The Fairview Community Association's 30th annual school supply benefit has been scheduled for Saturday, August 14, and organizer Wayne Gibson said, "pandemic permitting," the event will be moving back to its traditional location at the St. John Baptist Church Family Life Center after COVID-19 forced it to move in 2020.
The school supply giveaway was one of the first initiatives Gibson undertook after being elected to the El Dorado School Board. It is organized through the nonprofit Fairview Community Association in partnership with St. John Baptist, College Avenue Church of Christ, the Union County Community Foundation and the United Way of Union County.
"It started the year after I came onto the school board, so it's 30 years strong now," Gibson said. "It's our belief that it's not what you gather, but what you scatter, that makes a difference in life."
On August 14, starting at 8 a.m. and continuing until about 1 p.m., school supplies, including items like pens and pencils, notebooks and loose leaf paper, binders, crayons and backpacks, will be handed out to any local student who attends the event. Dental and personal hygiene supplies will also be offered to children who attend.
The El Dorado School District is providing needed school supplies to elementary school children in Kindergarten through fourth grade; for more information about that, visit eldoradopublicschools.org.
Also on-site will be the local Salvation Army with its mobile canteen and Excel by Eight, an organization working to ensure all children are reading on grade level by the end of third grade as well as promoting other early childhood education efforts.
The school supply drive, Gibson said, is made possible by the generosity of the community.
"The Lord just provides. Grants and donations (are provided) from generous contributors. They've seen what we've done and have been willing to contribute," he said.
Those who would like to contribute to the school supply benefit or one of the Fairview Community Association's other initiatives, which include the Waiting to Excel summer and literacy learning camps, can do so by sending donations to The Fairview Community Development Association at 1016 E. Wilson St. in El Dorado or giving the donation to Gibson or the nonprofit's treasurer Vicki Dobson.
"Or bring it by on that Saturday morning. We'd love to have you," Gibson said.
Gibson said that the annual school supply benefit has served anywhere from 250 to 1,000 children each year since its inception. Last year, the number of children who benefited dropped, Gibson said, likely due to the pandemic and the benefit having to move to a drive-through format at Washington Middle School.
"I'm sure it was because of the pandemic and because we moved our location. Many, I'm sure, were looking for us," he said. "In the Family Life building, many people just walk up."
Following this year's event, on Sunday, August 15, the Fairview Community Association will also be partnering with Douglas Chapel Missionary Baptist Church for another school supply benefit.
Gibson said he is thankful to be a part of an organization that gives back to the community.
"It's a blessing to be a blessing to others. God's not going to ask us to do something he didn't equip us to do, and that's kind of the basis of why we do what we do," he said.
COVID-19 safety measures will be observed at this year's school supply benefit, including social distancing and wearing face masks. According to a press release about the event, a child must be present with an adult to receive school supplies and both must be wearing masks. Attendees are asked to observe any public health guidance from the Arkansas Department of Health and United States Centers for Disease Control.
Children and parents from all area schools are welcome at the event, the press release says.
The event will be held at 1016 E. Wilson St. in El Dorado.