2016 First Step Funding



Today, 27,254 children live in poverty in Northwest Arkansas. United, we can change what happens tomorrow. A huge step to doing so is United Way of Northwest Arkansas’ First Step Funding Program.  Just as a child learns to walk by taking his or her first steps, the United Way launched First Step Funding as the initial phase of financial investment for the Children Living In Poverty (CLIP) Initiative.

In 2014, the United Way of Northwest Arkansas Board committed to address the issue of child poverty in our community and set ambitious goals. United Way of NWA received 79 proposals for this funding, and was evaluated by a Community Investment Committee formed of volunteers representing various sectors of our community. The Committee members reviewed, scored and ranked all applications to determine which organizations and how much funding would be awarded. And today, $770,000 was awarded to 19 programs in our community as the initial recipients of First Step Funding!

Read below to learn more about these awardees, their mission statements, and the programs that will benefit!





Apple Seeds is a non-profit organization based in Fayetteville, AR that works to educate and excite children about healthy food while increasing access to healthy food in schools. Our mission is to inspire healthy living through garden-based education.

Program: Food Ambassador Training Camp; The Food Ambassador Training will tailor lessons based on Apple Seeds’ success in school garden programming and in cooking classes to equip students to return to their schools as “experts” in the garden and as pioneer chefs. The program is intended to enhance skills that will promote better food choices in the participants.


BENTONVILLE SCHOOLS, Child Enrichment Services

The Bentonville School District is dedicated to creating and maintaining exemplary programs for teaching and learning, educating all students for a successful future in a changing world and preparing the youth of our community to become caring, contributing citizens.

Program: Building Bridges; Building Bridges is a licensed, 3 star, state-quality approved childcare center created to meet the needs of teen parents who attend the Bentonville Schools, by allowing the teen to focus on success in school and complete the requirements for a diploma.



To provide children facing adversity with strong, enduring, professionally supported, one-to-one relationships that can change their lives for the better, forever.

Program: Impactful Youth Mentoring Expansion; The Youth Mentoring program works with at-risk children by addressing their need for positive adult contact, thereby reducing risk factors for negative behavior and enhancing protective factors for positive behavior.

Program: Youth Mentoring Expansion, Siloam Springs: Big Brothers Big Sisters NWA will expand its youth mentoring programs into Siloam Springs through collaboration with the Bright Futures program in Siloam Springs.




To enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.

Program: Building New Futures; This program will expand youth development services to the growing community of Pea Ridge by opening a school-based Boys & Girls Club that offers school and summer youth development programs. This program will build a pathway out of poverty by providing low-income parents an affordable and safe place for their children, improve academic performance, promote youth development, and to improve the health and well-being of students.




Our mission is to encourage and empower all young people to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible, citizens.

Program: Decatur Extension of Boys & Girls Club; This program will provide afterschool, summer, and athletic programs for students in the Decatur Public School District with the goals to improve academic performance, promote youth development, and to improve the health and well-being of students.




CASA of Northwest Arkansas provides quality volunteer representation for abused and neglected children in the court system.

Program: Lifelong Links; Lifelong Links is a family-finding program for teenagers in foster care in to prevent these children finding themselves aging out of foster care with no family to support them. Lifelong Links aims to change the course of these children’s lives to prevent the high risk for unemployment, pregnancy, and homelessness.




Helping people lead healthy lives by providing healthcare for all in Northwest Arkansas.

Program: Integrating Behavioral Health & Primary Care for Children and Youth; Community Clinic will provide an integrated care system within the primary medical home, where the behavioral health needs of children and youths are identified and treated effectively in the context of their whole health—physical and mental.




The Springdale Pre-K program in partnership with students, parents, and community will promote social, emotional, academic and developmental skills so students are prepared for their future.

Program: Kangaroo Keepers; A child’s first school experience can be enhanced by being matched with a mentor that helps them voluntarily separate from their parents. The supportive mentoring relationship, offered to the most vulnerable preschool students, serves to unlock the child’s potential to succeed on their own.



Economic Opportunity Agency (EOA) is a community action agency with an overall organizational focus of Empowering children and families to learn, connect, and succeed.

Program: EOA Children’s Services; This program provides targeted services to low-income young children, residing in Washington County, Arkansas, living at or below the federal poverty level. Ensuring school readiness by reducing the achievement gap, addressing health, mental health, and disability issues during the critical developmental years of early childhood, and working with parents to lessen effects of chronic poverty on the very young child.




Girl Scouts build girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place. Girl Scouts – Diamonds of AR, OK & TX is the region’s premier leadership organization.

Program: Community Program Series Girl Scouting in Schools & Detention Centers; This program helps girls take charge of their lives through leadership, building the self-confidence and positive life skills that help them break the cycles of poverty and/or dangerous behaviors they live in.




The mission of the Gravette School District is to provide each student a diverse education in a safe supportive environment that promotes self-discipline, motivation, and excellence in learning. 

Program: Gravette High School Welding; The program will offer a professional certification upon graduation and completion. The program is a four course program that directly assists students in obtaining a career upon graduation from high school.




We will cultivate life-long learners through rigorous learning experiences and support for the whole child.

Program: Build a Library, Build a Life; This program is an initiative to put great books into the hands and homes of every child at Jones Elementary. As a result, children living in poverty experience accelerated reading development, a strong foundation in family literacy, and a love of books. Family literacy nights help to ensure that this initiative transforms not only the lives of children, but their siblings and parents as well.




Improving the lives of low-income Arkansans by championing equal access to justice for all.

Program: Child Poverty Law Project; Legal Aid of Arkansas will help families with children connect to benefits, services, employment, and housing that helps life them out of poverty. Legal Aid will help resolve issues with administrative systems that prevent families from receiving benefits and services to which they are entitled.




Improving the lives of others through academic, social, and athletic opportunities.

Program: LCSD Personalized Learning; LCSD will target students through increasing hope and the growth mind-set through a new program that will allow a flexible student and teacher model to build relationships and provide opportunities for students to become more marketable employees in the future.




Our mission is to empower victims of domestic violence to survive and thrive by nurturing their self-determination and courage and to promote healthy relationships and compassionate communities through education, outreach, and advocacy.

Program: Children’s Emergency Services; The Children’s Emergency Services program provides a safe shelter for children escaping domestic violence as well as child-focused advocacy, assessments, and referrals for identified developmental, emotional, or educational barriers to success.




To restore the lives of women and women with children in crisis through safe shelter and life-changing services while promoting stability, dignity and self-reliance.

Program: Restoration Village Child Advocacy; The child advocacy program is an extension of the adult advocacy program currently offered at Restoration Village. The child advocacy program will build on the baseline of services provided to children and will include the creation of development plans for each child, expanding programming, and will address the mental health, medical, and education needs of the children.




The mission of the Samaritan Community Center is to be a grace-driven organization that serves the hurting and hungry of Northwest Arkansas through a compassionate community of staff and volunteers.

Program: SnackPacks for Kids; The SnackPacks for Kids program currently partners with 148 Northwest Arkansas Head Start Centers, early education sites, and schools, focusing on providing weekly nutritional support to 8,500 children identified as being at highest risk for hunger or food insecurity on the weekends and school programs. Samaritan Community Center will aim to reduce the waiting list of 24 schools (approximately 1,500 children) with the expansion of this program.




We empower teens to take action in their own lives and communities.

Program: Teen Thrive NWA; Teen Thrive NWA provides a hug for teens with housing insecurity and other hardships to be connected to needed physical and emotional resources, clothing, school supplies, mentorship and case management, empowering them to choose a path of healthy choices for a successful life, even if they are struggling with the hardship of housing insecurity for a time.