Suddenlink, Gober-Merrel launch food drives this week 
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

Gober-Merrell and Salvation Army are gearing up for the Thanksgiving Food Drive this month. Pictured (left to right) are Joe Mack Gober, Roger Ballard, Shelly Ogle, Terry Blount, Jo Marie Neal with Salvation Army, Kevin Renner and Gary Kamer.

Staff Photo by Angela Pitts

Nov. 2, 2006 - Gober-Merrell Auto Group and Suddenlink Communications this week each launched their own food drives to benefit the local community.

This marks the second year cable TV provider Suddenlink has hosted a food drive to benefit Northeast Texas Food Bank in Sulphur Springs. Employees had held a food drive for at least 8 years when the company was known as TCA. It was revived again last year after Suddenlink took over the local Cox Communications office, according to director Joe Suggs.

Suddenlink began accepting canned or nonperishable food items Wednesday and will continue to do so through Dec. 15 at the Sulphur Springs customer service location at 220 Linda Drive. Donations may be dropped off between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday-Friday. 

As an extra incentive, Suddenlink is offering a discounted rate of $10 for installation on the first outlet for new customers and a free upgrade for existing customers who bring at least five canned food items to the customer service counter.

All food items collected will benefit Northeast Texas Food Bank, which provides food at discounted cost for local residents via several local assistance agencies.

For more information about the Suddenlink canned food drive, call 903-885-3757.

This morning, Gober-Merrell Auto Group in cooperation with Hopkins County Salvation Army kicked off its fourth annual canned food drive to provide needy Hopkins County families with much-needed food during the holidays.

Joe Mack Gober said the company was inspired to hold the food drive by Lewis Helm, who had years before held a food drive of his own. Employees suggested holding a food drive in 2002, and already are excited about this year's food drive.

He said each year, employee involvement and commitment to the project has grow as they see how appreciated the goods are and the difference it makes for the families, who may have little food. The recipients a varied in age and need. Quite a few are hard-working people who just need a little extra help to meet their needs, others are people who are unable to work for medical reasons. Rising utility bills and costly medical bills, and costs of necessary medications are often other difficulties which reduce the amount of food some recipients receive. Others have experienced unexpected problems, such as natural disasters or house fires which destroyed their homes and everything in them.

"There are so many people working but not making enough, working two-three jobs, people getting laid off or who are off work due to injuries they don't have health insurance  or don't have enough insurance to pay for," Gober said.

In 2002, 2004 and 2005, Gober Merrell's food drive assisted 250 families, and helped between 280 and 300 families in 2003. This year, dealership employees hope to provide each sponsored household with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, according to Gober Merrell dealer assistant Shelly Ogle.

Over the years, Gober Merrell employees have been greeted by families with large numbers of children who for were pleased to just have bread, or people who were "tickled" to receive coffee or cake icing which due to cost were considered unaffordable luxury items, Ogle and Gober said.

"We reach different people each year," Salvation Army Chair Jo Marie Neal said. "In year's past we've had neighbors calling about neighbors who need help but wouldn't as for it. I try to put myself in their shoes."

"People we gave to the first year who are doing OK now come back and want to give," Ogle said. "Lots of people think, 'I won't sign up because there's somebody worse off than me, that needs it worse than me."

Gober, Ogle an Neal encourage anyone who needs a little extra help providing food for their family or themselves to sign up for the help.

"There are people out there that need help and they won't ask because they think this is charity. This isn't charity, its a helping hand. We want to help, because by the Grace of God it could be us," Gober said.

At least 100 people had already signed up to benefit from the program this year, and hope to assist between 200 and 300 people through the Christmas holidays.

Applications for the Gober Merrill Food Drive will continue to be accepted through Nov. 15, with food distributed on Nov. 20. Applications can be filled out at Gober-Merrell, The Bait Shop (headquarters for HCSA) or at Community Chest. Those applying need to bring Social Security numbers for everyone in their household, Neal reminds. 

Food donations can be dropped off at Gober Merrell, The Bait Shop (headquarters for HCSA) or Circle E Western Store. Or, monetary donations may be made at those locations as well.

"We ask people to bring some canned goods or groceries to the dealership. Some do. Others ask us what we need and they buy it for us. Some donate money to purchase food. We'll take it any way they give it, we can use it," Gober said.

For more information about the Gober Merrell Food Drive call Shelly Ogle at 903-885-9521 during regular business hours Monday-Friday, or Jo Marie Neal after hours or on the weekend at 903-335-1032.

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