Friday, October 11, 2013

TOP STORY >> First Pick Kids opening Monday

Leader staff writer

First Pick Kids, a new nonprofit based in Ward, will have a signup and welcome event at 8 a.m. Monday in its new location at 318 Second St.

Tina Pace of Cabot and Laura Brewer of Ward, the mothers of two 10-year-old boys with special needs, formed First Pick in June to improve the quality of life for kids labeled by society as different.

Brewer said, “We want to help every kid we possibly can.”

The organization hopes to accomplish that goal by offering a parent-resource center with free food, toiletries and other necessities; activities for First Pick kids (a reading club, field trips to museums, craft nights, etc.), a crisis line and more.

First Pick will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday. Services after hours and on Sundays will be available by appointment.

The Ward Chamber of Commerce will help the founders host a grand opening in two to four weeks, Pace and Brewer said.

They added that the parents of more than 100 kids have expressed interest, via Facebook, in taking advantage of First Pick’s programs.

Those will include a food and coat drive, Christmas angel tree, a big brother and big sister mentoring program to be launched in November and help with paperwork that must be completed for children who are developmentally or physically disabled.

The crisis line, a number that parents can call 24/7, could be up and running next month, Brewer said. The person who answers that call would be someone who could meet the parent right away to listen, lend a shoulder to cry on or help in any other way.

First Pick will also provide a safe place kids can be dropped off at so their parents and caregivers have time to run errands — like holiday shopping excursions — or just take a break.

There will be twice-a-week meetings for parents and caregivers of special needs children who need to talk about the difficulties they face everyday.

In July, Pace and Brewer started cleaning up a building at 231 Second St. in Ward that had been used as a restaurant. Another restaurant recently moved in there.

First Pick chose the new location because the other building couldn’t pass the inspections required for how the nonprofit was going to use it.

The owner of the new location offered to make it Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible and the rent was lower, Pace said.

While the new space is smaller than the restaurant building, less work was needed for it to suit First Pick’s needs, the founders explained.

About the painted handprints and drawings decorating the front windows of the new office, Pace said, “First Pick is by kids, for kids.”

The nonprofit will be using other venues, such as Arkansas State University in Beebe’s student center and the chamber of commerce’s building, for its larger events.

Other developments include First Pick being recognized as a nonprofit by the state. The founders are waiting for the federal government to do the same.

Although First Pick can host fundraisers now, it can’t issue a tax-deductible receipt for donations.

One of the most unique things about the nonprofit is that it will never be government-funded because that places too many restrictions on who can be helped, the founders explained previously.

First Pick is now incorporated, meaning it can open locations nationwide, Pace said.

She added that talks have already started with people in other states who want to adopt the self-sustaining model First Pick will use. Pace said she has also spoken with people in north and south Arkansas who want locations there.

The nonprofit is planning fundraisers. Donations are always being collected, and two country music stars have agreed to play in a benefit concert, Pace said.

For more information, visit First Pick’s Facebook page, or send an e-mail to