In front of a lighted Christmas tree at Clark Funeral Home in Neosho, Fred Clark, owner of the funeral home, presented the Newton County Food Basket Brigade a $3,500 check Tuesday morning.

In front of a lighted Christmas tree at Clark Funeral Home in Neosho, Fred Clark, owner of the funeral home, presented the Newton County Food Basket Brigade a $3,500 check Tuesday morning.

"We have done this for 16 years," said Clark. "Asked how much we have contributed, it is hard to know, but probably about $2,500 a year for 16 years."

Participants in the Tree of Memories event – which was held Monday night at the Civic – were asked to make a donation to the Food Basket Brigade, which is then matched by Clark. Funeral home employees have provided transportation support to the brigade since its beginning 25 years ago.

Asked how if feels to help community members by being a part of this year's Food Basket Brigade, Clark said, "it feels real good. It makes you appreciate what you have and makes you appreciate the fact you have helped someone else."
Other donations and pledges announced Tuesday included: La-Z-Boy for $3,000, Stan Marion, Inc. for $1,000, Great Southern Bank for $300 and a memorial in memory of Wesley Slaughter and Sue Casey for $500.

Basket brigade president Terry Cook also announced that several businesses have contacted him about conducting food drives for both their employees and their customers. Additionally, Cook says that Moark Productions has again committed to supplying fresh eggs for all families approved for participation in the food distribution.

The Basket Brigade is now in its 25th year of collecting food for distribution at Christmas to needy families and individuals in Newton County. Last year the drive distributed food to more than 1,000 families.

Cook said that the 2012 goal was set at 120,000 pounds because of experience in previous years and the number of requests for assistance this year already on file at the Neosho Help Center.

"It has always been our goal to ensure that nobody goes hungry at Christmas, and this year that means we think we'll have to have to have enough food to feed an estimated 1,200 families," he said. "The main thing is to provide a holiday meal, plus a couple of weeks groceries after that, that is what our mission is."

Donations of food, and money to purchase food, are now being accepted at the Newton County Central Dispatch Center, the former National Guard armory, at the corner of Brook and Jefferson streets in Neosho.

Large cardboard collection boxes are being distributed to many other area businesses and industries. And students in almost all schools in the county are participating in school-organized food collection drives. Drive organizers are encouraging donations of non-perishable canned and boxed goods. Cash donated will be used to purchase additional food. Any cash left over at the end of the drive will be given to the Neosho Help Center to purchase food for needy residents in 2012.

It was also announced during the press conference that, so far, 300 people have signed up for assistance this year during the basket brigade's food drive.

"If we continue on this current pace, we will get our goal of 1,200 (families), no problem," said Cook.

Applications for assistance from the 2012 Food Basket Brigade are being accepted Tuesday through Thursday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., except Thanksgiving Day, until Dec. 6 at the Neosho Help Center, 214 East Main, Neosho. A one-day Saturday enrollment session will be held Dec. 1. Proof of residence in Newton County, a Social Security card and documentation on the number of persons living in the home will be required. Previous years' certifications are not carried forward to the current year.

Upcoming events

• A community-wide, door-to-door solicitation drive to collect both food and money is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 8. Individuals and groups who would like to volunteer to collect food that day are asked to call Jacque Faulkner at 483 8690.

• The donation deadline is Dec. 12. Food will be distributed Saturday, Dec. 15, at the former Auto Tech Building at 629 North College in Neosho, which is new location this year.

Important information
• Since it's beginning in 1988, the Basket Brigade has collected more than 5 million pounds of food for Christmas baskets.

Contact information
• For more information, contact Terry Cook 451-2094, Dave Winegardner, publicity at 364 7972 or Todd Higdon, publicity at 451-1520.