Banishing Racial Animosity Vigorously Everywhere is presenting its 10th annual Project Fresh Start from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Pine Bluff Convention Center.
Project Fresh Start is the state’s largest and most successful school-supplies giveaway, said Johnnie Brown, president of B.R.A.V.E. Every year they have given thousands of disadvantaged students a chance to start a fresh new school year with new school supplies. The group has collected and given away more than 2,500 bags of school supplies every year. The drive has been so successful the past few years that other cites have benefited from it, Brown said.
“We have had so much success with Project Fresh Start that we were able to help out our neighbor cities like Stuttgart and Altheimer and many more,” Brown said. “It feels good that we have had so much success that we can now help others.”
B.R.A.V.E. is a south-central Arkansas chapter of the International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters. B.R.A.V.E. first started Project Fresh Start in 2004 at Central Park in Pine Bluff.
“We started this as a way of giving back to the community,” Brown said. “Many Pine Bluff children live in poverty and this is our way to give back to the people we serve.”
In 2011 the Fresh Start was moved inside the Pine Bluff Convention Center after dealing with rain on the day the event was supposed to happen. Ever since that day, the Convention Center has been home to Project Fresh Start and B.R.A.V.E. couldn’t be happier.
“The convention center has been great to us,” Brown said. “It has eliminated the weather issues we had to worry about and has eased up some of the work we had to do outside.”
B.R.A.V.E. has always received great volunteer support for their Project Fresh Start campaign, Brown said. Many of them were at the convention center this week helping prepare for Saturday’s event.
“Our organization has been helping with Project Fresh Start for a couple of years now,” said Miche’la Martin, an Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. member and Miss UAPB. “It’s always good to help out the community and students.”
“This is my first year to do this,” said Tina Beard, member of Tracy Shavers Ministry. “I just wanted to be able to help out with the kids and bring some joy to the community.”
“B.R.A.V.E. has always had great volunteer support, especially from State Rep. James Word,” Brown said. “Sometimes we get so many volunteers that I have to turn them down because they would just be standing around, but we are always grateful for them.”
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office will be back for its fifth straight year to give out some bags of pencils and pens to the kids.
Some of this year’s entertainment includes a rock-climbing wall, a free dental screening by Pine Bluff Smiles, a FBI fingerprint analysis, the always popular balloon man and much more. There will also be a $25 gift card giveaway every hour. Little Rock Delta Dental has also given a free toothbrush in every bag. Food will be provided to all that attend.
“Every year we have kids from wall-to-wall in here and we want to keep them entertained,” Brown said.