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Laura Caldwell receives Noble Cause Award for leadership in addressing the region’s foster care crisis
The Fort Smith Region is in a FOSTER CARE CRISIS. During Laura Caldwell’s travel throughout the state delivering needed supplies to Children’s Homes, she noticed that the Fort Smith Region had the fewest resources for our foster children and yet had the state’s greatest need. Arkansas DHS Area 2, which supports the seven counties in the River Valley, has over 800 foster children each month – the highest in the state. With only 120 foster homes and one temporary home in the region, 75% of foster children are sent off to temporarily live in homes, motels and offices around the state – often separated from their brothers and sisters. These children have been abandoned, abused, or neglected, and they need a safe and nurturing home.
Laura Caldwell decided to do something to help these children and their families. In February 2013, she founded New Start for Children and Families, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, that will provide a permanent Children’s Home, along with counseling and educational services that strengthen families and help these children set their lives on a better path. “They desperately need our help!” Laura says of the children and families New Start will serve. The licensed Children’s Home will service children from birth to age 18, both boys and girls, and provide opportunities for siblings to stay together. The kids at the home will receive the medical care, schooling, tutoring, and counseling that they need, along with art and music therapy. They will be able to stay near their families and begin the work of rebuilding those families, or they may receive the adoption services should that be needed. When these children reach their 18th birthdays, they can still stay on while they go to college, an opportunity which gives them hope for the future. Currently, foster kids who reach 18 without having found permanent parents are said to have “aged out” of the system. They can’t receive the support young students often need in order to succeed in college. The organization is in its early stages. The first objective is to raise the funds needed to buy 10+ acres of land or receive donated land to build the Children’s Home. Our community has an opportunity to help address a critical need in our region and better our future children and their families. To help or learn more, contact Laura Caldwell at 479-430-3529 or email her at email@example.com.
The Noble Cause Awards goes to Clyde Chaney with the Golden Rule Clothes Closet for the compassion and FREE assistance he has provided to those in need of clothing and household goods for 23 years in the Fort Smith Region.
The Clothes Closet located at 212 N. 3rd St. in Fort Smith provides victims of fires and natural disasters and low-income families and with clothing, furniture and household items free of charge.
Imagine going to church or out with friends one evening and finding when you got home that your house had burned to the ground. You would have nothing but the clothes on your back. Natural disasters cause grave hardship, but losing a job, a difficult divorce, or other personal crises can have similar effects. That’s why The Clothes Closet accepts all donations, big and small, in the form of cash or of clothing and household goods.
The Clothes Closet is known not only for the practical assistance they provide, but also for the kindness and compassion with which they welcome their clients. The days they are open to customers are busy ones, serving 300 to 350 people a day. The team that does all this work is small: four staff members and volunteers from the community. In 2013, they supplied clothing and household necessities to more than 47,000 people.
The Clothes Closet has been in operation for more than two decades, since Betty Chaney (wife of current director Clyde Chaney) and Terry Olsen started in one room in the Old Trinity School in 1991. In 1995, First National Bank of Fort Smith provided a building for The Clothes Closet: a former meat packing plant on North 3rd and B Streets, where they reside today.
Recent funding cuts combined with increasing need make it difficult to serve everyone who needs help. The Clothes Closet welcomes financial donations, as well as donations of any clothing or household item. No donation is too small or too large. Be it a toothpick or a house, The Clothes Closet will find someone who is in need of your gift.
Donations accepted Monday- Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Open to serve Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Items in high demand:
Pots and pans
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