Annual Christmas light display raises nearly $3,000 for Freeport nonprofit

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Ray Matthews, center, presents a check to members of the board of Mother Hubbard's Kiddie Cupboard, from left, Sally Wagner, Joanne Schamberger, Donna Frake and Bill Frake on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, in Freeport. Funds were raised through donations to Christmas on Chelsea, an annual Christmas light display in the Freeport area.
Ray Matthews, center, presents a check to members of the board of Mother Hubbard's Kiddie Cupboard, from left, Sally Wagner, Joanne Schamberger, Donna Frake and Bill Frake on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, in Freeport. Funds were raised through donations to Christmas on Chelsea, an annual Christmas light display in the Freeport area.

FREEPORT — Mother Hubbard’s Kiddie Cupboard started nearly 30 years ago with just $6.

Today, with the help of the community and a recent donation, the nonprofit has become one of Stephenson County’s greatest resources for young mothers and their children.

Mother Hubbard's recently received a $2,867 donation from Ray Matthews, who raises money for charity each year with his “Christmas on Chelsea” light display just north of Freeport.

Joanne Schamberger, who is one of the founders on Mother Hubbard's, said the donation is a welcome relief. It will be used to pay bills and keep the downtown location open.

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“We don’t have fundraisers for what we do, and with COVID, things have changed for us," Schamberger said. "We want people to know we are here to help, and the help we give to the mothers in our community is greatly needed.”

A closer look at Mother Hubbard's Kiddie Cupboard

Mother Hubbard’s Kiddie Cupboard helps mothers up to the age of 23 who have children 4 years old or younger.

The mothers can receive “baby bucks” from participating local organizations such as the Stephenson County Health Department, local high schools, FHN medical providers and other agencies when they show up on time for class or appointments. The baby bucks can then be used at the store to buy clothing and other items for their children.

The organization is run by volunteers, like Donna Frake, who try to provide support and encouragement to young mothers by developing relationships with them as they shop.

“Just seeing the mothers shop gives them the retail therapy they need to make it,” Frake added.

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As a United Way member agency, Mother Hubbard receives some monthly funding but relies mostly on donations. The money is used to purchase items such as diapers, which the organization can buy at a discount.

“The goal is to see every small child in Stephenson County happy and healthy,” Schamberger said.

Schamberger said the idea to form the nonprofit was born out of a leadership forum she attended at Highland Community College.

“The idea was that we could instill and educate young mothers that often get lost in the system,” she said. “We offer an alternative education.”

The Christmas on Chelsea light display, seen on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2021, raised nearly $3,000 for Mother Hubbard's Kiddie Cupboard of Freeport.area.
The Christmas on Chelsea light display, seen on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2021, raised nearly $3,000 for Mother Hubbard's Kiddie Cupboard of Freeport.area.

Matthews has spent the past 12 years lighting up his neighborhood with an elaborate Christmas light display that he calls “Christmas on Chelsea.” He has thousands of lights, displays all set to music playing on a radio station he runs from his home.

Each year, he sets up a secure mailbox at the end of his driveway and asks visitors to make a donation. At the end of the season, he donates the money to a local nonprofit.

“Over the years, I have collected and donated more than $25,000 to area nonprofits,” Matthews said. “The community has always been generous. It takes little effort on my part, and the money raised is there to help do some good for others.”

Mother Hubbard’s Kiddie Cupboard is located at 9 E. Main St. in downtown Freeport. Hours are 10 a,m. to noon Tuesday and Thursday.

For more information on how to donate, visit the organization's Facebook page.

Jane Lethlean is a freelance correspondent.

This article originally appeared on Journal Standard: Freeport Christmas lights display raises money for local nonprofit

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