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Cutter Morning Star School District's annual Orange Week fundraising event recently concluded with more than $4,700 raised for the elementary school's food support program and clothes closet.

Principal Jann Gibson began the fundraiser three years ago when she moved from Yellville to become the principal at Cutter Morning Star Elementary School. She helped her previous school raise more than $4,000 in its first two years of Orange Week.

"That's one thing about her, she puts the kids first and she takes care of their needs," Pam Jackson, elementary administrative assistant and fundraising coordinator, said.

The first Orange Week at Cutter Morning Star raised more than $2,000 and the total surpassed $6,369 a year ago. The final total raised during this year's Orange Week was $4,764.97.

"She has really had the heart from her own experience with Orange Week," Tab Tucker, the elementary school counselor, said. "That's when it really started happening, as far as getting people involved."

The color orange was chosen as it represents the national "No Kid Hungry" campaign led by Share Our Strength, a national nonprofit that works to raise awareness for child hunger and provide resources to address the issue. Share Our Strength leads the "End It With Orange" campaign every September.

The backpack feeding program began several years ago to provide meals for about 20 students every weekend. Volunteers from Grand Avenue Baptist Church prepare about 55 backpacks every Thursday to be distributed on Fridays.

"I tell the Grand Avenue Baptist volunteers they are amazing and we could not do it without them," Tucker said. "I could get in there and try to throw some things together, but not like they do it. They come in and they have it coordinated."

More than 60 students currently benefit from the program and the number can increase during the school year. Tucker said students are always very thankful for what they receive as the school works to help any student from any family with their needs.

"The word is getting out more," Jackson said. "More people are helping us. We have been receiving checks in the mail from people out-of-state. We have some teachers here that have called friends or family members out-of-state."

Corrie Roberts at the elementary school helps coordinate the food pantry, which is stocked through a variety of food donations, financial donations and a partnership with the Project HOPE Foodbank. Several volunteers also help decorate the school for Orange Week.

The "Eagles Change Lives" change drive collects money to complement other fundraisers, such as shirt sales and donation drives at events, including football games and Garland County Reads. Participation from students is incentivized with grade level competitions.

The sixth grade raised the most this year at $763.33. The elementary school takes its top two raising classes to Family Park each year for a picnic and recreation time.

The fifth grade raised $602.81. The third-ranked grade, the fourth grade, trailed the fifth grade by only $21 and the school decided to include the class in its trip to Family Park.

The fundraiser also benefits the clothes closet. Students are able to shop through the school's supply.

"It is great to see the reactions from the kids," Jackson said.

"Sometimes parents will decline and let us know they do not want us to do that anymore," Tucker said. "We respect that too, but it is something we have a heart to do."

Donations from parents and businesses help stock the closet. Jackson said she also purchases items for the closet with funds from the donation presented by the United Way of the Ouachitas each year from the Oaklawn Foundation's School Wellness program.

Local on 10/10/2017

Print Headline: Orange Week nets $4,700 for CMS

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