“And he puzzled and puzzled ‘till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” –Dr. Seuss
Roughly 125 people partook in this years’ ‘Santa’s Helpers’ Christmas dinner held at the fairgrounds. The event began with dinner, a buffet style line that finds everyone heading back to a seat next to their neighbor for conversation while they eat. There’s some ramblings, a couple kids with pent up energy who just know that Santa is behind the door waiting for them to finish their carrots before he makes his appearance, and the occasional announcement from the emcee, Justin Collins. Amid the Christmas inflatable decorations, the snowmen that have claimed tabletops their temporary homes and the sleigh parked right in the center of the stage is the presence of Christmas. That’s presence, not presents, because, as the Grinch so eloquently put it, what if Christmas doesn’t come from a store?
“[This] first started out as a toy and food drive. We did it in our office,” states Patti Sigvartsen, DFS worker. “Maddens came and talked to us about doing the food and gifts and then we just combined it all and started doing that.” Sitting at the Christmas wrapped table with me she waives her hand like the entire project is a piece of cake. It isn’t, but she and her team have it down to a science by this point. “That is where the sleigh came from, the Madden brothers donated it.”
Sigvartsen has worked in conjunction with a number of volunteers, some of whom include her own family, to pull off the magic that is Santa’s Helpers. “It’s heartwarming to witness the hard work that Patti and the rest of the volunteers put in to make this happen. I really hope that it continues to be as exciting and fun for years to come,” says Emcee Justin Collins. Truly a community event, Three Sisters donates the meat for the meal while The Pizza Places takes on the dinner rolls and Jeanette Starck and her crew do all the cooking and serving. Before the meal began, thirty-eight food boxes and an estimated same number of toy boxes went out the doors for families to open and prepare on Christmas day. “The Elks paid for the Deckers food cards. We spent $1,350.00 there today,” exclaims Sigvartsen. The food cards will be what families can use to purchase the meat for their Christmas dinner, the amount on the card varying with the number of people in the family.
Following dinner, the children will make their way through the gift line commencing at the book table where they will have the chance to pick a story; from there they head to the hat and gloves table before that penultimate moment with Santa and that red sleigh. “This is why I do it.” Sigvartsen says as we listen to the children merrily scream in a contest to see which table is lucky enough to start the gift line. Sigvartsen has been doing “it” for twenty-four years with the conclusion of this year her last in Lusk. For a little over two decades, Sigvartsen has brought the presence of Christmas to families during the holiday times and was presented by the Santa’s Helpers volunteers with a token of their affection before the crowd. “It’s been an honor to help the town, just seeing one kid smile, that’s all it takes for me to melt. I’m sad that I won’t be here to do it [next year],” lamented Sigvartsen.
“Her [Sigvartsen’s] efforts are extraordinary and unmatched in making sure the kids of this community have something special during the holidays,” proclaimed Collins.