No matter their family’s financial situation, all children should share the joy of opening presents Christmas morning, said Amanda Parker, Bellevue Human Services program specialist.

So, for the last 40 years, the Sarpy County Holiday Assistance event has gifted Sarpy County children those memories.

This year, the annual event helped make the 663 children signed up smile. It took place Dec. 14 from 8 to 11:30 a.m. at the Bellevue Christian Center.

“Everyone wishes for something under the Christmas tree, especially when you are young,” said Carmen Bradley of Eastern Nebraska Community Action Partnership in a news release. “This event makes that wish come true for hundreds of children across Sarpy County.”

It’s put on by ENCAP, Heartland Family Service, Bellevue’s Human Services, Bellevue Christian Center, Bellevue Ministerial Association, Sarpy County’s Human Services, Sarpy County Sheriff’s Office and St. Columbkille Catholic Church.

How it works: the community donates gifts for children, such as new toys, games, books, clothing items and gift cards. Then, parents shop for free from the donations for a special gift to give their children this holiday season.

“This is a hard time of year for a lot of people,” Parker said. “I hope they regained some hope for whatever their goals are.”

In order to participate, families must have signed up in October and November and meet the event’s requirements. It’s open to low-income families living in Sarpy County with children 14 or younger living in their home. This year, roughly 300 families received assistance.

When applying for the assistance program this year, families were asked an extra question regarding whether they were affected by the flood last spring. Impacted families were given a little extra spending money, Parker said.

According to the Census Bureau, and estimated 9,000 people in Sarpy County live at or below the poverty level.

Since Bellevue doesn’t have any homeless shelters, Parker said people sometimes assume that means the city doesn’t have any homeless people. But, she said, that’s just not realistic.

“No matter where you live — whether it’s a big Omaha area or a small suburban area — there’s always going to be people who need something,” Parker said.

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