GRAHAM COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) — The holidays are a magical time of the year. Children are excited to see what Santa is going to bring them on Christmas Day. Others might now have anything under the tree.
A non-profit organization in rural Western Kansas is changing that for its residents, one blessing at a time.
Goddard Place is a family homestead off Highway 24 in Graham County. The dot on the map is west of the county seat, Hill City. Since 2011, it has hosted children and their families for an annual event to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.
Over the past decade, Christmas blessings have fallen upon the folks of Graham County.
“The greatest thing about ‘Christmas Blessings’ is it’s a unique, awesome event in a one-of-kind location put on by a one-of-a-kind, amazing family,” says Hill City resident Sara Albrecht.
Sisters Becky Ellis and Sonya Cap of Penokee inherited Goddard Place from their parents. They started a charitable organization for children and young adults and began hosting youth and team-building events and camps on the family homestead.
“‘Christmas Blessings’ is one of the events at Goddard Place, and ‘Christmas Blessings’ is a time for us to give back to the community,” says Cap Secretary of Goddard Place.
“We draw in people from the surrounding communities. So, it would be the Hoxie area, Norton, Wakeeney, Palco, Plainville, and Quinter,” says Ellis, President of Goddard Place.
“Some of the things that we enjoyed as children, our parents were wonderful, and they just did everything for us and supported us,” says Cap. “We always had a huge Christmas time with all of our family together. And we wanted to pass that on to the community.”
Albrecht grew up with the Goddard family children. She says her family once attended ‘Christmas Blessings’ as guests.
“Maybe it was the first or second year they had the event, and our family was so blown away that we thought in the future we wanted to try to somehow donate to this event,” says Albrecht.
On Sunday, Goddard Place hosted 34 families for ‘Christmas Blessings.’ Children played games outside, and when they entered the home, they participated in activities with their siblings and parents.
“Then they adjourned to the garage, where they enjoyed a snack food buffet of sandwiches, chips, cookies, that type of thing. While the children visited with Santa,” says Ellis. “Santa had a special gift for every child. A special bag for every family. Each family was also given something for their Christmas dinner when they left. This year it was a roast.”
‘Christmas Blessings’ also paid a portion of each family’s utility bills.
Then there were the gifts from Santa.
“We don’t choose the gifts. God does,” says Ellis.
“Finishing up some things for the family bags, the lady that was checking me out mentioned that when she and her husband moved to Graham County several years ago, they had nothing,” says Cap. “She said I knew ‘I wasn’t going to be able to give my children any Christmas gifts at all for Christmas, and I received a postcard from you talking about Goddard Place.’ She goes, ‘how did you know that I had no money to give my kids any kind of a Christmas?’ And my response was, ‘we didn’t know, but God knows.'”
“I have a 12-year-old boy. I don’t know what to get a nine-year-old girl. Becky told me, ‘God will choose it.’ So, we grabbed something, and when my son got home from ‘Christmas Blessings,’ I said, ‘what was your favorite thing that happened at ‘Christmas Blessings?’. And he said, ‘oh mom, seeing that girl smile when she opened the present that I helped Santa with,'” says Albrecht.