04-03-2007: A Helping Hand : Scholarship program another way to help

With the sights and smells of spring in the air, Benton County is coming alive. Many of us are turning toward those outdoor activities we love so much, while a select few are preparing for what the future holds for them after high school.

Many people know Helping Hands works hard to help meet the financial, material and nutritional needs of our neighbors in need but may not realize that Helping Hands also works hard to ensure that at least a few of our local students are given the opportunity to attend college.

Through a partnership with the Single-Parent Scholarship Fund of Benton County, Helping Hands contributes $ 6, 000 each year to help single parents chosen through the scholarship program to attend college. In addition, we provide $ 1, 000 scholarships to graduating seniors at both Bentonville and Rogers high schools. Our goal over the next few years is to expand our scholarship program to all seven high schools in Benton County, but as you know, that requires additional funds. We are working on some fundraising ideas to help us in reaching this goal.

We truly believe that by getting involved in our local schools, we can benefit not only the graduating seniors but hopefully have a positive impact on all our schoolchildren. We have worked hard to establish partnerships with a variety of organizations within the school districts, and we hope we can continue to open those doors, not only for students but for teachers, too.

In addition to the yearly scholarships, we continue to do as much as we can to meet the needs of those within Benton County who are going though tough times. As Iíve said before, we simply couldnít do any of it without the help of the community. With recent weather putting many in the mood to do some spring cleaning, itís no surprise weíve seen an increase in donations that results in increased sales.

Sometimes people really canít see the big picture when they donate to organizations such as ours. But those of you who choose to donate to Helping Hands are doing as much for your community as the rest of us are. Without donations, we have nothing to sale in our thrift store. If you take away the revenue of the store, we canít fund our assistance programs. Those items you clean out of your closet or garage each year play a big role in our ability to meet the needs presented by our clients.

Like weíve discussed before, we canít tell you how important those of you who donate to our store are, nor can we express enough thanks to those who shop at the store. Sure, itís a wonderful place to find a bargain or a hidden treasure, but in doing so youíre also helping to feed hungry children or provide elderly neighbors with their medication this month. Itís really a winwin situation for everyone. Together, we can and will continue to make a huge difference in the lives of those who call Benton County home. Iíd also like to encourage anyone wanting to get involved in a worthwhile cause to take a tour of our operation and give some consideration to donating your time. We have volunteers whom we see on a daily basis, and we have some we see just a few hours a month, but the bottom line is simple ó they save us a ton of money each year. Last year, our volunteers saved us more than $ 500, 000 in employee costs. That $ 500, 000 was used in other areas. So sometimes itís the little things that make the biggest difference. I simply canít thank our volunteers enough. This is, without a doubt, the most dedicated and committed group of people Iíve ever had the pleasure of working with, and they have no idea how proud I am to have the opportunity to do so each day.

Bill Crawford is manager of Helping Hands, a thrift store at 320 S. W. Airport Road in Bentonville that is operated on a nonprofit basis by a number of area churches. Contact Crawford at helpinghands @ cox-internet. com.

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