By Caleb Hennington
Digital Content Editor
United Methodists of Arkansas are always generous with their time and money, and this year is no different. With the new school year fast approaching, many United Methodist Churches across the Conference are setting up school supply donation drives and back to school bashes to make sure every child, no matter where they are from or their income level, can have the best school year ever.
Check out some of our Arkansas churches that are hosting school supply drives or fun back to school events below. If your church is hosting a similar event, please contact Caleb Hennington at firstname.lastname@example.org or Amy Ezell at email@example.com to let us know!
- Blessing of the Backpacks on Aug. 11. Backpacks are placed on the altar and prayer cards are attached to them. Prayers are read for school safety and security for teachers, faculty, staff, students.
- Gathering supplies for teachers and classrooms.
is across the street from the school. On Aug. 13, the first day of school, volunteers line the street at 6:30 a.m. and hold signs with good wishes on them and wave at cars, busses, and walkers.
- A small group is sponsoring foster children through the Saline County CALL. Providing school supplies, new clothing and shoes. They will have a blessing of backpacks during worship service.
- Ralphe Bunch Community Back to School Picnic, 3 – 6 p.m. on Aug. 3 at First UMC Benton. Provides school supplies to low-income families and 900 packages of notebook paper.
- Samaritan’s Feet, an international organization that provides shoes to those in need, will also be there. After the picnic, students are invited to the church to receive new pairs of shoes. Volunteers will visit with students and family, and pray about the upcoming school year. Will also wash children’s feet as they tell them about Jesus.
- Partner with the First Baptist Church of Bismarck by providing weekly backpacks to the school, during its session.
- The food is purchased, by both women’s groups, and backpacks are filled and taken to the Bismarck school.
- During the summer months, both groups provide a feeding program for the names that have been provided by the school system to see that families have something to feed their children.
- The group also works with a community food pantry in seeing that anyone needing food has that opportunity.
- Referrals are made to the food pantry through the churches and all that is required is proof that they are a resident of Hot Spring County. Working with another denomination gives each small church more power to do greater things in this rural community.
- Back to School Fair, Aug. 3 at Cabot United Methodist Church.
- This will be 8th year of working with the community to provide for approximately 300 local children each year.
- School counselors send sign up forms home with students and parents return them with shoe sizes. Once we get their shoe sizes, we have church members shop for a brand new pair of tennis shoes for each child.
- In addition, each child gets a backpack filled with supplies for their grade level. We have gently used clothing rooms where families can select clothing to help with back to school. In addition, we have our local head lice clinic doing free checks and treatment, and local hair stylists set up for free haircuts. For more info, contact 501-259-5669 or Jana.firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Back to School Bonanza from 4-6 on Aug. 1 at the Lincoln Elementary School cafeteria.
- Back to School Bash. Free food, bounce house, water slide, volleyball, and door prizes.
- Free school supplies for Charleston, Lavaca, and County Line schools.
- From 4-6 p.m. on July 28 at First UMC Charleston.
Christ UMC – Texarkana
- Christ UMC raised a record $8,000 last year for backpack ministry through Harvest Texarkana. Christ Church also gathers school supplies and has a “blessing of the backpacks” time.
- Sending new backpacks, school supplies, and snacks to Wonderview Schools. This year we have added Nemo Vista Schools to our list of recipients as well.
- Participating in a school supply drive for Lonoke area schools.
- Buckets have been placed at the end of church pews that are being filled with: paper, notebooks, glue sticks, pens, pencils, crayons, scissors, kleenex, etc.
- They are also taking monetary donations for gift cards for teachers and counselors to assist with needs throughout the year.
Dardanelle First UMC
- Backpack program to provide take-home food items needed to supplement children.
- Goes on throughout the school year and the summer.
- Sock-it-to-me Sundays. Collect socks, underwear, coats, etc. for distribution to schools.
Elm Springs UMC
- Drive-Thru Prayer for all friends and neighbors dropping off kids on the first day of school in the morning.
- Participants will pull up under the entrance to the church’s worship center. Volunteers will pass out drinks and offer a short prayer.
- Emerson UMC gives a Walmart gift card ($200) to the principal of the elementary school so they can help with personal hygiene items, clean underwear, socks, etc. The church also participates in an ecumenical prayer walk on school grounds the Sunday evening before school starts on Monday.
- Back to School Bonanza from 4:30 – 7 p.m. on Aug. 1. Volunteers from Farmington UMC, school groups, Boy Scouts, and other denominations in the area offer washing of feet, free shoes, prayer support and communion, backpacks/school supplies, socks, underwear, Kindergarten health physicals, dental screenings, and haircuts. Each family will also leave with a free pizza for supper.
Fort Smith First UMC
- School Supply Drive for partner schools: Darby, Tilles, Northside and Belle Point.
- Back to School Bash from 1 – 3 p.m. on Aug. 4. at the church.
- Partnering with Samaritans Feet and providing 150 children with new shoes and socks for the school year.
- Providing new backpacks with hygiene kits and school supplies. Food Bank will also be open that day to help families if necessary.
- Free food, entertainment, bouncy houses, pony rides, face painting, and a live band. City services (police, fire department, EMS, and mayor) will be there with their vehicles to interact and educate children.
Harmony Grove UMC
- Supply donations are taken for children and also help with feeding local school children.
Hays Chapel UMC
- School supply drive to benefit the students at Westside school in Clarksville.
- From 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. on Aug. 10 at the Hazen Community Center.
- City-wide school supply fair. Free school supplies for kids attending Hazen Schools.
Highland Valley UMC
- Highland Valley provides a food pantry and backpack program for nearby Chenal and Watson Elementary Schools.
- The backpacks are filled with donated, non-perishable items and are picked up by representatives from the schools to take to children.
- The church also has a school uniform drive each year, which provides new uniforms for approximately 650 students.
Holly Springs UMC
- Holly Springs provides financial support for Lakeside and Harmony Grove school drive missions.
- Back to School “Share Fair,” 9 a.m. Aug. 3 at Kibler UMC.
- Passing out school supplies, eating breakfast, and playing games. Kids will receive a backpack full of supplies they need.
- Lakeside UMC is doing an outreach to local children.
Little Rock First UMC
- Little Rock First will have a School Supplies Packing Party from 9:30 a.m. – 11 a.m. on Aug. 11 at the church.
- They are partnering with Booker and Washington Elementary Schools to prepare 500 back to school backpacks, filled with crayons, pencils, folders, paper and more.
- More donations are needed and the church needs help on Aug. 11 to pack the bags.
- Lockesburg is having their 8th or 9th annual “Back-to-School Give Away,” Sat. July 27th, 8-noon. Free backpacks, with school supplies… along with a host of good used clothing, toys, books, household items, and etc. Everything is free. The fellowship hall will be filled. We even give bags so people will fill them and take it home. We’ve had TV’s, microwaves, nice china, and even some furniture that found new homes.
Maumelle First UMC
- Maumelle First UMC does a backpack program for local schools every year.
New Hope UMC
- School supplies were gathered and donated to nearby Tate Elementary School in Van Buren.
- Norman will be doing a backpack/school supply drive late this month or early next month.
Oakley Chapel UMC
- Back to School Bash, 10 a.m – 2 p.m. on July 27 at the church.
- Giving away backpacks with school supplies, offering free haircuts, games, lunch, dental and medical check-ups.
- Sardis is hosting a Dare to Share back-to-school event from 1 – 5 p.m. on Aug. 4 at their Family Life Center.
- There will be free school supplies, backpacks, hygiene kits, new and gently used clothes and shoes, haircuts, and hot dogs and hamburgers provided by Everett Buick GMC.
Siloam Springs First UMC
- School Supply Shopping Spree on Aug. 3.
- Families who would like assistance can fill out an application, and then church members who are “Shopping Buddies” will go with them to Walmart to shop for needed school supplies.
- Kids get to pick out their own backpacks, pencils, etc.
St. Paul – Fort Smith
- St. Paul UMC in Fort Smith is having a Back-to-School Carnival, 10 a.m. on July 27. They will be giving out school supplies and will have food and games for the children. At the same time, St. Paul will be distributing diapers, wipes and ointment through their Diaper Dandies program.
St. Paul – Little Rock
- St. Paul collected school supplies during VBS for children at Jefferson Elementary School in Cammack Village.
- Donations will continue to be collected through Aug. 11. The donations, backpacks, and everyone at the school will be lifted up in prayer for the new school year.
Sylvan Hills UMC
- Back to School Wellness Clinic. 4 – 7 p.m, Aug. 1 at Sylvan Hills UMC.
- Free haircuts, doctors physicals, immunizations, supplies, uniforms, shoes, dinner, books, etc.
- Vilonia UMC is having their 4th annual Back to School Bash and Community Picnic, 3 – 6 p.m. on Aug. 4 at the church.
- Giving out free school supplies and haircuts (by appointment).
- There will be games, a giant slip and slide, free food, and live bluegrass music from the band Rough and Ready.
- A love offering will be taken to benefit the food pantry the church supports called Spirit of Vilonia.
- Wickes UMC buys all the school supplies for an entire grade at Wickes Elementary. They also find other churches in the area to sponsor the other grades, so families only need to purchase their child’s backpack.