No. 976



According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau report, my hometown of Conway, Arkansas, is the fastest growing big city in our state. Of course you realize that “big” is a relative term. Our city grew at a rate of 8.3 percent from 2010-2013 and I don’t see it slowing down anytime soon.
Our Chamber of Commerce president tells me that the population is now (2014) around 65,000. It was something more than 30,000 when we moved to this area in 1984. Local officials attribute our rapid growth to a number of factors, chief among them being a strong economy -- this includes many jobs in education, health care, manufacturing, technology, energy and local and state government.
But to me, and this is my personal opinion, the most important reason for our growth is education. When you consider the fact that we have three institutions of higher education -- the University of Central Arkansas, Hendrix College and Central Baptist College -- and three separate school districts -- Conway Public Schools, St. Joseph Catholic Schools and Conway Christian Schools -- you begin to get the picture.
Here is why I made my earlier statement: Some of these educational institutions go back more than 100 years, thousands and thousands of students got an education here, and a great number stayed. When you think about these facts, you can see a solid foundation for future growth.
This is why about 36 percent of the adults in our county have at least a bachelor’s degree. I did not grow up here, and I don’t have a college degree, so I did not help the cause, but suffice it to say that education has always been linked to our economy, quality of life and the outlook for a very bright future.
In relation to what I have just shared, sometime back I got to thinking about our copyrighted “Bookcase for Every Child” project that we started back in 2005 and the significance it plays in our city’s growth and future. As a result of my thinking, here is an analogy I came up with: We are about as significant as a toothpick in a lumber yard.
Now, this is not to say that we are not important, because we are. In our day and time we are devoting our efforts to helping those children who are most at-risk, those being reared in low-income homes where they have few, if any, books to read. If we can just save even a small percentage of these children from dropping out of school and living a life of marginal or complete illiteracy, we are doing a good thing. This is why I have dedicated the remaining time I have to spreading the project to other cities and towns across the nation. Of course I will spend most of my time here in my home state, as I can travel to most other communities in a one-day trip and be back in my own bed at night. Our project website will be of value to everyone:
Our bookcase project here in Conway is now 10 years old and we have given 500 bookcases and a starter set of books to pre-school children in our local Head Start program. Plus, there are several of our leading citizens who are willing to help spread the word to some of their friends in other communities. I am grateful for personal letters of introduction and endorsement from Dr. Greg Murry, superintendent of the Conway Public Schools; Brad Lacy, president and CEO of the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce; and Jennifer Welter, executive director of the Community Action Program for Central Arkansas (CAPCA), that includes the Head Start program.
If you are interested and willing to help get projects started in other communities, e-mail me at Have a great day.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)