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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/ASHTON ELEY Bobby Smittle, Kiwanis Club of Bentonville president, adds food to boxes Wednesday for the group's annual Guy Wilkerson Food Basket Giveaway on Saturday in Bentonville.

BENTONVILLE -- More than 500 boxes lay full of cans, potatoes and sweets with just enough room for members of the Kiwanis Club to add bread and a chicken before Saturday's giveaway.

This will be the 63rd year for Guy Wilkerson Food Basket Giveaway, named after the former Bentonville Kiwanis Club president who started the event in 1955.

The event starts at 8 a.m. at the old Jump Zone at 805 S.E. 22nd St. The event usually is on Christmas Eve unless it falls on a Sunday, club president Bobby Smittle said.

Five schools in Bentonville participated this year by collecting canned and boxed food. The club received other items or money to buy them, Smittle said.

Benton County Jail inmates sort, pack and color-code different boxes based on family size. The project is as part of the inmates' community service, said Bob Sligar, giveaway chairman.

The event is open to anyone, he said. All someone has to do is get in line, tell a volunteer how many are in their family and someone will load a box of hearty holiday foods and goodies in their car. In past years, people have picked up food for another family they knew needed it.

"We hope it's people in need, but we judge no one," Sligar said.

Kiwanis is a global organization with the mission of serving the children of the world.

"The whole goal of this event is to make sure every family in Bentonville and surrounding area has a good Christmas dinner," Smittle said.

There's no need to show up at 4 a.m. and burn gasoline staying warm, Smittle said. He recommended anyone interested be in line by 8 a.m. The club gave away almost 500 boxes in about 90 minutes last year.

"Last year, I looked at the line and said we're not going to make it. This is the year we are going to run out of boxes," he said. "But there was some loaves and fishes kinds of stuff going on, because when we got to the last car, we had four boxes left."

NW News on 12/21/2017

Print Headline: Kiwanis Club prepares for annual food basket giveaway

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