Sometimes it really does take a village

As we are busy investigating our local Community Champions, digging up all the good things our neighbors are doing in our communities, organizations and groups in Dallas, Falls City, Independence and Monmouth are putting the finishing touches on plans to host Santa and light trees.

It takes a crew of volunteers to make our towns festive, from Dallas Downtown Association collecting sponsorships to light up downtown Dallas, to the Independence Downtown Association Parade of Lights committee changing lights on the wreaths that adorn Independence Main Street.

The Dallas Area Visitor’s Center and volunteers from Morrison Campus Alternative School recreate Santa’s Village right on the Polk County Courthouse lawn, while volunteers in the WOU Athletics Department prepare to entertain kids and families with crafts in the Werner University Center.

This year we’ve noticed a new group of faces in Independence who worked quickly to bring back a tradition we thought we’d lost.

Cynthia Jaramillo started a beautiful tradition of the Santa Train in Independence. She was an engineer for Portland & Western, and made the connections to bring Santa to town in style, giving children a chance to visit with the big man himself, get photos with him and receive small gifts. The event expanded to include hot chocolate, popcorn, hot dogs and music. She moved to New Mexico earlier this year. We thought that was the end of Santa Train.

But thanks Traci Cathcart, Kim Hanson, and a handful of people making connections, Portland & Western engineer Zach Van Patten will pick up where Cynthia left off, driving the train to bring Santa to Independence Cinema for the seventh year. The energy brought by these volunteers and passion for the event will help Cynthia’s legacy live on to bring Christmas joy to all the good boys and girls in Independence.

The Parade of Lights committee jumped in to help raise donations and collect toys for Santa to hand deliver to children at the event. The Monmouth-Independence YMCA stepped in to help kids write letters to Santa. The city of Independence acquired a special mailbox for said letters.

The entire community came together to donate toys and trinkets to the event so that children who otherwise may not have a gift will get one on Saturday at Santa Train.

The spirit of giving resonates throughout our county through volunteers such as those responsible for bringing the season to light. We hope you’ll bundle up and bring the family down to celebrate the tree lightings, parades, and hot chocolates, and thank the ones who made it happen.

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