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story.lead_photo.caption The Junior Auxiliary of Searcy sponsored its annual Food Basket Project to help local families with their Thanksgiving meals. Helping to sort more than 2,000 canned food items collected by students in the Searcy School District are Jessie Hohenstein of Searcy, from left, co-chairwoman of the Angel Tree Project and chairwoman of The Sunshine School Project and the Covering Kids Project; Ashley Fulks of Searcy, chairwoman of the Food Basket Project and pubic relations chairwoman for the organization; Morgan George of Searcy, treasurer; and Natalie Horton of Searcy, president. - Photo by William Harvey

— With the help of students in the Searcy School District, members of the Junior Auxiliary of Searcy are assisting local families with their Thanksgiving meals today.

The nonprofit organization collected 2,000 cans of food from local schools for the JA’s annual Food Basket Project. Junior Auxiliary members sorted the cans, which were donated by students during canned food drives, and packed them in more than 300 boxes. Various agencies picked up the boxes Nov. 16 and distributed them to those in need.

“All of the public schools in the Searcy district hosted food drives Nov. 6-10,” said Ashley Fulks of Searcy, chairwoman of this year’s Junior Auxiliary Food Basket Project and public relations chairwoman for the organization.

“We picked up the food Nov. 10, sorted it with the help of members of the Searcy High School Beta Club and had it ready for pickup on Nov. 16. We provided boxes to Kids First (a pediatric day health care program for children with disabilities), Kensett Head Start, Bald Knob Head Start, Searcy Head Start, Rose Bud Head Start and The Sunshine School,” Fulks said.

“We had extra boxes that we gave to Whitney Lane Family Worship in Kensett and Hedge Ministry in Floral. We were also able to give some of the canned food back to the schools for their backpack programs,” she said.

“We were very pleased with the results of the project this year,” Fulks said.

“We know that we have families and children in need,” Searcy School District Superintendent Diane Barrett said, “and we want to be supportive of organizations who are trying to help meet those needs year-round and especially during the holiday season.”

Natalie Horton of Searcy, president of the Junior Auxiliary of Searcy, said the organization has several ongoing projects.

“Anything to support the kids,” she said, when asked what types of projects they do.

“We especially support The Sunshine School, which was sponsored by the Junior Auxiliary of Searcy when [the school] first opened in 1964,” Horton said. The Sunshine School serves students of all ages with developmental disabilities.

“Anything they ask, we try to do,” she said, smiling.

With the Food Basket Project now complete for this year, the Junior Auxiliary is ready for its Angel Tree Project, which provides clothes and Christmas toys to children in need throughout White County.

“We rely on the community to help us with this project,” said Jessie Hohenstein, co-chairwoman of the Angel Tree Project and chairwoman of The Sunshine School Project. “Angels can be adopted from trees set up at Harps Food Store and the local banks. People who wish to adopt an angel or make a donation can also contact us at (501) 254-9181 or on our Facebook page.”

Other projects sponsored by the Junior Auxiliary of Searcy include Covering Kids, which provides coats, clothes and backpacks for students at the recommendation of school counselors, and A Day of Caring, which provides meals and children’s clothing. The organization provides snacks for the students’ weekly reward day at the Searcy Learning Center and provides two scholarships to college-bound seniors who are involved in community service.

In order to fund the group’s ongoing projects, members of the Junior Auxiliary of Searcy host a charity ball each year. This year’s event is scheduled for April 14.

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