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One of Sidney's oldest charities prepares for donation drive


A charity more than a century old is still going strong in Sidney.

The Wide Awake Circle of the King's Daughter's in Sidney, which was founded in 1891, is gearing up for its annual donation drive.

"We're a philanthropic organization," reported Ann Schaaf, a current member and former president of the group. "It's a good Christian organization."

The group provides various types of assistance for those in the Sidney area. The King's Daughters might contribute to rent, utilities or medical bills. Yesterday, members gathered to prepare letters asking for donations.

"What we're doing today, is sending out a letter to individuals, asking them to give us a donation so we can continue our progress through the year," Schaaf said. "People are very generous."

Around 200 letters will be sent out at the beginning of September.

"We help folks who possibly don't qualify for some other aid," Schaaf said.

A neighbor, teacher or church official might contact the King's Daughters to let them know about an individual who might need some sort of assistance.

"Sometimes you know of someone who's just struggling and might need a little bit of extra help," Schaaf said.

Members aren't sure if the Wide Awake Circle is the oldest charity in Sidney, but it's certainly one of the oldest.

"I think we still do what they started out doing," said Dola Witters, also a current member and former president.

Those involved in this organization know they're now part of a long line of helping hands.

"A wife of one of the Fort Sidney officers started out the organization to help out folks and that's what it's all about, helping," Schaaf said.

There are no certain qualifications to become a member of the group, just a desire to help others. Schaaf makes up baskets for new mothers who might not have everything they need for a new baby. These baskets contain sleepers, onesies, diapers, a blanket and sometimes socks and shoes. The group always leaves two baskets at the hospital. Workers there determine who will receive the baskets.

"I try to include a stuffed animal type toy in all of them," Schaaf said.

Members attempt to help people in the area in many ways.

"The biggest thing we like to try to do is to help people that are ill," Witters said. "When they have out of town expenses."

Christmas is the Wide Awake Circle's busiest time of year. The group gives out treat sacks at Western Heritage, delivers poinsettias to people who've lost a loved one during the year and prepares cookie trays for anyone in need of a little cheering up.

The group's biggest project of the year is providing Christmas food baskets to area families. The Wide Awake Circle has been doing this for more than 100 years.

"Sidney is a small enough town, I think, that we're able to help people without them really knowing what's going on until this basket appears," Schaaf said. "And we get wonderful thank you notes."

The King's Daughters receive a lot of assistance with the huge undertaking from those in the community, including the area grocery stores, and those with the city of Sidney street department. The group gives out around 130 baskets at the park shelter house alone, in addition to many more that they deliver.

"We have so many people help us, kind of behind the scenes, that it's just wonderful," Schaaf said.

People are always volunteering to do more, Witters said.

"We have people step up every year that want to do something," she added.

Those in The Wide Awake Circle know how important these baskets are to those who receive them.

"We have a lot of people in town that need extra help," Witters said. "And they look to us at Christmas to get that food basket."

Members think that the kind of need in the area has changed in recent years.

"I think it's just part of the times," Schaaf said. "There's always been a need and there will always be a need but we're seeing different kinds of needs, recently."

Witters agreed with Schaaf.

"It used to be more families, now it's more single people," Witters said. "A lot of people are probably just unemployed."

Members think that people are willing to submit names of those who might be in need because the group keeps them confidential. Those who join the group tend to stay members. The Wide Awake Circle currently has nine members who've been a part of the group for more than 50 years. This year there are 28 members.

Membership is by invitation only, and those in the group say that friends generally ask friends to become involved. The King's Daughters know that community donations are what keeps this long standing charity going strong.

"With their help, we can reach more people," Schaaf said.


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