Red Dirt Diaries: Shawnee Woman Starts Statewide Campaign For Veteran Gifts

Friday, November 22nd 2019, 6:10 pm
By: Karl Torp

A Shawnee woman is out to show veterans they are forever loved and appreciated. 

Jessie Newell’s campaign to honor those who served our country with gift baskets has turned into a statewide effort. Each basket has slippers, sweatpants, t-shirts, a blanket, and various toiletries.

Newell said she can fill an entire basket for $25, but it would normally cost $35-$50 if you aren’t bargain shopping.

“If I find the item, I will buy every single one of them,” said Newell, whose daughter started the Christmas basket program last year.

Now, it has grown into a family affair.

The goal is that each of the 1,400 veterans at the state's seven Veteran Affairs living centers receive a basket of about a dozen items.

“All of these people sacrifice for us, and it’s our turn to take care of them,” said Newell, who works as a photographer.

Schools across the state have collected donations and put together gift baskets. Students have also written thank you letters to the veterans. Each bag gets at least one letter of appreciation.

Hundreds of bags are now being stored at Newell’s Shawnee home and will be delivered to veterans in December.

For years, Newell has developed a special relationship with veterans by offering them free photo sessions to celebrate their service to our country.

“These guys are my family and this what family does,” said Newell, who plans to collect baskets until the end of the month.

If you would like to donate, you can contact Jessie through Facebook. You can also call her at 405-214-8633.