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Donna Chipps has a box full of newspaper clippings and old photos, yellowed thank you notes and notebook paper filled with handwritten lists that have faded over time.
She spent countless days, weeks and years working with youth in her Morgan County community, including being a 4-H advisor for almost 25 years. She and her late husband, William, opened up their dairy farm to kindergarten tours years ago. They had more than cows. The Chipps truly had an “Old McDonald” farm, with ostriches, emus, peacocks, swans, horses, goats, sheep, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and more all calling the place home.
Donna was a farmer’s wife and homemaker but always thought she’d be a teacher, and in a very real way, she was. While her 4-H advisor days are behind her, and the farm is no longer a dairy, there is one piece from her volunteer past that is alive and well, and growing, in Morgan County – the fruit basket legacy of the Morgan Misfits.
At one time the Farm Bureau Youth Program was in almost every county in the state. These programs were much like 4-H and FFA, bringing youth together to learn and grow in agriculture, leadership and community endeavors. Chipps was the adult leader of the group in the county, which was a very successful and ambitious collection of young people.
One of the projects the Morgan Misfits launched under Chipps’ leadership was the fruit basket delivery program around Christmas time in the county.
“The first ones went to the grandparents of Farm Bureau members as a nice gesture for the holidays,” she said.
Shortly after the project launched, Farm Bureau included the Morgan FFA chapter in the endeavor. When the FFA sold fruit, they donated a box of oranges and grapefruit to the fruit baskets. Then various Farm Bureau councils, 4-H clubs, and local businesses became involved in the project.
Since then, Morgan County Farm Bureau has partnered with various organizations and local
businesses over the last 30 years to provide holiday fruit baskets to members and individuals during the holiday season.
The effort has continued all these years, even through COVID with social distancing as the FFA compiled the baskets and Farm Bureau delivered them by hanging them on the doors of the elderly for contactless delivery.
As the project has changed and grown over the years the needs and goals have also evolved. While it started as a way for county youth to do a good deed for a grandparent or a neighbor, it evolved into giving something back to the elderly members of the community who may be shut-ins or have limited contact with anyone.
In 2021, Farm Bureau partnered with the FFA, Farm Bureau councils, and local businesses, in addition to the Morgan County Senior Citizen lunch program. The partnership was started during COVID to provide elderly individuals who lived out of the range of other programs a warm lunch five days a week.
Farm Bureau donated 65 assembled fruit baskets to them, along with delivering 85 fruit bags to the individuals on the current list.
“We believe this meets the needs of getting fruit to the elderly in the community, brightens an elderly person’s day, and partners the Farm Bureau with many other organizations and businesses,” said Angela Drake, president of the Morgan County Farm Bureau. “When this project was started 15 fruit baskets were delivered. In 2021 over 150 fruit bags were delivered in the county in one day.”
The Morgan County Farm Bureau continues its support of the fruit basket deliveries and expanded to more than 200 baskets in 2022.
Several volunteers have been delivering baskets for 20-30 years, Chipps said. Sometimes it will take them all day to make three to four deliveries. When volunteers show up with the baskets, which also include holiday greeting cards for the recipients, they are invited in to talk. Sometimes, that social interaction is the most important delivery of all.
Susan Chipps, Donna’s daughter, notes that one gentleman always calls after he receives his basket and is always so thankful, saying each year “I’m not forgotten.”
Drake notes that Donna has really been a driving force to keep the fruit basket delivery ball rolling.
“We won’t let her leave,” she said, with a laugh. She also notes that the fruit basket deliveries are also a way for the older and newer generations to keep in contact, and for the older generation to know they are valued.
To receive a basket
Anyone in Morgan County who wishes to be added, or wishes to add an elderly relative or friend to the list for this year’s fruit basket delivery, can call the Morgan County Farm Bureau at 740-452-2356 before Thanksgiving. Deliveries are made on the first Monday in December.
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