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Gifts pour in on Giving Tuesday
Wheatland Electric General Manager Bruce W. Mueller, right, and Dan Bonine from Wheatlands Great Bend Board of Directors present a big check in the amount of $2,500 for the Barton County Pool Endowment to Christy Tustin, executive director of the Golden Belt Community Foundation. - photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

    Anyone who was tired of leftover turkey, excess shopping and icy sidewalks had plenty to be thankful for on Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1. The Golden Belt Community Foundation received hundreds of donations for 66 local organizational endowment funds.
One day earlier, schools were closed in the aftermath of last week’s wintery weather mix. But Tuesday’s temperatures in the mid-40s made the sidewalks safe again. As for turkey leftovers, donors were enticed to bring their checkbooks and have lunch at several host sites. The Prairie Godmothers served taco salad and cake balls at a Giving Tuesday luncheon, and the Barton County 4-H Council offered homemade soups and breads at  a “Souper” lunch. The GBCF office at 1307 Williams St. had sandwiches and cookies, staying open until 6 p.m. to accept donations.
On Dec. 1, all individual gifts (up to $2,500 per person per fund) counted toward a $50,000 pool of matching funds. That pool will be divided in proportion to the total amount raised.

Christy Tustin, executive director of the GBCF, said the first Giving Tuesday in 2014 raised over $127,000, including $30,000 in that year’s matching pool. This year, donations could be delivered to one of the official collection sites in Barton, Stafford, Pawnee or Rush counties, or donations could be mailed, so long as the postmark was on or before Dec. 1.
That drew even more participants than last year, said Sue Cooper, program officer at GBCF. Checks arrived from as far away as Florida.
Locally, businesses such as CUNA Mutual, Great Bend Regional Hospital and Adams, Brown, Beran & Ball set up giving areas for their employees, as did Holy Family School, Cooper said. If Black Friday epitomizes American consumerism, Giving Tuesday has become a holiday for sharing.
Berny Unruh at the Extension Office said members of the Barton County 4-H Council committee got together to prepare their lunch, and several members of the South Bend Jolly Workers 4-H Club pitched in. Before deciding to call the event a “Souper,” the kids suggested several names for the luncheon, such as “Snacks for Sponsors” or “Hamburgers for Helpers.”

Large and small gifts poured in. Wheatland Electric’s General Manager Bruce Mueller, along with Dan Bonine from Wheatland’s Great Bend Board of Directors, brought a $2,500 donation for the Barton County Pool Endowment. This new endowment fund was created to help maintain the Barton Community College pool for various swimming activities.
“One of Wheatland’s principles is giving to the community,” Bueller said. “This fund helps a lot of kids, not only in Great Bend but in communities throughout southwest Kansas.”
At the Prairie Godmothers luncheon, founding member Melanie Calcara said the organization of “women helping women” has provided more than $18,000 in one-time emergency grants since its inception. The endowed fund will allow the sharing to continue.
“We know we can’t do everything, but we can do something,” Calara said. “We are not looking for women with great big pocketbooks; we’re looking for women with great big hearts.” The volunteers accepted donations for all of the participating endowed funds, not just the Prairie Godmothers.

Donors were also encouraged to pose for “unselfies,” holding signs about why they give. Those could be posted on Twitter as #unselfies. Jean Aycock’s sign read, “I give because I’m blessed!” and Sally O’Connor wrote, “I give because I love GB! Givin’ back.”
“It was a busy day,” Cooper said of Giving Tuesday. “It was a lot of fun.”