Article originally appeared in the Grand Island Independent

Written by Austin Koeller, Reporter

Those at the Crisis Center and Hope Harbor will have blankets, pillows and stuffed animals to call their own this holiday season thanks to the generosity of Hall County employees.

Hall County Supervisor Doug Lanfear and County Clerk Marla Conley coordinated a donation drive among county employees. During the drive, held Oct. 16 to Nov. 30, a total of six donation boxes were placed in Hall County’s office buildings. Conley said fliers were sent to each county department reminding employees about the drive and encouraging them to donate.

Lanfear said once the drive was complete, county workers had donated 46 regular-sized pillows, 16 travel-size pillows, four baby blankets, 51 stuffed animals and 70 blankets. The items were divided up and delivered to the Crisis Center and Hope Harbor Friday.

“The one box that came from our building (Hall County Administration Building) was literally overflowing,” Conley said. “I was carrying it downstairs and it was so full. It was mind-blowing. For them to come through with this much is just unreal.”

On Dec. 1, Lanfear went around to the county office buildings and collected all of the donation boxes. He said he, too, was blown away by the amount of items donated by Hall County employees.

“I cannot find enough words to praise our people for their generosity and kindness,” he said. “This is totally overwhelming. When I called Marla and told her she had to come down and see this, we just couldn’t believe it.”

Lanfear said he and Conley started talking about the idea of a donation drive back in September. He said the initial idea of collecting pillows and blankets came from Conley.

“I suggested pillows, then it expanded to blankets and stuffed animals,” Conley said. “I said, ‘This is something that, for whoever is at the Crisis Center or Hope Harbor, it is theirs. They can take it with them. It belongs to them.’ That means a lot to people, especially a child.”

Lanfear said in addition to the donated items, Conley and his wife, Mary, both made “special homemade pillowcases.” He echoed Conley’s comments and said these items also provide those staying at the Crisis Center and Hope Harbor with a sense of security.

Liz Mayfield, executive director of Hope Harbor, said it is great to see people, such as Hall County’s employees, reaching out to the community and assisting their fellow citizens. She added this is “a really huge deal” for Hope Harbor as blankets and pillows are always a big need.

“We are desperately in need of those pretty much year-round, especially this time of year when it gets cold out,” Mayfield said. “We accept donations that are both used or new. We are always thankful when people think of us when they are ready to give those items away. We try to make sure that everybody that comes to Hope Harbor has their needs taken care of and possibly even take some of these items with them when they move into their own place.”

Alexis Larson, executive director of the Crisis Center, said she is thankful for the efforts of Hall County employees for collecting blankets, pillows and stuffed animals as part of their donation drive. She added the Crisis Center would not be able to provide things to its clients and to the community without the generosity of donors.

Larson and Mayfield both agreed with Lanfear that the blankets, pillows and stuffed animals provide a sense of comfort and security for those at the Crisis Center and Hope Harbor.

“Blankets are kind of that essential thing that makes something feel like home,” Mayfield said. “You have that feeling that things are a little more secure in your world. When people move in, we always see what their needs are and offer what we can. Blankets are always very high on the list. It is always awesome when we can provide them with that. It definitely gives them a sense of home.”

Conley said if the Crisis Center and Hope Harbor continue to have a need for blankets, pillows and stuffed animals, Hall County will look at possibly having a drive again next year.

Lanfear said that if Hall County employees are willing to have a donation drive again next year, he and Conley may choose to do so. He added they will get feedback from the employees to see how they feel about the idea before coordinating another drive.