This week the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith officially renamed its needs pantry for beloved Dean of Students, Dr. Dave Stevens, honoring the wishes of the UAFS Student Government Association who unanimously passed a resolution to rename the food and necessities pantry the “Dave Stevens Lion Pride Pantry” this April.
UAFS Chancellor Terisa Riley said “All of the individuals who participated in making a needs pantry, not just a food pantry, for the students on our campus have worked very hard, and every time we can help other lions, we are more successful.”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pantry has served 450 food sacks to university students and their families.
This spring, the SGA recognized Stevens’ vital role in the success of current resource programs available to students on campus such as the Lion Pride Food Pantry, the Grab-and-Go Sack Lunch Program (which is temporarily suspended due to concerns over COVID-19), and the Student Emergency Fund. They also noted Stevens’ history of going above and beyond what is required of him in order to help students, and his true care and concern for all students.
“The Dave Stevens Lion Pride Pantry is now able to provide so much for our students, specifically during this pandemic,” SGA President Claire Hollenbeck said. “The SGA could not have gotten the food pantry off the ground without the dedication and support of one of our wonderful advisors, Dr. Dave Stevens.”
“Our students are sacrificing a lot to be a part of this campus. All of us felt as if students needed a place they can achieve their goals without having to worry about where their next meal is going to come from,” said Dr. Dave Stevens. “I am tremendously grateful to the Student Government Association.”
In the coming months, the pantry will continue to evolve in its offerings, providing backpacks to students beginning classes this fall, warm coats to students this winter, and thanksgiving meal boxes for students before they head home to their families over the holiday, said Meighan Pendergrass, Director of UAFS Campus Recreation and Wellness.
“When we opened this morning there were six people waiting outside the door for me,” Pendergrass explained. “We gave out 10 backpacks, 12 food sacks, and we will continue to give more out because just like Dr. Riley said, this will truly be a needs closet.”
The pantry was opened in its initial form, as a large wooden blessing box, Friday, August 23, 2019. In just a year, the pantry has grown by leaps and bounds, from a few carts of food filling a blessing box to overflowing a room at the Recreation and Wellness Center, stocked with a deep freezer and walls of shelves.
Thanks to Stevens’ commitment to meeting every student’s needs, during a time when food insecurity is at an all-time high due to mass layoffs amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the pantry has been able to offer more food than ever.
In the first week of April alone, more than 40 students and their families received food from the pantry.
A 2019 survey from the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, College, and University Basic Needs Insecurity: A National #RealCollege Survey Report found that more than 41 percent of students at four-year colleges and universities had experienced food insecurity within a month. Further, 44 percent of students from four-year institutions worried about running out of food, and nearly half of the students surveyed could not afford to eat balanced meals.
Stevens began at UAFS in 2006 as an advisor for the Western Arkansas Technical Center before being promoted to the coordinator of WATC in 2009. In spring 2012, Stevens was named the director of campus involvement before being promoted to Dean of Students in 2015. In his role as dean, he oversees the Student Life Office, serves as the chief student conduct officer for the university, and collaborates with offices across campus to provide resources, counseling, and support for every student on the UAFS campus, in times of joy and times of crisis.
Stevens holds a bachelor’s degree in history and political science and a master’s degree in college student personnel from Arkansas Tech University, and a Doctorate of Education in human resource and adult education from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.
In an effort to reduce in-person shopping, the pantry has partnered with the University of Arkansas Fort Smith Foundation to open a means of monetary donations.
Food donations may be dropped off during the weekly hours of operation. After-hours deliveries may be at the University Police Department in the UAFS 51st Annex. Call ahead to schedule an after-hours drop-off at 479-788-7140.