Leader Blues

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

TOP STORY >> Junior auxiliaries help students

By JEFFREY SMITH
Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Junior Auxiliary and the Junior Auxiliary of Cabot made sure needy school children were prepared for the first day of school with free backpacks and supplies.

A Backpack Blast-off was held by the Jacksonville Junior Auxiliary on Aug. 8 at the Jacksonville Boys and Girls Club. The auxiliary gave out 220 backpacks to students from kindergarten to 12th grade. The backpacks contained paper, pencils, crayons, glue, folders, scissors, markers and tablets.

Along with the backpack giveaway, dentists with Central Arkansas Dental Associates provided free dental screenings.

Auxiliary president Lindsey Beavers said, “We had a very good turnout. We had 10 to 15 backpacks left over that were given to the boys and girls club to be distributed as needed.”

Beavers said the Jacksonville auxiliary will continue to help children during the school year by providing Walmart gift cards to school counselors to use if a student is in need of clothing, shoes, school supplies or a coat.

During the Christmas season, the Jacksonville auxiliary assists students in the Jacksonville area through its Christmas Wish program. The auxiliary along with residents and businesses provide Christmas gifts to 10 needy children at each of the eight elementary schools and at the Lighthouse Academy charter school.

Another way the auxiliary is assisting needy students is through a scholarship program.

Beavers said the auxiliary has scholarships available for two girls in their junior year of high school, one for a Jacksonville High School student and the other for a North Pulaski High School student.

The scholarship recipients receive $500 their junior year and $500 their senior year. The funds are used to cover their senior year expenses such as college entrance-exam testing, a class ring, cap and gown and graduation invitations.

To raise funds for their projects, the junior auxiliary has a boxed-lunch program in which members sell boxed lunches four times a year to local businesses, chamber of commerce members and others within the community.

The Junior Auxiliary of Cabot has been assisting students of low-income families for several years. One such program is the Backpack Brigade. The program provides backpacks for students in need at all the schools in the Cabot School District.

Kristi Johnson, Ward Central Elementary School counselor, said the Junior Auxiliary of Cabot has had a long-term partnership with the school and members can be counted on to help students who need it.

“They are always helpful. Whenever we have a special need, they go out of their way to help,” Johnson said.

Cabot auxiliary president Natalie Berry said, “There are so many children in our community in need. We are fortunate enough to provide help.”

Johnson added, “About two weeks before school starts, I began receiving phone calls asking for help with supplies, backpacks or both.

“The parents in the community are very appreciative of the help. When things are looking up for them, they turn around and help others,” Johnson said.

Along with new backpacks for the new school year, the auxiliary provided each elementary school in the district with five head lice removal kits.

Berry said, “The lice kits are very expensive, especially for the families that are already in need of financial support. There are many people who will send their children to school with lice or who do not know how to check for lice.

“When there is a lice outbreak in a school and a child is sent home, it is the parents’ responsibility to buy the medicine and make sure the child, house and everything in their home is treated and lice-free before the child can return to school. This puts a huge burden on an already depressed situation,” Berry explained.

Members of the Junior Auxiliary of Cabot were required to provide one lice kit during their July meeting.

Usually during the July meeting, members bring new socks or underwear for youngsters. The auxiliary required members to purchase lice kits because they had a surplus of clothing this year. Berry said they had to do something because last year there was a great need for the kits during the school year.

To raise funding for their projects, the auxiliary holds a bunko bash in the fall, the Cabotfest Pageant and Strawberry Festival.

The Junior Auxiliary also has a cookbook for sale.

The Junior Auxiliary of Cabot has several projects towards assisting students in the Cabot School District. Christmas Blessing helps to provide gifts to children in need within the Cabot School District with help from the community.

Another project is the Glass Slipper program, which provides prom attire to Cabot students who need the help. Another program provided by the auxiliary is crystal-meth awareness classes for 10th graders. Auxiliary members show a presentation on the dangers and the effects of methamphetamine during science classes.

At the elementary school level, the auxiliary has a Reading First program, where members read to first-grade students. As part of the program, the students are given books of their own to take home.

For second-grade students, the auxiliary provides free dental screening with the help of local dentists.