The annual Norfolk Area Big Give featured a variety of events designed to engage the community and raise awareness of local resources offered by nonprofit organizations. Now in its fifth year, the day of giving saw participation from 32 nonprofit organizations — including more than a dozen that hosted unique fundraisers to support their causes.

The Briggs & Barrett Project had a breakout success with a rigorous live-streamed social media campaign that called on donors to contribute to the cause of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) awareness. By hosting power hours where community members and local businesses could sit inside the foundation’s adult-sized crib, organizers managed to raise $64,681, exceeding their $35,000 goal.

Melissa West, who lost her son Briggs to SIDS in January 2018, spearheaded the event to promote the cause inspired by her son’s legacy.

“We spread SIDS and safe sleep awareness so people know how to safely put a baby to sleep,” West said. “Our smart sock is one of our big initiatives with our foundation. It does not prevent SIDS, and it does not replace safe sleep, but it is a form of peace of mind for families that their baby is OK, and they’ll be alerted if something goes wrong.”

Money from the fundraiser will be put toward buying more of the Owlet smart socks. The company will double the amount of Owlets purchased through a partnership with the Briggs & Barrett Project. At current market retail price, the partnership will allow the foundation to provide 60 Owlet socks a month for parents worried about their babies’ safety.

The project found help from the community in promoting its cause, with local businesses offering perks for donors each hour and one community member agreeing to take a pie to the face if the foundation met its initial goal.

“We’ve always been supporters of the Briggs & Barrett Project,” said Aaron Otten, chief strategic officer of Elkhorn Valley Bank, moments after wiping away pie from his face. “They do great work. It directly impacts a lot of young families, and we do anything we can to support them.”

West and her team spent the day on Norfolk Avenue in the 80 degree sun from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., battling Sacred Heart Church of Norfolk for the top spot on the Big Give leaderboard.

“We get on average about 180 applications on our website a month of people asking for help to be able to get a donated Owlet smart sock,” West said. “There was a mom that actually stopped by just to inquire how she could go online and buy one, and we grabbed an Owlet and donated that to her. Not only are we raising money, we’re turning around, and we’re giving it right back.”

Purple hippos around town

While the foundation took to Norfolk Avenue with its adult-sized crib, Midtown Health Center floated around town with an inflatable purple hippopotamus that moved from business to business based on donor requests. Businesses that donated brought the hippo to their location and received lawn signs featuring the face of the fundraiser’s mascot, similar to a “flamingo flocking” fundraiser that has been used in the past by other organizations.

The mascot expanded upon the center’s hippo-themed children’s bed, which Midtown Health Center uses to help children feel better about visiting the doctor.

“This year we launched a program offering behavioral health services inside some of the schools,” said Jessica Gordon. “We have some here in Norfolk and Madison. Unfortunately, some of these kiddos don’t have insurance to pay for their services. This is going to help us bring on more of those students in the classroom setting.”

Midtown Health Center provides medical, behavioral health and dental services to the Norfolk area at an accessible price. The nonprofit offers a sliding fee scale based on patient ability to pay that allows those in need to access health care they may not otherwise be able to afford.

Courtesy Ford partnered with Midtown Health Center to promote the cause of children’s behavioral health. Money from the “You’ve been Hippo’d!” campaign will go toward covering the costs of providing care for uninsured children’s behavioral health services.

Oktoberfest in May

Orphan Grain Train provided a German lunch of brats, chips, German potato salad, Bavarian kraut and bottled water for a free-will donation at its organization headquarters outside of its warehouse.

Food was provided while supplies lasted, though piles of brats peaked above the roasters that contained them and ensured that those who wanted a meal found one.

“We wanted to do brats, and we thought it would showcase it more with having Oktoberfest in May,” said Suzie Leffers, director of public relations for Orphan Grain Train. “First and foremost we are a ministry. By doing that through offering food and humanitarian aid, it opens people’s hearts to hear the scripture.”

The Happy Players polka band provided live music for the event to add to its German flair.

Orphan Grain Train’s Norfolk-based network of Christian volunteers serves those in need both in the local community and in the world. The organization provides food for those in need by using donated money to sponsor meals, which can reach those in need of food for as little as $11.

Contributions to Orphan Grain Train from this year’s Big Give will be put toward a new facility that will enable Orphan Grain Train to better coordinate with Mercy Meals to combat hunger while also providing more warehouse space for Orphan Grain Train’s growing operation. The organization surpassed its $5,000 goal, raising $6,374 to put toward its new Servant Center.

Orphan Grain Train takes cash donations throughout the year in addition to donations of medical equipment, bikes, shoes, clothing and volunteer time.

Lemonade stand

Elkhorn Valley Museum hosted a lemonade stand as part of this year’s Big Give, selling cups of cold lemonade from a tent outside the museum’s main facility.

“I think the most important thing that Elkhorn Valley Museum does is preserve the legacy of the Norfolk community and the surrounding area,” said Libby McKay, education coordinator for the museum. “Elkhorn Valley Museum has its own collection of over 26,000 artifacts that we preserve and maintain as part of our mission to preserve and interpret the history of the Elkhorn River valley.”

Proceeds from the lemonade stand and the museum’s online donations will be used to offset program and exhibit costs. Community members can support Elkhorn Valley Museum year-round by joining the museum’s membership program or by donating their money and time.

Cookies for a Cause

The Connection Project hosted its Cookies for a Cause fundraiser at its Madison Avenue meeting location at Grace Community Church. The peer-support group focuses on mental health and addiction challenges.

“We’re fairly new, and just the fact that we’re here and open to anyone looking for support regardless of diagnosis is something to be aware of,” said Tommy Newcombe, a member of the Connection Project. “We offer connection to community for folks that have traditionally been disconnected. Mental health is just a part of health.”

The Connection Project will make use of its donations by using them to offset overhead costs so that the support group can continue to have access to space for its services.

Day of giving

The Philanthropy Council of Northeast Nebraska and its area partners collaborated to organize the day of giving. The council is an account of the Norfolk Area Community Foundation Fund, which also took part in the day’s festivities. Participants from the foundation wrote messages in chalk on the city’s sidewalks, with donors able to place a request for a minimum donation of $20.

The foundation fulfilled 30 message requests and decorated the same number of locations with sidewalk chalk, raising a total of $1,270. Proceeds raised by the foundation will be used to provide funds for community projects.

In total, area nonprofits raised a record $174,746. The Big Give nearly doubled its total donations from 2020, with 1,088 donations.

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