Hundreds of students in the Neosho R-5 School District have received a good pair of shoes, food to eat outside of school, and the knowledge that someone is there if they need help, thanks to a local support group known as Bright Futures Neosho.
The group, made up of community, church and school district members who volunteer their time to help Neosho's students, gathered Thursday evening for their annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner.
The organization recognized volunteer Janice Ferguson as their volunteer of the year, Neosho High School counselor Wendy Linton as their district partner of the year, and applauded Bright Futures Neosho coordinator Barb Lake for her efforts in running the local organization.
Ferguson, who volunteers on the Neosho Middle School site council, was recognized for her passion in helping students.
"There's something inside us that says 'what if I get taken advantage of,' but this is the kind of person that doesn't ask that question," said Bright Futures volunteer Buddy Funk. "This is the type of person that says, "What if there's needs out there that we don't know about that we aren't meeting.' That defines this person's heart. She's enthusiastic, always eager to get people involved, and her enthusiasm just flows over any time she's able to help meet needs."
Meanwhile, Linton, who has worked to facilitate a Bright Futures student group in the high school, serves on the high school site council, and works with the lunch buddy program, was recognized for being a "true giver."
"She has a consistent approach to helping our kids day in and day out," said Bright Futures member Shauna Norris. "She deserves to be recognized because she is always welcoming, willing to help, a safe haven for students, a true giver and always, always going above and beyond."
Glenda Condict, Neosho R-5 assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said there are several pieces of the puzzle that make Bright Futures a success. She recognized those serving on site councils at each district campus, administrators, bus drivers, YMCA volunteers, local businesses, local churches and the Bright Futures advisory board for their work to help Neosho students.
"I remember years back I bought two rolls of duct tape during the school year. That duct tape was used to fix student's shoes," Condict said. "We didn't have site councils, we didn't have the help. With that duct tape I wrapped more tennis shoes and fixed more flip-flops than I ever imagined, but now we don't have to do that because you guys help with that and we appreciate you very much."
The organization, established in Neosho in August 2011, has provided students with everything from Kleenexes and school supplies to clothing and dental work.
The group offers several programs to assist students, including, the weekend backpack program, the Lunch Buddies program, site councils at each campus, and a network of volunteers ready to assist when an additional need arises.
Page 2 of 2 - The backpack program for grades kindergarten through seventh is done in conjunction with the Neosho Freeman Family YMCA.
According to YMCA volunteers, they prepare approximately 225 backpacks per week with supplemental food to help the students in need get nourishment over the weekend.
In 2012, Bright Futures Neosho began the Lunch Buddies Program, which pairs up a student and volunteer to eat lunch together once a week in the school cafeteria.
Bright Futures Neosho posts student needs on their Facebook page, as well as sends out text messages and emails to alert volunteers when a new need has arisen.
"You're the ones that stepped up when no one else would," Condict told the volunteers. "You have made many, many dreams come true this year."