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The University of Arkansas Bookstore, Fayetteville, is always in search of opportunities to build relationships, both on and around the campus it serves. That’s why Manager Ali Sadeghi immediately embraced an opportunity presented by Marketing Manager Emmy Barr that could help two entities with a single bookstore program.
The store raised nearly $1,000 for an on-campus food pantry by purchasing and then selling about 40 Build-A-Bear stuffed animals that customers could keep or donate to a local police department, which uses the toys to comfort children caught up in unfortunate circumstances. All the profits from the sale of the bears went to the food pantry.
“It was great to know that people would take the time on a stormy day,” Sadeghi said.
“There were people who even bought bears in advance and said to donate them.”
Barr’s brother, who attends another university that did a similar fundraiser using Build-A-Bear as the draw, gave her the idea. The store purchased the bears and little Razorback shirts to dress them up. Customers could purchase the bears for $5 each and either donate the bear to the police department or keep it for themselves with the knowledge the money they paid would go to the food pantry.
“It was all part of our community outreach program,” Sadeghi said.
The store has been a big supporter of the Full Circle Food Pantry since the pantry opened in February 2011. It’s a student-run emergency assistance program that distributes food and personal products to students, faculty, staff, and those in the surrounding community.
“The Build-A-Bear program with the bookstore gave us the opportunity to reach a whole new group of people on campus and to tell them about the food pantry and how they can use it and support the program,” said Angela Oxford, director, Center for Community Engagement, University of Arkansas. “It’s always great to have the support of campus entities like the bookstore, who from the day we opened our doors has been a huge supporter.”
The Build-A-Bear program was an unusual way to support the pantry and Oxford said she was blown away by the number of people who arrived.
“The support from the bookstore and other groups on campus is critical to the pantry’s success,” Oxford said. “Every large and small donation makes our service to students and staff in need possible. We are immensely grateful.”
The store has participated in food drives and provided many resources to the pantry, such as donating bags and toiletries, Oxford added. In total, Barr estimated this effort cost the store about $3,000 to make the program available.
“The police make a lot of calls on domestic violence and have to help kids in broken homes,” Sadeghi said. “This way, the police have something to give the kids to make them smile.”
The latest bookstore initiative was even noticed by a local Walmart, which showed up with a bag full of stuffed animals to be donated to the police alongside the college store’s donation.
“It was a great feeling,” Sadeghi said. “To be able to donate $1,000 goes a long way for the pantry. It has a lot more benefits than just the money. Others get to know about the pantry and get emotionally involved.”