JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Region 8 News first told viewers about a vandalism that occurred on Monday, March 5th.
Employees with City Youth Ministries in Jonesboro pulled into work to discover tires on each of their transport vans were flat.
The reason: someone slashed them with a knife.
They spent their Monday with the Jonesboro Police Department and contacting the parents of their children to let them know the vans wouldn't be at school to pick them up.
Since that time, Executive Director of City Youth Ministries Denise Snider, said there's been an exciting development.
"People just stepped out," Snider said. "They encouraged us with phone calls, visits, Facebook posts, and texts. The Jonesboro community, in all different realms, reached out to us and provided the encouragement that we needed."
Snider said she was astounded at the number of people and their generosity that reached out to help after a story aired on Region 8 News.
"We had other businesses and private donors call," Snider said. "They called and said 'hey, we'd like to help.' It was a joy and a privilege to let those others know that Gateway had stepped up. But what was neat was those people also said, 'hey, down the line, whatever you need we're there. So, that just meant so much. Today, we just had two pastors come by to offer to pray with us and offer encouragement. We even have one pastor coming back this afternoon to kind of serve as a watchdog for us. He's going to be our eyes and just be in the building to provide some support for us that we need for security reasons."
Snider said one local business, in particular, stepped up first to save the day.
"Gateway Tires stepped up," Snider said. "And paid for the repair of the tires and all the service pieces that were a part of it. They came here to our parking lot at 7:30 in the morning and changed out those tires for us the very next day. And we were up and running."
Snider said while the financial issue the tires presented was a problem, it was the children they were truly upset about.
"The kids are so happy every time they come," Snider said. "And I think for most of us, that was the sad part. My heart ached that there were a ton of children expecting to come to their after-school spot. They expected to be here and get to do all the fun activities and then just all of the sudden that wasn't available. And so, we got the tires on those vans. We picked the kids up on Tuesday and we haven't looked back. The children came and programming went on as usual. The kids were happy, the employees were happy and we were blessed."
Snider said they work hard to try and meet a huge need in the Jonesboro area.
"City Youth Ministries is so needed for our children in the Jonesboro community," Snider said. "You know, we have a waiting list. And I'm just waiting for God to open it wide up. I know he sees City Youth and I know that he loves us and he's protecting us. But I really do feel like God wants us to grow and to reach more children. The need for children to not have to go home and be alone, even for thirty minutes waiting for a parent to get in from work. Or the need for the children to come and get free tennis lessons, free violin lessons, free art lessons. But more importantly, the Bible stories. Every single day, they hear a Bible story. And there's nothing better that a child can do. They still get to go outside and play. They still get to interact with their friends. They develop language experiences. They learn about God every day. They hear God loves them and has a plan for their life. And there's nothing more important that a child can go do after school."
Snider said it meant a lot to have so many people contact them to volunteer help.
"Those of us that work here," Snider said. "The adults that are here, we were really ministered to a lot. And it means a lot to us, more than you can imagine. It means a lot to us to know that the community is aware of what we do and that they care. I don't think any of us doubt, for one second, that God sees us and that he loves City Youth. But he used people within the community. People who care enough about us to be there when we need them. And it helps us to strengthen us to keep doing what we're doing on a daily basis for the kids."
Snider said their main goal is to help these children be the most productive versions of themselves they can be.
"We are doing our best," Snider said. "To provide wonderful literacy interventions, literacy tutoring that speaks to a variety of different disabilities or maybe just perhaps a need. The child falling behind academically. We offer the best of the best tutoring because we have certified teachers. We have teachers that come in after school and provide the tutoring they need. Meeting the deficit. We're not just giving children answers. We're not just feeding them what they need to turn in some homework. We're identifying where the need is and we're trying to build on that so that they are better equipped to perform in the classroom."
Snider said while the vandalism that occurred hurt them, it won't stop them from doing what's best for the kids that need them.
"This really sad thing that happened," Snider said. "The deviant act that happened, it's such a God thing. Because even though that broke our hearts and made us really, really sad. God was there the whole time. And he showed us through the people that reached out to us that He is here and He will provide and there's nothing that he can't do to protect City Youth and to provide for the children. Because he wants them to be here to learn more about Him."
There are currently 115 kids enrolled at City Youth Ministries, with a waiting list of children who want to go there.
For more information about City Youth Ministries in Jonesboro, click here.