Jacki Bruning started something she can’t finish, at least this year. But it’s not because she doesn’t want to. Two years ago, she heard of a need that she couldn’t ignore.
There are several hundred veterans at Fort Roots Veterans Administration Hospital in North Little Rock, many them soldiers from the Vietnam War. The hospital treats neuropsychiatric disorders.
She found out that many of them didn’t receive Christmas gifts and were forgotten during the holidays. If you know Jacki, you know she went to work organizing an effort to make sure Santa visited the vets. She wanted the men to receive a gift bag with "man stuff," like warm ups, underwear, socks, a blanket and candy. And she wanted each gift bag to contain a note thanking each of them for his service.
She got it started and did it for two years, but now she has her hands full and can’t take it on again this year. Those of you who read this paper know that her son, J.D., suffered spinal injury in a diving accident this summer. Since then, she has devoted herself to his recovery and rehabilitation.
The United Methodist Men of First United Methodist Church of Maumelle got involved last year and have stepped up the plate to take it over this year.
" We helped Jacki last year and were so inspired that we decided to take the project on since she couldn’t do it," said Mike Tognetti of Maumelle, who is part of the group organizing the effort. "For many of the vets at Fort Roots, their only Christmas gift will be the one we give them."
"People can help the vets by donating items to go in the gift bags such as lap blankets, pajamas, warm ups, socks, underwear, candy and snacks," he added. "We do ask that all the items be new. Each gift bag will again include a hand-written note thanking them for their service and the sacrifices they have made for our country."
These items can be dropped off at First United Methodist Church in Maumelle or at Bank of the Ozarks, U.S. Bank, Arvest Bank or First Security Bank in Maumelle.
Drop boxes are also located at the Greens Apartments, The Links Apartments, The Maumelle Community Center, Senior Wellness Center, Maumelle City Hall, IHOP Restaurant, U.S. Pizza, Dr. Kyle Skinner’s office and Kroger, all in Maumelle. A donation box is also located at the new Bass Pro Shop. I think you could buy all of the items right there in the monster store if you can get in the parking lot.
Cash donations are also accepted and may be mailed to the church or dropped off at the bank locations. "We ask that the donations be a minimum of $35, which allows us to buy a vet a complete gift bag," Tognetti said.
Checks should be made out to "Methodist Men Adopt-a-VET" and taken to one of the bank locations or mailed to First United Methodist Church of Maumelle, P.O. Box 13984, Maumelle, AR 72113. The deadline to receive items or checks is December 12. For more information, contact the church office, 851-2377.
Keep Jacki and her family in your prayers. Even though some of the vets may not know she’s not involved this year, it is because of her that Santa will be there again.
Count your many blessings, count them one by one
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
The lyrics above are the refrain from the hymn "Count your Blessings" by Johnson Oatman, Jr., written in 1897. I remember singing it as a kid and occasionally in "big church" around this time of year.
It always made me feel better for some reason. No matter your beliefs, it’s comforting to know or think that your greater power is blessing your life with good things.
But perhaps more important is making sure we all take a moment from time to time to assess or count if you will, our "blessings."
When my children were younger, we would sometimes poll them and ask them to tell us what they were thankful for.
Most of the blessings were simple, yet honest and sweet. We would hear things like, "mom and dad," "candy," "Jesus," "turkey," "our dog" and so forth. As we enter a time of year when families, sometimes against their will, are thrown together, be sure and "count your many blessings, count them one by one."
If you’re like me, you might tend to focus on the negative things that happen, but if you take a closer look, maybe you’ll be surprised at what "the Lord hath done."
See you on the Boulevard. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
Neal Moore is COE (chief of everything) at Neal Moore Creative, a PR, advertising and marketing consultancy. He has lived in Maumelle over 10 years. If you have a community concern contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter, @kneelmore.