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The Kearney Hub's Community Hero

For December, 2015 is:

Randy and Elvera Dallman of Franklin


They might not have a sleigh or a reindeer with a bright red nose of their own, but one Franklin couple has done its best to bring the magic of Santa to the children of Franklin County over the years.

Each Christmas season for the last 55 years, Randy and Elvera Dallman have donned red suits and traveled through the countryside as Santa and Mrs. Claus, making house calls for three generations of Franklin County residents.

The Dallmans are being honored this holiday season as this month’s Community Heroes.

Though their schedule gets a bit hectic once December hits, playing Santa is something that Randy has enjoyed immensely. “It’s well worth the time,” Randy said. “I’m still a kid at heart.”

When Randy started playing Santa in 1960, he and Elvera lived on a farm outside of Macon, a small town just north of Franklin. That year, the person playing Santa at a local high school was sick, and Randy was asked if he would fi ll in for him. From then on, the tradition continued. “It’s the best,” Elvera said. “Otherwise we wouldn’t do it.”

Elvera didn’t accompany Randy at fi rst, but she joined him later and helps keep track of his schedule and maintains his appearance.

First, the couple made only door-to-door appearances to their neighbors around Macon.

Eventually, they started being asked to appear at community events, in parades and at private parties throughout south-central Nebraska. Once, they were asked to come to a December wedding in full Santa gear. They’ve also dressed up as the Clauses for their three children, three grandchildren and one great-grandson.

Randy has gone through six suits and five fluffy white beards during his tenure as Santa Claus.

He said his favorite part about playing Santa is interacting with the parents and children — though some of them aren’t always good boys and girls for Santa.

November, 2015 is:

Andrea Potthoff


This month we congratulate Andrea Potthoff, our Community Heroes recipient. Andrea was nominated for helping a family in crisis, as well as her contributions to the Friends Program, R.A.F.T. and CASA.

Howard Warford Jr. said: “Andrea is quick to help those that need it and the community is a better place because of people like her.”

In early November a routine surgery turned critical for Howard’s mother-in-law. An outpatient procedure turned into a seven day stay at the hospital in Lincoln. Andrea didn’t hesitate to act.

“Andrea became a source of calm in the chaos,” Howard said.

In addition to helping Warford’s family, Potthoff volunteers regularly. She meets weekly with a Little Friend where they bond over activities like walking Andrea’s dogs.

“My Little Friend loves animals so we take my dogs for a walk, or we’ve gone to the humane society. We just signed up to start volunteering there and that’s going to be so much fun,” Andrea said.

Andrea advocates for the CASA program. She lends her voice to children going through the court system in situations such as foster care or removals from the home.

“I always thought that I didn’t have enough time [to volunteer]. It takes so little time and you get such a big reward out of it, even an hour a week,” Potthoff said.

“Andrea was a great friend and helped us through a very hard moment. I believe that is just her personality,” Howard explained.

for October, 2015 is:

Amanda Shoemaker



for September, 2015 is:

Sarah Isaac


Congratulations to Sarah Isaac of Kearney, September’s Community Heroes winner.

Imogene Swearingen nominated Isaac for her enthusiasm to help those in need around her. Outside of her work at Eaton, Isaac spends hours of her personal time planning fundraisers to assist people with cancer, victims of vehicle accidents and those in need. Her positive, uplifting attitude helps create a fun atmosphere amongst a tragic narrative in someone’s life.

“I really enjoy helping other people… bringing new people together, the great camaraderie for coming together for a good cause,” Isaac said.

Recently she organized summer and winter game events and raised thousands of dollars. These special events help co-workers and friends raise money and awareness for breast cancer survivors and those recovering from car accidents.

“I just really enjoy seeing the smiles on people’s faces,” Isaac said. “It’s just so heartwarming and fulfilling to be able to help somebody else, especially when they’re in a time of need and can’t do for themselves.”

Isaac recently retired from the Kearney Volunteer Fire Department. She encourages people to give back to others every day and explains how rewarding this can be.

“Give me a call and I’ll help you get started with volunteering, and I know you’ll find it rewarding too. It’s super rewarding to be able to give yourself to somebody else and helpthem out as much as you can,” she said.


for August, 2015 is:

Julie Weir


Congratulations to Julie Weir, this month’s Community Heroes winner. Julie was nominated for her commitment and dedication to improving health services for people in need.

After years of working as a Neonatal Intensive Care nurse, Julie and her husband, David, made a decision to move their family to the Pacific coast but stopped in Kearney in 1990 and have been here ever since.

“I do have a passion for giving back to this community. Kearney has been good to our family and Health Care is my niche, and so it’s been a good fit,” Julie said.

Julie volunteered for 10 years at the Buffalo County Immunization Clinics before being asked to take over as the Immunization Coordinator at Community Action Partnership of Mid-Nebraska. She was subsequently named Health Services Director.

When a free clinic was forced to close due to lack of funding, “Julie dedicated herself to find new funding opportunities and served on the planning committees that eventually developed the HelpCare Clinic,” the nomination letter said.

“It’s nice to see that we can help them, and bring a smile to their face. It is very rewarding work,” Julie said.

Additionally, the nomination letter said, “Julie also helped plan and fi nd grant funding to expand the Community Health Worker initiative at Community Action. Her drive and determination truly encompasses helping people and changing lives.”

“This is a wonderful place to volunteer. It’s happy, the staff is extremely kind and generous with the patients and with each other and you go away feeling good at the end of the day,” Julie said.


for July, 2015 is:

CHI Health Good Samaritan Pediatric Nursing Unit

Congratulations to CHI Health Good Samaritan Pediatric Nursing Unit, this month’s Community Heroes winners. Dalton Dearmont, 10, nominated the nurses after staying in the unit while recovering from a farming accident.

“I wrecked an ATV. I was working on the ranch and I turned into a gate and it tipped over,” Dalton said.

Dalton spent 21 days at CHI Health Good Samaritan in the Pediatric Nursing Unit after his accident. His nomination of the nurses said, “They became our family, knowing exactly what we needed and always ready to make me and my family as comfortable as possible. They encouraged me to push myself because they knew I could do it even when I was hurting and mostly scared.”

“As long as we can remove them from the situation as much as we can through a two hour movie or through a game, anything that they can do to remove them from the painful stimulus, or what they’re going through in that moment,” Hillary O’Neill, one of the nurses who assisted Dalton, said.

The pediatric nurses also purchase DVDs and games for the patients that they care for.

Anna Molina, another nurse who cared for Dalton, said, “We do offer movies to all our patients on the floor and we do have a large selection of movies available for patients to check out. We have board games, we have craft supplies, we have all kinds of stuff.”

The nurses describe their jobs as diffi cult at times but also very rewarding.

“A hero is somebody who is not in the limelight, it’s people who are the silent ones, who help you through everything, the hugs after bad news and they don’t get recognized,” Dalton’s mother, Shareen Dearmont, said.

June, 2015:

Helen Casper


This month we congratulate Helen Casper, June’s Community Heroes winner. Helen was nominated anonymously for her contribution to her community and church, Faith United Methodist Church in Elm Creek.

When asked why she volunteers, Helen said, “When you live alone, you can do nothing if you want to and I decided I didn’t want to do that the rest of my life.”

Helen is the first to offer assistance to her fellow citizens, offering rides to and from appointments, volunteering at the hospital and checking on shut-ins.

She also provides food for Faith UMC’s food pantry, helps with funeral dinners and plays piano for church every Sunday and other functions such as services provided by her church for the local nursing homes.

Helen also helps with her church’s toy box ministry which they give to people or places that need toys and children’s clothing. She also assists the church with donations of clothing to give to people in need.

“If somebody is driving through and is desperate for something they can stop here and get food or clothing,” Helen said.

All Helen does is approached with a humble attitude, grace and concern. She tries to give credit where credit is due and acknowledge the other people who also give their time to volunteering around the community.

“It takes a little time, a little planning, but it’s worth it because you get to get out with people and meet new people,” Helen said.

May, 2015:


Jackson Murphy


Jackson Murphy is remembered by friends, family and coaches as the most popular student at Kearney High School. Murphy, age 16, a member of both the KHS Football and Wrestling teams, passed away in March of pneumonia. He is remembered as a fun and loving person who made friends with everyone he knew.

This month, we honor Jackson Murphy as our Community Heroes recipient, nominated by Diana Clausen of Kearney, for his ability to make everyone smile, to help others and to be compassionate. The award was accepted on his behalf by Jackson’s mother, Kate Murphy, who recalled some highlights of Jackson’s loving and giving spirit.

“Jackson was associated with KHS Football, and he basically hung out with the team,” Kate said. “But when he got to the games, he led the band. Every time the music came on, he was behind the band director doing that, and the band director did not know that. One night, he was announced as honorary band director.”

“Wrestling was huge for Jackson, and wrestling was probably the best experience of his life,” Kate continued. “The KHS Wrestling community was his family. It’s just a close group.”

Kate said, “He was also involved in ARC Activities, Buddy Bowling, Top Soccer, Challenger Baseball, YMCA and other activities. He was so social.”

Clausen, who nominated Jackson, said, “Since his funeral I can’t get Jackson off my mind. Jackson made a difference in my life, even though I only met him a couple times. Kate first introduced me to him, and I could tell she was proud. She said, ‘This is my son Jackson, he has Down Syndrome, but he is a good kid.’”

Kate continued, “Jackson was compassionate, and he could sense when someone was having a rough time and always did what he could to make you feel better. I think just that, the way that he impacted other people, I hope that he is remembered for seeing the good in things, and having a good outlook. For being happy. For his smile. For his laugh. I hope he is remembered for those things, and I think he will be.”

Murphy Mondays, a website at, was developed in Jackson’s memory and for sharing stories of him by friends, family and coaches. “People are trying to be more like Jackson, looking past the outside of a person and looking on the inside of them,” Kate said. “Jackson loved everybody no matter what you looked like, where you came from, rich or poor. He saw people for their heart, and the good in everybody.”

“His good deeds were inspiring people, making people smile, and just being Jackson, and just to be around people that are happy and to make them smile is a wonderful attribute to have,” Diana said. 

April, 2015:

Judy Billings


Congratulations to Judy Billings, this month's Community Hero.

Billings was nominated for her volunteer efforts at CHI Health Good Samaritan hospital, where she works in various areas, including the gift shop. She is also serves on the Patient and Family Partnership Council, the Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation board and the Institutional Review Committee.

After retiring from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, where she was the administrator for the college of nursing, Billings decided to focus on volunteering.

"When I was working and I had a daughter, there was no time for things like that," she said, explaining why she is so involved in community work in her retirement.

A former nurse, Billings said that it gives her a chance to stay up-to-date with developments in the medical field.

"Volunteering at the hospital fits right in with that," she said. "It gives me some insight into what's going on in healthcare."

The Patient and Family Partnership Council serves to give input to the hospital on how to provide the best environment for patients. Billings said she feels the council is important because it can facilitate real change.

Last fall, she was invited to participate in a think tank about patient/family relations councils at the Institute of Medicine in Washington, D.C. Billings said she was "very honored" to participate in the event.

Billings said it's really important for people to give back to their communities.

"There are a multitude of opportunities," she said. "Try it, you'll like it."

She recently discovered a quote about how volunteers vote with their feet for the type of community they want to live in. That thought really struck her and underscored the importance of volunteers.

"You can make a difference," she said.