For the second year in a row, local manufacturers are having a friendly competition to help "Cram the Closet" for the Pettis County Community Partnership's Community Closet.

"We're excited to partner up again this year to try to fill the closet," said Ben McFarland with Tyson Foods. "Our employees really stepped up last year and it almost took two trucks to deliver everything on the day of the end of the competition."

The challenge began last year, when Pettis County industries and Tyson challenged their employees to see who could collect the most items for the Community Closet. The first competition ended essentially in a tie. "Once we figured out how we were going to count everything, it came out that Ben won about half the categories, and PrintLynx and the other industries won about the other half," said Barry Henderson with PrintLynx. "He made it pretty clear to me a couple weeks ago that it wouldn't even be close this year, that we'd better step up because there will be no ties."

The Community Closet is managed by the Pettis County Community Partnership. It provides everyday household items, such as diapers and paper products, to residents who are trying to find employment, or continue their education. "We are trying to remove stumbling blocks for people that need to improve their education, or go back to work," said Henderson. "These products are used as a hand up, and not a hand out. We are helping people." Henderson says that so far, over 70 local residents have been able to get back to work or back to school with Community Closet assistance.

"One of my favorite stories I heard from last year was from one of my employees," said McFarland. "She was expecting and had everything planned out, money set aside...but then the baby came early. So she didn't have what she needed, yet. She went to closet and was able to get smaller diapers that she hadn't anticipated needing. And once she got back to work, it's my understanding that she contributed right back to the closet."

The challenge between Pettis County industries and Tyson will continue through March 31.

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