The deadline for the WE CARE Christmas Baskets for Veterans 2019 Campaign passed Saturday, Nov. 30 and students from schools across the state managed to collect 2,020 baskets.

According to local photographer and organizer of the campaign, Jessie Newell, these baskets are for veterans in VA Living Centers throughout the state and she's very excited so many vets will receive one.

"It's amazing. I honestly wasn't expecting to meet the goal of 1400, so to be 600 over is just awesome,

Newell said. "Oklahoma is the heart of the nation."

This year's collecting began in September after the Shawnee High School volleyball team challenged all sports teams, clubs and organizations in the Shawnee Public Schools district to make as many baskets as they could for WE CARE.

Newell said the baskets will contain fleece blankets, white T-shirts, pajama bottoms, puzzle books, decks of cards, dominoes, a tooth brush and other toiletries including full size deodorant, shampoo, body wash, shaving cream, razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, lotion, chap stick and denture cleaner.

Newell explained SPS was not the only district in the county or surrounding areas participating in the campaign.

"This project was started in August 2018 by Emerson Newell," Newell said."It has since spread throughout the state with businesses, schools, churches, individual families, athletic teams and many tribes joining together to support our veterans. Last year, over 1,100 Oklahoma veterans received a Christmas bag."

Newell said the purpose of this campaign is to thank the veterans and teach younger generations the importance of those in the military.

"We really wanted to focus on getting as many children involved this year as possible. All kinds of athletic teams across the state (participated)," Newell said.

She explained the Tecumseh and Bethel football teams also issued challenges, Shawnee football made 20 baskets and classes from South Rock Creek and Grove had baskets as well.

In addition to schools, Newell said many businesses throughout the county participated including BancFirst in Shawnee, Define Boutique in Tecumseh and numerous other businesses in Seminole, Shawnee and Tecumseh as well as oil companies in Oklahoma.

Newell said tribes contributed as well including Choctaw and Citizen Pottawatomie Nation.

"We have so many veterans in these centers that either don’t have family or their family has passed on. They cry just for the simple fact that someone remembered them," Newell said.

Newell said representatives from VA Living Centers across the state will be at her house Monday to pick up their baskets and hand them out to their veterans.

In addition to these efforts, Newell also takes portraits of area veterans for free.