The Conway Optimist Club served 665 children from 295 families through its annual Angel Tree program this year.

Cynthia Crabb, chairman of the program, said the Optimist Club coordinates with the Community Action Program for Central Arkansas to collect applicants for the program, which provides Christmas presents for children newborn through age 13. Donors throughout the community supplied the gifts, which were distributed on Friday at the building on Old Morrilton Highway that formerly housed Goody’s.

"It gives me pleasure to see the look on the recipients’ faces when they come in to receive the presents for their children," Crabb said. "It’s all about the spirit of giving. It’s a wonderful experience to go through, and I couldn’t do it without the many people who help me. It takes a lot to put this project together."

Ashley Bennett of Conway was among the members of the Optimist Club who participated in the distribution. 

"I’m just really appreciative that the community came together and was able to help people in need," she said. "One lady was crying. I helped her to her vehicle. She had three or four kids. She was just floored, because it took several of us to carry it out to her vehicle. Whoever adopted them really stepped up and did a lot for their kids. I appreciate the community coming together and stepping up and assisting families in an unfortunate situation that can’t help it. I’m definitely looking forward to next year."

Kristen Norris of Conway said one lady received a large number of donations for her children, and volunteers had to follow her home because all the items would not fit in her vehicle.

"She just burst out crying," Norris said.

She continued, "The generosity of people was amazing to me. Several people I know have gotten stuff, and they didn’t just get one thing on the list; it was bicycles and clothes and shoes. It was more fun for me to do that for other people than for my own kids, because they have so much. It really was amazing how much people bought."

(Staff writer Rachel Parker Dickerson can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 505-1277. Send us your news at