After 11 years, Make a Child Smile of Central Arkansas — a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping needy teenagers — finally has a place to call home.
"It was a dream to get a permanent home," President and founder Tracy Stocks said. "We’ve been vagabonds for years."
At 10 a.m. today, the nonprofit will have a grand opening and ribbon cutting at 1855 E. Oak St., suite 121. The event is to show the community the new location and reveal what everyone has worked so hard to achieve, Stocks said.
When the nonprofit first started in 2001, Stocks was located in the basement of an oil-change business, she said.
"We’ve come a long, long way," Stocks said.
Stocks saw a need for helping teenaged students, age 14 and up, get what they need to go back to school. Lots of people help younger children or put money into efforts to give children Christmas presents, but often times, youths are overlooked, Stocks said. Make a Child Smile started as a Christmas-time project, but it evolved to fill a bigger need, she said.
"That has turned more into my passion," Stocks said. "There’s lots of people who help during Christmas, but we take kids no one wants."
The new location will allow Stocks to have a store that looks like a retail shop, complete with a donated sign, Stocks said. Teenagers who need help can shop at the store, she said.
"They are shopping," Stocks said. "Kids can be proud to go there and get stuff. They aren’t standing in line for a handout."
Store hours will be by appointment only because the organization is run strictly by volunteers. Stocks has about 30 people she can call on to help out, but about half of those are regular volunteers, she said. Hours will typically be after work.
Typically, the organization helps out about 350 kids through the project, Stocks said. That many kids and overhead will eat through the $8,000 in grants and donations the nonprofit organization received this year.
Donations are still needed, Stocks said. Make a Child Smile needs new back-to-school supplies, hygiene products and gently used jeans and shoes that a teen would want to wear. Stocks said she could also use money donations to pay for things like overhead or to use to buy new items at a discount.
Stocks said she is excited about the grand opening and hopes people come and see what all the hubbub is about.
"[The grand open is a] time everybody can see what everybody has put their money towards," Stocks said.