Bright Futures reflects on first year of serving Berryville students

Friday, August 11, 2017
After an emotional speech to the volunteers and participants of the Bright Futures program, coordinator Mindy Hicks poses with the Bright Futures Berryville Volunteer of the Year, Tiffany Ball.
Photo by Tavi Ellis/Carroll County News

Bright Futures has spent the past year shining a light on the needs of students in the Berryville School District and working with community leaders to meet those needs.

The program hosted its first Bright Futures Berryville Kick-Off Anniversary on Tuesday morning in the elementary school cafeteria, reflecting on the impact Bright Futures champions have had on students’ lives and inspiring the community to keep that momentum going.

Jon Racic, youth pastor of Southern Heights Baptist Church and chairman of the Berryville Bright Futures advisory board, welcomed community leaders and team members to the event.

“It’s hard to believe this marks a year that we’ve been doing Bright Futures here in Berryville,” Racic said, “and the journey for us on the advisory board started a year and a half ago with a vision and a dream to do something here in Berryville. We welcome you all to our first Anniversary Kick-Off.”

Mindy Hicks, coordinator of Bright Futures Berryville, reminded community leaders why the program refers to them as “champions.”

“Part of our slogan for Bright Futures is ‘Every child needs a champion,’ and you all are the champions for many of our kids,” Hicks said. “We appreciate your interest in and dedication to our Bright Futures Berryville program.”

Bright Futures is a nonprofit organization, she said, dedicated to bringing communities together to focus on the success of the children within their community. She said the organization wants to utilize local businesses, human service agencies, faith-based organizations and parents and families to meet the needs of students so that every child can be successful now and in the future.

Hicks said she wanted Bright Futures champions to know they make a difference by giving their time, talents and treasures to help meet the needs of Berryville students. All donations are put into an activity account, she said, so that Bright Futures can use it to address sensitive needs that cannot be shared on the Facebook page or to finish out a large project.

“We do not use any of your donated funds to operate our program, and we want you to know that we appreciate the donations and use them wisely for our students,” she said.

Hicks said Bright Futures champions make a difference to the student who receives a pair of shoes with wiggle room, the student who puts on a new pair of socks and says they are so soft and warm, the student who gets to take home extra underwear because that is not something they have at their house, the student who gets a new warm coat that is still fuzzy and the student who gets to put their school supplies in their desk at Open House next week just like the other kids.

“You also make a huge difference to our community and neighboring communities when I post a need on Facebook, and four minutes later the requested need has been filled,” she said. “One lady said to me after just barely missing the opportunity to be a champion from a Facebook post ‘You have to be really fast to be nice around here,’ and that’s true. You all answer our calls.”

Berryville is a very loving community, Hicks said, and community leaders have a heart for students’ futures.

“There are so many stories of how you make a difference, and, many times, you guys never see the impact of what you donate,” she said. “We never tell the child who purchased the item for them because we want them to take ownership of it and not feel like they owe anybody anything.”

She continued, “We talk to them about how nice it is and what a kind gesture it was. We say that if we knew who it was we would go give them a hug and say ‘thank you,’ so please know that you all are always appreciated.”

Through the Kick-Off Anniversary meeting, Hicks said she hoped that all Bright Futures champions leave feeling appreciated for what they do and hoped they would want to become involved for the first time or continue to be involved.

“I hope you leave wanting to make a difference,” she said.

Middle school principal John McClellan spoke on Berryville Bright Futures slogan for this year, which is “Be the difference #My 42.”

“So what does #My42 stand for? Studies show that people who volunteer are 42 percent more likely than those who don’t volunteer to say that they are very happy,” McClellan said. “They get fulfillment out of volunteering.”

He said his eyes were opened to the needs of children when he was 30 years old and driving the bus for his church on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings.

“I remember there were five kids we would pick up in Butler, Mo. Their parents either couldn’t work or were disabled, and they brought in about $500 a month,” he said. “Their rent was $350 a month, so that left $150 to feed, clothe and take care of the basic needs of five children.”

The church would have a potluck supper every fifth Sunday, McClellan said, and the kids would always ask him when it was coming up.

“They would get on the bus and ask ‘Mr. John, is today feast day?’ That hits me still today,” he said. “There are kids in Berryville just like that. At our schools, 70 percent of our students are on free and reduced lunches.”

He said Bright Futures champions can be the difference by providing their time, talent, donations and words of encouragement to Berryville students.

“Our talent is given by God, and our gift back to Him is fulfilling that,” McClellan said. “How are you going to use it?”

The advisory board later gave out awards for Volunteer of the Year and Business of the Year. Tiffany Ball was named Volunteer of the Year, and Tyson Foods Berryville was named Business of the Year.

Hicks said Ball has been an incredible leader for Bright Futures Berryville in her workplace, Berryville schools and in the community.

“Tiffany contacted us and wanted to be a part of Bright Futures before we were officially organized,” she said. “Last year, she was the only business representative to make sure her coworkers all had a Bright Futures T-shirt. She also represented our community at the Bright Futures USA Community Engagement Conference in Siloam Springs last March.”

Misty Arnold of Tyson Foods Berryville was approaching Bright Futures Berryville before an activity account was even established in the school’s finance office, Hicks said.

“The Berryville Tyson Team had received an award at the Poultry Federation and had chosen Bright Futures Berryville to donate the monetary funds to,” she said. “Mike Armstrong, representing Tyson Foods, was one of the first people to say he would attend our kick-off, and he has also served on our high school site council this year.”

Hicks continued, “As a representative of his employer, Armstrong has also been involved in our champion response on Facebook. Several employees from this business have also volunteered, been involved in training and have represented Bright Futures Berryville in our community. Just a few days ago and at an event last spring, Tyson Foods provided free chicken to our students and their families.”

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