As an extension of the Arkansas Alumni Association’s “Helpin’ Like a Hog” program, “Operation: Holiday Cheer” brought a bit of Christmas spirit to Joplin on Monday, Dec. 12, as staff from the Association unloaded a moving truck full of Christmas decorations for families affected by the May 22 tornado.

Heath Bowman, assistant director of the out-of-state territories, and Meredith Hawkins, communications specialist, delivered the donated items to Bright Futures, a grassroots organization that is devoted to utilizing area resources to strengthen the community and its families. Volunteers, including Joplin resident and UA alumna, Mai Tucker, and Association board member, Audie Dennis, as well as the Bright Futures staff were thrilled and shocked to see the amount of items filling the U-Haul truck driven by Bowman and Hawkins. University of Arkansas alumni, students, staff of the Arkansas Alumni Association and Division of Advancement, as well as area businesses, including First Security Bank and the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce donated hundreds of items to the cause.

“The response to ‘Operation: Holiday Cheer’ was overwhelming. When we began planning the project, I thought I would be transporting a few boxes of donations to Joplin in the back of a van or the trunk of my car. To have received enough items from our partners and colleagues across campus and throughout the Fayetteville community to justify the need to rent a moving truck speaks volumes about the generosity of the U of A family,” Bowman said.

Volunteers donated everything from trees to Christmas costumes. Hawkins recalled unloading “ribbons, ornaments, tree toppers, lights and wrapping paper.” She went on to say that the people at Bright Futures commented that “these will be these families’ first ornaments, like heirlooms.” Local volunteers plan to make packages, which will be distributed by school counselors to children whose families lost their homes and who are living in temporary housing.

When asked how much of an impact the project will have on the families of Joplin, Bowman responded by recognizing the efforts of the staff at Bright Futures. “We were so fortunate to be able to partner with an outstanding organization like Bright Futures Joplin to help in distributing donations collected through “Operation: Holiday Cheer.” Working with Bright Futures ensures that the ornaments and decorations people generously donated will be put to good use and will get to the children and families who need them the most this holiday season.”

To find out more about the “Helpin’ Like a Hog” program and how you can help, contact Heath Bowman at