FARMINGTON -- Jarvis Carr of Farmington observed at the Farmington Back-to-School Bonanza last week while his daughter, Amia, volunteered with the junior high dance squad.
Held at Farmington United Methodist Church, the Bonanza is a beehive of organized activity as children, from preschool to 12th grade, take their turn to go around to different stations to pick up items to prepare them for a new school year.
"We could have used something like this while we were growing up," Carr said.
His mother passed away when he was young and his father was not able to take care of the family as needed for various reasons.
"I was kinda like the dad and mom so we ate a lot of instant potatoes," Carr said. "I know first hand that this is just a godsend."
Growing up, Carr said he was grateful for any assistance his family received. He wouldn't have been too proud, he said, to go to an event such as a Back-to-School Bonanza for help.
Carr noted one student, considered a problem child, could have a positive experience at something like the Back-to-School Bonanza and that could turn everything around for that child.
"That's what we need more of, an outreach like this. It picks up the whole family."
This is the 14th year Farmington United Methodist Church has sponsored the event with help from many in the community. Along with church members, others who volunteer are Farmington teachers and staff, student groups, about 25 hair stylists, area doctors and dentists. About 155 people volunteered this year.
For 2018, the Bonanza served 189 families and 492 children. Most of the children came from Farmington, Prairie Grove, Fayetteville and Springdale. Others were from Elkins, Huntsville, Lincoln, Greenland, Oklahoma and a few places in Benton County.
Children left the church with a new pair of tennis shoes, new socks and underwear, new backpacks and a haircut.
The Bonanza also provides a room where church members will pray with a family if they want. Physicians give kindergarten physicals. Area dentists and their assistants provide free dental screenings.
The first stop of the night is a foot-washing station. Church members and others wash feet but at the same time, they visit with children, asking them questions about their upcoming school year.
At the last stop of the night, volunteers hand out free pizzas so families will have dinner when they get home.
Church member Sally Zelenka has volunteered every year and she at first did not think it could work with a small church.
"But it's just an amazing thing that happens," Zelenka said.
One of her favorite parts of the event is seeing the excitement of children who come through during the evening.
"It's just amazing to see these kids get ready and be excited about school," Zelenka said. "With a positive start, we hope they can have a positive ending."
Several families from surrounding cities were attending the Back-to-School Bonanza for the first time. Some read about it on Facebook. Others heard about it from friends.
Ariel Elmore, 17, of Springdale, brought her seven brothers to the church.
"We live in public housing and it helps out a lot," Elmore said. "It's hard to get everything you need for school for seven boys."
Katie Murray of Fayetteville brought her daughter and son for the first time.
"I think it's great they're doing this for the community," Murray said.
Brandon and Sarah Mayes of Elkins learned about the Bonanza on Facebook, and their four children, ranging in age from 5-8, had fun trying on new shoes and picking out new backpacks.
Mary Jane Silva started the Bonanza and has coordinated it every year.
"I'm always grateful for the outpouring of support and help we receive from Farmington and around," Silva said Saturday. "I feel a great pride in our community and our church. I'm so grateful and blessed and I feel that the people who help feel just as blessed."General News on 08/08/2018
Print Headline: CHECK: Haircut, New Shoes, New Backpack