A reception hosted by the Hopkins County African American Leadership Conference was held Saturday afternoon to honor Jo Marie Neal (second from right) for 30 years of service as chairman of the Hopkins County chapter of Salvation Army. Shown with Neal at the reception are, left to right, J.W. Ragan, Precint 3 Commissioner Don Patterson, Lester Henley and M. LaVelle Hendricks with the Hopkins County African American Leadership Conference, and Sheriff Butch Adams.
Staff Photo By Jessica Worth

Salvation Army chair honored for 30 years of helping others

African American Leadership Conference hosts Saturday reception for Jo Marie Neal

From Staff Reports

Oct. 6, 2008 - Few people want to have to call Jo Marie Neal for help.

But for the past 30 years, when disaster strikes, her phone is one of the first to ring, and for those who need assistance, Neal has been a godsend.

On Saturday, members of the Hopkins County African American Leadership Conference honored Neal with a reception at Sulphur Springs Airport to thank her for her 30 years with HCSA.

Since 1978, Neal has chaired Hopkins County Salvation Army, headquartered inside the Bait and Tackle Shop which she and her husband of 50 years, Wickie Neal, own.

The chairman of HCSA's primary job description includes assisting those in need on a local level. When needed, HCSA's mission includes providing daily meals, lodging, utilities, medication, transportation, rent, dental and medical aid for victims of house fires. HCSA also provides seasonal assistance such as partnering with local businesses that host food drives to provide food baskets for needy families on Thanksgiving, manning Salvation Army kettles and sponsoring the Angel Tree program for local families at Christmas.

HCSA also has assisted fire departments, emergency medical services personnel, the police and sheriff's departments, during fires, motor vehicle crashes and manhunts, providing water and other relief supplies.

Neal includes among the local, regional and national disasters her office has responded to are tornadoes in Pickton-Pine Forest, Jerral, Lancaster and Dekalb; Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike; and the Asian tsunami.

HCSA also provides summer camp services for local youths to attend Camp Hoblitzelle.

Neal's job also includes overseeing the seven-member advisory board. She indicated she's also certified to teach disaster training, mass feeding, procedures for dislocated people and shelter management. She's attended local, regional and national training sessions regarding "the latest innovations in providing relief efforts." She is also a certified member of the city's Community Emergency Response Team.

Neal works with the local emergency operation command when advanced preparations are made prior to a major event which may require relief services.

In the early 1980s, she also served as president of Region 2, which oversees efforts in 9 counties. She also served as REACT president, and was a board member of Ark-Tex Council of Governments for several years.

In 2006, East Caney Missionary Baptist Church honored Neal with the Woman of the Year Award.

Neal is a 1958 North Hopkins High School graduate and a member of First Baptist Church-Sulphur Springs.

In addition to her husband Wickie, Neal's family includes her son, Jackie Neal, daughter-in-law Carolyn Neal, and grandchildren Jacob and Courtney Neal

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