June 17, 2009 Edition

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Shelter is full, volunteers sought

Gretchen Hunt

The Children's Shelter opened June 1 after receiving its Arkansas State license May 26, and volunteers are needed to help. The shelter is currently filled to its 12-child capacity and has a waiting list, said Judy Turnbull, chair of the shelter's board.

Administrator Amber Hampton said after one week, 14 children received emergency temporary shelter and services. These children from Lawrence and surrounding counties were admitted to the shelter by the government agencies responsible for the well being of children.

"Child abuse and neglect, does not discriminate," Turnbull, said. "It occurs within every age group, ethnic, religious and socio-economic background. Most children are in care because of medical, educational and emotional neglect. Most physical and sexually abused children are often the victims of a family member or a close family friend."

Turnbull emphasized that the shelter is the result of a community effort, and the board of directors appreciates individuals' time, services and contributions.

"We all care about the issue of child neglect and abuse," she said. "But, we hear a lot more about the problems than we do about the solutions. As long as we have children at the shelter, we will need volunteers to provide positive influences for these children."

The shelter is licensed to accommodate 12 children between ages of birth to 18 years. These children can come from anywhere within the state of Arkansas as long as they meet the eligibility and admission criteria as outlined by The Children's Shelter bylaws and the state of Arkansas.

"The 24-hour staff is salaried, and we intend to incorporate volunteers into the program," Hampton said.

All staff and volunteers are required to pass a drug test, child maltreatment central registry checks and Arkansas State Police Record/FBI Criminal Record checks.

Since June 1, the shelter has accommodated 28 children including six groups of siblings. It is currently full and has a waiting list from agencies to provide beds for more children.

"That means our childcare staff, two full-time people per shift, must care for 12 children from birth to 18 years," Turnbull said. "Volunteers are needed to help give the children attention. We are asking for people to read or play with them in the common areas of the shelter. Older children like board games, video games and playing in the backyard. Toddlers enjoy being rocked or hearing stories. Volunteers are also needed to help cook or prepare meals."

Anyone interested in being a volunteer is asked to stop by the shelter between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. for an application and policies. Those interested will need to return the completed application to the shelter and attend one of the volunteer training sessions at the Walnut Ridge Community Meeting Room (next to the library) on Saturday, June 27, from 10 a.m. to noon or from 2-4 p.m.

For more information, contact Hampton at 886-5191.

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