One local teacher has taken it upon herself to help children affected by the fires surrounding Paradise, California, and donations have been pouring in.
Seeing the devastation that hit California -- the state her son has called home for the past three years -- led Shari McGehee, a teacher in the Conway Public Schools District, to think of her own students, and she soon began collecting backpacks to send to students in Paradise.
"I had been watching the fires and as a teacher, I immediately thought of students," McGehee told the Log Cabin. "My heart went out to the students and I chose California yes because my son lives there ... but also because it's a way for my kids to see more than themselves -- more than just Arkansas."
Recently, the Conway woman said she has been looking for ways to help make her son's home more of her own place as well. But, when fires destroyed much of Butte County, California, her teaching charisma and love for students kicked in.
She first posted a short video on Facebook last week and has since accumulated more than 9,000 shares. However, her main goal is to gather schools supplies and backpacks for children who lost everything in the recent wildfires.
Her son, Austin Brown, is also helping to collect backpacks. Brown lives in the San Fransisco area and was not personally affected by the blaze.
Brown told the Log Cabin that he's proud of his mother and her efforts, and that he was amazed to see her calling for at least 20 backpacks has grown to a much larger project.
"I said 20, but I think it's going to be much more than 20," McGehee said, noting that Hogman's Gameday Superstore donated at least 200 string backpacks by itself.
The goal is also to fill the bags with schools supplies and bottles of water as well, she said.
There are currently four donation drop-off locations:Lamey Chiropractic Clinic at 523 Harkrider St. in Conway. Patterson Eye Clinic at 2505 Donaghey Ave. in Conway. Nutritional Sports & Health Discount at 813 Oak St. in Conway. A Twisted Flair Salon at 5308 JFK Blvd. in North Little Rock.
Monetary donations can also be dropped off at Lamey Chiropractic Clinic.
The backpack drive continues through Dec. 22. After the collection period ends, McGehee, who has spoken with staff at both the intermediate and high school in Paradise, will be sent to the California schools.
Many schools in Butte County have been out of session for nearly a month, following the blazing wildfires.
Area schools have been closed since Nov. 8, when the fires roared through Paradise and other surrounding areas.
It was the nation's deadliest recorded wildfire in a century. The blaze destroyed nearly 14,000 homes and killed at least 88 people. According to reports, about two dozen people remain unaccounted for.
Many students returned to school Monday. However, many of those students have been relocated because the school they attended was destroyed.
Brown told the Log Cabin that most of the schools in the affected area were destroyed and that some students aren't expected to attend school again until January.
Given the toll of the recorded damages, McGehee said she will work hard to collect as many backpacks as she can to support the students of California.
"It's what God laid on my heart. This is a way for me to model giving to others to my students and letting them see that," she said, adding that Paradise teachers plan to allow their students to communicate back and forth with her students sometime next year "once they get settled again."
McGehee said she is overwhelmed and excited with the outpouring of donations she has received and encourages anyone with questions regarding the initiative to send her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.