Bright Futures Neosho collected $48,000 in revenue in the 2012-2013 school year, according to a year-end report presented on Monday to the Neosho R-5 Board of Education.

The community-based, volunteer organization provides children in need in Neosho with resources, including food, shoes, clothing and school supplies, as well as offers several programs geared toward helping those same disadvantaged children.

"We've increased our revenue, our in-kind donations sky-rocketed this year to close to $40,000 of just items that were donated, we've added and enhanced services and programs and we've increased our volunteer base and community partnerships," said Bright Futures Neosho Coordinator Barb Lake.

The organization just wrapped up its second school year in Neosho, in which they increased revenues by $16,000 compared to the previous school year.

The organization collected $38,140 in in-kind donations, and hosted three main fundraisers, a golf tournament, bowling tournament and a 5K run.

With the increase in donations also came an increase in the number of children the organization was able to assist.

Bright Futures Neosho served 225 children through the weekend backpack program in the last school year, up from 170 the previous year. The program, done through a partnership with the Neosho Freeman Family YMCA, sends backpacks filled with snacks home with children over the weekend. The children receiving the bags are identified as at risk of going hungry outside of school.

"The goal of Bright Futures is simple, ensure that every child has the opportunity to receive a quality education," Lake said.

In addition, Bright Futures Neosho implemented several new programs during the 2012-2013 school year.
Among those new initiatives was the Pass the Pride program, intended to allow each child in the school district the chance to own Neosho Wildcats attire.

"Many kids never have the opportunity to participate in school spirit days, due to the fact their family cannot afford to purchase the extras, like a spirit shirt," Lake said.

She said the Bright Futures organization collected 300 new and gently worn Wildcats shirts and distributed them to the students identified by teachers and counselors at each school.

"It was amazing to see the kids light up after they were called to the office to pick up their very own shirt or sweatshirt," she said. "In fact, many of them were so excited they put the shirt on and wore it back to class."

Lake said the group is now looking to next year, working to determine additional ways they can serve Neosho R-5 students.

Lake, who has served as the district's Bright Futures coordinator for one year, does so as an AmeriCorps volunteer.

Glenda Condict, the district's assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, asked the board on Monday to consider making Lake's position a district-funded office.

"We would like to be able to give Barb a better salary and we can't do that through her grant, so it falls on the district," Condict said.

Because she is currently considered a volunteer, Lake is paid only a minimal living stipend through AmeriCorps, and the district would be unable to compensate her position without severing the grant from AmeriCorps.

"This grant will only last about two more years and it will go away," said school board member Lynn Otey, who is also on the Bright Futures advisory council. "That's why we'd like for the school board to consider this. Because, if we can't keep Barb, then they're going to replace her with someone else who's unfamiliar with the needs of our school district and the needs of our kids here."

Tim Crawley, R-5 assistant superintendent of business and finance, said he has already run the numbers for the position, which he said appeared to be feasible.

He said the annual salary that had been discussed was in the range of $15-16,000.

"I think it's a good idea for us to find a way to get this done," said board president Brett Day. "We've got a program that has proven itself. A lot of times the things we do, we expend the money before we see what the results are. We've had an opportunity to see the results on this and the right person can make all the difference, so, I think that is something we should seriously consider."

The board did not take action on the Bright Futures coordinator salary on Monday evening, because it was not listed on the meeting agenda.

The board plans to vote on the matter at a future date.

Other Bright Futures Neosho programs created or modified in the 2012-2013 school year included:

• Share Your Soles – a program that collected 500 pairs of new or gently worn shoes during the month of December.

• Stuff the Bus – This program, established in the 2011-2012 school year, parks school buses outside of local Walmart, Walgreens and Dollar General locations to collect school supplies. The supplies were then donated to the We Care Fair, serving 500 area students. The collections also allowed Bright Futures to donate backpacks of supplies directly to 25 students.

• Lunch Buddies – Also established in the 2011-2012 school year, the program pairs a mentor with a student for one lunch per week. Lake reported that the program expanded to include more students and mentors in the past school year.

• Fighting Hunger Together - The program built a relationship with Neosho Walmart and organized a food drive last fall for the backpack program.

• New Student Packs – This program was created to aid new students in the Neosho R-5 School District, by providing them with a bag, T-shirt, lanyard, pencil and cup to make them feel welcome.

• Club 115 – The program was created at the Jefferson Street Campus, and allows students at the alternative school to work with a community sponsor to prepare a monthly dinner for students and their families. The program is intended to teach life skills.

• Bright Futures High School Student Council – This group was created to allow high school students to engage in civic service.

• Caring Cooks – Also created at the high school level, this group allows students to learn cooking skills, then use those skills to donate food to a homeless shelter, as well as for the Bright Futures Golf Tournament and the Bright Futures volunteer dinner.

• Hygiene Drive – Bright Futures Neosho hosted this booth at Neosho's Summer Social on the Square to collect hygiene products for district students in need.

• Career Quest – Recently implemented at the Neosho Middle School, this program aims to match student vocational interests with professionals in the community.

• Handmade Hugs – Volunteers knitted and crocheted scarves for students.

• Project Linus – Volunteers also sewed weighted blankets for students with special needs.

• Payroll deductions – Bright Futures Neosho collected $145 monthly during the 2012-2013 school year through district employees' contributions.

• Tree Gifting – Churches, schools and community members worked to collect Christmas socks and underwear for students in need.