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Spread Joy and Sponsor Christmas for a Local Child in Need

The United Way Joy of Sharing campaign is a gift drive to help make the holidays more special for 80 Pre-K children with families who are struggling to make ends meet this year.

By last count, there are 17 children in Northwest Arkansas left waiting to be sponsored in the United Way Joy of Sharing program. Join United Way in making this holiday season special for a child in Northwest Arkansas—the gifts may be some of the only they receive this Christmas!

Here is how it works:

  1. Select a child HERE.
  2. Purchase items on the list and gift wrap items in one to two boxes (Recommend spending a minimum of $50.00 – $75.00 to sponsor each child).
  3. Return wrapped gifts to the United Way of NWA offices located at 100 Parkwood Street, Lowell by Thursday, December 12. The office is open Monday – Friday from 8am – 4:30pm.
  4. If you have questions or to schedule a drop off please contact Christina Hinds, Vice President of Resource Development at chinds@unitedwaynwa.org or 479.303.4410.

Visit unitedwaynwa.org/joy for more info.

Community

Northwest Arkansas: 'Tis the Season for Giving!

Here are a number of opportunities to give back over the holidays.

During the holiday season, our social feeds fill with an array of charitable opportunities. We wanted to do our best at collecting and sharing requests for local donations. This is a running list, so if you are aware of others we should add, please drop an email to alicia@findingnwa.com, and we will update the post.

7hills Homeless Center

It's getting colder outside which means 7hills is starting to need those cold-weather items to help our neighbors experiencing homelessness to stay warm! Here's a short list of items currently needed.

Ranger's Food Pantry

If you would like to donate to Ranger's Pantry, individuals may drop off dog or cat food donations to the Community Resources Division office located at 125 W. Mountain St in Fayetteville, or at any one of the City of Fayetteville Fire Stations. Monetary donations are also accepted, and 100% of proceeds are used in the purchase of food.

Did you know? As of today, Ranger's Pantry has assisted 118 families (including 238 pets) and distributed over 8,000 pounds of food.

Northwest Arkansas Children's Shelter

Every child in the care of the Northwest Arkansas Children's Shelter from mid-November to New Year's Day will receive Christmas gifts, whether they are residing with them on Christmas Day or not. Many of the kids have never had the opportunity to celebrate the holidays with yummy food, treats and gifts. With your help, they can make sure that all of the children in their care have a very happy holiday season. Questions? Email development@nwacs.org or call 479-795-2417.

Samaritan Community Center

Donate a sleeping bag to help keep our neighbors in need nice and warm. Donations can be dropped off at the Samaritan Community Center located at 1211 W. Hudson Road in Rogers.

Also, Walmart has selected the Samaritan Community Center to the be the first test site nationally for their new Registry for Good! Here's how it works: You can go HERE to connect to their current needs list. They are seeking personal care items as they are not covered by SNAP benefits. Select the items you would like to purchase on SCC's behalf. You can either have them delivered directly to the center (delivery charges apply on orders under $35) or you can pick the items up and drop them off at one of the SCC locations.

NWA Center for Sexual Assault

NWACSA is in need of your support. They need travel size toiletries and any size men's pants. You can bring your donations to the Center at 1670 W Sunset Ave., STE B, Springdale, AR, 72762. For more information, call 479-347-2304.

Northwest Arkansas Women's Shelter

As the holiday season approaches, some of you may want to give items to the local women's shelter and their clients. They have created three Amazon wish lists to help fill their needs. All you have to do is purchase the items and click ship.

  • Click HERE to go to their Administration wish list.
  • Click HERE to go to their children/family wish list.
  • Click HERE link to go to their shelter operations wish list.

Meals on Wheels

The Community Resources Division in Fayetteville is seeking holiday gifts for seniors to be distributed to our neighbors on the Meals on Wheels program! Donations will be accepted now through mid-December. If you would like to donate, give them a call at (479) 575-8260, and they'll be happy to get you started!

As in years past, great gift ideas include: crossword/sudoku/jigsaw puzzles, coffee/tea, mens & women's robes/nightgowns, socks/slippers/house shoes, emergency radios, first aid kits, gift cards—and more!

Cooperative Community Outreach

Fayetteville Public Library patrons can bring in canned goods and other non-perishable food items and get overdue fees waived during Food for Fees Week. The program begins Monday, Nov. 11 and runs through Sunday, Nov. 17.

Library patrons will get $1 in overdue fees waived for each can or box of food donated during the drive. Food for Fees will not cover replacement fees for lost or damaged materials. Unopened, unexpired, non-perishable, non-glass donations will be accepted.
Items needed include:

  • peanut butter
  • canned tuna fish or chicken
  • beans
  • canned soup or fruit
  • cereal
Participants should bring the food items to the checkout desk along with their library card. Food for Fees benefits Cooperative Emergency Outreach, an organization that provides emergency assistance to residents in parts of Washington County. Assistance includes food, vouchers for clothing and prescriptions, and assistance with rent and utilities. To learn more about CEO, visit their website at www.ceofayetteville.org. For more information about Food for Fees, please ask a FPL staff member or call the checkout desk at 479-856-7113.

Restoration Village

Restoration Village, a long-term facility for women and children in crisis, is in need of adult and child toothbrushes and male and female deodorant! Please reach out to them HERE if you are willing to assist with this need!

Marshallese Education Initiative

MEI is now accepting new or clean, gently used coats of all sizes for Marshallese youth and others in need now through Dec 20th. MEI is located at 614 E Emma Ave Suite 203, Springdale, AR 72764.

Happy Holidays!

Stories

Recruiting Defenders of Potential in Northwest Arkansas

There are over 60 children in Northwest Arkansas waiting on a mentor to volunteer their time. Now is that time.

Guest Post by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Arkansas (@BBBSNWA)

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Arkansas made its first match in 1995. Nearly 25 years later, we are still matching kids in one-to-one relationships with caring, vetted adults. We know that our programs are effective. Children in our youth-mentoring program are 52% less likely to skip school and 86% of kids matched with a mentor have improved self confidence.

BBBS PSA

Right now, we have an urgent need for volunteers in our community. You can volunteer as a Big Brother, Big Sister, Big Couple or even a Big Family. All it takes is about four hours a month with a commitment of at least one year. We match our kids with Bigs based on where they live and what they like to do for fun. If you love fast cars, or building robots, watching the latest Disney movie or crafting necklaces, we have a Little who loves the same things.

Big Brother Ketan & Little Brother Ryan

Big Brother Ketan was recently matched with his Little Brother Ryan. Ryan waited over a year to be matched. He has a neuromuscular disorder which leads to low muscle tone, and it took some time to be able to find the right match. At their match introduction, they immediately bonded over love of Marvel movies and their strong passion for learning. One of their goals for the year is for them to learn Spanish together. Ryan's dream is to be a mechanic and, on their first outing, Ketan reported that Ryan asked to look under the hood of his car. Ketan does not have the same interest in cars but absolutely believes in fostering Ryan's quest for curiosity and learning. So, when Ketan heard about Tinkerfest at Amazeum where a car was to be dismantled, he immediately reached out to Ryan's mom to plan to take him. Ketan said Ryan had the time of his life and was able to take apart a carburetor.

There are dozens more children just like Ryan who want a mentor in their life. If you are ready to become a defender of potential⁠—simply fill out an application on our website at www.bbbsnwa.org or attend an upcoming volunteer orientation.

The upcoming orientations are:
· Thursday, Nov. 7, 6 to 8 p.m. at the Panther Health and Wellness Clinic in Siloam Springs
· Sunday, Nov. 10, 2 to 4 p.m. at our Fayetteville Office - 91 W. Colt Square Dr. Suite 3, Fayetteville
· Thursday, Nov. 21, 6 to 8 p.m. at the Roger's Public Library
· Saturday, Dec. 7, 9 to 11 a.m. at our Fayetteville Office - 91 W. Colt Square Dr., Suite 3, Fayetteville
· Wednesday, Dec. 11, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Bentonville Public Library

Environment

Cultivating Youth Scientists in NW Arkansas

Youth Guardians of Conservation NWA (YGCNWA) is on a mission to provide high school students with authentic, real-world, scientific leadership experience.

Occasionally, we get the honor of introducing new local organizations to our audience. Today, that organization is Youth Guardians of Conservation of Northwest Arkansas (YGCNWA). Co-founded by high school science teachers, Matthew Holden and Cameron Simpkins, YGCNWA is working to equip students throughout Northwest Arkansas with experiences that will allow them to become the next generation of conservation leaders. Their plans are pretty rad, learn more by checking out our Q&A below.

What inspired the creation of Youth Guardians of Conservation?

It emerged from our mutual passion for the environment and education. We noticed a lack of opportunities for local youth to get involved in authentic conservation research experiences and wanted to utilize the resources of Northwest Arkansas (universities, state and federal agencies, corporations, etc.) to provide new and unique opportunities for students to actively participate in research and conservation at the local, regional, and global level.

How did your personal journey's lead you to this effort?

Cameron: Matt and I have a common passion for the environment and education. Matt interned for me as a student teacher for my AP Biology courses while he was pursuing his Master of Arts in Teaching. Prior to becoming an educator, Matt worked as a wildlife conservation biologist and saw the importance of conservation first hand. Having taught in multiple school districts in Arkansas, I have been exposed to varying attitudes toward environmental education and toward science research in general. It's amazing how many young people (or not-so-young people) have not spent time in their own backyards! Curiosity can be a practice that is embedded in our daily lives. After completing my undergraduate degree, I realized the responsibility of an educator to facilitate the practice of curiosity. And when I took on Matt as a student teacher intern, I wanted to model that facilitation. What we found was that two things got in our way—funding and the four walls of the classroom. When we put our two environmentally-concerned heads together, YGCNWA was conceptualized. We want local youth to get involved in authentic, real-world research conservation experiences, to discover how conservation and science affect them personally and empower them to become the global conservation leaders of the future

What are your primary goals?

  • Foster global citizenship through meaningful and authentic cultural and scientific experiences for local youth
  • Making these experiences as accessible as possible for all students and families
  • Practice sustainable tourism by carefully selecting and monitoring the locations of our expeditions
  • Support sustainability and conservation efforts in Northwest Arkansas
  • Offer opportunities to build partnerships with local environmental supporters and create access to local environmental experts
  • Educate our project participants about local and global environmental issues
  • Provide students and families with opportunities for environmental stewardship
  • Create environments where participants feel safe and comfortable
  • Develop programs with purpose, focusing on enrichment and education at the core
  • Raise awareness about how science research can affect policy, economics, local communities
  • Engage in real science research experiences

What needs are you serving or gaps are you seeking to fill?

We hope to bring educational, cultural and research experiences to the students and families we serve. Specifically, we select actions that move ourselves and participants forward in a pattern of progression, from Education to Research to Culture. Through this model, we are looking to engage two core groups in the community:

Underrepresented Youth in the Sciences

We want to reach students who are traditionally underrepresented in the sciences (women, African Americans, Latinx) because many of these students do not ever consider the possibility that they could become scientists or conservationists. Often, because they are not exposed to people that look like themselves in these occupations. We want to provide these students with opportunities to work with scientists and professors that they can relate to, and thus increase the likelihood of them being inspired to continue in science research.

Rural Youth in the Sciences

We want to reach as many students as we can regardless of location, however, many students in rural areas may have never left the state or had a chance to participate in authentic science research. We want to provide opportunities for these students, especially if they have never considered becoming a scientist or conservationist.

What experiences are you hoping to deliver?

High impact science experiences. These could include field trips to labs or field stations to work with real-world scientists and experience the research first hand, international trips to conduct conservation research while learning about a new culture, in-class presentations or demonstration labs conducted by scientists, professors, and graduate students.

It is our hope that these experiences will create "hook moments" or "aha moments" where students feel inspired to become future conservation leaders.

As an example, in June of 2020 we will be taking a group of 21 students down to Costa Rica to work with the Holbrook Travel and the Latin American Sea Turtle Organization. Leatherback sea turtles are an endangered reptile with a 100-million-year history! Students that participate in this experience will work side-by-side with researchers to collect data on leatherbacks and help protect their nests. Matt was recently awarded the EPI's Costa Rica Sea Turtle Ecology Teacher Fellowship. There are less than 100 educators around the globe selected annually for this fellowship.

How can the local community get involved, support these efforts, and learn more?

We are actively partnering with a number of local businesses on upcoming fundraising events, which will be posted on Facebook.

Direct charitable contributions would go a long way toward helping provide scholarships for youth to participate in our regional and international experiences as well as help us secure research materials (pipettes, beakers, test tubes, reagents, incubators, etc.) and field supplies (nets, quadrats, transmitters, environmental quality probes, etc.) for youth-led research projects.

Lastly, we are always seeking collaborations with partners: University of Arkansas and NWACC professors, local research lab, undergrad and graduate students, and local like-minded organizations.

Any parting words?

As we often remind students, you could know all there is to know about cancer and never cure it. Then you could use all that education, engineer a cure and test it via ethical valid research, and that still would not be enough. The key to positive change is when the research reaches society, in the constant back-and-forth of the conversation between culture and science.

We aim to motivate students to integrate environmental stewardship into their lives at home, in the community, and across any path they may travel. Join us!

You can learn more about YGCNWA at www.ygcnwa.org. Follow them on Facebook HERE and Instagram HERE.

Community

A Region that Puts Love Into Action

Northwest Arkansas is a region gaining wider appeal as people flee larger metros in search of a lower cost of living and a better quality of life.

The appeal of Northwest Arkansas can be derived from the data. For instance, a family making $42,000 in Northwest Arkansas would have to make $100,000 in San Francisco to maintain the same cost of living. And, as a recent study by the Walton Family Foundation points out, "95% of residents reporting being 'very happy' or 'fairly happy' with the region." But what lies outside of the correlations? Let's attempt to get to the heart of the matter.

There is something beyond the dollar signs, something that doesn't show up in surveys, that sets this region apart. A kind of way-of-being or aura around the economic calculus, that emits from those who call this region home. We propose it is this⁠—a strong sense of community⁠—that sets our region apart. An intangible thing, probably best captured and felt in stories like the one below.

"Springdale Community Comes Together To Make Local Girl's Birthday Party Special" - KFSM

The local news shared 150 headlines this week, but this one stuck out and seems to perfectly encapsulate Northwest Arkansas' essence.

Here is the story, as shared by the girl's mom:

"I'm Stephanie, Shamai's mom. We had a birthday party for my daughter this past Saturday and we invited 20 kids to celebrate, but only two showed up. When we saw that our time was running out on our reservation, my family and I decided we'd invite the community. So I posted to Facebook that I still had room for 17 kids to join us to celebrate my daughters birthday and share a great time. Everything was paid, so we wanted to enjoy it.

The response was touching, families started to fill the room! Some couldn't stay, but stopped by to wish Shamai a happy birthday. The gestures of kindness were very sweet. Our community is amazing, and I'm so grateful this happened. We learned a great lesson from this, you find kindness where you least expect it!"

The Most Memorable Moment

Stephanie was kind enough to share a few words with us about her experience.

Q: What particular moments stuck out for you after the community showed up?

A: The most touching moment was when the first family, a mom and her daughter, showed up. They were on their way to see her father who had terminal cancer, and she just stopped to wish Shamai a happy birthday. I cried, because she took some precious time to do that.

Stephanie also informed us that they were so moved by the turn of events that they are now reaching out to local organizations about donating Shamai's birthday presents to less fortunate children in the area.

If that doesn't make your heart melt, we don't know what will.

This is Northwest Arkansas.

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