For many county residents, the Pine Street Community Backpack Program, now in its third year, offers assistance in the task of readying students for another year of school.

Parents, especially those of multiple students enrolled in public schools, were thankful for the program’s offerings Saturday. 

Fundraising efforts on the program committee’s part, and the work of local philanthropic individuals and businesses, culminated in an event offering food, backpacks and hair cuts for students and family members in the educational wing of the Pleasant Branch baptist Church in Conway.

Though the Backpack Program isn’t the only of its kind in the area, it is singularly different, Gena Ester, committee member, said.

“We are unique in that we pull all lists from schools,” Ester said. “We get them from Vilonia, Greenbrier, Mayflower, Conway, all of the outlying schools. We go by the lists they provide so that parents do not have to go buy anything, period.” 

According to Ester, there were more than 500 pre-registrations and 100 late registrations for backpacks this year.

“Friday night, we had 50 volunteers here from 6 to 9 p.m. stuffing backpacks to order,” Ester said.

The program is the product of the combined efforts of the Pine Street Community Development Corporation and individual stakeholders in the Pine Street community.

“We were already providing supplies, and they were doing a similar program, so we pooled our resources,” Ester said.
Ester said the combination of efforts has provided the tools necessary for a uniquely large operation. 

The event is one that requires the efforts of many to host fundraisers, apply for grants and attain individual donations year-round.

“Initially, we considered our area to be in need after a study told us that there were 500 renters in the area. This is considered a low income community geographically,” Ester said. “Many of us have a personal connection to this community. We’ve branched it out because we’ve been fortunate enough to have the funds and the resources available to extend it. We’ve gone to church here, grew up here, have homes here. We’re a part of this community.”

Kesha Hammons, a Conway resident, is mother to three students in the Conway School District.

Hammons is currently a student herself, seeking a degree in nursing. Her full-time job prevents her from receiving typical service assistance.

“I have a decent job and I’m still struggling,” Hammons said. “This is really helpful. Programs such as this help parents along the way. They’ve given me the incentive to continue to pursue my goal.”
Hammons said she plans to volunteer at the event next year, and is grateful for any assistance during this transitional time for her family. 

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to Send us your news at