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A Meal Can Make All The Difference 12/26/16  12/26/16 11:27:31 AM Printer Friendly VersionPrinter Friendly Version

From left, Santa’s helpers Larry Miller, Lisa Humlicek, Diane Battiato, Anne Hurley (in back) and Barb Smith deliver one of six holiday meals to deserving families.                                                         – Photos by Denise Lickel
A Meal Can Make All The Difference
By Lorraine Boyd
The Daily Record

For many of us, the Christmas holiday means a little time off work and school, brightly-wrapped gifts, relatives, and some fantastic food, especially prepared for this time of year.
But for some, it means more of the same: a struggle to pay the utility bills, to put food – any food – on the table, and to make sure the kids have something warm to wear.
This Christmas, Omaha saw more families than ever in need. The employees at the Douglas County Assessor/Register of Deeds office had a solution.
While Wednesday has long been known as “hump” day, those office employees refer to it as “jeans day” because for just a dollar they can wear jeans all day.
Although “jeans day” is all in fun, there is a serious side. Eleven years ago, they had established a Christmas tradition that they would use money raised from “jeans day” to benefit a local charitable organization. They’ve chosen such charities as the Food Bank for the Heartland and the Siena/Francis House. They’ve given fans away in the summer and participated in Adopt-a-Family.
But this year, they had a little extra in the fund and looked for something new to do.
“This Christmas,” said Assessor/Register of Deeds Diane Battiato, “the office partnered with The Salvation Army and arranged to donate a complete holiday meal and a gift card to six families in need.”  
The Salvation Army identified the families to be helped. The Assessor/Register of Deeds staff had only one stipulation: that military veterans be among those selected.  
Since the offices of the assessor and the register of deeds merged, the employees have been on two different floors in the City-County building. So they had a drawing, pairing someone from each floor to help deliver the meals. “That way, every employee participated, not just management,” Battiato said.
On December 20, employees fanned out to deliver a car trunk full of groceries that would soon be transformed into a Christmas feast.
First stop: the home of military veteran Christopher Rath.
The single dad, his teenage and pre-teen who were both at school, and his 4-year-old son, Chris Jr., received all the fixin’s necessary to fill both body and spirit Sunday as they celebrated Christmas.
Chris Jr. raced around in pre-Christmas excitement, announcing that he wanted Ninja Turtles and an iPad. Mostly Ninja Turtles. Christopher said the groceries helped to make Christmas “so much nicer. We don’t even have to go to the store. It’s all here.”
Even so, he also received a $50 gift card to HyVee, just in case something was missing.
“We are entering a particularly stressful time of year for some … especially for some of our veterans, and others who are less fortunate,” Battiato said. “The holidays can be a wonderful time of celebration for many of us, but they can be devastating for the poor or those who have no family.  
“We realize that we can’t help everyone, although we’d love to.  Nevertheless, we still wanted to do what we could. We are confident that by working with worthy community organizations, such as the Salvation Army, our contributions will help some families who really need it.
“Seeing the happy faces when we delivered the meals made it so worthwhile. Our ‘Jeans Day’ is a win-win, for sure” Battiato said.
Earlier in the season, the department donated non-perishable food items to the Siena Francis House, contributions also gathered as part of “jeans day.”

Diane Battiato and Barb Smith unload the trunk filled with all the ingredients of a sumptuous Christmas feast.

They’re at the door … bringing holiday cheer.

Diane Battiato chats with Christopher Rath and his son Chris Jr.
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