Leslie Dorn, executive director of the United Way of Southeast Arkansas, thanked area small businesses Wednesday for their continued support to the agency, adding that “small businesses are a cornerstone of our community.”


“We have raised $1 million in southeast Arkansas every year since 1987,” Dorn told members of the Pine Bluff Small Business Association at a luncheon at Harbor Oaks.


“People always talk about the big checks that big businesses donate to United Way, but nobody talks about the fact that our small business division raises over $25,000 for the United Way.”


Dorn went on to explain that every dollar that’s given to the United Way is used in the best way possible. She said that a $100 donation provides books for children, assists the Children’s’ Advocacy Center, provides five nights of shelter and 150 meals in the kitchen at The CASA Women’s Shelter, provides 25 shelter blankets for crises, along with emergency communications and more.


Other United Way partner agencies include ACCESS (Arkansas Coordinated Child Effort In State Services), American Red Cross of Greater Arkansas, Area Agency on Aging, Arkansas Food Network, Boy Scouts of America, Boys and Girls Club of Jefferson County, Delta Network and Neighbor to Neighbor.


Dorn continued her appreciation for small businesses and their contributions throughout the luncheon.


“We feel like we’ve ignored you for too long, and I’m sorry that you have not gotten the attention from the United Way that you deserve,” she said. “We appreciate you and what you do every day.”


According to the United Way website, the United Way of Southeast Arkansas, headquartered in Pine Bluff, has 25 partner agencies providing services in 16 southeast Arkansas counties. Volunteers are at the core of the organization, which supports the efforts of these partner agencies providing benefits to people in every corner of the community, the organization says.


The United Way of Southeast Arkansas partner agencies provide services in these Arkansas counties: Arkansas, Chicot, Drew, Lincoln, Ashley, Cleveland, Grant, Monroe, Bradley, Dallas, Jefferson, Ouachita, Calhoun, Desha, Lee, and Phillip.


There is a strong tradition of giving and helping in southeast Arkansas. The United Way of Southeast Arkansas traces its roots to the Pine Bluff Community Chest of 1924.


Also at the luncheon, Stacy Hardin, a dance teacher at the Pine Bluff Dance Academy, informed the group of her 38th dance recital that will take place at the Pine Bluff Convention Center June 10. She also said that the dancers will participate in the Forward Fest, a free event that will be held downtown June 9with performances by Grammy Award-winning artist Angie Stone, international blues artists Bigg Robb and Sean Chambers, along with Tragikly White and more.


Tavante Calhoun, who served on a steering committee for Go Forward Pine Bluff’s creation, informed the small business association members that there is an opportunity to set up vendor booths at the Forward Fest.


“We want to put Pine Bluff on full showcase on this day,” Calhoun said. “We want everyone to see all of the wonderful opportunities they have right here in this community for services and business opportunities.”