LITTLE ROCK, AR - Nearly one in five Arkansas families is led by a single parent. Little Rock resident Tom Jewart knows the struggles first hand.
Now a successful businessman, he's paying it forward and others have noticed. He's been nominated for a
Community Service Award in the small corporate category.
"Education changes lives. That's the bottom line. Education increases your earning potential. It helps create stronger families and stronger families create stronger communities. But, it all starts with an education," says Karin Bara, Executive Director, SPSF of Pulaski County.
This year, 83 single parents in Pulaski County are able to go to school without having to worry about tuition, books, or child care and for some, even gas, groceries and rent.
Established in 1990, the Single Parent Scholarship Fund assists low income single parents who desire to further their education. In Pulaski County, they've provided more than one million dollars in scholarships.
"We directly serve those parents, but the ripple effect is much larger because when you serve a parent, you serve a family," Bara explains.
With a staff of only two and a rented space inside of the Charles Frueauff Foundation, Bara says their budget is small but giving is large. They work hard to keep administrative costs low so they can better serve the needs of their students.
"The technology we had a few years ago was sad. It was very dated," says Bara. "Our equipment was so old, that it took 7 to 8 minutes every morning just to boot up our computers."
That all changed three years ago when Hewlett-Packard Executive Tom Jewart was invited to one of the organizations's "lunch and learns".
"My mother was a single parent. So, I saw the struggles that she went through and saw the help this organization was giving the students and wanted to be a part of that," Jewart says.
A few days later, Tom and his wife showed up armed with several refurbished computers and printers.
"Fortunately HP has a number of different programs that employees can take advantage of to help their local communities. One of those is a product matching program where as an employee, we pay 25 percent of the expense of the equipment and HP funds the other 75 percent. We can give that to non-profits and to schools," explains Jewart.
That initial donation grew exponentially. Tom encouraged other co-workers to get involved. He didn't stop until they had replaced everything in the office. Monitors, scanners, high speed printers, laptops and even tablets.
"He saw a need and he made it his mission to fulfill a need," Bara says. "Nobody goes to work and says, I love my printer except for us. It just makes our whole organization so much more efficient."
"When you look at your own life, you know how people have helped you and nurtured you at different times, and then if you are fortunate enough to get into a position where you can help others, you just want to do that," says Jewart.
Tom serves on the Better Business Bureau Board and he and his wife have also outfitted the 20th Century Club office with computers.
The Community Service Awards (CSA) air July 19 at 6:30 p.m. on KARK.
Click here if you would like to nominate someone for a CSA.
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