Twenty-year-old fundraiser con­tin­ues to bring in money for com­mu­nity

Texarkana Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By Karl Richter

Two decades af­ter it be­gan, one of Texarkana’s fa­vorite Christ­mas-time tra­di­tions con­tin­ues to bring out the best in the com­mu­nity.

The 20th an­nual Bram­lett Beans and Corn­bread lunch on Thurs­day raised funds and food do­na­tions to help fam­i­lies in need en­joy the hol­i­day sea­son. The event brought in hun­dreds of dol­lars and dozens of bags of food for the ben­e­fit of the Christ­mas Bas­ket pro­gram or­ga­nized by Texarkana Wa­ter Util­i­ties em­ploy­ees and both Texarkanas’ city em­ploy­ees.

For $5 or a do­na­tion of six food items, at­ten­dees at the Texas-side’s South­west Com­mu­nity Cen­ter ate beans pro­vided by Big Jake’s Bar-BQue, corn­bread made by Texarkana, Texas, In­de­pen­dent School Dis­trict food ser­vices staff and cof­fee and dessert from Star­bucks. Texas High School art stu­dents were also there sell­ing hand­made ce­ramic bowls to ben­e­fit the Christ­mas Bas­ket pro­gram.

Pro­ceeds will help pay for at least 100 food “bas­kets”— ac­tu­ally boxes dec­o­rated with gift-wrap­ping by lo­cal Girl Scouts—filled with food for fam­i­lies in need. Lo­cal schools and city em­ploy­ees nom­i­nate re­cip­i­ents each year.

Bas­kets con­tain do­nated food and other non­per­ish­able food items, hams, pro­duce, bread, candy canes and more. Or­ga­niz­ers shop year-round to take ad­van­tage of sale prices for bas­ket items, TWU Ad­min­is­tra­tive Co­or­di­na­tor Pam White said.

The event’s founder and name­sake, for­mer Texarkana, Texas, Mayor James Bram­lett, said he had no idea it would still be go­ing strong af­ter 20 years.

“I’m for­tu­nate enough to put my name on it, and here we are at 20 years due to com­mu­nity sup­port and all the busi­ness com­mu­nity sup­port­ing it. We couldn’t do it with­out our spon­sors,” he said.

The Christ­mas Bas­ket pro­gram be­gan in 1991 with bas­kets given to five TWU em­ploy­ees. For­mer TWU Hu­man Re­sources Di­rec­tor Paula Jeans be­gan it in honor of her fa­ther, who had died sud­denly on the day be­fore Thanks­giv­ing the pre­vi­ous year.

“I started kind of ask­ing around, and I thought, ‘Food. Ev­ery­body needs food.’ That’s the one thing that you can give some­body any time,” she said. The pro­gram was an im­me­di­ate suc­cess.

“It was just won­der­ful. I mean, it was just a great feel­ing to know that, OK, we’ve all got enough, so let’s help some­body that doesn’t. And then the next year we did it again, and it’s just con­tin­ued to grow,” Jeans said.

The event’s or­ga­niz­ers hope that by pro­vid­ing food, they can free fam­i­lies’ re­sources to meet other needs.

“If we can pro­vide a box of food, maybe they can spend that money on their kids or some­thing else they need, in­stead of spend­ing a cou­ple hun­dred dol­lars on food at Christ­mas,” Jeans said.

Staff photo by Hunt Mercier

■ Guests line up at the buf­fet to gather food to eat for lunch on Thurs­day, at the 20th an­nual Bram­lett Beans and Corn­bread event at the South­west Cen­ter in Texarkana, Texas. The food and toy drive is hosted by for­mer Texarkana, Texas, Mayor James Bram­lett.

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