Watson Chapel School District students are benefiting from the Pine Bluff Commercial Christmas Card Fund. The newspaper has sponsored the annual fund, which allows donors to make contributions, for the past 30 years. Anyone who gives at least $1 will have his or her name placed on a “Community Christmas Card” to be published in the Commercial on Christmas Eve.

Dovie Burl, the Watson Chapel School District school culture and climate specialist, said she has identified more than 150 students who are homeless. This information is derived through the students filling out paperwork.

Burl said the money donated to this fund provides personal hygiene products, school uniforms, school supplies, transportation and any other services that are needed to provide students with a quality education.

“It has been an exceptional help for us,” Burl said. “Our job is to educate the student. Any monies that are given to our district is huge to us. That number has grown drastically since last year. I am thankful for the opportunity to be a servant to these families.”

Watson Chapel has students living in cars, shelters, temporary housing, and doubling up with family members, Burl said. She visits some of those students.

“We are heading to CASA [shelter] right now to deliver items to students who are homeless,” Burl said.

Jefferson County educators have shared stories of children living in extreme poverty, lacking food, plumbing, heat and air conditioning — and even one child living in a tent. As a result, these children come to school suffering and are at a distinct disadvantage, educators said. The fund helps to provide basic necessities so these children are able to arrive at school having been in a safe environment and haven eaten a meal. They are then able to concentrate on academics and learn.

Since 1987, the effort has raised more than $300,000 for children. None of the money is kept for administrative costs. The newspaper collected nearly $7,000 last year.

The deadline to give money is Monday, Dec. 18, for donors who want to make contributions and have their names listed on the Community Christmas Card. Donations should be made to the Christmas Card Fund, care of the Pine Bluff Commercial, P.O. Box 6469, Pine Bluff, AR, 71611. Donations may also be hand-delivered to The Commercial at 300 S. Beech St. between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays.