For 24 of the 32 years that the Newton County Food Basket Brigade has been a holiday tradition, Clark Funeral Home of Neosho has kicked off the event with a major donation in the amount of $4,000 - the money raised through the annual Tree of Memories, an event where loved ones and friends can remember their people with a special ornament. In a ceremony on Monday evening, the ornaments were hung. The event has been held each year since 1997 before Thanksgiving.

Community members are invited to purchase tree-shaped brass ornaments for the Memorial Trees, which will be displayed through the Christmas season. Ornaments may be pre-ordered for $5 and will be engraved with the names of the person individuals wish to remember. The Neosho Food Basket Brigade will receive $1 from each ornament sold and in addition, Clark Funeral Homes will contribute an additional $2 for each ornament.Ornaments from past years may also be used. A $3 minimum donation to the Food Basket Brigade is suggested but not required. Anyone who still wishes to participate may still purchase an ornament by contacting Clark Funeral Home in Neosho at 451-2345.

Tina Hierholzer, Clark Funeral Home, noted that over the years Clark Funeral Home has collected about $70,000 in donations over the years for the annual effort.

"We're proud to do this," she said. "It's families helping families."

The Newton County Food Basket Brigade began out of a need in December 1987, when the expected commodity distribution was cancelled. That year, Ann Winegardner and her staff at KBTN Radio in Neosho organized the first effort to fill that gap and it became a community tradition. The mission of the Food Basket Brigade is to assist families during the Christmas season. Each year, they provide Christmas dinner and about two weeks worth of supplies to families who need a little help to get through the holidays.

Citywide collection of non-perishable donations will take place on Saturday, December 14. Teams from local churches and organizations will collect items door to door, then deliver them to the Newton County Fairgrounds. Several local businesses also have collection baskets where donations can be made.

Registration is now underway for those who wish to receive a basket. To register for the 2019 Newton County Food Basket Brigade. Sign-ups will continue December 3-7. On December 3, 4, 10 and 11 a.m. registration can be made, from 11 a.m. through 3 p.m. on December 5 and 12,and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, December 7. Registrations will be accepted at The Help Center, 1321 North 149/71 Highway (the first building west of Skateland).

To register, bring proof of Newton County residency, such as a utility bill, legal document, or driver's license that lists a physical addresses. Bring a Social Security card for each resident of the house.

Pickups will be on Saturday, December 21 at the Newton County Fairgrounds, 700 Field Avenue, Neosho.

For more information call 417-451-0884.

Help continue this long-time local tradition by sharing with your friends and neighbors