Union County

Excel by Eight in Union County

Union County’s strong reputation for philanthropy is seen in the Excel by Eight steering committee led by the SHARE Foundation and the United Way of Union County. A true spirit of collaboration has brought key groups serving families together to identify gaps and improve connections on their local resource grid. The Union County steering committee, launched in March 2021, is focused on  identifying key stakeholders, reviewing relevant data and gaining public input on setting goals and priorities for Excel by Eight. 

One data point included in the review is the Early Development Instrument (EDI), which was completed by all school districts in 2020. The EDI is a population measure of how young children are developing based on the five domains of early childhood development: physical health and wellbeing; social competence; emotional maturity; language and cognitive skills; and communication skills and general knowledge. Kindergarten teachers in each school district completed the assessment for their students.


Located on southern state border

Major industries include oil and gas and chemicals 

Home to Murphy Arts District, an arts and entertainment district in downtown El Dorado

Largest  county in Arkansas, in terms of square miles

Steering Committee

Alexis Alexander, United Way of Union County 

Gloria Billings, Department of Human Services/Division of Children and Family Services 

Pam Blake, FACT, Inc.

Wanda Corney, Parents as Teachers

Becky Dixon, Smackover-Norphlet School District

Karen Hicks, The Call Support Center

Heidi Klappenbach, Family Connects

Robin Krneta, South Arkansas Children’s Coalition

Ellen Lowe, Junction City School District

Kathy Love, Hannah Pregnancy Resource Center

Debbie McAdams, El Dorado School District

Emily O’Neal, Arkansas Children’s

Kaitlyn Rigdon, El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce

Carl Sivils, Jr., Southern Bancorp

Martha Garrett-Shaver, Family Medicine

Tequila Smith, FACT, Inc.

Carla Sparks, Arkansas Children’s

Kimberly Thomas, Strong-Huttig School District

Debbie Watts, SHARE Foundation

Rev. Larry Yarbrough, Sr., CIRCLE Initiative Foundation

Shaneil “PJ” Yarbrough, University of Arkansas, College of Education – Early Care and Education Projects

Read more about E8 Communities

Excel by Eight seeks Communities Manager

Excel by Eight seeks Communities Manager

Excel by Eight (E8) is a statewide initiative that has been developed in partnership with Arkansas Community Foundation and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and in collaboration with over 20 statewide entities. Our vision is a state where all children have a strong...

Independence County hosts Excel by Eight fall 2022 Learning Community

Independence County hosts Excel by Eight fall 2022 Learning Community

For the first time, Excel by Eight hosted its semiannual Learning Community outside of Arkansas’s capital city, bringing more than 30 community leaders to Independence County in mid-October for local site visits and informative sessions. The two-day event took place in the cities of Batesville and Southside and focused on early care and education for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
Jill Wilson, executive director of two child care centers in Mountain Home, and Garrett Dolan, senior manager of corporate social responsibility at Tyson Foods, served on a panel moderated by Roby Brock, editor-in-chief and host of Talk Business and Politics. The panelists discussed the challenges facing employers and child care providers in Arkansas, including quality of care, workforce, and affordability.