January 16, 2008 Edition

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Update on Shelter shows progress

Gretchen Hunt

The Children's Shelter started as a vision early in 2006 because of the growing influx of displaced children. Judy Turnbull, local advocate for children and the leading force in establishing a shelter, said the need for the shelter continues.

"Lawrence County has over 10 very good foster homes, and they are full," Turnbull said.

"Sibling groups are usually separated and placed in different homes, sometimes in neighboring counties. Some children are put into homes that are not suitable for them simply because of their age or gender."

This past year, many strides were made to see the vision come closer to a reality. 2007 started with the gift of more than five acres of zoned property through the generosity of Sara Sloan Heckle, Sara Howell, Carol Sloan "Muffin" Swindle and Erin Marie Sloan Hughes. The property was the former Earl Sloan Cotton Gin, which housed several large buildings.

"We are so thankful for this generous gift on which we will build the shelter," Turnbull said.

Fund-raisers, individual
contributions add up

Through the efforts of the public relations/fund-raising committees, people became aware of The Children's Shelter and the need for funding. Williams Baptist College raised $1,631.41 through their Spring Fling activities.

Lewis Slaughter donated over 3,000 books for a book fair that raised $6,269 for the shelter. J.R. and Michelle Rogers donated the building and utilities for the book fair.

"Coni Davis, with the help of staff and students from Hoxie and Walnut Ridge Public Schools, organized and sold books," Turnbull added. "Kari Shanks, Suzanne Harp and Margaret Snapp were just a few who put so much effort into this fund-raiser. There were many other people who drifted in and out helping for two hours or more each day."

The second annual Children's Shelter Benefit and Celebrity Auction raised nearly $10,000.

"There were so many people who helped make this benefit a huge success by donating gifts, time and talent," Turnbull said.

Angel Gipson welcomed the crowd by singing "Concrete Angel" and "Give it Away." Lewis Slaughter served as auctioneer, while Cindy Lewis displayed and offered descriptions of the items. Eggie Tedder was the bid spotter and applied "gentle" pressure for high bids and lots of laughs. Karen Williams and Flower Basket staff provided flower arrangements and balloons for decorations, which were auctioned off at the end of the benefit.

"Terri Lawrence, Julie Ponder, Kari Shanks and Beth Price worked hard to sell tickets, acquire gifts, decorate the dining room and create a fabulous menu" Turnbull said. "Jerry Winters and the Walnut Ridge Country Club staff did a great job preparing and serving the food."

Pulaski Bank announced The Children's Shelter would be the charity to receive the "Change is Good" benefits with matching funds. At the same time, the second annual dinner/theatre production, "Radio Gals," directed by Carrie Mae Snapp was selling tickets, and Pulaski Bank matched all the advance ticket sales.

Donations collected from Pulaski Bank clients in the Walnut Ridge and Hoxie branches and most tickets bought for the "Radio Gals" production totaled $32,480.

"Many thanks to Pulaski branch managers, Vickie Mitchell and Melissa Davis," Turnbull said.

She also offered thanks for Snapp and the Women of Front Street (Joyce Rose, Diane Midkiff, Tami Watson, Ginger Bibb, Leslie Rutledge and Robyn Engelken), along with Bethany Wright, E. Paul Milam, Layne Wright and Johnny Slayton, Glenda Blasini, Carl Mason, John Long, Weston Little, Bill and Phillip Midkiff, Gary Rose, Bobbie Berry, Beverly Wright, Regina Bennett and the Hoxie High School volleyball teams for their contributions to the production. J.R. and Michelle Rogers again provided use of the Gateway Theatre and utilities for the dinner/theatre production,

Other contributors included: Turner Dairies, ice cream cups; Rent One, use of a the refrigerator and freezer; Phillip Tolson, plates, napkins and wetwipes; Pepsi America, Pepsi products; and Karen Williams, the use of many of her antiques for window and table decorations.

"We thank the civic clubs, local churches and individuals for the contributions to Pulaski Bank and supporting the "Radio Gals" production.

During the Iron Mountain Festival the "Giant Slide" ticket donations raised $270. Turnbull offered thanks to the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce for renting the slide and to Sherry Burnside for asking The Children's Shelter to accept the donations.

In addition, the 4-H Club sponsored a beauty pageant, organized by Mary Jane Callahan, which raised $800 for The Children's Shelter.

The Mr. and Miss Snowflake Pageant raised $965 for The Children's Shelter. Rita Bilbrey, Gracie Huskey and the staff of Regal Treatment organized the event.

Several "Shelter Boxes" have been placed in local businesses such as Don's Steakhouse, Moni's Grill, Captain Catfish, The Movie Gallery, Big Al's, Kelly's Kwik Mart and other neighboring businesses.

"These boxes bring donations and awareness for The Children's Shelter," Turnbull said. "We thank all the businesses for allowing a space for the shelter boxes."

Turnbull said there is no way to express her gratitude for all the support given to the shelter in 2007.

"So many people helped in the public relations/fund-raisers. If I didn't mention your name, please forgive me," she said. "Throughout 2007, many individuals, businesses, civic clubs, church groups and school groups have sent donations to The Children's Shelter."

The shelter has also received grants from Sam's Club and Wal-Mart. Some individuals have chosen to make donations in memory of departed loved ones while others have made donations in honor of their children to help less fortunate children.

In addition, the Hoxie Public School employees have shown their continued support by sending a monthly payroll deduction every month since May of 2006.

"I want to add that without the promotion provided by The Times Dispatch and First National Bank, we could not reached people throughout Lawrence Country and surrounding area for every fund-raiser event that we've had," Turnbull said. "John Bland and his employees have helped us with photos, articles, tickets and inspiration for all the fund-raisers. Milton Smith and his employees at First National Bank have made radio announcements, offered their fax and copier services, let us use a meeting room and provided information support for every fund-raiser."

Progress on shelter seen

Turnbull said the property has been cleared of buildings and board members are waiting for an environmental audit before building can begin.

"We are grateful to C.W. Bratcher for doing a great job clearing the property in less than three weeks!" Turnbull said. "We also thank Judge Alex Latham, Fire Chief Alan Haskins and Mayor Michelle Rogers for all their help to clear and maintain the property."

Turnbull said there is still much to be done to make the Children's Shelter a tangible reality.

"The state has standards and rules that must be met for the building and staffing," she said.

"The cost to feed, shelter and protect children is great. A huge amount of money is required to build and maintain a suitable temporary emergency shelter."

The board of directors meets monthly to discuss the finances and concerns for The Children's Shelter.

"We had a very good year raising money and awareness, researching grants and compiling a plan of what size shelter we can build with the money that is available." Turnbull said.

"We hear the question, When will the shelter building begin?' and we can honestly tell you, 'We don't know.'"

Local committee members have also been talking with the management staff of another temporary emergency shelter located in Fort Smith.

"The operating budget for one year is nearly $300,000," Turnbull said. "The cost of the building will be over $200,000. Do we have $500,000? No, the money that has been donated and raised has paid for incorporation fees, property taxes and demolishing/land clearing cost."

Turnbull said the remaining money, approximately $60,000, by-laws, deeds, receipts and other papers are maintained at First National Bank in Walnut Ridge.

"The board is trying to find the most economical path that will provide a year's operating budget and a safe shelter that will keep 12 children 45 days or less until a suitable placement becomes available," she added.

According to a one-day report form the Department of Human Services, Lawrence County had 35 children, Randolph County had 29 children and the state of Arkansas had 3,725 children in foster care on Nov. 30, 2007.

"Doesn't every one of these children need a 'safe place'?" Turnbull asked. "The Children's Shelter will be a beginning. We are asking for your continued support, prayers and creative suggestions in 2008."

The Children's Shelter, incorporated April 17, 2006, is a non-profit 501c(3) organization that relies on donations and grants. Donations can be sent directly to: The Children's Shelter Fund Account, c/o First National Bank, P.O. Box 509, Walnut Ridge, AR 72476.

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