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story.lead_photo.caption Pinnacle Structures and Arkansas Office Products teamed up this year to provide backpacks and school supplies for 50 students at Ward Central Elementary School. From left are Charon Regnas, Nicole Singleton and Steven Pawloski, all of Arkansas Office Products; Nancy Bard of Pinnacle Structures; Dawn Verkler, principal of Ward Central Elementary; Courtney Jackson of Pinnacle Structures; Andy Sullivan of Ward Central Elementary; and Pam Griffin of Pinnacle Structures. - Photo by Angela Spencer

Ward Central Elementary School was bustling with activity Tuesday morning. With less than a week before classes start, teachers, faculty and staff — all dressed in matching green T-shirts — worked diligently to get the school ready for students and the fast-approaching academic year.

During the excitement, a handful of people from the community brought boxes of school supplies into one of the classrooms, and because of this donation, 50 students will have backpacks and school supplies for the first day of school.

The backpacks, tissues, pens, highlighters and other supplies were donated by Arkansas Office Products and Pinnacle Structures. AOP has been donating school supplies for four years now, and the company partners with other local businesses

to identify and fund the donations in various communities throughout central Arkansas.

Steven Pawloski, president of AOP, said that four years ago, the company gave 100 backpacks to schools. Each year, the program has grown by partnering with AOP customers, and this year, the business is giving away 700 backpacks in four school districts. Pinnacle Structures was AOP’s partner in Cabot, and the manufacturing company chose Ward Central Elementary School in the Cabot Public School District to receive 50 backpacks.

“Without people like the ones at Pinnacle, we couldn’t give out these 700 backpacks this year,” Pawloski said. “Next year, our goal is 1,000.”

Dawn Verkler, principal at Ward Central Elementary, said she found out about the donation a couple of weeks before school was set to start.

“We always appreciate donations,” she said. “We’re here for the kids, so anything we can do to help them be better learners and help them be happy to be at school, we want to embrace it.”

School counselors will be responsible for distributing the backpacks, Verkler said, because they are the ones who generally know which students need supplies the most.

“We’ll look for need when giving out the backpacks,” she said. “It won’t be hard to see the need.”

Pawloski said AOP gets backpacks and supplies from a wholesaler, with requirements that the donations go to schools where at least 50 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-cost lunches.

“That’s not hard to find in Arkansas,” Pawloski said.

Ward Central Elementary was the only school in the Cabot Public School District to receive donations through AOP this year. The company — along with some of its customers — also donated backpacks to schools in the Little Rock School District, the North Little Rock School District and the Pulaski County Special School District.

Staff writer Angela Spencer can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or


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