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Community Food Pantry brings hope to area residents at Thanksgiving

About 20 frozen turkeys made their way to the basement of St. John Lutheran Church in Beatrice on Tuesday morning, just in time for the Thanksgiving rush.

At the Beatrice Community Food Pantry, this is a busy time of year for donations. The work began with the pantry's ingathering a little over a week ago, during which volunteers picked up bags of donated food from across Beatrice. Work will continue through the beginning of January, when the holidays conclude.

On Tuesday morning, Neapco employees, Mike Harlan, Brad Thober and Kenny Pospichal, visited the pantry to deliver hundreds of pounds of canned and non-perishable food items and a couple dozen frozen turkeys.

Jessi Damrow, who works in human resources for Neapco, said she couldn’t say how many years the company’s been making the donations, but Neapco gives every employee a turkey for Thanksgiving, which some donate to the Community Food Pantry. The company also presented the Community Food Pantry with a check for $500.

Exmark brought in turkeys for the pantry as well, and Stan and Judy Meyer donated gift cards to help the food pantry purchase personal items from the Dollar Tree.

The Meyers, who own the Ashley Furniture store in Beatrice, celebrated 48 years in business with a donation to the Community Food Pantry of $4,800. It’s something they’ve been doing for the last decade, Stan said, as well as donating their time.

“It has been for 10 years or so, he said. “My wife and I both volunteer there. My wife has for years. You would not believe the amount of people that come in there that need food.”

Karen Mains, the coordinator at the pantry, said that on Tuesday morning alone, they’d seen multiple families lining up for food. There’s a lot of need in the community, she said, and it’s not slowing down.

“It takes a lot of food to feed this many people,” Mains said. “This morning, I don't think we had a family less than six. It takes a lot of food. They probably go out of here with $300 or $400 worth of food at a time.”

While their shelves are well-stocked at the moment, she said, monetary donations are appreciated and needed to purchase fresh food. The pantry spends $400 on hamburger alone each month, she said, and there are more things they need to purchase, like eggs, bread, margarine and potatoes.

Things like coffee, oil and Tuna Helper are all staples at the food pantry, she said, and there’s a lack of them at the moment.

Monetary donations also help the Community Food Pantry with other services they provide, said Sue Orwen, co-coordinator at the pantry.

“We try and help people with jobs, we try and help people with rent and apartments,” Orwen said. “We try to make some referrals with other types of service agencies. So, if there's something somebody needs that we can't do, we try to find a service agency that maybe can. We try to do more than just food.”

There’s been a lot of support coming in lately, Orwen said, and that’s been great to see. As soon as the employees from Neapco left the building, she was overwhelmed with emotion.

“Almost every day is busy,” she said, choking up a little. “We just have had so many people that have been giving.”

With an entire wall filled with food and 128 people helping to sort, date and store the food in what the Community Food Pantry lovingly calls the "dungeon,” holiday help has started to pour in to make sure no one goes hungry on Thanksgiving or Christmas.

While fall and winter mean larger donations to the pantry, Mains said, summertime is actually the busiest season for the Community Food Pantry. The kids are out of school, which means there is no school breakfast or lunch programs, and families are more reliant on the pantry for their daily needs.

In August, the pantry served more than 500 families in need. Demand for food goes up, but donations go down, Mains said.

“That's when all the expenses go way up because I have to buy so much,” she said. “Not much is coming in, but that's when we give out the most food, during the summer months.”

The Community Food Pantry is open every Monday and Thursday from 9 a.m. until noon and from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. and during the afternoon on the last Tuesday of each month. Donations can be dropped off during those hours, and people needing help can stop by, but Orwen recommended calling ahead before coming in.

Each month, the pantry has about 65 volunteers working to organize food, make shopping lists and date each product to make sure no one gets expired food.

From Nov. 11, during the ingathering, to the week before Thanksgiving, the shelves at the Community Food Pantry have gone from nearly empty to bursting at the seams, Orwen said, and thinking about all the help coming in from the people in Beatrice was very encouraging.

“I just feel thankful,” Orwen said. “Emotionally so.”

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Preschool students spread their wings and get into the Thanksgiving spirit

Turkeys gobbled their way through the halls of Beatrice Community Preschool on Tuesday afternoon.

Celebrating Thanksgiving just a few days early, a three-year-old preschool class made turkey costumes out of paper shopping bags and construction paper and went on a parade led by their teacher, Tabetha Jurgens.

The turkeys began to wander a bit, but were corralled by paras Paula Netherton and Jana Jameson.

Some gobbled and some went "cock-a-doodle-do," but they all ended up back in the classroom, where they danced the "Turkey Hokey Pokey" and played Thanksgiving bingo.

Council approves residential development plan

A new housing development in Beatrice is one step closer to being built after the Beatrice City Council gave its approval on Monday night.

The council voted unanimously to move forward with the development that will use Tax Increment Financing in its construction of the currently undeveloped lots.

The Sun Ridge development will consist of 31 single-family homes east of Hannibal Park and west of the Beatrice State Developmental Center along 26th Street in Beatrice. Each home will be about 1,100 to 1,200 square feet, all with unfinished basements, City Administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer said.

The development plan has been approved twice by the Beatrice Community Redevelopment Authority as well as the Planning and Zoning Commission. The city council’s approval leaves just one last step for the development to pass.

“Assuming that you approve it tonight,” Tempelmeyer told the council, “it goes back to CRA for final approval and that will be the fifth and final meeting we have on this TIF project and then we'll be able to proceed.”

The development will be built in three to seven years, Tempelmeyer said. The current valuation of the site is $465,000 and, following the construction, the estimated valuation of the completed project will be about $4,526,000, which would bring in an estimated $77,706.75 in annual property taxes.

“Most of the public improvements are already there,” Tempelmeyer said. “The street's already installed, the water lines are already there. Electric infrastructure's already been in place. So, most of the TIF proceeds in this matter will go to site acquisition. If there's anything left over, we'll try to use them for either sidewalks or 26th Street.”

According to the cost-benefit analysis done by the city, Tempelmeyer said it looks like good news for the community. Beatrice Public Schools saw the development as a positive, as it could potentially bring more families with children into the community.

“We didn't see any impact on businesses or anything like that,” Tempelmeyer said. “If anything, it's positive. You have more people in town, more people need to buy more stuff, they go downtown and buy goods and services, those types of things.”

Council member Dwight Parde asked if TIF funds could be used to pave the gravel portion of North 26th Street, just south of the development.

The problem with that, Tempelmeyer said, is that the city doesn’t have enough right-of-way available to put a full-sized road in there. Garages are closer to the road than the city would like, and the road would be very narrow without acquisition of additional right-of-way to make 26th Street work, he said.

The resolution to move forward passed unanimously with six votes to zero, and will be sent to the CRA for final approval. If approved, the construction will probably begin in spring of 2018.

City repeals outdated firearms law

Two new police officers who joined the Beatrice Police Department a few months ago have recently had a hand in changing city ordinances.

At Monday's Beatrice City Council meeting, council members voted unanimously to repeal an out-of-date ordinance pertaining to the sale of firearms.

Section 17-114 of the Beatrice City Code, which regarded recording and reporting of firearm sales within city limits was repealed.

According to the ordinance, anyone who sold, traded or disposed of any firearm within the city of Beatrice was to notify the chief of police in writing before they did so. The notice was to have a description of the firearm along with the name and address of the person who acquired the weapon.

The chief of police was supposed to be notified within 24 hours of the firearm's transfer.

“We had a couple of new police officers hired,” City Administrator Tobias Tempelmeyer said. “I think one of their duties is to go through the city code and become familiar with it. They ran across this code section, asked the chief, ‘Do we do this?’”

As it turned out, the city had not been complying with the ordinance for 20-some years, Tempelmeyer said, which was good for the city because the Nebraska state statute that authorized them to do so was repealed in 2014.

Nebraska legislative bill 669 from 2014—the stated aims of which were to “change hunting permit and hunter education provisions, provide reports to a firearm database and eliminate certain firearm provisions”—included an “outright repeal” of section 20-1211 of the revised statutes of Nebraska, which referred to the conditions for purchase, sale, trade and conveyance of firearms in Nebraska.