SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3/KSPR) - At the annual Mayor’s Tree Lighting Ceremony in downtown Springfield, Mayor Ken McClure asked Springfield citizens to join him in welcoming hundreds of soldiers currently stationed at Fort Leonard Wood to Springfield for the inaugural 'Home for the Holidays' event.
The idea for the event stemmed from meetings between leaders of Springfield and Fort Leonard Wood. During those meetings, Mayor McClure found out that during the holidays when Fort Leonard Wood typically stands down for two weeks, there are several hundred soldiers who are unable to go home. Mayor McClure is a veteran himself and knew he wanted to do help.
The 'Home for the Holidays' event will include a mayoral proclamation and Welcome Home Rally, entertainment at various Springfield venues, a “Taste of Springfield” buffet dinner and conclude with a musical performance.
Cora Scott, the Director of Public Information & Civic Engagement for the City of Springfield, said there has been an overwhelming amount of support for the event from the community. Scott said the buses that will be used to transport soldiers to and from Fort Leonard Wood are sponsored. She also said a handful of businesses are pitching in to donate others services or products, including Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World, Johnny Morris’ Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium, Corwin Automotive of Springfield, Andy B's, Sky Zone, United Way of the Ozarks, and Community Foundation of the Ozarks.
Scott talked about the importance of the new partnership between Springfield and Fort Leonard Wood. "Fort Leonard Wood is such an economic asset, not only to the area, but to our entire state," Scott said. "We feel that developing that relationship and ensuring that those soldiers feel welcome in our community is a win win."
Springfield City Manager Jason Gage also weighed in. "The opportunity for Springfield, as a community, to open our hearts, open our facilities, give them an opportunity to really know what we're about, it really is a big thing for them," said Gage of the soldiers getting to experience Springfield's holiday spirit. "It gives those soldiers an opportunity to feel that, even though they may not be able to go home."
Scott said the total cost to host the event is unknown at this time, but many businesses are donating services or products free of charge.
Those interested can help with the 'Home for the Holidays' event by either providing a monetary donation or volunteering their time. If any area businesses feel they have a service or product they can contribute for the event, they are asked to contact Cora Scott via email at email@example.com.
'Home for the Holidays' will be Monday, December 23. A time and location for the Welcome Home Rally has not yet been finalized, but it will be open to the public.