Entries in Arkansas (2)


Hunger at Home: Local Heroes Come to the Rescue

ABC News(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) -- Magazine Mountain is Arkansas' highest point. But it's also one of its lowest, with most families barely getting by. On a hot Saturday morning before dawn, families are lined up outside their church because Pastor Bob Caldwell is feeding the town.

"If people don't believe in miracles, all they had to do was show up today," Caldwell told ABC News.

Caldwell is a son of poverty himself. His father was out of work for years, and now he spends every day traveling the state asking factories and businesses for free food to feed those who need it the most. He receives frozen chicken from Tyson Foods, and bread and soup from local grocery stores.

Caldwell and his church spend just $700 a month and are able to feed more than 700 people.

"All you have here is people who knock on the door and say, 'Preacher, if I don't -- if you don't help me, I don't eat tonight,'" Caldwell said. "That may not bother a lot of people, but it bothers me."

The families who line up call it Miracle Saturdays. The food giveaway takes place the third Saturday of every month, and each family is given enough food for a month.

"It would just tear us apart, if Pastor Bob wasn't doing this," said Johnathan Essman, who was standing in line.

Gene Damron receives $50 every month for food and gas from the church.

"It makes a lot of difference whether you're going to eat all month or not," Damron said, holding back tears. "Makes a lot of difference."

Damron drove his neighbor Betty Hicks to the church. She told ABC News her food stamps only go so far.

"We ate dog food," she said. "We ate it because we had to and we ate out of our dusty dumpster... We'd check the rot, and we'd cut it off the food, and what was left we'd eat."

This isn't just one small community. There are 4,700 people across three counties in the mountainous region who have trouble putting food on the table. Although there is a lot of hardship, there is very little sadness. These families have accepted this condition as a way of life.

A way of life that everyday people across the country are trying to make nonexistent.

In Phoenix and San Antonio, Liz Scarpinato started the organization Kitchen on the Street. She distributes "bags of hope" to 16,000 school children each month. The bags are filled with food for the children to take home to make sure they are able to eat on weekends during the school year.

In Atlanta, Aubrey Daniels and hundreds of volunteers climb fruit trees located on public lands. Last year they gave nearly a ton of fresh fruit to food pantries.

And in Wisconsin, 13-year-old Peyton Medick and her volunteers have collected 60 tons of food, one can at a time over the last five years.

"There's so many people that have helped me do this...I just need to keep going," said Medick. "The problem of hunger is never going to go away."

Scarpinato, Daniels and Medick, along with many others throughout the country, are determined to help families move past these desperate times.

"You can sit around and you can watch people and see hunger and say, 'Well, that's sad.' But until you do something about it, you won't make a difference," said Caldwell. "Anybody can make a difference."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Athlete Deaths Force School Sports Makeover in Arkansas

Comstock/Thinkstock(NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) -- This month's death of four high school football players in the heat-stricken South is helping to spotlight a current recalibration of how much physical exertion young athletes can endure -- one change in what is a broader effort to minimize their risk of injury and illness.

For its part, the Arkansas Activities Association now orders coaches to complete online courses in heat-related illness, which has been cited but not conclusively linked to the Aug. 1 collapse of a 15-year-old Arkansas football player with an underlying heart problem that had gone undiagnosed.  He died shortly after collapsing.

Arkansas coaches also must undergo training in methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, MRSA, a type of staph bacteria that does not respond to antibiotics that have been commonly dispatched to treat staph infections.

Since at least the early 2000s, schools across the country have reported outbreaks of this potentially deadly infection, spread largely through skin-to-skin contact, or through open wounds exposed to the bacteria.  In 2003, a Centers for Disease Control report spotlighted outbreaks of the disease in California, Colorado, Indiana and Pennsylvania.

Last year in Arkansas, one high school athlete died from the infection and another suffered a heart attack.

More immediately, forecasts that the South's heat wave will extend through September have affirmed the state's recent move to limit two-a-day practices -- especially during extreme heat, when the body requires up to 48 hours to rehydrate -- to every other day, and any single practice session to no more than three hours.

Even southern kids are less acclimated to hot spells than prior generations were, what with many of them spending more time indoors rather than outside nowadays, said Dr. Jimmy Tucker, a sports medicine specialist in Little Rock and a member of the state activities association's sports medicine advisory board.

In keeping with that, other rules, patterned partly after those adopted by the NCAA, also require high school players in Arkansas to weigh in before practice and weigh out afterward.

"If they've lost three or four pounds, that's strictly water and they absolutely have to rehydrate," Tucker said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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