A Little Goes a Long Way...

Get to know our history through this excerpt from River Valley in 2016.

The 19th annual Central Arkansas Firefighters Christmas Boot Drive made the holiday happier for hundreds of Faulkner County children and their families.

“The thing is, it’s a blessing to be able to bless others,” Bates said.

Firefighters in Conway, Greenbrier and Vilonia and their friends and families stood in locations on four weekends, including Black Friday, holding firefighter boots for people to drop in donations.

“We had total, if you combine all four weekends, about 100 volunteers — firefighters, friends, family, and we also have guys who come out there from Greenbrier who are students who get community service,” Bates said.

This year, about $27,000 was raised; to date, at least $500,000 has been raised, Bates said.

Capt. Jon Arnold, a Conway firefighter who has participated in the project for several years, said each child gets a shirt, pants, a toy and dental supplies, and each family receives a food box.

“The last couple of years, we’ve been supplying each child with a Bible through different organizations,” he said.

The firefighters do all the shopping, and a huge wrapping party that rivals Santa’s toy shop is held for volunteers to get the packages ready.

“It’s not about us,” Bates said. “Sometimes we get caught up in doing good deeds, … but really the thing about doing good work — it’s really an outward worship of Christ. It’s not about us. It’s about how are we glorifying God and how are we taking care of our brothers and sisters.”

Names of recipients are provided primarily by school counselors and teachers.

Firefighter Mark McEntire brought the idea to the Conway Fire Department 19 years ago. A handful of firefighters stood at a four-way intersection and raised $1,700 and bought food boxes for about 24 families, organizers said.