After major flooding damaged Neosho's Morse Park last April, it took a lot of effort and some time for crews to put the park back together.

After major flooding damaged Neosho's Morse Park last April, it took a lot of effort and some time for crews to put the park back together.
Eldon Morgan, Race Director for the annual Neosho Dogwood Run, noticed last summer that something was missing from the park and that most of the picnic tables in the Webb Pavilion located in the north portion of the park had been washed away by the floodwaters.
"There was just one remaining," he said.
The annual Dogwood Run began in 1984 and has continued since. This year will mark the 35th year for the event.  The entry fee is a mere $8 and participants also get a free dogwood sapling.
"We've never done it as a fundraiser," Morgan said. "But we've collected some money over the years doing it and we thought a good way to use some of it would be to replace the tables."
Morgan contacted the Neosho City Manager and got names of a few picnic table vendors, but Morgan decided he'd rather do it a little differently.
He reached out to Mike Aldridge, known as “Mister A” to his students, who currently teaches a welding class for area high school students at the Crowder Technical Education Center (CTECH) and asked if Aldridge's students could build some picnic tables.
"Mike said it would be great," Morgan stated.
"I love to work with my hands," Aldridge said. Before teaching welding at CTECH, Aldridge taught vocational agriculture at Neosho High School for 31 years. "I always try to do something with my students that they can look back on with pride. I call it educating by doing. That's what I like to do."
Students divided into teams of four and each team built one table. After completion, the college level welding students judged the tables.
Senior Sebastian Alpiza led the team who placed first with their table.
"It was really good," Alpiza said, about the experience. "It was nice to give back to the community."
Brandon Rivera, one of Alpiza's crew, did most of the welding.
"I used my experience my from my other (previous) job,” he said.
The team plans to come back to the park in the spring or summer, share a picnic, and maybe play some football or other sport.
Morgan thanked the students on behalf of the Neosho Dogwood Run for their hard work and suggested that there should be some kind of signage to commemorate the project.
"Some of the welders added their initials," Aldridge said with a smile.
Sally Pennington, Neosho Parks and Recreation Director, was present for the event.
"Thank you so much," she told the students.
Paul Richardson, Neosho Public Relations Director and Events Coordinator, was also on hand and offered thanks to Morgan for making the donation on behalf of the Neosho Dogwood Run.
All but one welding students are male, with 11th grader Elizabeth Rose as the sole female. Rose, who is active in vocational agriculture as well as welding, said she asked for as well as received a welding hood and other welding equipment.
"You can guess what's it's like, as the only girl, what I have to put up with," she said, smiling, but it's apparent Rose pulls her own weight with her male classmates.
The picnic tables are located under the Webb Pavilion in North Morse Park, located on North College Street in Neosho. Built with sturdy materials and true community spirit, the hope is that the tables will serve for many years.