FORT SMITH — Ramsey Junior High School eighth-grader Anna Kuykendall earned her Girl Scout Silver Award finding and addressing an unmet need in Fort Smith.
“My mom (Jane Kuykendall) works at Immaculate Conception Church,” she said. “I knew that the church collects items for the poor and homeless, but while they receive lots of food donations, they didn’t really receive many personal care items.”
Realizing that everyone wants to feel clean, Kuykendall talked to parish manager Deacon Greg Pair about setting up a personal care pantry in the parish office. After buying a large cabinet and collecting supplies through her troop, family, friends and parishioners, she opened the Pantry of St. Veronica in March.
“Anna researched the saints to find the perfect name for the pantry,” mother Jane Kuykendall said. “St. Veronica is known for her compassion. She was the one person who stepped out of the crowd, putting her life in danger, to offer Jesus a cloth so he could wipe his face on the way to the crucifixion.”
A large decal depicting St. Veronica adorns the doors of the pantry cabinet.
A Silver Award project needs to be sustainable, and, in order to insure its continuance, Kuykendall had to set up a network of people who would continue to replenish the pantry. Affiliating her project with St. Anne’s Society, a ministry supported by all three Fort Smith Catholic churches — Immaculate Conception, St. Boniface and Christ the King — was a way to insure a steady stream of contributions. Her mother takes her regularly to pick up donations at the churches and bring them to the pantry on the way home from school.
“You’d be surprised how at how fast the products go,” Pair said. “People are learning about the pantry and visiting my office for assistance.”
The personal care items are neatly stacked in large plastic bins in the pantry and include shower gel, razors, deodorant, lip balm, feminine hygiene products, body lotions, shaving cream, shampoo, body spray, laundry detergent, toilet paper, sunscreen, insect repellent, toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental floss.
When the Riverview Hope Campus, a center for non-profit organizations that will be located on 301 South E Street in Fort Smith, opens this fall, St. Anne’s Society and the Pantry of St. Veronica will relocate on the campus.
“At the Hope Campus, the pantry will have its own room where staff will meet with people and provide assistance,” Jane Kuykendall said, “but it will still maintain its name and identity.”
Pair, board president of Riverview Hope Campus, said the goal of transforming the lives of the poor will be helped by bringing a network of charities together to provide comprehensive services in one location. Individuals and families will be able to receive medical and mental health, special services for veterans and women and other support, as well as job readiness assistance and adult education. St. Anne’s Society and the Pantry of St. Veronica, providing food and hygiene items when needed, will be an important component of the campus’ ministry.
Pair said he appreciates Kuykendall’s initiative in working with other community organizations to find comprehensive solutions to poverty and homelessness.
“Anna is an exceptional young lady to take on a project like this and make it go,” he said. “While she was doing her Silver Award project, she touched many lives, and she will continue to be involved in moving the pantry to the Hope Campus, collecting donations at local parishes and restocking it. This Catholic community project will last a long time.”
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