The Arkansas Educational Television Network and 32 libraries across the state, including in Booneville, collected more than 5,000 sweaters and clothing items for local charities and the Arkansas Salvation Army through the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Sweater Drive.

The drive was held in November, and sweaters are being distributed to those in need throughout the winter months.

“The Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Sweater Drive demonstrates AETN’s and Arkansas libraries’ commitment to reaching out to our viewers and patrons to make a positive difference,” AETN Interim Executive Director Tony Brooks said. “We could not have accomplished this without the dedicated help of the library staffs, the Arkansas Salvation Army and other participating local charities who worked to collect these clothing items and get them directly to the people who needed them.

“This project is proof that AETN is more than just outstanding television: we are supported by outstanding people who care. I am proud of each and every one of them.”

“It was Logan County Library’s first year to participate in the AETN Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Sweater Drive, and we were thrilled with their enthusiastic efforts, as well as Booneville’s extraordinary generosity,” AETN spokesperson Katie Culpepper said last week. “Donations were shared in the Booneville area through several local programs and charities and the Logan County Housing Authority.”

Community members donated new or gently worn sweaters at participating libraries and AETN headquarters in Conway. Sweaters collected in this drive were distributed by various local charities and the Arkansas Salvation Army.

Participating libraries also included the Boyd T. and Mollie Gattis Logan County Library in Paris.

This is the third year for the statewide Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Sweater Drive. In 2015, 20 libraries participated and collected more than 2,500 sweaters. Additional information is available at aetn.org/sweaterdrive.

The 2016 Arkansas Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Sweater Drive was held in memory of longtime AETN Executive Director Allen Weatherly, who passed away Nov. 1, 2016.

To help set the tone for a “comfortable” visit with his young viewers, Rogers put on a sweater and changed into sneakers as a way to help children settle in for “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” All of Rogers’ original sweaters were knitted by his mother, Nancy McFeely Rogers. Each year, she knitted a dozen sweaters and gave them to family and close friends at Christmas.

Over the course of more than 40 years, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” PBS’ longest-running children’s series, earned four Daytime Emmys. As a testament to his legacy, Rogers received a Lifetime Achievement Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood Sweater Drive Award in 1997 and was recognized in 2002 with a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, for his contributions to children’s development and education using broadcast television.

The Fred Rogers Company was founded by Rogers in 1971 as the non-profit producer of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” for PBS. In the years that followed, it not only created hundreds of episodes, but it also extended Rogers’ values and approach to other efforts in promoting children’s social, emotional and behavioral health and supporting parents, caregivers, teachers and other professionals in their work with children. The Fred Rogers Company continues to build on his legacy through a wide variety of media and by engaging new generations of children and families with his timeless wisdom. Additional information is available at FredRogers.org.

The Salvation Army, an evangelical part of the universal Christian church established in 1865, has been supporting those in need without discrimination for more than 130 years in the United States. Nearly 30 million Americans receive assistance from The Salvation Army each year through the broadest array of social services that range from providing food for the hungry, relief for disaster victims, assistance for the disabled, outreach to the elderly and ill, clothing and shelter to the homeless and opportunities for underprivileged children. Additional information is available at salvationarmyusa.org.

The Arkansas State Library provides the resources, services, and leadership necessary to meet the educational, informational and cultural needs of the citizens of Arkansas and provides guidance and support for the development of local public libraries and library services. For more information on the library’s services, visit library.arkansas.gov.

The Arkansas Educational Television Network is Arkansas’s statewide public television network that enhances lives by providing lifelong learning opportunities for people from all walks of life. AETN delivers local, award-winning productions and classic, trusted PBS programs aimed at sharing Arkansas and the world with viewers. AETN depends on the generosity of Arkansans and the State of Arkansas to continue offering quality programming. Additional information is available at aetn.org. AETN is broadcast on KETS (Little Rock), KEMV (Mountain View), KETG (Arkadelphia), KAFT (Fayetteville), KTEJ (Jonesboro) and KETZ (El Dorado).