KEARNEY, Neb. — A holiday tradition more than 75 years old will once again make sure kids in Central Nebraska have presents to open on Christmas. 

The Buffalo County Goodfellows started in the 1940s with the realization that some children in the Kearney area might go without gifts on Christmas.

“So they went up and down Central Avenue and collected some donation and went out and bought some toys for those kids," board president Scott Anderson said. "The tradition has continued ever since then.”

Anderson has been involved with the Christmas gifts program since he moved to town as a kid in 1959.

He says 500 volunteers are helping this year between last weekend’s wrapping day and deliveries on Christmas. About 450 families will receive boxes of toys. Each kid gets one wrapped present that was selected based on age and gender. Each box gets an assortment of bonus gifts plus candy and fruit.

Board member Chad Mercer is among those who have delivered the gifts.

“It’s really neat to go to a house and knock on the door and they open it and are just super excited,” board member Chad Mercer said. “It’s kind of eye-opening sometimes to see how fortunate we are. But it’s a blessing to give back to others.

Families apply through the Salvation Army to get on the donation list. 

The Goodfellows’ system has improved over time. Each box is now tagged with a QR code that gives volunteers directions to the recipient’s home and marks the box as delivered. Despite changes over the decades, support of the Goodfellows’ mission has stayed constant.

“We’re really proud of it," Anderson said. "The fact that there’s so many people that help out and the fact that Goodfellows is all volunteer, no overhead, so everything that’s given goes straight to the kids.”

People wishing to deliver gifts are asked to be at the fairgrounds by 8:00 Christmas morning.