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It was an exciting day at the Prairie Pines Nature Preserve.

After a morning of wreath-making on Dec. 8 led by Pi Alpha Xi horticulture honorary students and professors Ellen Paparozzi and Dave Lambe, and children’s activities including winter hiking and hand-crafting milkweed pod ornaments and pinecone birdfeeders, a special guest arrived to make dreams come true for the Prairie Pines Partners nonprofit.

Liz Ring Carlson, second vice president of Corporate Communications and Community Relations at Ameritas, came bearing the gift of a check for $5,000. The funds will be used for continued improvements to the Welcome Center educational space to provide nature-based programming for the community.

“Our love of community runs deep at Ameritas, and the opportunity to help Prairie Pines establish a Welcome Center to bring families and friends together for an outdoor experience is special,” said Ring Carlson. “Nature-based educational activities and spending time in the outdoors in a beautiful setting help to create fulfilling life experiences for families, and that means a lot to us at Ameritas.”

In 1959, forestry professor Walter Bagley and his wife Virginia purchased a 145-acre farm with a 10-acre remnant tallgrass prairie. Over the span of their lifetime, the couple transformed the land from a row-crop farm to woodlands, grasslands and habitat for diverse wildlife.

Prairie Pines became Nebraska’s first “choose and cut” Christmas tree farm, the first home for raptor recovery, and the first conservation easement in the state.

In 1992, Prairie Pines nature preserve was donated to the University of Nebraska Foundation to be “protected forever as a place that would provide a pleasant habitat for all living beings – plant and animal.” The Prairie Pines Partners nonprofit coordinates all education and programming for the site.

Sue Kohles, Prairie Pines Partners board member, shared that “The generous donation from Ameritas will benefit the work of the Prairie Pines Partners nonprofit in supporting the mission of the Prairie Pines Nature Preserve to sustain habitat for all living things through conservation, education and experience to promote a lasting connection with the natural world and its resources.”

Prairie Pines is located at 3100 N. 112th St., and its walking trails are open to the public every second Saturday of the month from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nature-based events and activities for all ages are offered. Monthly events can be found at prairiepines.org.

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