The Flapper Age was back Friday night at Serendipity Events in downtown Rogers, for the annual fundraiser for the Junior Auxiliary of Rogers-Bentonville.
The night began as participants walked up to the venue with two classic cars waiting by the front door. In the crowd plenty of fringe, feathers and striped-suits decorated the evening. Silent auction items could be found on the third floor of the venue.
While the mood was festive, the cause deals with Benton County poverty and helping school-age children own books.
“This is our first time doing the speakeasy and the first time there isn’t a national grant for Reading Is Fundamental,” said Alivia Jolly.
JARB has partnered with RIF for 35 years. RIF is the largest children’s literacy non-profit in the U.S. It delivers free books and literacy resources to children and families. Nearly two-thirds of low-income families own no books. RIF provides 15 million books each year to children who need them most. JARB helps 14 schools in Benton County who have 40% or higher free or reduced lunch.
Jolly said she hoped the event would raise $10,000.
Grace Hill Elementary Principal Jennie Rehl spoke at the event about how important this fundraiser and JARB is to what she calls, “her kids.”
“$10,000 sounds like a lot of money but you would be surprised how expensive books are and JARB buys the kinds of books that will last for these kids,” said Rehl.
Grace Hill Elementary is a school with 87% poverty. Rehl said being in the backyard of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Tyson Foods, J.B. Hunt and other corporations can create a misconception that poverty isn’t a problem in Benton County.
“I have a lot of children who get free breakfast and lunch and they won’t eat until they come back to school the next morning. I have kids who feel poverty. They feel it in the food they eat and the things in their house,” she said.
Rehl conducted a home-visit and discovered what living in poverty means to one student.
“In the living room were two items. A broken television set and a one-foot tall Christmas tree with no decorations on it. That boy put his RIF books underneath it. That’s how important these books are to them,” she recalled.
Rehl said she wished those who attended the event could see her children’s face light-up when they know, not only are they getting books, but there are books to choose from, anything from dogs to trucks to dolls.
“My dream is that we will raise enough money to continue to bring books to my school and my kids will continue to have that blessing,” said Rehl.
JARB submitted Grace Hill Elementary to the national RIF program for a special recognition. The school was one out of five in the national chosen to have a special giveaway day complete with a balloon launch, a visit from the mayor and a literacy spokesperson from Washington D.C., on Monday, Oct. 15.