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Statewide Culture 0

Arkansas Helpers: Serving Communities in Crisis

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Few things are as encouraging during this age of anxiety and crisis as the kindness of helpers. In Arkansas, we don’t have to look very hard to find them. People are showing up in a big way to serve their communities, with many workers veterans of long-standing organizations who have a consistent presence in the state.

Arkansas food banks and local resources have adapted to serve residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. They will continue to deliver aid throughout the current emergency, and long after this whole thing is over. If you’re in need of assistance or can offer help in some way, check out the resources here.

Grassroots Efforts

Some regional Facebook groups created by people across the state have allowed members to share needs up and help one another. Be sure to check the administration rules for these groups and realize that these are not necessarily monitored by legitimate organizations. Take care with the information you give out.

Some of the groups on social media have been an invaluable tool for people to support local restaurants who are operating with limited staff and who must adhere to strict rules the interest of public health. Check out the restaurants and small businesses in your area making a creative shift to provide for customers.

Food Banks in Arkansas

The Arkansas Foodbank serves numerous communities across the state’s central and southern regions. This list provides the location of their agencies that are open during the COVID-19 crisis. Food is free even if you don’t qualify for other food assistance programs.

Emily Gassman, communications director for the Arkansas Foodbank says that with the closing of businesses and schools, the number of people needing help has considerably increased in the last few weeks.

She says that for every $1 donated, the food bank can provide five meals to hungry Arkansans. With the amplified needs in the 33 counties they serve, that provision comes by way of partners and workers now considered to be on the pandemic’s front lines.

“We’re working hard packing thousands of emergency boxes, increasing capacity of food distributions through our partners and hosting mobile food distributions to get food out safely and efficiently to those in need. We’ve also had our partners adapt to a drive-thru model to ensure the safety of our clients.”

Fortunately, Gassman says the most effective way right now to help the food bank is also the safest: by making a monetary donation on the website.

“This money will help us continue to acquire and distribute food to those in need now, and for many months to come.”

  • To donate, check out the information here.
  • For assistance, take a look at their service map.

 

 

Samaritan Community Centers, a longtime presence in Northwest Arkansas, are experiencing the most challenging times they’ve seen yet. But despite the temporary closing of their thrift stores, furloughed employees and implementation of strict health protocols, they are on a mission to improve their operations and programs to efficiently get food to the hungry and hurting in the region.

Executive director Debbie Rambo is thankful for people in this same area who have been able to help. “The great news is that we are surrounded by a caring community that has stepped forward with financial, in-kind and volunteer support.”

In the last two weeks of March alone, the Samaritan Community Centers:

  • Served 5,331 meals.
  • Provided groceries to 1,023 families.
  • Distributed 3,366 snack packs.
  • Cared for 168 first-time visitors to the center.

Samaritan Centers in Northwest Arkansas have responded to the COVID-19 crisis with a change in hours and services. They provide drive-thru service at their Rogers and Springdale locations. Food assistance includes groceries, prepared lunches and snack packs for children.

 

 

Harvest Regional Food Bank in Texarkana, a member of Feeding America, works with partner organizations to distribute food assistance to numerous places in southwest Arkansas. The food bank has served families in the region for over 25 years and according to their 2018 annual report, 98% of their resources support “immediate food distribution.” Families can access assistance across south Arkansas counties including Howard, Lafayette, Little River, Miller, Sevier, Pike and Nevada.

River Valley Regional Food Bank, also a Feeding America partner, serves west-central Arkansas areas including Fort Smith, Alma, Ozark, Booneville and Russellville. They source food from grocers and numerous donors and distribute them through partner agencies.

 

Additional Resources

Hark works with clients in Northwest Arkansas who find themselves in need of help with assistance for services including housing, financial aid, credit counseling, legal aid, mental health care, government benefits and job placement. The organization works to connect clients to appropriate services in the area and follows up to make sure people have found the resources they need.

Hark has recently partnered with school districts in Northwest Arkansas and organizations like The United Way. Their site gives a breakdown of client needs and services in Bentonville, Springdale, Rogers, Siloam Springs and the surrounding cities.

The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce provides a list of resources and hotline numbers. Information includes CDC recommendations, Department of Health directives, summaries of Gov. Hutchinson’s daily COVID-19 press conferences, and information about unemployment and worker’s compensation.

Photos courtesy of the Arkansas Food Bank and the Samaritan Community Center.

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Rhonda is a writer and editor who creates content and rights the wrongs of misspelled words and grammar gone awry. A born city girl, she raises three lively boys with her husband in the rural woods outside of Springdale. She loves sharing other people’s stories with the written (and edited) word via her freelance work at RhondaFranz.com. She holds Arkansas teacher licensure and offers advice, tips, education, and humor while telling true tales of parenthood and the pilot wife life at CaptainMom.net. She schleps her children all over Northwest Arkansas and occasionally works on freelance projects in parking lots from the back of her minivan.

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