Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Goodman: Season of hope was rewarding

In his latest Capitol Report, Sen. Jack Goodman, R-Mount Vernon, a candidate for the Seventh District Congressional seat currently held by Roy Blunt, talks about a project for feeding poor families in his senatorial district:

Yesterday, we finished distributing Christmas Dinners for my Season of Hope food drive with stops in Lawrence, Barry and McDonald Counties. We distributed meals to Ozark, Taney and Stone County last Friday.

We launched Season of Hope in November and began receiving donations the week before Thanksgiving. During the last six weeks, we collected food from over 50 locations throughout the 6 counties of the 29th Senate District.

By any measure, Season of Hope has been a great success. We were able to provide a Christmas meal to about 2,000 people in the 29th Senate District, including small children, adults, and seniors. Thanks to the generosity and compassion of people throughout the district, many families throughout the district will not have to worry about hunger on Christmas Day. I feel truly blessed to share a little bit of the hope Christmas is really all about. Now, the challenges remain to support the local organizations who continue to provide needed help and, equally importantly, to improve opportunities for those in need so they may find employment and self-reliance again in 2010.

Throughout the Season of Hope food drive, I benefitted from the guidance and work of a dynamic steering committee composed of community leaders in every county of the 29th Senate district and chaired by Branson Mayor Raeanne Presley. Steering committee members brought critical experience to the effort and helped to foster many important contacts in our communities.

In addition to the steering committee, Season of Hope partnered with a number of hunger relief organizations throughout the 29th Senate District. These affiliates helped collect groceries, identify families in need of assistance, and coordinate distribution days. Our local food pantries and faith based organizations do an outstanding job of meeting needs every day in Southwest Missouri. I am very grateful they agreed to help with Season of Hope, and am humbled by the good work they do year round.

As part of Season of Hope, every family received either ½ of a turkey, a whole chicken or a 6lb bag of chicken filets, a box of stuffing, a 15 lb bag of potatoes or boxed mashed potatoes, canned sweet potatoes, canned vegetables, boxed macaroni and cheese, and a variety of other groceries.

The time spent distributing meals directly to those in need was humbling and rewarding. It provided an opportunity for me to have one on one contact with many constituents who never imagined their jobs would disappear and they would be relying on neighbors for help. In fact, some who needed assistance this year had been donors to similar efforts last year.

One little girl had a particularly strong impact on my son and I. Jack Elliott and I were giving out meals Friday when a woman and her granddaughter came through the line. They told us they didn’t have any food on Thanksgiving and they were very grateful to be able to have a Christmas meal. The little girl was so grateful that she tried to give me her teddy bear. It was heartbreaking to see this situation. It was inspiring, though, to see that she wanted to do what she could to give value for her meal, even if it meant giving up her teddy bear. Even young Missourians have pride and want to make it on their own. We must work together to be sure this little girl and every child has the opportunity to reach his or her greatest potential.

As many parents and grandparents find themselves fighting the masses and grumbling about the crowded malls and toy stores as we search for the perfect gift to place under the tree for our children, we should remember that many families have much more vital struggles on Christmas and every day. As Christians and caring neighbors, the people of southwest Missouri come to each other’s aid time and time again to help when times are tough due to natural disaster, personal loss, spiritual hardship or economic trials. This compassion and generosity in our communities does much more good than any government program ever will.

Season of Hope was rewarding for my family and an unforgettable reminder that anytime we may start to complain about something, we should instead count our blessings and get to work trying to make things better. My family and I pray all of you will have a Merry Christmas and abundant opportunities in 2010.

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