“Our Kids” Brings Christmas Joy to Libby Area Families
By Stacy Bender
“4-H stands for Heart, Head, Hands and Health. This opportunity gave the kids the chance to grow their hearts while using their hands,” shared Christy Rusdal, parent and local leader with the South 40 4-H Club of Libby. “‘It’s nice to cheer people up!'” Rusdal recalled hearing one of the youth members report as they worked to help the “Our Kids” program behind the scenes at Diane’s retaurant on Thursday, December 10. “Originally, our service project committee had decided to set boxes out for a toy drive which could then be distributed to local causes in place,” said Rusdal, “But then we learned of the Christmas Drive that Tammy was spearheading and decided to join forces by offering our hands in whatever way they might be needed.”
With their six-week plan swiftly drawn into place, the “Our Kids” Christmas Drive of Libby offered assistance to 110 families in need this holiday season. Ultimately, bags full of gifts and necessities went out to 360 kids within those families across the Libby area.
“We are simply overwhelmed by the support which came from so many area businesses and residents alike,” shared Tammy Brown of Diane’s Restaurant in Libby. “Thank you to everyone!!”
Brown, who spearheaded the project, was quick to divert due credit for the initiative’s success to the many hands which went to work behind-the-scenes in making this year’s efforts come to fruition. “Kayla Dupert, Diane St. Onge, Mandy Harcourt. They were at the core of this project from the beginning – brainstorming, shopping, keeping records and so much more.”
“In order to bring in monetary donations, Gail Burger of the Historic Libby Hotel took us in under their 501c3 status so we could establish a sound way to record and track those monies on such short-notice for this year’s efforts. We are now working on attaining our own 501c3 status for future endeavors.”
“Then there was our fantastic team of present organizers who came in and helped to sort every child’s gifts before wrapping, labeling, and prepping them for deliveries – Edie, Michelle, Cheryl, Kathleen, Peggy, Trish. Every day they were tag-teaming and working to ensure we met our distribution deadline of December 19.”
Libby’s South 40 4-H Club also came on-scene for a full afternoon of hands-on assistance. That scene being the tables inside Diane’s restaurant on California Avenue in Libby – not yet open for public service amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, all dining space was transformed to Christmas-central where donations piled in and organizers worked swiftly to process application requests in time for Christmas week.
“We are so grateful for the support received, as we did not have to turn anyone away from requested assistance this year,” Brown exclaimed as final distributions transpired on Thursday afternoon, December 17 – two days ahead of schedule. “Even our last-minute requests have all been fulfilled!”
Donations in kind and monetary gifts totaling $6,000 made successfully serving all lists for both necessities and small wishes possible for every “Our Kids” applicant.
In addition to serving those who had applied through the open-application process, organizers of this year’s event worked closely with representatives from Lincoln County CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), Zero to Five of Lincoln County, and Kootenai Valley Head Start to ensure successful outreach. Looking ahead, “Our Kids” looks forward to potentially working again with these and other area programs in the future.
“It’s just amazing to see how this community came together for their kids,” shared Brown. “It was a whirlwind experience, but extremely fulfilling in the end. We just cannot thank everyone involved enough!”