to the Mount Olive basement.

The students helped move boxes filled with dolls, action figures, coats, blankets and other gifts donated throughout the year to tables for sorting.

It’s only one step of the process, Johnson said. In a few weeks, the students also will help take the bags of donated items to St. John’s Lutheran Church.

Lutheran High has been helping for about six years, usually in a group of about 10 to 14 students. Miller said some students couldn’t participate because they had to take tests, although they would have preferred to help out.

These students aren’t the only group that gives back, Johnson said. Good Neighbors has a full list of volunteers who want to help every year.

“It’s not just Lutheran High, but grade schools and 4-H groups and other groups that are involved,” she said. “They’re giving. It’s a good thing.”

Lutheran High student Micah Goedeken, a first-time volunteer, said it’s a satisfying feeling to be part of the process.

“I don’t know how to put this,” he said. “It just feels good to give.”

Good Neighbors wouldn’t be possible without all the volunteers, Johnson said. She’s amazed by the generosity of Norfolkans who come together to spread Christmas goodwill.

“It’s just amazing to me — no state or federal money, all donations except for the little bit I buy and Good Neighbors money,” she said. “The public just really supports it.”

Johnson has continually seen those who receive gifts pay the kindness forward.

“Yesterday or the day before, we had a client who wasn’t in a hurry, so he kept carrying groceries out for people,” she said. “Or I have clients who come back and donate money, bring gifts sometimes. They give back.”

Good Neighbors will receive applications for holiday assistance through Friday, Dec. 7, and deliver gifts on Tuesday, Dec. 18, Johnson said. Any questions can be directed to the Good Neighbors office at 402-644-8155.

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