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Jacksonville teacher goes beyond the classroom with free food pantry for students

Jill Mills is the family service manager. Working with students, parents, and teachers. Bridging the gap between home and school.

JACKSONVILLE, Ark. — It's time to recognize all the good happening in central Arkansas, and the good people doing it. All this week, we are introducing you to 'Remarkable People.'

If you spend any time at Adkins Pre-K in Jacksonville, there are two things that are impossible to miss: the playful sounds of 240 kids, and the absolute love that radiates out of Jill Mills. 

"Miss Jill is just like a ray of sunshine, wherever she goes," explained her co-worker Alex Heineman.

Mills is the family service manager. Working with students, parents, and teachers. Bridging the gap between home and school.

"I try to provide our students with as many special opportunities as possible," Mills said. 

Opportunities that sometimes go way beyond the classroom. Because the only time you won't see Miss Jill smile is when her students are in need. 

"There are some babies that the minute they sit down they clean their plates, and they're starving," she said. 

So last year, she stepped in, asking a family member to build her something special. 

"So this is the little free pantry," she said as she showed us around, "and we stock it with non-perishable food items." 

Canned goods, snacks and more -- and she stocks it twice a day. The second time, just before school lets out. 

"That way," she explained, "if there's a question of if they may have dinner, they can have dinner." 

She didn't stop at just one pantry. A few feet away, there's a little free library, filled with children’s books.

To get the kids excited about reading those books, she also gets into the characters. 

"This is me as Pete the Cat," she said as she pointed to pictures around the room of her in costumes. "You can't not smile and you can't not be in a better mood when she's around," said Heineman. 

Because Miss Jill's excitement for everything that goes on at her school is contagious.

When we asked why she did all this, she simply said, "for the students. I love my students like they're my own. I just want the best for them. At the end of the day, that's what's important. The students."

Right now, Miss Jill is working on a Santa Shop for families. That way, moms and dads can come to get toys and food for the pre-k students and for the whole family. 

If you'd like to help, you can find their contact info here.

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