A letter from former Missouri State Representative Kevin Wilson regarding the Jambalaya Festival Association visit to Joplin.


Sunday was Father’s Day and I have to say that I didn’t get what I wanted most – to spend the day with my dad. 

Anyone who has lost their dad knows what I am talking about.  I visited with someone just the other day who said that their father had been gone for 30 years, and there wasn’t a day that went by that they didn’t think about them.  I understand. 

But, you know, I am being selfish.  I miss my dad greatly and wish that he were still here but I know for certain that he spent this Father’s Day with his dad whom he loved dearly and with our Heavenly Father.  What better way is there to spend the day?  And, I have so much to be thankful for – I had my dad for 52 years of my life and hopefully the things that he taught me in that time I can pass on to my kids and grandkids. 

The lesson is this.  If your father is still living, cherish all the time you can with him and let him know how much you love and appreciate him.  That is the best gift that you can give him not only on Father’s Day but every day of the year.  And yes, my boys, their lovely wives and my wife did not forget me yesterday.  Sean even did the grilling (he burned brats which was okay because that’s how we like them).

The title of this column is “Standing in the Gap” and over the last few months I have highlighted several individuals and organizations that I feel have “stood in the gap” to make a difference.  None were any more deserving than Neosho High School head football coach Jared Schoonover and the Neosho football program.  Last week they held a benefit to raise funds for the McKee family.  The father, Jesse, died in the tornado and the family faces huge medical bills over the next few months as well as just the every month financial challenges.

I think that the goal was to raise $6,000.  That goal was surpassed in a matter of minutes as the total raised was over $33,000 and still rising at last count.  The event was supposed to start at 6:30 and when Melody and I arrived just a few minutes before that time, the parking lot at Neosho First Baptist was filling up rapidly and the worship center was well on its way to being packed.

Last week I ended the column saying that when all the volunteers from outside this area leave that we will still be okay because family takes care of family.  Well, Coach Schoonover and the rest of the Neosho football program made it clear last week that we are all family in this area.  Every time I turn around I am reminded all over again just what a special privilege it is to live in this area.  Thank you Coach and the rest of the volunteers for “Standing in the Gap”.  

The volunteers helping out in the disaster is about as diverse as you can find and truly represent a cross section of our nation.  It has been reported that volunteers have come from just about every corner of our country.  Melody and I had the opportunity to go up Saturday and help a team from Gonzales, Louisiana serve jambalaya to the hungry volunteers.

It is kind of a long story how I got hooked up with these folks but I am sure glad that I did.  The local paper in Gonzales is the Gonzales Weekly Citizen and is a sister paper to the Neosho Daily and Carthage Press as they are all owned by GateHouse Media.

Every Memorial Day weekend Gonzales hosts a Jambalaya Festival and some of the proceeds from that festival are paying for at least some of their expenses.  The rest is coming from donations in and around Gonzales which is located in southern Louisiana.

Let me tell you.  There is a reason they host a jambalaya festival every year.  I have eaten a lot of jambalaya in the New Orleans area and these guys’ are hands down better than any I have had.  And, even more amazing is that they do it in bulk.  On Saturday they made enough jambalaya to feed 1200 people.  That’s a whole bunch of food done in a very short period of time.

Out of a horrific tragedy comes the ray of hope that is humanity.  Good people from all over the country rallying around a small town in Southwest Missouri.  With all the bad that we hear every day on the news, this show of compassion and caring reinforces my belief that the American spirit still lives and carries this nation forward one act of kindness at a time. 

Thank you to all that give and may God bless you for your effort.

Kevin Wilson
Former State Representative
Missouri