'So much in return' Conway woman's mission is to find a need, then fill itREAD ONLINE
Ray of Hope aids Maumelle families in return to ‘normalcy’Originally Published December 2, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated November 30, 2012 at 12:05 p.m.
Amber Barham, left, sits with her daughters Adley, 10, and Adison, 5. The trio lost a husband and father when Brett Barham died suddenly last year at 36. That is when their neighbors in Maumelle stepped in to speed their recovery from the traumatic event by founding the Ray of Hope Foundation.
MAUMELLE Amber Barham of Maumelle was shocked when her husband, Brett, died suddenly last year at age 36.
The couple had two young children and a lot of dreams for the future.
“It’s a turn of events nobody expects,” Barham said.
“There’s still days I drive down the road, and I’m thinking, ‘I can’t believe this happened.’ I’m Average Jane with two kids, and this shouldn’t happen to a normal, good person.”
That’s the same reaction Maumelle residents Diana Blount, Amy Crutchfield and Dawn Meyer had when they heard about Barham’s husband.
“When this happened to our neighbor, we were shaken,” Meyer said.
The three women wondered how they would handle it if they found themselves in the same situation.
“She wasn’t even one of my friends, but I was hugely affected by the fact that she had young children,” Meyer said. “Her husband is gone, and she had to figure out how to make the house payment.
“We came together and just wanted to do something to help families overcome something tragic in their lives.”
The women founded the Ray of Hope Foundation, a nonprofit organization to help people who have experienced something traumatic.
“We’ve had people losing their jobs, just something that is a life-altering event,” Meyer said.
Projects have ranged from helping pay a mortgage to mowing lawns, she said.
“We didn’t want to just put it in a box and say, ‘Oh, we will feed them meals for a month,’” Meyer said. “We wanted to do something comprehensive to bring normalcy back into their lives. Normalcy is something we talk a lot about. It’s so easy to take it for granted. We try to give families a ray of hope.”
The group held a Celebration Gala and a 5K in November 2011 and gave the proceeds to Barham, who teaches fitness classes.
“They cut my family a check to help with expenses. There’s just things you don’t even fathom you have to pay for,” Barham said.
“Some of it is just things I didn’t realize he took care of. First of all, just planning a funeral is a nightmare, … and changing the name on the deeds and stuff. It’s hundreds of dollars to do it.”
The couple did have life insurance, she said, but they had talked about writing a will that summer.
She said that the night before Brett died, he had been to the emergency room with pancreatic issues, which he had experienced for years, but it wasn’t life-threatening. It was July 2011, and the couple had been married 13 years.
The Barhams moved to Maumelle in 2004 from Lubbock, Texas, and had no family nearby when Brett died.
“It was just, take a deep breath and we’re going to figure this out,” Barham said. “We’re blessed that we lived in Maumelle. It takes a village to raise your kids, and pretty much everybody stepped up and helped. It still amazes me that somebody asked if they could come do our Christmas lights this year because they helped last year.”
Barham was the impetus for the organization, but Meyer said Ray of Hope to date has helped about nine families whose names are confidential.
Blount said she wants to help many other families.
“Regardless of the situation or income level of the recipients, it is important to me to serve the families in the community that need a ray of hope,” Blount said.
Meyer said there are many ways to make a difference.
“For Amber, we gave her a monetary contribution. There’ve been other things. Today, Diana delivered 100 gallons of tea to the community center for Neighbors Helping Neighbors community dinner,” Meyer said.
She said Ray of Hope works with schools, police and fire departments, and several organizations in the community to determine residents’ needs.
“It’s really been wonderful the way the community comes together,” she said.
The Celebration Gala will be held April 5 at Park on the River, and the RAYn or Shine 5K is scheduled for April 6 at Lake Willastein.
Meyer said one goal of Ray of Hope is to grow the organization’s funding and offer more events.
“We are a very young organization. We’re still all kind of learning the ropes and how to do things so we can help the community better.”
Barham, whose children are 10 and 5, joined Ray of Hope as a volunteer.
“My philosophy is, I want to pay it forward. I’ve been put back on my feet, so I want to help someone get back on their feet,” she said. “Maumelle’s the perfect community — there’s no reason we can’t stick together as that community and help each other out.”
For more information about Ray of Hope, go to www.rayof
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or email@example.com.
Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.