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story.lead_photo.caption LYNN KUTTER ENTERPRISE-LEADER Tracy Orr with River Dental in Farmington tells Lilianna Acosta, 4, of West Fork, to open wide at the Farmington Back-to-School Bonanza last week. Farmington served 588 children. See more photos on Page 7A.

FARMINGTON -- Hundreds of children in western Washington County and other parts of Northwest Arkansas are ready to start school with new tennis shoes, a new backpack and a fresh haircut.

Lincoln and Farmington each held their Back-to-School Bonanzas on Thursday, with Lincoln's sponsored by Central United Methodist Church and Lincoln Bright Futures at Lincoln Elementary School, and Farmington's hosted by Farmington United Methodist Church.

“It has always been a dream and vision of mine for the community and the churches to work together to accomplish the tasks that the Lord has for us. I praise His name.”

Mary Jane Silva

Coordinator

Farmington Back-to-School Bonanza

Both locations served more children this year, compared to their events in 2018.

Mary Jane Silva, who coordinates Farmington's Back-to-School Bonanza, said the church served 588 students from 210 families on Thursday. In 2018, the bonanza registered 189 families and 492 children. Silva said most of the families were from Farmington, Fayetteville and Springdale.

Lincoln's bonanza served 212 children from 99 families, according to Barbara Griscom with Central United Methodist Church. This is up from last year's total of about 165 children.

The bonanzas are successful each year because of the help of many volunteers, coordinators say.

In Farmington, about 40 members of the junior high and high school cheer and dance squads volunteered to help families as they moved from station to station picking up free items for school.

Volunteers came from the community, other churches in town, Farmington school staff and Boy Scout Troop 555. Hair stylists volunteered their time to give free haircuts.

Medical staff gave free kindergarten physicals and dental staff offered free dental screenings. Others providing information included the American Red Cross and LIFE Ministries. The Neighborhood Market in Farmington gave a $500 community grant to help with the bonanza.

In Lincoln, school groups and student-athletes helped families, along with teachers and administrators from the school district. Area stylists also gave free haircuts in Lincoln.

Several organizations set up tables to provide information to parents, including Headstart, Methodist Family Health and its mental services, Bikers Against Child Abuse and West Washington County Medical Clinic. Washington County Sheriff's Office offered free identification cards for parents.

Vicki Mattox, vice president of Lincoln Elementary's PTO, helped children pick out a new backpack for the year.

"It's really humbling to know that there are this many kids in the community that we can provide for," Mattox said.

Central United Methodist Church in Lincoln started a Back-to-School Bonanza about 10 years ago after seeing the success of the one in Farmington. The bonanza has moved to new locations to accommodate more families.

Sarah Simmons, a church member and master teacher at Lincoln High School, said the bonanza has consistently helped about 150 families.

"This is just a chance to give to the community what little we can," Simmons said. "Times are tight for everyone at different times in their lives."

Church member Judy Conea has volunteered for four years.

"I think it's such a blessing for the kids and their families," Conea said. "It's just one less thing they have to worry about getting ready for school."

Michele Vandehoef of Lincoln has brought her son Isaiah for three years to the bonanza. This year Isaiah will be in third grade.

"I love it," Vandehoef said. "I live on a single-family income so it helps me out a lot."

In Farmington, the bonanza opened with a long line of families waiting to get into the church.

Once the doors opened, families came in the door, picked up a wooden stick with a number on it and took a seat in the air-conditioned sanctuary. As a family's number was called, members would move from place to place, starting with a foot-washing at the first station.

Along with free shoes and backpacks, Farmington also gave children socks and underwear.

Leslie Elsik, a member of Farmington United Methodist Church, served as a volunteer to wash feet and he said people from his work asked him why he was doing it.

"It's just humbling, an humbling experience," Elsik said. "Who am I that says I'm too good to do this."

Farmington teacher Cathy Herndon was volunteering for the first time.

"They do this for anyone," Herndon said as she helped give out new backpacks. "It's been fun to talk to all the kids. They're excited with their shoes and backpacks."

Monica Easter, who lives near Strickler, remembers coming to the Farmington Back-to-School Bonanza about five years ago. Thursday, she brought her four children to help get them ready for school.

"I have four kids I'm still having to get stuff for. It helps a lot," Easter said.

This was Farmington's 14th Bonanza. Silva, who also teaches at Williams Elementary School in Farmington, started the bonanza when she saw a need to help students be prepared for school.

"I appreciate everyone working so hard and serving so well together," Silva said in an email the next morning. "It has always been a dream and vision of mine for the community and the churches to work together to accomplish the tasks that the Lord has for us. I praise His name."

General News on 08/07/2019

Print Headline: Farmington, Lincoln Communities Serve Families

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