Connie and Don Osborne used to receive gifts — lots of gifts — at the Houchen Bindery Christmas party.
It was tradition. The Osbornes, who have owned Houchen Bindery in Utica, Neb., for 36 years, hosted a party every year and accepted gift after gift from their 30 to 40 employees, or “team members,” as they call them.
That all changed 25 years ago, when the couple decided they'd gotten enough. They wanted to give back to the community, so they asked their team members to give to charity.
Some employees didn't like the idea at first. They wanted to show their appreciation for the bosses by giving them something personal during the holidays. But they came around, Connie said.
“All those gifts were special, but they warmed up to the idea eventually,” said Connie, who lives in Omaha with Don while owning the bindery in Utica.
Now, Houchen Bindery annually donates to three charities, including the World-Herald's Goodfellows, which offers one-time emergency aid and provides holiday meal certificates to needy people in the area.
The bindery also gives to food pantries in Seward and York. The company specializes in book binding and preservation services and is named after its founder, Dr. Homer Houchen.
Every Christmas party, Connie and Don collect donations from their team members, then match the amount, splitting it among three charities.
The amount they donate has grown every year, Connie said. Last year, the Osbornes and their employees gave $772.70 to Goodfellows, up from $465.24 the year before.
Connie is happy to know that the couple's holiday system has been making such a difference among the community and her team members.
“I'm just so proud of our people,” she said.