ICONS of a special birthday

Giving Nativity scenes to thousands of shut-ins is a Christmas-season tradition for Dan and Sherrie Pals of Grafton

Sherrie and Dan Pals of Grafton give more than 3,000 Nativity scenes of all shapes and sizes to shut-ins in the area each year to spread the true meaning of Christmas. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff
Sherrie Pals approached a man in a geriatric ward offering a choice of three Nativity scenes. The man’s wife told her he wouldn’t be able to answer her, so she picked one for him. Sherrie rested the piece on the man’s hands, and he tried to secure it. As she left the room, she heard a faint whisper of “thank you.” Sherrie made the rest of her Nativity scene deliveries around the senior home and walked past the man’s room to find his wife crying. She asked what was wrong. The woman asked if Sherrie heard what he said. She did, but didn’t think anything of it. “I don’t think you understand,” his wife said. “He hasn’t spoken in four years.” Sherrie and Dan Pals of Grafton can barely get through the recollection of the story with dry eyes themselves. It’s another reason they continue their 20-year campaign to spread some joy to shut-ins in nursing homes and remind people of the true meaning of Christmas. Distribution has reached more than 3,300 to homes in Ozaukee, Washington, Sheboygan and Waukesha counties and the VA Medical Center in Milwaukee. They never set out to give away so many that a semi-trailer delivering to the home of is needed every fall. The effort started small enough while on a family Christmas shopping trip to the Outlet Shoppes at Oshkosh in 1998. Dan was sitting on the bench of the Pflatzgraff Factory Store. A group of small Nativity scenes for 33% off caught his eye. He had a coupon for an additional 10% off that brought the price to 97 cents each. But to get that 10% discount, he had to buy 10. Dan remembered that nine ladies live in Rosewood Manor, near Dan’s childhood home in Grafton. “Wouldn’t it be nice to give them to them and remind them what Christmas is all about,” he said. He ended up giving out about 30 Nativity scenes that year, also visiting Harrington House, Hamburg Home and Hamilton House in Cedarburg. The next year, Dan returned to the outlet store and cleaned it out. Distribution was growing, and Dan needed a supplier. He found a handful of companies across the country, getting as many pieces as he could from each. He bought 750 when the fundraising company Mr. Z’s held its closing warehouse sale. He now primarily uses the Christian- based gift company Dickson’s in Indiana. Some of the pieces include animals and others have lights, and some depict Mary and Joseph as children. While the styles are different, the theme is the same. “Everything has to be Nativity based,” Dan said. “This is what Christmas is, the big birthday party.” Dan said he tries to keep the cost of each piece to $2. This year, the average came to $2.11. A few years into his voluntary initiative, Dan married Sherrie, a old friend from Grafton High School who was well aware of his hobby outside his full-time job as an inspector at Johnson Brass and Machine Foundry in Saukville. “He kept growing it and growing it and growing it,” she said. A few years ago, they formed an official nonprofit organization called the Nativity Fund Charitable Trust. Dan and Sherrie hold two fundraisers themselves, one with a Kentucky Derby theme in spring at which Dan makes and sells a scrumptious Kentucky hot brown sandwich, and one in fall at the Rose-Harms American Legion Hall in Grafton, where Dan is a member. Sherrie, when she’s not running her Grapes and Tastes store in Cedarburg, organizes the group of nearly 30 volunteers who deliver to her list of nearly 75 community bases residential facilities. This year, she didn’t have time to handle the list, but one of her artists who shows work in her store was looking for something to do. “Whenever we have a problem or don’t have time to do something, somebody volunteers to do it,” Dan said. A group of veterans from Crivitz has taken over distribution at the VA, making it an all-day excursion. Sherrie remembers a delivery she and her two daughters made years ago. A nurse knocked on the man’s door and said she has a Christmas present for him. The nurse and Sherrie’s two daughters entered. “Oh boy! Three young ladies,” the man said. Then they showed him the Nativity scenes. “Oh, that’s nice too,” he said. Some residents get to be regulars. One 105-year-old arranged her seven pieces in the order in which she received them. Regardless of who is delivering the pieces, they must spend time with the recipients. “I want somebody to visit them and I want them to know there’s people thinking about them,” Dan said. “A lot of residents don’t get visitors,” Sherrie said. Some request contact information to send the organization a thank-you note, but delivery instructions say the Nativity pieces are a “thank you gift from the community.” “The only thing we take in payment is a hug,” Dan said. For information on volunteering, contact Sherrie at 262-744-0188. Nativity Fund just started a GoFundMe page with the link on its Facebook page at m.facebook.com/NativitySceneFund.



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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