Jefferson Award Winner: Shanee Askren

Jefferson Awards

Highlighting Local Volunteers

The Jefferson Awards engages the Partners in our communities to highlight local volunteers. The goal is to spotlight the great work they do and to inspire our community to put their service ideas into action.

From the 2019-2020 Honorees, a local panel of judges select one winner that will travel to the National Gala in Washington, DC. to represent Northeast Kansas.  From the nationwide winners, one will be selected for a national Jefferson Award.

MAPLE HILL, Kan. (KSNT)- Christmas is more than 100 days away, while it’s hard to imagine what the holiday might be like this year, Shanee Askren from has big plans.

The working mom of three will be taking on the role of helping out Santa, making sure people in her community receive a Christmas present.

“Whether it be families or seniors, anybody that’s in Wabaunsee county they may need help,” Askren said.

It’s called Santa’s express, the gifts come from donations, and by people in the area signing up to ‘adopt’ local families for the holiday. Adopting families means people agree to fulfill a family in need Christmas wishlist or donating presents to a family in need so they don’t celebrate the holiday without a gift under the tree.

Askren collects donations from local schools, and by setting up donation boxes at a local bank. People will donate everything from toiletries to canned goods, and non-perishables.

It’s a program Askren first got involved with when she was a little girl because her mom helped run the program.

In 2007 when Askren was a senior in high school, tragedy struck. Askren’s older brother, who was just a year and a half older than her, died in a car wreck.

Grieving her son Askren’s mom decided she was ready to walk away from the Santa’s Express program.

Askren knew this meant the program would end, so at 17-years-old and while mourning her brother, Askren took over.

“It was rough, but I mean everybody needs that, I mean they need somebody,” she said. “These kids might not have had a Christmas had nobody done it.”

She says it was no small feat to take on this endeavor.

Looking back now, though, Askren thinks it helped her heal, mainly because it kept her busy and her mind off her brother’s loss.

Even though she would give anything to have him back, she was able to find joy and comfort in helping others.

“There’s always some way to help somebody,” she said.

And if you do help someone, you just might wind up helping yourself too.

Asken finds out about families in need by getting nominations from the local school districts in Wabaunsee County. For the seniors, they can nominate themselves, or someone can nominate them by emailing Askren at Shanee.Askren@gmail.com.

Akren also recommends emailing her if you would like to volunteer, or donate to Santa’s Express.

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