The volunteers who make the success of Bright Futures Neosho possible came together Thursday evening for a night of recognition.

The volunteers who make the success of Bright Futures Neosho possible came together Thursday evening for a night of recognition.

Jonathan Russell, chair of Bright Futures Neosho, said the night was about thanking those Neosho residents who have done so much for the organization, and for the children of Neosho.

Bright Futures, a community-based collective action group who work to fill the needs of Neosho children, launched in Neosho last August. Since then, the group has provided everything from Kleenexes and school supplies, to clothing and dental work to students in need.

They also provide the Food for Thought program, sending backpacks filled with groceries home once a week with the children who may otherwise go hungry. The volunteers have even gone so far as to provide propane or pay an electric bill for families who needed a little extra help.  

And, as Russell pointed out, none of those acts would have been possible without the organization’s devoted volunteers.
“We’ve really kind of changed the mindset of this town,” Russell told the group. “I see it in the volunteers, you know, we ended up with about 120 volunteers over the course of the year. That’s huge. I’ve really felt the mood and the spirit of this town kind of turn around. We’ve said, ‘OK, we’re going to focus on these kids, we’re going to take care of these kids, we’re going to be involved in our schools.’ I’m so terribly, terribly thankful for what you guys have done.”

The organization chose to especially recognize one of those volunteers Thursday evening, and named Barb Lake their volunteer of the year.

“She’s just there every step of the way,” said advisory board member Debbie Werneke.

Incidentally, Lake was busy volunteering as the photographer for the evening when she was called to the front to accept her award.

“Everyone who is involved in Bright Futures is what has made this successful and it’s been a pleasure to be a part of this for Neosho,” Lake said.

The volunteers also did not let the hard work of their leader, Russell, go unnoticed, as he was surprised with a special award presented by Werneke at the start of the evening, thanking him for “going above and beyond.”

Bright Futures Neosho falls under the umbrella of the Bright Futures USA organization, based out of Joplin. Jerrod Hogan, president of the Bright Futures USA board of directors, and one of its founders, thanked the Neosho volunteers Thursday night for all of their work in making the outreach successful in Neosho as well.

“One of my favorite things about the Bright Futures program is that it’s not just dealing with poverty, that’s certainly something we focus on, but it’s not just focusing on poverty, it’s not just focusing on at-risk kids, it’s a community saying ‘our children are important and as a community, we’re going to lock arms and we’re going to support those kids,’” Hogan said.
The volunteers also received a thank you from Alma Stipp, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, on behalf of the Neosho R-5 school district, for all that they have done for the district’s students.

“Whether you have given money, provided food for the backpacks or been a lunch buddy you have met a need for our students and the school district is truly grateful to you,” Stipp said.