THOR - Lois Nerem said goodbye to a few of her friends Wednesday, even though they had made the trek with her from Norfork, Neb., to Thor when she retired.
Make that 350 friends.
Nerem's doll collection will go to the African nation of Swaziland where it will be given to mostly HIV-positive children by the organization Children's Cup International.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Lois Nerem, left, of Thor, shows Jean Ohlerking, co-founder of Children’s Cup some of the over 300 dolls she is donating to the group before a Guest Day luncheon at Ullensvang Lutheran Church in Thor.
She said she's happy the dolls are going to bring joy so many miles away.
"This is a good opportunity to send the dollies where they are needed," she said. "I want them to be hugged and loved."
Nerem has been collecting dolls from thrift stores, garage sales and other sources for years. Then she gives them away at Christmas. The batch she donated to Children's Cup were her last big collection. Much of the dolls' clothes were crocheted by residents of the Norfork Senior Citizen's Center.
"They do such beautiful work," she said.
Betty Davis, of Eagle Grove, and Marion Dencklau, of Thor, helped Nerem unpack the dolls Wednesday and set them up in her church's social hall.
"We talked to them, we dressed them, we arranged their hair," Dencklau said. "We decided to stop before we'd end up talking to our husbands that way."
Dencklau was impressed with the workmanship on the crotchet outfits.
"They're just awesome," she said.
Having a doll to call one's own is an important thing for a child, the three women agreed. In this case, it may be the only toy the child ever owns.
"It gives you a good feeling to help," Davis said.
Jean Ohlerking and her late husband, Dave Ohlerking, are the co-founders of Children's Cup International. The group is based in Prairieville, La.
Ohlerking talked Wednesday about conditions in some of the places where her group helps children.
"There are government hospitals that are so pitiful it makes you cry," she said.
Many children are so desperate for an education - one of the few ways out of grinding poverty - that they will do almost anything, she said.
"They want to go to school so badly," she said. "They will sell their own bodies."
Her organization operates what she calls Care Points where children can receive services. The group provides education, food, basic life care instructions, and, for the HIV-positive, medication. It also provides toys and school supplies made possible through donations such as Nerem's.
They also minister to the children and provide them an opportunity to join Bible clubs, participate in youth camps and other outreach programs.
While the government of Swaziland no longer allows groups like Children's Cup to operate orphanage-type facilities, it is working with the government to set up smaller homes overseen by locals. It's all about respecting the local culture and helping to alleviate the government's fear.
"The government fears we're going to Americanize them," Ohlerking said.
Nerem is happy that her donation will benefit so many who need it because she likes what Children's Cup does.
"They're spiritually fed as well as physically fed," she said.
Contact Hans Madsen at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org.