Volunteers providing food to thousands in Independence Co. this weekend

INDEPENDENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) – The holidays are known as the season for giving, and few have taken that more seriously than a dedicated group of volunteers in Independence County.

For the past 30 years, hundreds of families in the Batesville area have received boxes of food before the holidays.  The boxes come at no cost to these people, all thanks to a county-wide project called "Christmas Brings Hope."

"It's a good project, and we enjoy doing it," said Ted Hall, the project chairman, "but we have lots of help to do it. It's not just me or our board of directors. It's everybody helping."

Hall has coordinated the annual "Christmas Brings Hope" project for a number of years, which has provided boxes of food to families in need for three decades now.

"Every box gets around 10 to 15 items guaranteed," Hall said, "and our board of directors raised, this year, about $25,000 to put those items in there."

The rest of the items placed in the boxes come from generous people in the community, including from local businesses and area schools.

The food items are distributed to area families that applied to receive a box through the local newspaper.

Those applications are then sent to the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville, where school officials compile a list.

The people on that list are then divided by the Office of Emergency Management in Independence County into all the county's fire districts so that local firefighters can deliver food right to their front doors.

"We have to commend the fire departments because, without them, we couldn't do it," said Tony Younger, the OEM deputy director. "Ted [Hall] and them, they get it all together, but, without the fire departments in the area, there's no way we could ever get them delivered."

Volunteers worked this week to fill 1,200 boxes of food, which now line two warehouses at the Independence County Fairgrounds.

Students, like fourth grader Reagen Harper, helped stock boxes Wednesday ahead of the weekend deliveries and say they have learned the importance of giving back to those in need.

"It's nice and respectful," said Harper, who attends West Magnet Elementary School in Batesville, "because they've never had anything like that before, and it's really nice to help somebody like that."

The fire departments in Independence County are set to deliver the 1,200 boxes of food this Saturday, starting around 8 a.m.

The "Christmas Brings Hope" project board of directors plans to donate any extra food that they receive to other local charities and nearby service organizations.

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