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Christmas Brings Hope project provides food to residents in need in Independence County

This article was published December 19, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.

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Boxes for the Christmas Brings Hope project fill tables at the Independence County Fairgrounds in Batesville. The project is a countywide effort to make everyone’s Christmas a great one, said Ted Hall, project chairman. Each box, which is packaged to serve a family of four for four to five days, includes items such as flour, sugar, beans, bread and chicken.

BATESVILLE — Christmas is no longer just a time for the man in the red fur-lined suit to give to others. Ted Hall of Batesville knows this from firsthand experience. He’s been involved with the Christmas Brings Hope project in Batesville since 1989.

“It’s just a little something extra for people that might need it,” he said.

Hall has been the chairman of the project since 1992.

Food boxes are distributed to people in the Batesville area who want a little help during the holidays. The application process for the project ran throughout the month of November, with anyone filling out an application slated to receive a box, Hall said.

Schools in the area participated in a nonperishable food drive that provided almost 6,000 cans of food for Christmas Brings Hope.

“We couldn’t do this project without the schools,” Hall said.

Students from those schools usually come to the Independence County Fairgrounds each year to sort the food before the boxes are distributed, but recent icy weather caused schools to close this year, complicating the task of sorting the food.

“Since the school kids were out, we had a lot of volunteers from the community [to sort food],” he said.

In addition to the school’s food drive, a community food drive also brings in donations of nonperishable items, but this year’s drive was canceled, also as a result of the winter weather. Companies within the community donated food, along with time and money, to the project, Hall said.

Last Sunday, the boxes, which are also donated, were put together with donations from collection points around the city. Hall said the canned goods were sorted by city volunteers and men from John 3:16 Ministries.

“All of the nonperishable items are put into the boxes on Sunday afternoon,” he said.

In addition to the food drive, CenterPoint Energy, VitalLink and Entergy help raise money for the annual project with a bill that totals approximately $25,000.

Hall said participants are asked to fill out an application to receive a food box.

“Those names then go to the Department of Human Services; then they go to the [University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville],” he said. “A group of students enters all of those applications into a system, and they divide those names into fire districts.”

One box per household is distributed each year to every applicant, and no one is turned away.

“If they fill out that application, that’s all they have to do,” Hall said. “There’s no qualifier.”

Batesville and its surrounding communities’ fire departments distributed the food boxes Saturday.

“The firemen came in and knew how many boxes they needed to deliver,” Hall said. “They distribute to everybody in the county. It’s a neat operation.”

Each box included cereal, shortening, cornmeal, white and brown beans, corn, potatoes, lunch meat and bread, which accompany the canned goods that are placed in each box.

The boxes are packaged to serve a family of four for four to five days, Hall said.

Though Hall said he does a lot of volunteering around town, Christmas Brings Hope is his favorite project because it brings the whole community together.

“It’s neat to see everyone in the county not be a Pioneer or Southerner; they’re all working on a project together,” he said.

Approximately 3,000 people were served by Christmas Brings Hope this year in Independence County.

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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