Arkansas Dream Center works to heal hopelessness

By Lisa Burnett Originally Published April 21, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated April 19, 2013 at 10:04 a.m.
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Nick Hillemann

From the left, Carolyn Jackson, Linda Bee, Caden Long, Donna Baugh and Traci Tutor of the Arkansas Dream Center-Heber Springs are shown in Cindy’s Garden. The project teaches gardening skills as well as how to eat a healthy diet.

The Arkansas Dream Center-Heber Springs had a humble beginning just three years ago. Volunteers would come to the Town and Country Trailer Park in Heber Springs one day a week and serve the residents out of the back of a truck.

Now, the center has developed into a three-day-a-week operation with 10 core volunteers, said Donna Baugh, the local director. The center is housed in a donated trailer in the middle of the park where residents can easily access it.

“We try to find neighborhoods where there is a great need,” Baugh said. “We reach out to them and give them hope.”

The Arkansas Dream Center is a nonprofit organization that is part of New Life Church, which has campuses across the state. Arkansas Dream Center is geared toward seeking out the “hurting and the hopeless,” according to the organization’s website.

“Anywhere there is a New Life Church, there’s an Arkansas Dream Center,” Baugh said.

Although the nonprofit is associated with New Life Church, Baugh said, volunteers from churches and organizations all over the area come to help when they can.

The community where the Heber Springs center is located has a lot of poverty, Baugh said.

“We’re stable, and we want the community to know we’re here,” Baugh said. “[The center] desperately needed to be out here.”

In January, the center started a “Grace Group.” This group meets on Wednesday nights for residents who are struggling with addiction or mental-health problems, Baugh said.

“These people need to realize they’re not alone,” Baugh said.

The center has a food pantry where families can come get emergency food supplies if they are out of food stamps or don’t know where they are going to get their next meal, Baugh said.

The food and supplies the center provides are mostly funded by private donations, Baugh said.

One of the main programs the center operates in the

community is to provide lunch to the residents of the trailer park two days a week.

Right now, with school being in session, Baugh said, the center is making 22 lunches per day for the area.

“We’ll make about 40 lunches during the summer,” Baugh said.

In the summer when school is out, Baugh said, the center plans on having activities available for children four days a week.

“We’re going to have crafts and educational activities,” Baugh said.

Another new project the center is working on for the summer is “Cindy’s Garden,” where vegetables and fruits will be planted.

“The kids will have their own little area that they’re responsible for,” Baugh said. “It’s teaching them responsibility.”

The garden will give children the opportunity to see where their food comes from.

“They eat a lot of processed foods, and some of them haven’t seen a garden before,” Baugh said.

During the school year, volunteers are on hand three days a week to help children in the neighborhood with their homework.

“We just got a grant from the Arkansas Community Foundation for three computers,” Baugh said.

The computers will be available to children to use for their homework or for residents to apply for jobs or job hunt.

There is no paid staff at the Arkansas Dream Center in Heber Springs, but Baugh said the number of people who benefit from the center grows each day.

“[The residents] are always happy to see you,” Baugh said.

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online Reporter Lisa Burnett can be reached at 501-378-3887 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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