RUSSELLVILLE — Like a lot of people around spring-cleaning time, Amanda Sanborn of Russellville had a clutter problem in her attic.
It was overloaded with baby clothes and accessories, and she had no idea what to do with it all, so she decided to give the items away.
Sanborn said she didn’t suspect that her first giveaway would be one of many and the beginning of her own charity organization in Russellville.
“I decided to just give it away because selling is such a hassle. I started praying for a baby to give it to, and within a week or so, that baby came, then another, then another,” Sanborn said.
Sanborn said she wasn’t quite sold at that time on the prospect of running her own charity. After all, she was a mother and had a full-time career to worry about, but fate intervened when she heard about a needy 2-year-old child.
The girl’s mother had left the child with her grandmother in the middle of the night with nothing but a half-packed diaper bag. Sanborn got the message and responded by asking for donations on Facebook. Word spread fast of the child’s plight.
“Within a week, her needs were exceeded,” Sanborn said.
Sanborn said that after meeting with those who donated items for the girl, the same people provided extra donations for future needy children and families.
That was the sign Sanborn needed.
“I knew at that moment it was time to move forward,” Sanborn said.
That was the beginning of Open Arms, a charity operated by Sanborn and her associate, Katie Rogers of Russellville. More than 1 1/2 years since its inception in November 2012, Open Arms continues to provide children and families in crisis with items such as bottles, children’s clothing, high chairs, mobiles, toys and more.
Open Arms keeps its donated items in a climate-controlled 10- by 20-foot storage area at a private residence. In order to maintain the anonymity of those they assist, the organization doesn’t disclose where this facility is, Sanborn said. Donations are given to Open Arms at a neutral site, then are transported to the secure storage facility.
Sanborn said the families who receive items also meet Open Arms representatives at safe, neutral sites such as Harps or Kroger.
To receive donations, patrons need not worry about preconditions, she said.
“There is no application or requirement to receive God’s blessings,” Sanborn said.
The multitude of donations has allowed for growth in the organization. Its operations have expanded from one giveaway per year to four. One such event was held March 29.
Kidz Jam, as it was named, was held in the parking lot of Oakland Heights Elementary School. Boxes of clothing and other items were lined up to be given away, and many of the area’s needy showed up to take advantage of the assistance. Tangles Salon provided haircuts and painted nails, volunteers painted faces, and even local musician Some Guy Named Robb stopped by to play music.
Another giveaway is being planned for May.
Sanborn said Open Arms needs lots of children’s summer and back-to-school clothing for the giveaway, and those who want to donate items are asked to contact the organization for pickup.
Because of its recent growth, Open Arms is in need of volunteers, in addition to donated items.
“We mainly need volunteers to help us sort things out at the giveaways,” Sanborn said.
Costs have increased with the recent upswing in donations, she said. Sanborn said she initially estimated that operating Open Arms would cost $750 per year, but the total has stretched beyond that figure.
She said the largest expense for Open Arms is the $400 price tag for the 501(c)(3) tax identification required by the Internal Revenue Service for an organization to obtain nonprofit and tax-exempt status. This identification would allow Open Arms to partner with other charities and organizations, such as the United Way.
Sanborn said monetary donations are needed in order to receive the tax ID.
Although costs are rising, and obtaining monetary donations has been difficult, Open Arms continues to assist families in crisis in the River Valley, she said.
“When you freely open your arms to receive, you can freely open your arms to be able to give,” Sanborn said.
For more information on donating to, volunteering for or receiving assistance from Open Arms, visit its Facebook page at facebook.com/open.
armsar or its website at www.openarmsar.com, or contact Sanborn at (479) 747-4913.
This story was provided by Adam Reeves.