The Pine Street Community Back-to-School Backpack Program will begin pre-registering children from low-income families this weekend. A fundraiser pancake breakfast to benefit the program will also be held this weekend.

Tim Ester of Conway said this is the seventh year for the program to be held.

"In the last three years we have almost got this thing down to a science," he said. "The first year we thought we would help about 100 kids, and we had 350. We made a lot of trips to Walmart. We have had almost 1,000 for the last three years."

Parents can pre-register their children to receive a backpack stuffed with most of the supplies the child will need to start back to school.

Ester continued, "It’s going to be interesting this year, with the Mayflower/Vilonia tornado, how many participants we’ll get from that area. We certainly want to help them."

Participants may pre-register from 10 a.m .to noon Saturday at the educational wing of Pleasant Branch Baptist Church at 601 Spruce St. Pre-registration will be held again at the same time and place on July 26. The benefit pancake breakfast to raise funds for the backpack program will be 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday at Stoby’s Restaurant. Tickets are $5 per person and include an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast with sausage and drink.

Ester said, "We’re grateful we can help. We get some who have two or three little kids. A lot of single parents. A lot of grandparents who raise their grandkids. All the recipients are so grateful. I’ve had people cry on me. It’s pretty tough because they really need it."

He said school supplies can be a real burden on parents who are on a fixed income.

"With each kid, we probably spend about $25 per person, and that’s good because we get a pretty good discount on backpacks and try to buy in bulk. I think it would double if a parent would try to go and buy that. By the time you pay your rent and everything, not even talking about clothes or anything — you do the math. If you have three kids, school supplies alone are $150. Someone on a limited income making $700 or $800 a month, I would think it would be significant. We’re trying to take that burden off of them."

He said the program provides 90 percent of school supplies on the schools’ lists.

Ester added, "We’ve been very fortunate to have the money every year to help with school supplies. We’re having the pancake breakfast this Sunday. That’s very helpful toward raising money to help support this. We also have a charity basketball game. We get a lot of donors from the community. We’ve got a great group of volunteers. The UCA Athletic Department has been very helpful. A lot of local churches have helped. It’s really the community coming together to help."

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