COLUMNS

Giving thanks and giving back with Gov. Pete Ricketts

Gov. Pete Ricketts

As we enter a season of giving, it’s an opportunity for each of us to reflect on the blessings we’ve received over the last year.  When the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving in 1621, they gave thanks to God for their safe passage to America and the bountiful harvest they had been given.  Over 200 years later, President Abraham Lincoln made this celebration a national holiday.  Americans from all walks of life celebrate Thanksgiving each November.  It’s a time for family and friends to come together, to share a meal, and to give thanks.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving here in Nebraska, we have much for which to be grateful.  Our state recently achieved the lowest unemployment rate ever recorded at 1.9%—meaning there’s never been a better time to find a job in Nebraska.  Agriculture is our number one industry, and Nebraska is experiencing a bountiful harvest with record yields of corn and soybeans.  Our state’s beef exports are higher than they’ve ever been at this point in the year.  Our booming agricultural sector has resulted in big tax receipts, setting the state up to deliver even more tax relief in the coming year.

But more than these material things, I’m grateful for the people of our state who give back all year long.

Soldiers and airmen with the National Guard are making sacrifices to serve our country this Thanksgiving.  Right now, there are 564 members of the Nebraska National Guard deployed on federal missions out of state.  Soldiers based in Columbus and Grand Island are helping to manage the humanitarian crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border.  Nearly 200 members of the Guard are stationed in East Africa, promoting peace and stability in the region.  Another 179 soldiers and airmen are helping to support U.S. missions in the Middle East.  We’re grateful for these troops and pray for their quick and safe return home.

November is Adoption Month.  Throughout the month, we are celebrating families who have stepped up to care for kids without a permanent family of their own.  At a recent news event, Maralee Bradley shared her family’s story.  When starting a family didn’t work out for Maralee and her husband Brian the way it typically does, they pursued adoption.  About 17 years ago they adopted their oldest son through an international adoption.  They then became licensed foster parents, adopting four more children.  They’re also providing foster care to a sibling of one of their daughters.  Along with two biological children, the Bradleys are now a thriving family with 8 children.  In giving their kids the blessing of a loving home, Maralee and Brian have displayed the compassion and goodness that make our state great.

Not everyone will have the ability or resources to foster or adopt.  Service can be simpler but incredibly impactful.  This year, Glenn and Tracy Ideus of Gage County passed away from coronavirus leaving behind three sons.  Thanks to the team effort of the local 4-H Club, FFA chapter, and many others, the community has raised $10,000 to help support the family.  According to the Beatrice Daily Sun, their efforts are still ongoing.  If you wish to join in, you can contact Adams State Bank or send funds through Venmo to @Hoffman-IdeusFund1.

These are just a few of the incredible ways that Nebraskans are giving back.  Through the years, our state has consistently ranked highly for volunteerism.  During this season, I encourage you to think about how you can serve others.  Think about joining your local church as they purchase gifts for the children of the incarcerated.  Take a couple hours to work at the local homeless shelter serving a meal.  Or contribute to charitable efforts through your church or favorite service organization.  No matter how small, your contribution of time or resources can help make this season more joyful for your neighbors.

If you have a story of Nebraskans going above and beyond, I hope you’ll take a moment to write me at Pete.Ricketts@nebraska.gov.  As always, you are welcome to contact me at that email about any matter or you can call 402-471-2244.  Susanne, the kids, and I wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving holiday!