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GRAVETTE -- Alyssa Allen, a 2019 graduate of Gravette High School, this year organized her third Give Warmth clothing drive.

With the help of the Bright Futures organization in Gravette, she worked to collect coats, socks and underwear for underprivileged students in the School District. Because of the covid-19 pandemic, masks were added to the donation item list this year and Allen arranged to have them donated by Olive Loom in Fayetteville.

"This year we knew the need would be greater," Allen said. "The number of kids to serve nearly doubled, to over 100 students, in the Gravette schools. Most of the coats we need are for children but about a third of them are for young adults," she said.

Alyssa, now a student in the honors college at the University of Arkansas, said she started the project because she experienced similar needs when she was growing up. She said the collection project wouldn't be possible without the help of Bright Futures and expressed appreciation in particular for Heather Finley, Bright Futures president, who works with her on the project. Bright Futures donated money to ensure that coats could be purchased for all children on the list.

"I feel personally connected to the cause," Allen said. " I recognize the importance of including socks and underwear because they are essential items that are often overlooked when it comes to providing the basics for children in need. I believe that all children, no matter how rural, deserve coats, so we offer delivery to any home of a child in need to help mitigate potential poverty shaming."

Alyssa said the counselors at the schools help identify children who might be in need of the clothing she collects. Clothing items were delivered Nov. 10. Deliveries were made directly to some children at their homes and arrangement was made for others to pick up their clothing at the First Christian Church in Gravette.

"I feel that it's important for us to collectively invest in the esteem of the future leaders of Gravette. Giving warmth is the perfect way to do that," Allen said. "Gravette deserves mutual aid from its own community members to its own community members. Give Warmth is a great way to show we love our neighbors," she continued.

Lake Musgrave, a fellow student who served as lead organizer, helped Allen deliver the clothing. "While delivering the coats, I was shocked by the clear and present need and humbled by the gratitude of the recipients," he said.

Susan Holland may be reached by email at [email protected]

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