Cleburne County nonprofit to renovate and expand

By Kayla Baugh Published September 21, 2017 at 12:00 a.m.
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PHOTO BY: William Harvey

Sitting, from left, Marilyn Poe, Barbara Green and Linda Wilson; and standing, Bobby Hargis, Ted Garcia, Willie Ware, Sherrie Logan and Sharon Pattison, all volunteers, are shown in the Cleburne County Cares retail store in Heber Springs. Hargis said the volunteers make the nonprofit organization special, often dedicating at least two or three days a week to work in the pantry and retail store.

Bobby Hargis believes anything can be accomplished with the right group of volunteers and a dash of dedication.

Hargis, director of Cleburne County Cares in Heber Springs, said the nonprofit hopes to have a brand-new self-serve food pantry open by January.

“It’ll be kind of like a grocery store where people who need food can come in and choose what they want. We feel like there is a lot of waste right now,” he said.

Members of the Heber Springs Police Department have been noticing bags of food from Cleburne County Cares thrown away in dumpsters, he said.

“The bags typically have stuff like rice left in them. Hopefully, this [self-service pantry] will eliminate the problem because [people] just won’t take it if they don’t want it. They certainly know what their families like and will eat,” he said.

Hargis said the new building will be approximately 6,000 square feet, giving the organization a larger amount of space than the 2,000 square feet the pantry currently occupies inside the CCC retail store.

CCC provides a week’s worth of groceries — 40 to 70 pounds of food — to people in need up to four times a year on a monthly basis, he said.

Canned goods, meat, produce, eggs, butter, bread, peanut butter, rice and crackers are some of the items usually included in the free food packages.

The pantry serves around 400 individuals per month, Hargis said.

“We want our services to benefit people in emergency situations. We don’t want to replace government programs such as food stamps.”

Hargis said the nonprofit’s retail store funds 90 percent of the programs CCC offers, including the food pantry.

“Most of our food is purchased at the Arkansas Food Bank in Little Rock. They charge 20 cents on the dollar, so we can buy $1,000 worth of food for $200,” he explained.

Local grocery stores donate food to the pantry through the Feeding America program, he said.

Hargis said community members and local churches also send in monetary donations to help fund the organization’s programs.

“We have more than a food-pantry program. We help people with rent, medical bills, prescription medication and utilities. We also have a replacement program that helps replace furniture and household items if someone experiences a house fire,” he said.

The CCC retail store sells donated goods such as clothing, furniture, jewelry, books, sporting equipment, movies, toys and music at a discounted price, Hargis said.

About 100 nonpaid volunteers keep the retail store and pantry up and running, he said.

“We all volunteer,” he said. “It’s amazing to me that all of this can be accomplished by volunteers alone.”

Hargis said the retail store will also be remodeled, allowing for more retail space in place of the food pantry.

He emphasized that the organization serves residents of Cleburne County who have a driver’s license or utility bill as proof of residency, but if someone is truly in trouble and needs food, the organization will always try to help.

The organization also donates items such as mattresses, school clothes and appliances to families who can prove they need them, he said.

CCC recently implemented a new marketing program to help expand the nonprofit, he said.

Matt Clegg, marketing committee chairman, said CCC is in the process of re-evaluating some programs, and a few changes will be coming in the future.

For now, Clegg said, his focus is on the new food pantry and the changes that will be implemented in the new building.

Construction started at the beginning of September, he said, and is still in its early stages.

“People have been getting the few things they need and tossing the rest. That’s not representing our donors well or fulfilling the purpose of the things we’re trying to do,” Clegg said.

The new pantry will allow people to pick up the things they know their children will eat, he said, thus cutting back on waste.

Food will be regulated, and community members will be able to choose a certain amount of canned goods, meats, vegetables and so on to take home, he said.

“We also hope to provide cooking classes — a lot of people in that income bracket haven’t been taught, or had someone to teach them, some of those basic life skills,” Clegg said.

Financial classes are also a possibility, he said, so community members can learn to balance a checkbook and budget their money.

Clegg said the volunteers at CCC share an incredible spirit and have a passion for giving back.

“In a lot of organizations, some older individuals don’t respect the views of younger people, and I’m in my early 30s. This organization is ready and willing to embrace new ideas and think outside of the box,” Clegg said.

“It’s the volunteers who make this special,” Hargis said. “Our programs wouldn’t exist without the volunteers. To have 100 people give up two or three days of their time each week makes it very special.”

Staff writer Kayla Baugh can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or kbaugh@arkansasonline.com.

None Kayla Baugh can be reached at 501-244-4307 or kbaugh@arkansasonline.com.

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