Hearts for Hope, a project to collect sleeping bags and supplies for the homeless, wasn’t an idea from a big organization.
“It’s a bunch of hairstylists and a bunch of people with big hearts who want to help,” said co-founder Tina Holt of Greenbrier.
Holt runs her business, Kolor Kouture
Cosmetics and Clinical Skin Care, inside About You Color Salon in Conway.
Holt said she was inspired by salon owner Deana Oie Morin, who was helping the homeless.
“She and her husband were making hamburgers and passing out hamburgers,” Holt said.
Holt said one day Morin borrowed $20 from her. Holt said she told Morin that instead of paying her back, to keep the money to buy hamburger meat.
“That morning, it was like an overwhelming feeling came over me, and I couldn’t shake it off,” Holt said.
She said she felt called to collect sleeping bags for homeless people.
“I kept trying to put it aside. I didn’t have time for it; I have my plate full constantly,” Holt said.
Holt said that after she told Morin about her idea, the women came up with the name Hearts for Hope.
“You have to have a heart to help these people, and all that they need sometimes is hope,” Holt said. “Sometimes, all they need to know is that somebody does care.”
Morin said she and her husband started directly helping the homeless during Christmas last year.
The salon had for years collected food for Bethlehem House, the homeless shelter in Conway, she said.
Morin said she talked to a Bethlehem House staff member about where to look for the homeless camps.
“We found quite a few people,” Morin said.
They spoke highly of Bethlehem House, Morin said, and many get a hot meal there every day.
The Morins gave out hamburgers, as well as items such as socks, gloves, blankets and bottled water and tents.
“A lot of their tents, they’re not even real tents; they’re cardboard and tarp,” Morin said.
Morin said she asked the homeless she met what they needed, which is how she came up with her list.
“My thing is for them to have dry socks on their feet,” Morin said.
“I can’t imagine what it’s like for them to be out there and not be warm.”
Holt said she asked her customers to donate sleeping bags, bottled water or money to buy items for the homeless.
“We have some sleeping bags, but not near enough,” Holt said.
“We’ve got these people in our own backyard, and if everybody would pitch in a little bit, it would make a big difference,” she said.
Co-worker and hairstylist Amanda Hankins agreed to help, too.
“She’s just been great about it,” Holt said.
Holt also enlisted Tonya Thomas of National Bank of Arkansas, who gathered donations, and friend and customer Brenda Austin.
Austin and her husband, Dr. Michael Martinez, a Conway chiropractor, had a Hearts for Hope donation drive in February.
She said they collected sleeping bags, socks, bottled water, backpacks and cash donations, which she used to purchase additional items.
Austin said she wasn’t aware of the extent of homelessness in Conway.
“The thing that I really like about the whole idea is, on top of helping someone, I got an education … that there are supposedly two camps in Conway, and there are children in those camps,” Austin said.
“People need to be aware,” she said.
“We go about our daily lives and don’t think about things, but if we don’t know, we can’t think about it.”
Austin said some of the homeless “are vets who fought for us.”
“The big man upstairs says we need to take care of our neighbor,” she said.
Holt said people sometimes question why these people are homeless.
“We’re giving for the right reasons. It’s not to judge why they’re there, how they got there,” Holt said.
Morin said she’s gotten to know several of the homeless people, including one couple.
“They’re so sweet,” she said. “They wanted me to know right away that they don’t do drugs, but that’s how they got that way.”
The Morins distribute all the items collected through Hearts for Hope, Holt said.
She said a business in Conway donated a storage unit for the project, which will be conducted year-round.
Morin said anyone who knows of someone in need can contact her, Holt or Hankins at the salon at (501) 932-4247.
Morin said that before having storage, she kept most of the items for distribution in her Suburban, and many homeless individuals recognize her vehicle.
Some are standoffish, but others profusely thank them, Morin said.
Holt said she always keeps a couple of sleeping bags in her car to give to homeless people she sees, even outside of Conway.
She said she saw a homeless man one day in Little Rock and gave him a sleeping bag.
“He was overwhelmed,” Holt said. “He said, ‘Thank you so, so much, and would you please pray for me by name? My name is George.’”
Holt said that experience was enough to make her feel like she was doing the right thing.
And she sleeps better at night knowing she helped someone else do the same.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.