Aimee Prince wears her heart on her sleeve.
Whether the 37-year-old Conway woman is talking about her two children being born prematurely or remembering the example her mother set by taking her to help deliver meals to a shut-in, it’s not uncommon for her to get teary-eyed.
“My whole family is a very close, giving family. I’m very fortunate,” Prince said.
Her caring attitude is one reason she volunteers as board president for Bethlehem House, the homeless shelter in Conway.
“I love the fact that they’re a hand up, not a handout,” she said.
Prince, marketing and sales coordinator for Freyaldenhoven Heating and Cooling, grew up in Conway with a sister and two brothers.
She went to Central Baptist College on a scholarship and transferred to the University of Central Arkansas, where she majored in special education.
“I always thought I’d teach; I really did,” she said.
She’s just a few hours short of getting her degree, but she said that hasn’t held her back.
Prince, then Aimee Reynolds, worked at Stoby’s Restaurant in Conway when she was in high school and college.
Jeff Prince worked in circulation for the Log Cabin Democrat, and he delivered papers every day to Stoby’s.
“A guy I worked with bet me I wouldn’t ask [Jeff] out — five bucks — and I did,” she said.
(The bet paid off — the couple had been married 17 years in August.)
She also worked at the Log Cabin Democrat later, starting in telemarketing and working her way up to administrative assistant for two publishers.
When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, she took a week off to volunteer with the United Way of Central Arkansas. She worked at an intake center for evacuees in downtown Conway.
“I love that kind of stuff, absolutely,” she said.
“Then the opportunity presented itself to work at the United Way, so I took a position as resource development director. I loved that job. It was a great job,” she said. “I always said I’d do it for free, if I could.”
When Prince gave presentations about the United Way, she often used herself as an example.
“Before I worked there, I really didn’t understand what they did,” she said.
The Princes’ son, Clay, now 12, was born five weeks early, caused by a spike in his mother’s blood pressure.
“I realized anybody could be put in a situation to need services,” she said.
“There are some great agencies out there. That’s where I fell in love with Bethlehem House,” she said.
She left the United Way after four years and took a summer off to
enjoy her son and her husband — a teacher and coach in the Conway School District.
“We went camping; it was a lot of fun,” she said.
After a brief stint in insurance, which she found wasn’t her cup of tea, she was hired at Freyaldenhoven in downtown Conway.
She said the company was flexible when she was out in 2010 with problems during her second pregnancy. Her blood pressure spiked again.
Her daughter, Karson, was born more than two months early, weighing 2 pounds, 10 ounces, and was in the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Medical Center for a month. Prince said Karson is normal, healthy, precocious and full of personality.
“I don’t know if she keeps us young or old,” Prince said, laughing.
She still makes time for volunteer activities.
When the opportunity came in 2009 for her to get on the Bethlehem House board, she jumped at it.
Judi Lively, executive director of Bethlehem House, said Prince is an asset to the board.
“I think she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her board position here,” Lively said. “I think she has a passion to help the people we serve — she comes and serves dinner once a month — yet at the same time, she realizes that she can make a bigger difference by serving on the board and make a more global impact on the homeless in this community.”
Prince said she likes the fact that the homeless shelter teaches its residents responsibility, such as money management.
The shelter also provides a hot meal each night for the community, as well as laundry and shower facilities.
“It’s not just for the people living there — the house is for the community,” she said.
“They also feed so many people. It’s crazy how many people come through every night,” she said.
The number of food boxes given out is “mind-blowing,” she said.
Prince said she takes her son with her each month to serve meals.
“The first time, he didn’t want to go; now he loves to go. He really looks forward to it,” she said.
Prince said her mother’s example is one reason she is passionate about service.
“My mom took this meal at Thanksgiving to this little lady who was a shut-in, and I went with her,” Prince said, taking off her glasses to wipe away tears. “That’s what I always think of. [My parents] helped her all the time, helped her take care of the house. My grandma really took care of her.”
Prince said she wants to set that kind of example for her children.
“There are so many different ways to give. You don’t have to be on a board. You can be buying the guy’s lunch behind you at Chick-fil-A,” she said.
Prince has served on the Bethlehem House board through its successful capital campaign to build a new facility. The groundbreaking was held in the summer, and the goal of $1.3 million was reached in December.
“We had a great steering committee, and they were able in a remarkable amount of time to raise the money to receive the grants,” Prince said. “The volunteers are just great.”
Construction will begin any day on the new shelter in downtown Conway, Prince said.
In the 100-year-old home now being used as a shelter, “the floor’s falling in,” and something always needs to be repaired, she said.
Prince is excited about the additional room for residents the new shelter will have, as well as a playroom for children to help them feel “more normal.”
“Right now, they don’t even have a place to play,” she said.
“We’re not looking for it to be the Hilton; we’re looking for it to be safe,” she said.
Prince is busy now with the next Bethlehem House fundraising event, the Valentine Gala at 6 p.m. Feb. 1 at oneChurch in Conway.
She’s also a member of Second Baptist Church and the noon Rotary Club and is recruitment chairman for the Faulkner County Youth Leadership Institute.
“Freyaldenhoven is really good to let me do that kind of stuff,” she said of her volunteer activities.
“Honestly, if I won the lottery, I’d still work at nonprofits somewhere.”
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.