It’s the holiday season, and helping out neighbors in need is on the minds of lots of folks around Arkansas this time of year.
On the other side of that coin, the holidays can also be a stressful time for those struggling to keep food on the table, buy gifts for their children, or just to make ends meet in general.
Luckily for Northwest Arkansas, there are organizations like Fayetteville-based LifeSource International that work tirelessly to connect those who want to help out with locals who could use a helping hand.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll work to shine a light on some of these great local organizations to let folks know more about the things they do for the community not only during the holidays, but throughout the rest of the year as well.
Giving a hand up, not a hand out
Lifesource International was founded in 2001 by locals Ernie and Terry Conduff as a food pantry run out of a small closet in a local church.
Since then, the organization has grown to serve more than 55,000 people each year through a host of programs in Northwest Arkansas, all designed to give families in need “a hand up, not a hand out.”
“We have a holistic approach to dealing with poverty,” said Tessa Capel, development officer for LifeSource. “There’s a misconception that poverty is a lack of money. It’s not. It’s a cultural issue.”
To combat poverty locally, LifeSource works to help their clients develop skills that will help them move into better situations in their lives.
“You can’t hand somebody a bag of food and think it’s going to solve the world’s problems,” Capel said. “You’ve got to educate yourself, to move into that better position, to get that better job. That’s what we focus on.”
LifeSource currently utilizes seven programs to address the issues locals living in poverty deal with.
The organization still serves as a Food Pantry open to the public from 8:30-11:30 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. The pantry is open from 6-7 p.m. on Mondays for working parents, and at 5 p.m. on Thursdays for Spanish speaking families. They also provide a community meal the last Saturday of every month at the Yvonne Richardson Center, as well as quarterly meals at a local church.
LifeSource also conducts Adult Education Classes to help people learn skills from resume writing and job interviewing to cooking, financial management, or parenting.
They offer Counseling Services to help clients cope with common issues like anger management for a reduced or waived fee.
In addition, they offer a Kids Life Program – offering after school and summertime assistance to local children, a Medical Referral Program to connect folks who can’t afford medical care to connect with doctors that donate their time, and a Senior Program offering meals and entertainment to local senior citizens twice each month.
They also administer a local Toys For Tots program to make sure local children have presents under their tree for the holidays. Capel said this year the program will provide toys to about 1,500 families.
LifeSource operates on a small staff of about a half-dozen employees (and only two of those are full-time) and a handful of dedicated volunteers so that they can apply as many resources as possible to helping locals.
They operate on funds raised through corporate giving, grants, as well as money raised at several events they put on throughout the year.
Among them is an annual gala called Hands of Compassion held each spring at the Fayetteville Town Center. This year’s gala is set for 6:30 p.m. on April 22.
They also host a fashion show fundraiser called Fashion for Compassion, an Empty Bowls fundraiser featuring local pottery and soup from local restaurants, and a Hog Country Breakfast fundraiser during Bikes, Blues & BBQ in the fall.
“We always have a huge need for volunteers, especially during pantry times,” she said. “And every dollar counts. Just $10 provides 27 pounds of food. We put that dollar to good use.”
LifeSource accepts monetary donations via Paypal or credit card from their website. They also accept donations of toys, clothing, furniture, and non-perishable food items from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday at their office, located at 602 S. School Avenue in Fayetteville.