From a festive distance: Tonganoxie celebrates tree lighting in new way; food challenge brings in more than 6,000 cans for Good Shepherd
One particular vehicle had to make a second trip through the Mayor’s Christmas Tree Lighting route Saturday night.
A passenger remembered what she wanted to ask Santa Claus for Christmas, so a second trip was made.
Rain and frigid conditions couldn’t keep a steady string of cars from rolling through the Winter Wonderland in downtown Tonganoxie. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the traditional tree lighting in the pocket park at Fourth and Delaware streets, the event turned into a drive-by event.
Visitors made their way down Fourth Street and then turned onto Delaware Street where Santa Claus was waiting. The rain couldn’t keep him from waving at passers-by, thanks to a canopy set up near the pocket park. And his helpers carried an umbrella for him when children called out from vehicles with well wishes or wish lists.
Mayor David Frese also was on hand to greet motorists with some assistance from his wife Natalie. A teacher at Tonganoxie Elementary School, Natalie helped David recite “The Night Before Christmas” in a video posted on the city’s Facebook page. The reading also was squeezed into a playlist that motorists could hear from their vehicles by turning to 98.3 on their FM dials. The playlist will continue to be available in the downtown area throughout the holiday season.
Frese commended everyone who made the drive-by celebration a success.
“I’ve never seen a group of folks work so hard just to bring a little joy to our community,” he said. “Every time I heard a little kid yell, ‘Hey! It’s Santa!’ from their family car’s back seat, I thought, ‘Man, what a great gift this special group of people has given our community’s children’.”
In addition to the festivities Saturday night, Tonganoxie elementary and middle schools, along with Genesis Christian Academy, participated in this year’s Mayor’s Christmas Food Drive Challenge.
Youths brought more than 6,000 cans and other containers of non-perishable food items to be donated to Good Shepherd Thrift Shop and Food Bank.
Janet Stuke, food bank coordinator at Good Shepherd, said the drive is a big help annually around the holidays.
“The Good Shepherd pantry waits for this donation every year,” Stuke said. “Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the community has really rallied around.”
TMS was added to the food drive this year. Stuke said that Good Shepherd staff members once again were so thankful for the donations, adding that parents of local students and parents “rose to the call.”
“Everyone made sure the food pantry here in Tonganoxie is ready to go,” she explained. “That’s been a wonderful, wonderful thing.”
There were few other items donated during the drive, such as boxes of training diapers.
If residents want to continue to donate to help those in need, Good Shepherd is encouraging donation of gift cards to stores that might offer both groceries and toys so families with children could use them to also find Christmas presents. Stuke said gift cards to Brothers Market already were distributed to families in preparation for the Thanksgiving season.
As for other items on the food bank’s wish list, Stuke said hygiene products such as hand soap, toothbrushes and toothpastes, toilet paper, shampoo and bar soap could really be utilized at this time.
Masks are required for anyone visiting Good Shepherd, which is open 9 a.m.- 2 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. the first Saturday of the month. Anyone coming in to discuss assistance through Good Shepherd can also visit or contact Good Shepherd 9-11 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The Good Shepherd number is 913-845-3964.