Thanksgiving is on Thursday, which means the holiday season has begun! Throughout Nebraska this week, families are traveling to spend time with loved ones. Kitchens across the state are being stocked with ingredients to make pumpkin pie, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and other delicious sides to go with ham and turkey.

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, I want to express my gratitude to Nebraskans for their courage, compassion, and resilience this past year. In March, our state was hit by severe blizzards and historic floods. Subsequent rounds of flooding continued throughout the year. Through it all, Nebraskans displayed both their toughness and togetherness. Neighbors rallied around one another to provide assistance and shelter, and armies of volunteers took initiative to clean up their communities and rebuild. The combined effort of Nebraskans is making it possible for our state to rebuild bigger and better than before the disaster.

I’m also grateful for the exceptional grit and determination displayed by Nebraska’s ag producers in the midst of tough circumstances in 2019. In addition to the difficulties posed by flooding, ag producers in Nebraska have had to grapple with uncertain markets due to a confluence of factors including an unpredictable renewable fuels standard, trade challenges with China, and a major fire at Tyson’s facility in Kansas. In spite of this, our farm families have rolled up their sleeves, put their lives back together, and continued to grow the food we need to feed the world.

In addition to helping Nebraskans hit by flooding, Nebraska Army National Guardsmen spent time overseas this year, bravely serving our country. In January, 50 soldiers from the 2-135th General Support Aviation Battalion out of Grand Island deployed to Afghanistan. Last week, they all returned home safely—just in time for Thanksgiving. We’re thankful for their sacrifice and glad to have them back in the Good Life for the holidays.

This coming weekend, after celebrating Thanksgiving and watching the Cornhusker football team take on Iowa, many families will travel to a farm to look for the perfect Christmas tree. They will decorate their trees and homes with ornaments and lights. Radio stations will begin to play classic Christmas carols. Stores and malls will deck their halls with holiday decorations.

These Christmas activities remind us that the holiday season is both a time of thanks and of giving. As the year draws to a close, there are lots of opportunities to give back to your community. Salvation Army is setting up red kettles outside of shopping centers to receive contributions. Prison Fellowship is gathering Christmas gifts for kids who have a mom or dad in prison through their Angel Tree program. And Toys for Tots is collecting donations for needy children. It’s important to remember that all people have a need to receive love that can only be met through their relationships with families, friends, and neighbors. Throughout the holiday season, let’s each look for ways to lovingly serve the people in our communities.

This spirit of service is one of the things that makes Nebraska a great state. Our communities were built by people who are servant leaders with a charitable spirit. Nebraska is the best place in the world to live, work, and raise a family because Nebraskans generously invest their time and talents in their churches, neighborhoods, and schools. At homeless shelters, youth mentoring programs, and retirement facilities, Nebraskans show their devotion to serving others. Our tradition of service stands out in surveys. According to the National Corporation for National and Community Service, the Cornhusker State ranks sixth in the nation for volunteer rate. In 2018, Nebraskans contributed 53.8 million hours of service at an estimated value of $1.2 billion.

During this holiday season, I invite you to find ways to give to your neighborhood and community. Many Nebraskans are still recovering from the floods, and others are dealing with loneliness. Still others face financial challenges that prevent them from preparing a holiday meal or buying Christmas gifts for their children. If you’re looking for a way to get involved, visit ServeNebraska (www.serve.nebraska.gov/get-involved) or Nebraska Volunteers (www.nevolunteers.com) for a listing of volunteer opportunities and initiatives. You may also check with your local church or house of worship for additional ideas.

If you’re working to meet a need in your community and have ideas for how the State can help, please contact me at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or by calling 402-471-2244. Together, let’s continue to build the Good Life by generously serving and giving.

 

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