The NWA Children’s Shelter turned 20 on December 6, 2013. The celebration planned for December 5 was rescheduled due to weather, and finally took place today at the Shelter, complete with friends, food, refreshments, presents and candles.
A large crowd of supporters, state and local dignitaries, and community leaders gathered today at the Children’s Shelter’s 81-acre Highfill campus for a celebration, which featured a rundown of the Children’s Shelter’s 20-year impact, reminiscences by a founding leader, a hug-filled reunion, an inspiring testimony by a former resident, a special honor for the Children’s Shelter’s “father,” the unveiling of an awareness initiative and a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday.” The April 1 date for the belated party was chosen to coincide with the commencement of National Child Abuse Awareness Month.
“The fact that Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter even exists is a testament to the compassionate and responsive nature of this community,” says Steve Schotta, Executive Director of Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter. “But when you look at the degree to which the community has supported the Children’s Shelter for the past two decades, enabling us to add services beyond a ‘bed-and-board’ model and expand capacity to serve more and more children, it is truly staggering—particularly when you see firsthand, as we do, the transforming power that this safe haven they have created can have on abused and neglected kids’ lives.”
20 years, by the numbers
Jeff Harsh, Vice President of the Children’s Shelter Board of Directors, put the 20-year impact of the Shelter in perspective by noting a few key statistics. He noted that in 20 years, the Children’s Shelter has:
- Gone from a budget of about $148,000 to a budget of about $3.6 million
- Cared for more than 7,200 abused and neglected children
- Provided more than 521,640 nutritious meals and 347,760 healthy snacks
- Logged nearly 127,000 miles transporting children to and from doctor’s, dental and vision visits
- Helped with about 81,500 hours’ worth of homework
- Treated the kids in care to around 2,340 “just-for-fun” outings to destinations like Silver Dollar City, the Walton Arts Center and Chuck E. Cheese
- Celebrated more than 500 birthdays with a full-blown party
- Changed in the vicinity of 275,940 diapers
A founder’s perspective
Jane Oliver, who has been involved with the Children’s Shelter for more than 20 years, shared some of her remembrances as one of the organization’s founding staffers. Jane holds the distinction of having been the Executive Director when the Shelter opened its doors in December 1993, having begun in that role in May 1993. She oversaw the final push for licensure and to get the Children’s Shelter ready for occupancy. Jane served as Executive Director for three years and later served as a member of the active Board of Directors and now as an Emeritus Director.
A former residence’s perspective
Today, Megan Anthony is a confident 24-year-old world traveler with a burgeoning career at Walmart and is an officer in the Arkansas Army National Guard.
But in 2003, she was a 13-year-old victim of neglect who had no idea what it was like to be a “normal kid.” She spent her childhood as the default care-taker for her younger brothers and unstable mother, eventually being “bounced around” through several foster homes. She finally entered the Children’s Shelter where, for the first time in her young memory, she experience a feeling of safety, structure, healing and genuine care and concern. At the celebration, Megan shared how the hope for a better life she found at the Shelter helped change her life for the better.
Honoring the “father” of the Children’s Shelter
The Children’s Shelter also unveiled a commemorative plaque that pays homage to the late Judge Terry Crabtree for his role in championing the idea of establishing a children’s emergency shelter and bringing together the group that became the Children’s Shelter’s first Board of Directors.
Unveiling a new initiative
At the celebration, the Children’s Shelter unveiled a new awareness initiative that will run throughout the month of April—in observance of National Child Abuse Awareness Month and its 20th Anniversary year. The initiative features cardboard-cutout awareness exhibits that will be on display in 35 Arvest Bank branches throughout Northwest Arkansas.
About Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter
Northwest Arkansas Children’s Shelter is a private, non-profit organization that provides 24-hour emergency residential care to children and teens from throughout Arkansas who are victims of abuse or neglect. The 48-bed Children’s Shelter, which currently serves about 550 children per year, has served more than 7,200 children since opening its doors at Vaughn in 1993. Children may stay up to 45 days in a six-month period, until they can be placed in foster care or return to their families. For more information, visit www.nwacs.org.