Three volunteers sat at a table at Carolyn Lewis Elementary School and struggled to make fleece blankets that students could use to sit on to read. 

They wanted to get it right. Outside, half a dozen other volunteers sanded a picnic table they built for the school.

“We’re just trying to serve the community,” said Kayla Garrett, a local merchandiser for Belk.

Nationwide, Belk is celebrating its 125th anniversary with 125 days of service to improve 250 title one schools in 16 states. 

The corporation picked Carolyn Lewis — Conway’s newest school that opened this school year — as a school it wanted to help. 

The school is the only local school chosen.

Carolyn Lewis hasn’t had a chance to acquire all the equipment other schools have, Principal Tina Antley said. The volunteers are giving schoolchildren something they need, she said.

“They need a positive learning environment,” Antley said. 

“That needs to be part of everything we do. They’re kids. If sitting under a blanket helps kids learn, or enjoy learning more, that’s great.”

Belk in Conway is making enough “magic carpet” reading blankets for one classroom, making a picnic table for outside and building bookcases, according to employees and a news release. 

One teacher won a goodie bag and makeover through a drawing, and Antley received a gift basket worth $300 and a makeover offer through Belk worth about that much, store manager Tonia Williams said.

Belk is known for supporting community events and services, including the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, employees said. This year, the company decided to step up its service “by investing $2 million in its first company-wide service program, engaging all 23,000 of its employees. Points of Light, the largest organization in the world dedicated to volunteer service, will help lead the effort,” according to a news release.

The first event took place in Charlotte, S.C., on March 11. Employees in other states are also doing volunteer work for the next 125 days. In Conway, Belk employees started working at 10 a.m. Wednesday. They plan to return later to build the bookcase, said Williams.

The community effort is to show that Belk cares about the local community, Williams said.

Belk employees said they wanted to come out to help their local school. They talked to the schoolchildren about books and favorite subjects.

“It’s important to be involved with the kids who will one day be in charge of our world,” Visual Manager Billy Reid said while holding power tools he was using on the picnic table.

Back inside, Garrett let second grader Addison Gray, 7, cut part of the fabric that will be a reading rug. Addison’s favorite subject is reading, she said.

Some classes already have beanbags and rugs inside, but these new reading mats will mean students can read anywhere, said Matthew Garrett, 8, who is not related to Kayla Garrett. 

Matt liked the fleece blankets. They seemed soft, he said. They seemed like the perfect thing for reading.

“I like it because now we can read outside instead of just reading inside,” he said. 

“At recess, we can take a book out there.”

(Staff writer Scarlet Sims can be reached by email at or by phone at 505-1246. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to Send us your news at