Editor’s note: The SHARE Foundation recently announced grants to 11 area nonprofits focused on intervention and prevention of crime and violence through the foundation’s Union County Violence Intervention Plan (VIP). This story is the last in a series of articles highlighting the programs funded, at least in part, with those grants.
First and foremost, The CALL is about children. The nonprofit, which operates in 50 counties in the state, helps match children in need of foster homes with Christian families; it also provides supplies, support and education for adoptive parents and biological parents working to bring their children back into their homes.
Karen Hicks, The CALL of Union County executive director, said the organization’s re-zoning request for a house in the Mahony District was recently approved by the El Dorado City Council, which means the branch will turn the local home into a support center. Children and families will meet at the center with Department of Human Services employees, and Hicks will be able to connect individuals with other services in the county.
“This allows us to create a central hub,” she said. “We want to create a mentoring atmosphere with foster and adoptive parents and streamline services for biological parents. This will help us empower families.”
As The CALL expands in Union County, so does the need for funding. The nonprofit recently received a $15,000 VIP grant from the SHARE Foundation, which Hicks said will primarily go toward the support center costs; the center will also serve as an intake location for children entering DHS care.
“We want to ensure the money [that] churches donate goes to fulfilling our mission, so this grant will be earmarked for our location,” she said. “We have run completely out of space; this center gives us that space, as well as a better atmosphere for children. We want these children, who have experienced trauma, to have a more calming environment when they’re first brought into our care: they can take a shower, they can wash their clothes, we can cook them a meal — it’s more of a home experience.”
Hicks said she was part of a SHARE Foundation focus group that helped provide feedback as the organization created the Violence Intervention Plan. She waited for the first rounds of VIP grants before applying in this grant cycle.
“All of our nonprofits work together,” she said. “Last year, I sat through the grant award ceremony and thought ‘This is our mission. This is what we’re trying to do.’ We’re relatively new compared with some nonprofits in Union County, so to know that the grant board would put that much trust and investment in us, that means a lot to me. They see the need, they respect what we’re doing.”
Because childhood trauma has such a profound impact on people as they grow up, Hicks said stopping violence in the county begins with preventing and healing childhood trauma.
“Childhood trauma is the gateway to adult abuse and neglect,” she said. “Trauma affects the development of children’s brains. Scientists can pinpoint an age when a child experienced trauma based on their brain activity as adults. We want to work to create a more trauma-informed community.”
Across Arkansas, more than 8,000 children spend time in the foster system every year due to neglect or abuse, according to a press release from the SHARE Foundation. Union County has 15 open homes and an average of 45 foster children in care at any moment.
• About the grants: The SHARE Foundation recently announced grants to 11 area nonprofits focused on intervention and prevention of crime and violence through the foundation’s Union County Violence Intervention Plan (VIP). The grants, totaling $324,371, are the organization’s third round of VIP grants and 32nd round of grant awards overall. With the grant announcement, the SHARE Foundation has now given more than $8 million in grants and strategic initiatives to 91 different nonprofits operating in Union County, according to a press release from the organization. The grants fund items including operations, specific programs, software purchases and more.
SHARE’s VIP program began in 2018 and focuses on six areas: mentoring, re-entry, neighborhood watches/clean neighborhoods, parenting/life skills, jobs/targeted education, and mental health/substance and drug abuse.
For more details on the SHARE Foundation, visit the website at sharefoundation.com.
The foundation’s Violence Intervention Plan, its strategies and intended outcomes are available to review. Contact Debbie Watts, vice president of community impact at SHARE Foundation, at 870-881-9015 for more information or to get involved.