Saturday, February 6, 2016

three big things

3 big things....that's what this week involved! Monumental would be an overstatement, but let's digest and let you decide.

World Cancer Day.  We still have so many reasons to make our voices heard!Thursday was World Cancer Day.  A day I always celebrate.  I mean, it's how BIGPITTSTOP got its start.  But more than that it brings for me 2 things: a reminder of where I've been and a reminder of why we must keep fighting!  World Cancer Day is a day set aside to get as many people talking about cancer as possible.  One collective voice around one cause.  16,000 Arkansans will receive a new cancer diagnosis this year.  Crazy, huh!  I have a friend who started new chemo treatments last week and another in a couple weeks.  We have come so far...but our voices must still be heard.  Increase funding for research, advocate for patents, survivors and caregivers and do the little everyday things to let people know you care!
World Cancer Day.  We still have so many reasons to make our voices heard!


Go Red for Women day #NWARKcares 
Friday was Go Red for Women Day.  Another opportunity to come together to let our collective voice be heard. While my heart is still, and always will be, with cancer, heart disease is still the number one killer of men and women.  Yesterday my #NWARKcares crew took on a selfie challenge and took to instagram and Facebook with our red hot pictures. More on heart disease later this month, but we have to take care of ourselves.  Be our own advocates and take care of our bodies...its the only one we've got!


And TODAY, we are 1 MONTH from the wedding!!! I know its really all I talk about right now, but I've waited 33 years and dreamed about this boy for 2.5 so I get a few days of just floating, right?  Seriously so many changes coming but these days I'm really just most excited about #becomingmrsmckinney.  The details are coming together, the final days of spending time with people is happening...and this week, we approved our vows.  "I've planned and waited for today, and all that was missing was you."  Its here and I'm loving every moment!
1 month to #becomingmrsmckinney!!!

Hope you had a good week.  The days are full this time of year.  And with all the extra happening, I'm reminded to savor the quiet moments, use my voice and time in the best way possible, and fill the days with all the good things! 

What's making your days full?

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Rising Homeless K-12 Population in NWA


How surprising is it that over half of the homeless counted in the Northwest Arkansas 2015 point-in-time homeless census (PIT) are K-12 students? Over 1,200 students are without a place they can call their own on any given night throughout the year.

Every other year we do a homeless census in Washington and Benton Counties. The primary objective of that census is to get an accurate count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless adults in the region. This count provides local homeless service providers, government officials, and other non-profits a snapshot of their clientele. However, since 2007, the Community and Family Institute (CFI) has been including in that count, all K-12 students who are designated as homeless by area school homeless coordinators. This count is important to local school districts that depend on federal funds to assist these students with emergency needs like food, clothing, and case management.  

Homelessness K-12 in Northwest Arkansas @bigpittstop #NWArkCares
There is much to be concerned about in this graphic. The rising K-12 homelessness in the last eight years, the growing problem in one of our wealthiest school districts, and the lack of targeted programming to stem the tide.

Perhaps what is more troubling about the data is that we know very little about this population. We do know that nearly 90 percent of those reported homeless in the K-12 systems across Washington and Benton Counties are doubling-up with friends and relatives. They are not on the streets, very few are in shelters, and the majority is accompanied by at least one adult.

Given this assessment, you might be tempted to say something like, “at least they have a place to stay.” While certainly it is important to their overall well-being to at least have a place to live, staying with their grandparents or aunt and cousins, or even living at a family’s friends house or apartment is nothing to get excited about and in fact, can be, in many cases, a risky environment. Research consistently shows that unstable housing can be a contributor to physical and mental health risks, academic problems, food insecurity, and other markers for poor outcomes that disrupt student success and achievement.



So what can I do?

  • Start a social media conversation among your NWA friends and followers…start posting on Facebook and Twitter about this issue. 
  • Create momentum for change. Get your congregations, non-profit partners, and local businesses talking about student needs and looking for support. 
  • Organize neighborhood food drives and start stocking the shelves of your local school food pantries. 
  • Contact your local schools, talk to the homeless coordinator, and find out what their needs are: food, school supplies, clothing, etc.


School Pantries are an option for the Rising Homeless K-12 Population in NWA @bigpittstop #NWArkCares
We know that schools are buried in the job of educating their students and developing homeless prevention or intervention programs are well outside their scope and their general wheelhouse of what they can do. Many homeless coordinators are not full-time appointments and often teachers are selected to fill the role on an annual basis.  Some schools are doing the best they can do to help with needs but others are either ill equipped or unprepared to meet the demands of this high-risk student population.

Despite this somewhat grim picture, there is plenty of opportunity to act!

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Kevin Fitzpatrick, PhD is a professor of sociology and the Jones Chair in Community and the Director of the Community and Family Institute at the University of Arkansas. To find out more about what Dr. Fitzpatrick and the CFI are doing in this region visit cfi.uark.edu.
 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

what can you do: homelessness

We've talked this month about Homelessness in Northwest Arkansas.  At the beginning of the month, I shared some stats that came from the 2015 Homelessness Report.
What resources are there for the homeless in Northwest Arkansas? @bigpittstop #NWArkCares

If I'm about anything as a solution seeker, I'm about that....what's the solution; what can we do?

I think the first thing is to just drop the stigma.  I think we assume that people who are homeless did something to be in that condition.  And, maybe they did.  But, maybe not.  I think its like any condition that our population faces - sometimes things just happen. So, changing our mindset is where we begin.

Stop and read this article.  Its a great practical list.  Made me stop in my tracks and really opened my eyes to some practical things we can do in every community to change lives, add kindness and bring dignity!

Here are some organizations in Northwest Arkansas doing it well. (Shared with permission from the Fayetteville Community Pastor at Fellowship Bible Church of Northwest Arkansas) 
  • LifeSource International
Life Source International is a non-profit organization located in South Fayetteville. Using a holistic approach to help individuals and families grow mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, its goal is to make a difference both now and for generations to come. Life Source helps to strengthen families of N.W.A. through vocational training/job placement, life skills training, at risk behavioral workshops, food distribution and counseling services. The food pantry, toiletries and diapers are supplied when available. Life source serves Washington, Benton, Carroll, Madison and Adair Counties. Office hours are Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. The food pantry hours are Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. A Spanish interpreter is available. For more information, please contact: Ernie Conduff, 600 South School, Suite 2, Fayetteville, AR 72703, 479.521.4000 ernie@lifesourceinternational.org.
  • South Church 
South Church is a ministry to low-income, high need people in South Fayetteville and surrounding areas. It serves a meal each Sunday night to around 125 adults and children and offers a church service to the homeless and other interested parties. South Church also helps with rent payment, buying tents and sleeping bags for the homeless during cold weather, and purchasing prescriptions when the funds are available. For more information, please contact: John Baker, Pastor - 479.521.5337. 

  • Potter’s House 
Potter’s House is  an outreach to underprivileged children and their families in South Fayetteville. With 80 children in the program, its focus is to help these children grow emotionally, and spiritually in God’s Word through love, mentoring and interaction.

  • Seven Hills 
Seven Hills has worked with the Northwest Arkansas Housing Coalition, its clients and the public to regularly assess the needs of the homeless and respond to meet those needs. The Day Center is a multi-purpose facility.  We provide a safe, supportive environment where men, women, and children can come to access resources, and move forward toward jobs, housing, and self-sufficiency Monday to Friday 8 am to 4:45 pm and the first and third Saturday’s of each month 8 am to 1 pm.  In effect, we provide emergency shelter during the day when other shelters do not provide services, filling an important service gap for our guests. Services provided at Seven Hills Day Center to men, women, and families include meals, showers, storage lockers, laundry, clothing, blankets, case management and service referrals, use of telephone and computers, coffee, newspapers, safe mail drop, transportation, groceries, crisis counseling, volunteer opportunities, identification and birth certificate assistance, psychological counseling referrals and assessments, prescription assistance, day labor opportunities, and job search assistance. (**update the Day Center has sold and is moving...check their website for updates about this program and its new location**)

LUNCH ANGEL PROGRAM - Seven Hills Homeless Center serves lunches to 75-100 plus homeless and near homeless people every Friday and Saturday at 11:30 am. The Friday meal is served at Seven Hills day center located at 1555 MLK Blvd. On Saturdays the Wiggins United Methodist Church, 205 MLK Blvd., has graciously opened its fellowship facility to host our meals. These meals are made possible by Lunch Angels. Our Lunch Angels are typically groups or organizations that are responsible for a meal on a given day every month.  We also have substitute Lunch Angels that are willing to fill in at those times when the regular Angels are unable to provide the meal. We always welcome new groups that want the opportunity to provide a meal. If there is not an opening currently, contact information is taken so that we can reach you when an opportunity arises. Lunch Angels provide the food, prepare the meal off-site, deliver it ready to eat and then serve. Seven Hills at times receives food donations that Lunch Angels may use, as available, in preparing meals. The groups may either furnish paper plates, napkins and plastic silverware or use those items donated to and stored at Seven Hills. Melissa Moon at 479-251-7776 or at melissa@7hillscenter.org.


If you don't live in Northwest Arkansas, there are services like this in your own back yard.  As I've mentioned a couple times this month, this is an every-town issue.  If you asked the Guidance Counselor at your kids school, they could name families living in cars.  If you asked the pastor at any local church, they could mention a family who has stopped by and needed help with groceries.  If you talked to the guy who locks up buildings on main street, he could share stories of people he has seen hiding and sleeping in alley ways.

And, if you are confused why it all matters, again let me point you to the 2015 Homeless Census report, the Homeless Shelter Directory and invite you to sit down with Same Kind of Different As Me, a book that changed the way I look at ALL people!  There is a good soul in each of us.  There is light in each of our eyes that wants what is good and right and true.  And we each deserve it!

This post is part of the #NWArkCares series by the Northwest Arkansas Bloggers group. To view other posts, visit the Northwest Arkansas Bloggers Pinterest Board or follow #NWArkCares through social media.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

10 Observations from the Red Kettle

10 Observations from my day behind the Salvation Army Red Kettle @bigpittstop #NWArkCares
Last week, the Northwest Arkansas Bloggers took to the streets and partnered with the Salvation Army of Northwest Arkansas for a Red Kettle Competition.  Each month we have been focusing on a specific cause in our community and look individually at what we can do.  But, this was our first big effort to do something about that cause together in our #NWArkCares campaign.  What a fun day to take to the streets and do something about this cause of homelessness.  Together at the 2 Sam's locations for one day, we raised over $1,100.  And, we had a ton of fun while raising some awareness for @salarmynwa!

During my time beside the red kettle, I learned a few things...well maybe I had 10 Red Kettle Observations:
  1. There is power in a good brand.  The Salvation Army has been around since 1878.  That's a really long time!  But they have consistently been doing the same thing and it shows!  People know the red kettle and they know what to do when they see it.  Fill 'er up!
  2. Which, leads me to the second thing I learned...Pavlov was on to something.  The ringing bell is a dead giveaway.  People would walk right past the stand and red kettle, but the combination of the sign, kettle, ringing bell and smiling face make all the difference.
  3. People will pay money to have their picture taken with the big guy, even if he is a little guy! (see the picture of my blogger pal Tanya's kids below...she said there was a line forming...I think we have our plan for next year.  Blogger kids in Santa suits!)
  4. The words "Merry Christmas" always bring a smile.  One of the gifts of living in Northwest Arkansas is that the world is your backyard.  It didn't matter if someone spoke fluent English, broken English or Redneck, when you say "Merry Christmas," a smile will always break a frown. 
  5. If you do something enough times, it doesn't feel weird any more.  When I walked up to my post at 10:58 and took the bell, it was very daunting.  I guess I had things in my head about who the people were that ring bells and now I was joining their ranks.  Plus standing in one spot and ringing a bell and saying "hello", "Merry Christmas" and "have a nice day" to everyone you see can be a little....weird.  But, the more I said it, the less awkward it felt.  And, the less awkward it felt, the more creative I got!  I even made a few friends along the way (and actually saw 3 real life friends on their way in to buy some groceries!)
  6. Lunch is a really busy time at Sam's Club. Maybe lunch is a busy time because that pizza and those hot dogs look amazing..like I'm really glad I don't live closer to that cheap coke and pizza combo!
    10 Observations from my day behind the Salvation Army Red Kettle @bigpittstop #NWArkCares
    Coffman kids and the "Big Guy"
  7. A little live music always makes things better.  Seriously some of my fellow bloggers brought along the music and a tambourine...check out #NWArkCares on Instagram for the video of the "dancing" that was going on too!
  8. When someone says something to you...its ok to respond.  Say something.  Its ok!  And, funny/realistic responses are the best.  And, in case you wonder...they do see the weird things you do to avoid eye contact and kind banter.
  9. People always feel like they need to explain themselves. If you don't want to give, you don't have to.  But time and time again people felt like they had to tell you why they weren't giving.  Or, that they gave at a different location.  One guy even said "we give at the Wal-marts, at the other Sam's and Lowe's.  If we give everywhere we go...we won't have anything to give."  Many mentioned that they had already sent in their check and I think that's great.  I know like any non-profit, the Salvation Army counts on those annual dollars to roll in.
  10. But, my favorite thing I saw was the look of generosity on a kids face.  Kids loved to come up and bring money.  A penny, a nickle a dollar.  It really didn't matter.  My friend Paige really said it best, "If I had one takeaway it was that your kids follow your lead. If you rush past eyes down, they will rush past with eyes down. If you greet someone with a smile, chances are they will too. Can't we all afford a smile?"Kids learn giving and generosity in lots of ways and one of them is watching their parents demonstrate it or stop and enable them to do so!
10 Observations from my day behind the Salvation Army Red Kettle @bigpittstop #NWArkCares
The Salvation Army of Northwest Arkansas is "committed to breaking the cycle of entitlement that has crippled and destroyed generations of families in our communities. We will offer a hand up to those willing to grow and change toward a better life. We are committed to educating, inspiring, and ministering to this generation as we empower people to build lives of purpose. The Salvation Army provides daily meals, emergency housing, financial assistance, advocacy programs, and spiritual guidance for those in need… without discrimination."

What an honor our group had to spend a day behind the kettle!

This post is part of the #NWArkCares series by the Northwest Arkansas Bloggers group. To view other posts, visit the Northwest Arkansas Bloggers Pinterest Board or follow #NWArkCares through social media.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

10 Steps to Setting up a Holiday Food Serving Center

One of the things my dad and I do on Thanksgiving morning is Serving Irving.  Its hosted by a church in my hometown and we take food out in to the community and feed.  It really is my favorite thing we do all day.  You know I love to do things that make people smile and there is nothing more fulfilling that providing something for someone they cannot provide for themselves.

So, I thought I'd provide a little "Guide to Setting Up a Holiday Food Serving Center" because you know what I think - when you feed a belly, the door is opened to feed a soul.

Now "food" can look like lots of things.  But, since its the Christmas/Holiday Season, I thought I
would pass along a grocery list, set up map and to do list in case you might get a group together and feed some of the homeless in your community this holiday season or winter.

10 Steps to Setting up a Holiday Food Serving Center/Feeding Site:
  1. Call and coordinate location, time, and set up with site coordinator/contact 
  2. Invite people to eat if it is not the obvious meal (canvas neighborhood or mail flyers) 
  3. Gather friends and volunteers to help you 
  4. Pull together set up supplies…keep it simple! 
  5. Prepare food or coordinate getting the items donated 
  6. Load food and supplies in car and move to feeding location 
  7. Set up serving site 
  8. Serve food and share a smile 
  9. Clean up 
  10. Secure a chance to do it again! 

Grocery List:
  • Protein – Turkey, Ham, Chicken
  • Starch – mashed potatoes, dressing, rice, corn, mac and cheese 
  • Veggie – green beans, peas, mixed veggies 
  • Bread – rolls, sliced bread 
  • Gravy, if you wish (Home Depot bucket works great!) 
  • Dessert – pies, cakes, cookies 
  • Bottles of water if serving beverages with meal
Holiday Food Serving Center Shopping List - take care of the homeless and hungry this holiday @bigpittstop
 

Set-up Supply List:
  • Long tables for food set up
  • Table covering – paper table cloth, plastic table cloth, butcher paper 
  • Plates or to-go containers to serve meals 
  • Small plates or dessert containers 
  • Plastic forks and napkins if serving meal at location 
  • If serving warm, catering sterno set up – holders, warming pans, sterno heaters 
  • Stick lighter 
  • Gallon of water to go in bottom of catering pan set up 
  • To-go grocery sacks 
  • Serving spoons (include slotted if serving veggies) 
  • Tongs for meat 
  • Knife and server for pies/desserts 
  • Ladle if doing gravy 
  • Hand can opener 
  • Sharpies and pens 
  • Trash bags 
  • Rags or clean up cloths 
  • Lots and lots of smiles

And, what about the table?  Here's a little diagram to help you set up your feeding site:

10 Steps to Setting Up a Holiday Food Serving Center - table set up/ display @bigpittstop

Whether you are the one to organize the whole thing, get a group together or just participate in the day, I promise you will be the one who's heart will be the most blessed.  Most of us have so much.  We don't worry about where the next meal will come from.  We have a job that puts food on our table and can probably help put food on another.  Be a blessing this holiday season and open your eyes to the needs around you!

This post is part of the #NWArkCares series by the Northwest Arkansas Bloggers group. To view other posts, visit the Northwest Arkansas Bloggers Pinterest Board or follow #NWArkCares through social media.

Monday, December 14, 2015

5 Things You Should Buy For Your Guy This Christmas

This is a sponsored post.  I was compensated for this post with gift cards to spend at the Northwest Arkansas Mall.  The opinions and photos are my own and a representation of my personal experience on a recent shopping trip. 

5 Things You Should Buy For Your Guy This Christmas | Shoppers Guide @bigpittstop | Sponsored post Northwest Arkansas Mall
(So, if you are the man in my life....stop reading now!  I mean it...Santa is still watching and I'll take everything back!)

Let's be honest shopping for the guys can be so hard.  If they want something, they already got it for themselves. And if not, then really we just turn around and buy them what we want them to have.  They are so simple but why does buying them gifts always have to be so complicated?

Not this year, I have the perfect list of 5 things you need to buy for the men in your life.  And even better, it can all be found at your local mall!

1. Puffy and Plaid
5 Things You Should Buy For Your Guy This Christmas | Shoppers Guide @bigpittstop | Sponsored post Northwest Arkansas Mall

This year, puffy/quilted vests are all the rage and with the incredible options for plaid you are sure to mix and match his perfect colors.  Whether is flannel, a dress shirt, cotton or a henley, he needs a couple options to piece together and mix and match.  Casual & comfy or pretty & profesh, this is THE MUST HAVE for this Christmas.  There will be many under the tree at our house!

2. Help him cheer on his Razorbacks (or favorite team)!
5 Things You Should Buy For Your Guy This Christmas | Shoppers Guide @bigpittstop | Sponsored post Northwest Arkansas Mall

You just can't live in Northwest Arkansas and not cheer on those HOGS.  Whether it just finding the perfect combination of white and cardinal red.  Locating a coffee mug, dress shirt or tail gate gadgets, every guy needs something that makes him feel like a fan.  At the Northwest Arkansas Mall, you are set because the Razorback Shop is a one stop place.  But, don't be fooled, JC Penny had their own special section and the Houndstooth Co. has the perfect t-shirts for your college guy.  And, if you have a serious sports fanatic, the All American Classics shop has paintings, pictures and sports memorabilia for the guy who already has a drawer full of red shirts!

3. An excuse to use bluetooth
5 Things You Should Buy For Your Guy This Christmas | Shoppers Guide @bigpittstop | Sponsored post Northwest Arkansas Mall

An Apple Watch was on my guys list and I told him he would have to call his other girlfriend to get that!  But seriously, they think of everything and all guys love techy treats.  From accessories for his bike to the GIANT home entertainment speaker, there were gadgets galore (at many stores)!

4. Something for date night
5 Things You Should Buy For Your Guy This Christmas | Shoppers Guide @bigpittstop | Sponsored post Northwest Arkansas Mall

I mean you can't completely forget about yourself.  Its chilly in Northwest Arkansas and with all the fun things to do outside, he needs a coat to bundle up with.  Layered with those things mentioned above he will be stylin for sure.  And you won't complain about being the woman on his arm!

5. Make him feel like a man
5 Things You Should Buy For Your Guy This Christmas | Shoppers Guide @bigpittstop | Sponsored post Northwest Arkansas Mall

You can almost smell the testosterone when you walk into the tool section.  Growing up, we always called the tool store "Dad's Toy Shop."  And I get it.  Men drool over tools and gadgets like we drool over shoes and purses.  Its something we may never understand but when our necklace breaks or we need a light bulb changed, we sure are glad he has them all around.  Now....if you can just figure out how to get him to use them....

BONUS: Stocking Stuffers
5 Things You Should Buy For Your Guy This Christmas | Shoppers Guide @bigpittstop | Sponsored post Northwest Arkansas Mall

Stockings are my favorite.  And, every store has "that section."  Whether its the funny, or should I say pun-ny, guy only gifts, the retro games, the gadgets that seem to make sense but you would never have thought of or the very practical...any of it will work.  And, don't forget to look around while you are standing in line or waiting by the register.  If I've learned anything this year its that good things come in small packages!

Enter to Win the Giveaway - 5 Things You Should Buy For Your Guy This Christmas | Shoppers Guide @bigpittstop | Sponsored post Northwest Arkansas Mall
Enter to Win!
So, what about you?  Still got some men to shop for?  What if I sweetened the deal?  What if the Northwest Arkansas Mall sweetened the deal?!?!?!  I have $200 in gift cards to give away....TO YOU.

Here's how you enter:
  1. Leave a message in the comments about what is still on your list for the guys in your life and what city you live in.
  2. Follow my blog page on Facebook.
  3. Follow me on Instagram (@bigpittstop). Follow the Northwest Arkansas Mall on Instagram (@northwest_arkansas_mall).
I'll do a random drawing on Friday, December 18.  I can't wait to hear what all you are shopping for!  I sure hope I didn't miss something on mine....