Project Response Inc., of southeast Nebraska, functions as a crisis center that provides support and advocacy to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and other related issues—but not without assistance from many citizens.
In the season of giving, a number of Nebraska City residents have risen to the challenge of providing that assistance to the tune of some $7,000.
Donations poured in from the patients of Nebraska City dentist, Dr. Molly McNeely, from the doctor herself, from the Fareway grocery store of Nebraska City and from students at Nebraska City High School.

NCHS Students
The Nebraska City Leadership Cadre class, under the direction of instructor Kaleb Walker, decided this year, for the first time, to conduct a fundraiser as a community betterment class project.
In the past, Walker said members of his leadership class have put together programs like movie nights or a dodgeball tournament that would give high school students a positive and safe activity.
This year, Walker said, the leadership students wanted to extend their program to the community.
According to Justin Thorne of the leadership group, Rachelle Rice, a classmate, suggested that students raise money and donate it to Project Response.
Rice said she was hoping the donations would have a two-fold effect of helping support the group and also of raising the visibility of the group, and what it does, so that other citizens might donate.

“I knew from past experience that they weren’t really well known and yet they were still able to help the community,” said Rice.
From there, the leadership students worked on a method to raise the money. As a primary idea, leadership students could bring in money on their own. That would raise some funds. But a more expansive idea was required to really get things going.
Walker said the students settled on an idea where all of the home rooms at the high school would engage in a friendly competition to see which group could get the most cash.
Students brought in cash from home and change from their cars. They sold baked goods and hot dogs in the halls. And they sought donations.
Rice said the teachers were on board with the fundraiser right away.
“Shea Kinnison and I explained it to the teachers at their morning meeting on a Friday and they were really excited,” said Rice.
A school assembly got the rest of the students in the act. And a motivational factor of daily prizes for the home rooms and an overall prize, that included the possibility of a half day off from school, only added to the enthusiasm and fire of friendly competition.
Fundraising ramped up and the students set a goal of $800.
For some perspective on that figure, Thorne said he recalled a previous fundraising effort at the high school that lasted over a month and raised some $1,200.
This project only had four days. By way of comparison, it’s easy to see $800 as a significant monetary goal to hit.
By the end of the four days, they students had raised $1,000.
The fundraising didn’t stop there. Walker said he got some information that Dr. McNeely wanted to help the students out.
“I contacted her and she said she would match whatever the school raised as a donation,” said Walker.
That match took the Nebraska City High School donation over the $2,000 mark.
Getting that done was very satisfying for the students.
Thorne said with being raised in a lower income family, he knew of community organizations like Project Response. The chance for him to give to those organizations was very powerful.
“I was ecstatic,” Thorne said of the opportunity.
Rice echoed some of that enthusiasm. “I felt really positive in that I had really made a difference in my community,” she said.
The students’ enthusiasm and the monetary support it generated were definitely appreciated by the folks at Project Response.
“Project Response was super blown away when we contacted them,” said Walker. “We delivered the money and they were very grateful and happy for it.”
Walker said he expects such efforts will be repeated by future leadership students and the lessons they’ll learn, as with this group, will be invaluable.
“It was a learning experience that I try to get out of that class that maybe most classes won’t ever have a chance to do,” said Walker.

Dr. McNeely
The inspiration of giving extended from the high school to Dr. Molly McNeely’s dental practice and beyond.
Dr. McNeely said her office gives a charitable donation each year.
“Not only myself, but also my team members—we are very blessed and very grateful for what we have,” she said.
Given the opportunity to donate to Project Response, McNeely and her staff were eager to help.
By extension, an invitation was given to the patients in Dr. McNeely’s practice. And the charity of those residents turned out to be extremely impressive.
Donations came in all forms. McNeely said her patients gave money but also came through with donations of soap, laundry detergent, blankets, diapers, gasoline gift cards and more.
McNeely said she was inspired to match the donations.
Altogether, that ended up being around $5,000.
McNeely extended her thanks to all those patients and said they were the real thrust behind the whole movement.
“We put it on our patients, and our patients did it,” said McNeely.

Fareway
While the donations were coming in and piling up, McNeely said she was approached by Fareway grocery story.
Casey Ahrendsen, store manager, and Charlie Driscoll, assistant grocery manager, contacted McNeely with a plan to help donated dollars stretch farther. Fareway offered to sell products (diapers, laundry detergent and the like) at a reduced cost.
“Fareway donated an amazing amount of stuff,” McNeely said. “They couldn’t have been more wonderful.”
McNeely said the fact that Fareway had contacted her was even more impressive.
“It’s so awesome to see our community pull together for stuff like that,” McNeely said. “It’s been a great month of giving back.”

Inspiration
While the donations at the high school and the donations at the dental office were matched by Dr. McNeely, she said that simply isn’t the main story here.
“This is not about me,” McNeely said. “This is so much about our community. I am the least part of it.”
Had she been approached by Project Response, she said that she would have been honored to donate but that she would have not given as much.
The fact that other people donated ended up inspiring her to raise the bar.
“I didn’t do this. They did this,” McNeely said. “They make me better.”
Returning to the students at the high school, McNeely said the kids should be given credit and their teacher deserves credit as well.
“These kids worked so hard,” McNeely said. “For Mr. Walker to put in the time, the energy and the effort—that is above and beyond.
“That humbles me to help out even more,” she said.