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Friday, Aug. 26, 2016

Group gives toys to needy kids

Thursday, December 9, 2004

Ruthie Meeker and Diane Cook wrap Christmas gifts thtat were collected by the "Truckers For Kids" program.
SIKESTON -- They may be a little rough around the edges, but deep down most truck drivers have soft hearts.

That's the message of Truckers for Kids, a nonprofit organization formed last year to supply needy children with Christmas gifts.

"In our business we see so much bad stuff, especially in the major metropolitan areas, and to get to do something in your area, it makes you feel good," said truck driver Preston Cook of Morehouse.

Last year Truckers for Kids served 12 children in Southeast Missouri and this year that number is already up to 38 -- and counting.

The truckers are the ones who are supporting the organization through their donations, Cook said.

"Most of these guys are independent contractors like myself and a few businesses," Cook said.

Dwayne Proctor said this is the first year of affiliation with Truckers for Kids, and he couldn't be happier about it. In addition to helping those in need, the organization also helps give truckers a better image, he said.

"This gives the truckers a chance to give back to the community and shed a better light on the trucking industry," said the truck driver from Benton.

The idea for the program came last year when Cook's wife, Diane, heard from a friend about a family who was in need of Christmas gifts for their children.

Mrs. Cook, who works for the Sikeston truck company, Pullen Brothers Inc., said her boss initially started the funding for the program.

"Then my husband's friends, different truck companies and some of the employees started giving money and it just went from there," Mrs. Cook recalled.

Jerry Pullen of Pullen Bros Inc. said the organization is just another way of a group of people getting together and helping the needy.

"Diane came up with the idea last year, and we just kind of started it going and it's steadily growing," Pullen said. "I don't know where it's going to go from here -- I'd like to see more truckers get involved with the program."

To determine which children are needy, Mrs. Cook calls schools in the area, and she visits bank for names from the Angel Tree, she said. The organization benefits children from all over, including those in East Prairie, Charleston, Oran, Morley and Dexter.

"We don't give any monetary gifts; it's all strictly useful," Cook said. "It's things like books, coloring books and items like that -- things kids get use of."

Sometimes Mrs. Cook said she will call parents to get children's ages, grades and clothing sizes, and generally each child receives one or two outfits each and a toy. "This year, I've got bicycles, coats and clothes to give," Mrs. Cook noted.

Working to make Christmas a happy one for local families is time consuming, Mrs. Cook admitted, saying she often spends her lunch hour and after work to get things done for the organization.

Mrs. Cook also has help from her sister, daughters and friends.

"All of my children are grown, but I have grandkids," Mrs. Cook said. "I have an 8-year-old granddaughter, and she's my fashion adviser. She helps me pick out the clothes."

But in the end, it's definitely worth it, Mrs. Cook said. "That's one of the best Christmas presents and there's nothing like it," said Cook about helping deliver presents to families. "It's totally a Santa Claus-type deal. The kids we help virtually have nothing, and there isn't anything that makes you feel any better."

Even the parents' faces light up when presents are delivered, Mrs. Cook pointed out.

And all of this happiness is made possible from the people who travel countless miles daily on America's highways and who are typically stereotyped in a negative way, both Proctor and Cook said.

But according to Cook, truckers are a lot more tenderhearted than others may believe. He said: "We're all kind of hard core, rough and a hard working bunch of old guys, but we've got big hearts."

Trucking companies or truck drivers interested in contributing to Truckers for Kids can contact Diane Cook at (573) 471-7896 during the day or (573) 667-5073 after 6 p.m.