Ensuring that school children are well nourished and ready to learn when they come to school is the goal behind “Spread the Hope.”

“We’re doing a community peanut butter drive,” explained Barb Lake, coordinator, Neosho R-5 School District Bright Futures program. “We presently have 330 students that were enrolled last year in our Weekend Backpack program, so our goal is to collect all the peanut butter we need for the year for those students, which would be 3,300 jars of peanut butter.”

Lake said all the local banks in Neosho and Goodman have agreed to be drop-off locations for donations of peanut butter. She said 10 jars will sponsor one of the participating students in the coming school year.

“So, it’s equivalent to $20 is what it takes to sponsor a student with their peanut butter,” she said.

The banks will continue collecting the peanut butter for “Spread the Hope” through July.

Lake noted, “And we’re just really optimistic that the community will paint Neosho with peanut butter.”

She said children in the Weekend Backpack program are sent home with peanut butter once a month, and 10 to 12 smaller items of supplemental food are provided to students before going home each weekend.

“It’ll be fruits and protein, crackers, different items that would supplement them,” Lake said. “Our goal is that they can come to school on Monday morning ready to learn instead of having an empty, hungry belly.”

Valerie Garrett of Neosho took her children to help “Spread the Hope” on Tuesday, and wrote this to Lake:

“The kids just went to Wal-Mart and picked out 10 jars of peanut butter to donate to Bright Futures. We talked on the ride over as they are eating their snacks they picked out about how some kids don’t have meals when they leave school, no less a snack. We talked about how many meals you would miss if the last meal you had was at school on Friday and your next meal was at school on Monday. We talked about how hard it would be to concentrate in school when you are so hungry and how kids may act out because they are hungry and can’t focus on what is happening in the classroom.

“They picked 10 jars because that will feed 1 child for the year. That child could be in any of their classes. The checker at Wal-mart asked the kids if they were donating the peanut butter and made a big deal, I think the kids were pretty proud. I was thinking of a bigger picture. I may not know any kids personally that need this. But the odds are pretty high there is at least one kid in each of their classrooms coming up this school year. I know if we can help as little as buying peanut butter it could affect that child in such a positive way that it makes school a better environment for them and also a better environment for my kids.

“I hope you can get out and donate peanut butter too. $20 is all it takes – a trip eating out for us. You can donate at any of the local banks.”

The Neosho and Goodman banks that are serving as drop-off points to “Spread the Hope” include: Arvest Bank, Community Bank & Trust, Cornerstone Bank, First Community Bank, Great Southern Bank, Hometown Bank, Southwest Missouri Bank, and US Bank.   

Lake also encourages the community to get prepared to help “Stuff the Bus,” when Bright Futures will collect an assortment of school supplies for R-5 students in need. She said buses will be parked outside both WalMart and Walgreen’s in Neosho, and the Dollar General in Goodman, on July 25 and 26 to accept donations.

She said many of those school supplies will be distributed to students during the annual “We Care Fair” at Neosho’s Assembly of God Church on August 2. Brenda Johnson, coordinator of that event, said students must be pre-registered to be guaranteed that they will receive a sack of school supplies that day, and others who do attend will receive what is left over. Pre-registration will be conducted in person only at the 700 Spencer Dr. church, from 1 to 6 p.m. on July 14-18.

More information on “Stuff the Bus” and the “We Care Fair” will be forthcoming in the Neosho Daily News.