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story.lead_photo.caption Jameson Archer, 14, has been recognized as a Distinguished Finalist in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program for her initiative to fight childhood hunger. She started a quarter drive to raise money for the Sheridan School District’s food backpack program. Jameson’s father, Joe Archer, built the collection boxes, which are 27 inches tall, using clear plastic piping attached to a base. - Photo by William Harvey

Jameson Archer, 14, wants to make a difference in the world.

As a fourth-grade student at Sheridan Intermediate School, Jameson, now a ninth-grader at Sheridan Junior High School, made a trip with her mother to Heifer International’s ranch in Perryville. While there, Jameson watched a video about a mother who could not feed her child, and the child died.

“I thought, ‘No child should die because they have no food,’” said Jameson, who lives with her family in Prattsville.

A few months later, she saw a money collection box for a local charity and came up with an idea to start a quarter drive to support the Sheridan School District’s food backpack program for students who do not have enough to eat at home.

“We’ve raised over $2,200 since I was in the fifth grade,” Jameson told visitors gathered at First United Methodist Church of Sheridan, which is the site of a quarter collection box. She said the quarter drive has become one of her church youth group’s major philanthropies.

Jameson has also worked with her church youth group to provide hands-on help to sort and assemble the backpacks of food and to run a Super Bowl Sunday donation drive that has collected more than $1,500 for a food pantry.

Jameson was recently recognized for her efforts to fight childhood hunger as a Distinguished Finalist in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program, a nationwide program honoring young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism. She is one of just six honorees from Arkansas.

A total of 234 students nationwide were recognized as Distinguished Finalists for their community-service activities. Each received an engraved bronze medal. From this group, 102 youth volunteers were selected as state honorees.

The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, now in its 23rd year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

“Prudential is proud to recognize these remarkable young people for using their energy, creativity and compassion to bring meaningful change to their communities,” said John Strangfeld, Prudential chairman and CEO.

“We hope their stories inspire others to consider how they can do the same,” he said.

“These middle level and high school students have not only improved the lives of the people and communities they’ve served — they also set an important example for their peers,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of the principals association. “These honorees prove that you’re never too young to make a difference.”

At the Sheridan School Board meeting March 12, Jameson’s principal, Jason Burks, presented her with the medallion in recognition of her work in starting the community quarter drive that supports Sheridan’s food backpack program.

“Jameson is an incredible student with an admirable passion to serve others,” Burks said. “She has already made a positive impact in our community and will no doubt continue to find new ways to help those in need. We are proud of her and can’t wait to see what else she accomplishes.”

Sheridan Junior High School Assistant Principal Angela Douglas nominated Jameson for the Prudential Community Spirit Award.

“I have had the privilege to watch Jameson grow up while seeing her in the hallways,” Douglas said. “She is a great student with a huge heart for others. She not only participates in school activities but is an active participant in her church and community.”

Jameson said she thinks “we are making a change in Arkansas’ hunger problem.”

“I feel like we can get bigger … raise even more than we are now. We have made a change, but bigger changes are needed,” she said.

“We provide food for the elementary school and a part of the high school,” Jameson said. “At the elementary school, they provide 85 backpacks a week. Each backpack has 21 servings of food in it, including nonperishables such as cereal, crackers, and mac and cheese. The Sheridan Lions Club and other churches support it, too.”

Sam Green works with the Lions Club’s community food program. He also knows Jameson through membership in First United Methodist Church.

“Jameson is an exceptional child,” said Green, who is facilities coordinator for the Arkansas Foodbank, which merged with the Arkansas Rice Depot in 2016. He said the Arkansas Rice Depot started the Food for Kids Backpack Program in the 1980s, and many organizations have patterned similar programs.

“I’ve known Jameson eight or 10 years. My wife teaches her Sunday School class, and I cook them breakfast,” Green said.

“Her quarters go to help provide food for the backpacks at the elementary and high school, and our Lions Club supports the program at the junior high. Immanuel Baptist Church also supports the program,” he said.

“There is a need in this community,” Green said. “The money we raise stays local.

“Anything I can do to hold a torch for Jameson, I will. She is an exceptional child.”

Jameson said fighting childhood hunger should be a priority for everyone.

“The thought of another child not having access to food is just unbearable to me,” she said. “I plan to keep on doing my quarter collection boxes.”

Members of the community who want to donate to the quarter drive may bring their quarters to First United Methodist Church of Sheridan, 100 E. Church St. For information about donating time or money to the food backpack program, contact Green at (501) 461-0617.

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