Big changes come to Newton County Food Basket Brigade

NEWTON COUNTY, Mo. – Ann Hamlet with the Newton County Food Basket Brigade makes calls to residents who received a food box last year, trying to help them sign up for a box with a Christmas meal and a full week of food after.

“I have probably made 300 calls,” explains Hamlet.

She’s one of eight people working to call more than 800 people to get them signed up. Normally, it’s a process that would happen in person at The Help Center in Neosho, but the pandemic has changed a lot this year.

“We really want to reach out. We really want to make this happen,” says Hamlet.

“We came up with a game plan pretty quick. We were not gonna let this fall to the wayside,” explains Terry Cook, President of the Newton County Food Basket Brigade.

Their community-wide pickup is happening on December 12th, and has been planned as a no-contact ordeal. Then, on December 19th, there’s distribution day. Normally, more than 800 people would go in and out of the building in the Newton County Fairground, helping load their own basket of food. But this year, that’s going to look a lot different as well.

“You’ll have a time slot to come. We’ll check your photo ID. Then you drive around the building and we’ll have you open your trunk or your back seat or whatever, and one of our workers will put your food in your car. And that’s all there is to it,” explains Cook.

While there’s been a lot of change, and it’s a lot of hard work, both Cook and Hamlet say that after more than 30 years… it’s worth it.

“You know, the year we’ve had, it’s been a challenge. And it’s no different here. But we want to make sure that the people in Newton County have Christmas dinner. And that’s what we’re here for.”

Organizers say that if you received a call from someone with the basket brigade, it’s important that you call them back as soon as possible. Volunteers will not call more than once, and the deadline for sign-ups is December 4th. If your family has never signed up before, you can do so by calling the Help Center at 417-421-0884.