Emporia Community Foundation Executive Director Becky Jeppeson Nurnberg woke up a little after midnight Monday morning, her anxiety over how the 7th Annual Emporia Area Match Day would go keeping her awake.

With online giving the primary way in which people could give this year, Nurnberg decided to test out the system and make an online donation herself. It was 12:06 a.m. Later that morning, she was shocked to find out she was not the first to make a donation.

“There was somebody ahead of me,” she said with no small measure of surprise. “We had 10 online donations before 4:30 or 5 a.m.”

In a year when the COVID-19 pandemic has caused worldwide shutdowns, and has canceled or postponed nearly everything, Nurnberg said it was clear that there was one thing that could never be shut down.

“COVID-19 cannot cancel the generosity of Emporia,” she said. “We saw that earlier this year with the Greater Emporia Disaster Relief Fund when in six weeks we had raised $200,000. People are generous and they are passionate about their groups and very passionate about their local communities.”

Typically held at the Flinthills Malls, Match Day is an event that helps raise awareness — and much-needed funds — to 23 of the area’s nonprofits. Community members are invited to donate to the organizations of their choice and donations are doubled on the day of the event.

Participating organizations have been boots on the ground in their communities to raise funds ahead of the event. Nurnberg said it’s been exciting to see how successful these groups have been in light of the pandemic.

“I think with [the pandemic] this year, people in Emporia are still so generous,” she said. “People are going out and making their contacts and the results are showing. We’ll see for sure on Dec. 1 when we give out the checks, but it’s exciting. We’re seeing big checks, we’re seeing lots of checks, people are active online and people are active in driving up here.”

Since Match Day couldn’t be held at the mall this year, and wanting to accommodate those who can’t or won’t donate online, ECF set up a drive-thru donation system at the west entrance of its office. Decorated with balloons, the drive-thru was staffed by volunteers throughout the day.

Nurnberg said it was a “hard year” for many, and the fact that businesses and individuals were so committed to donating funds or time to the event was proof of the community effort it takes to make Match Day happen each year.

“It really is a community effort,” she said. “I am pleasantly surprised all the way around. People sincerely love the Flint Hills and love their local communities. They want to support them as much as they can.”

Nurnberg said the check presentation ceremony will be held Dec. 1 at the Lyon County History Center. The event will be broadcast live on Facebook and only one representative from each organization will be permitted at the event.

As for next year, Match Day will happen in 2021. The committee that plans the event doesn’t meet until February or March, so what it will look like is still anyone’s guess right now.

“We do have a commitment from our matching sponsors for next year,” Nurnberg said. “I really don’t know what to tell people except we are going to have Match Day next year.”

Follow @emporiacommunityfoundation on Facebook throughout the day for updates on Match Day. Donations were being accepted online until 11:59 p.m. Nov. 16 and until 5 p.m. at the ECF office, 527 Commercial St., Suite B.

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