For one evening each year, the Jeffrey Unit of the Boys & Girls Club becomes a one-stop destination for children in need of clothes for the upcoming school year.
Community Bible North Fort Smith's annual Back-To-School Clothes Giveaway draws hundreds of people who need to provide clothes for their children before they begin classes. This year's giveaway, held from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday at the unit, literally had tons of clothes, shoes and backpacks for families, said Jackie Flake, pastor of Community Bible North.
“(We can) really give a boost to families that have kids who are going back to school and try to give them a positive push for the school year," said Jerry Glidewell, executive director of Boys & Girls Club Fort Smith.
Flake said Community Bible North has held the giveaway for nearly a decade and draws about 600 people each year. He said the mission behind the giveaway is "the community helping the community."
"This is our area of ministry," Flake said. "We just have a fond affection for this neighborhood."
Community Bible for the past four years has held the giveaway at the Jeffrey Unit, Glidewell said. He said volunteers at Community Bible North collect clothes all year long, and that Boys & Girls Club volunteers collect clothes as well.
Volunteer Michelle Kincannon said the fourth, fifth and sixth grades at Community Bible help organize the clothes.
“It continues to grow each year," Glidewell said. "We get more and more volunteers, more donations and more interest in helping others.”
The gym inside the Jeffrey Unit on Wednesday was sprawling with families gathering clothes for the upcoming school year. They began in a line that reached back to the Unit parking lot and ended outside with Arvest Bank volunteers greeting them with hot dogs and drinks.
Glidewell said people were lining up outside Jeffrey's Unit five hours before the doors opened.
“I’m really glad for the turnout, but equally important is the amount of volunteers who helped put this on," Flake said. "This is tremendous.”
"Jackie probably gets the credit, but he’s not going to take it," Glidewell said. "It’s a partnership of teamwork to help others. It’s a great feeling to be able to do that.”
Kincannon, who has volunteered at the giveaway for four years, said the event is also a good way to show young people what it means to serve others.
"My two boys have been in that ministry," she said. "They come in throughout the week and help organize the clothes, and then they come tonight and help people with bags, help people find the right sizes, that kind of stuff."
Going forward, giveaway organizers hope to continue to expand the event.
"We’ll continue to do this, and hopefully be able to find more people to get involved and to share," Glidewell said.
"We like bringing good things back to the north side," Flake said.