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story.lead_photo.caption The CALL county coordinator Julia DesCarpentrie, right, and Taylor Brown display some cupcakes from SugarDumplin’ Cupcakes in Bryant. SugarDumplin’ Cupcakes will be one of the 12 vendors providing desserts for the annual fundraiser Changing Lives With Chocolate, set for Friday at the Benton Event Center. Proceeds from the event will help serve foster and adoptive families in Saline and Perry counties - Photo by Sam Pierce

On Tuesday, a teenage girl and her foster parents walked into the offices of The CALL in Benton looking for assistance.

“She came to her foster home needing literally everything,” said Julia DesCarpentrie, county coordinator for The CALL in Saline and Perry counties. “She had clothes on her back but didn’t have shoes on her feet.

“So I gave those foster-care parents the last of our gift cards [to help pay for new shoes].”

DesCarpentrie said the organization has gift cards so teenagers like her can shop for their own clothes. The annual Changing Lives With Chocolate helps provides the funds for foster and adoptive families. The event will take place from 7-9 p.m. Friday at the Benton Event Center. Tickets are $35 each or $325 for a table of 10.

“This is our one fundraiser that we have every year,” DesCarpentrie said. “We will be using the funds to continue our ministry.”

According to thecallinarkasnas.org, the group’s mission is “to educate, equip and encourage the Christian community to provide a future and a hope for children in foster care in Arkansas.”

Dawn Scott of KTHV-11 is set to be the keynote speaker at the event, and live music will be provided by Sally and the Cupcakes.

Tickets will be available at the door for $40, but DesCarpentrie warned that they usually sell out before the day of the event, so it is best to get tickets ahead of time.

“We are expecting 450 people, and we already have half our tickets sold,” DesCarpentrie said. “We have sold out every year. So it sells quickly, especially in this next week.

“Very rarely do we have tickets left at the door. Every year, we have raised the amount of tickets we sell, and every year, we have sold out. If people want tickets, they are going to want to get them now. Don’t expect to get them at the door.”

DesCarpentrie’s 16-year old

son, Devon, will be interviewed by Scott as part of the night’s program. He will speak about his experiences with adoptive siblings and being a sibling of foster children.

“He’s been a brother of adoptive kids for 13 years, and he has also been a sibling of kids in foster care,” DesCarpentrie said. “Three of his siblings are adoptive, and one of his siblings is biological.

“We have been parents for almost 18 years, but we adopted our first child 13 years ago.”

The first child the DesCarpentries adopted was a young boy who was in foster care in China.

“When we adopted him, we realized what a huge impact being in foster care had on him,” DesCarpentrie said. “Because he understood what a family was, he understood what love was. He bonded and attached to us much quicker because of his experience.

“That led us to later foster and for me to take over this job. I realized what a huge impact a foster family has on a child.”

DesCarpentrie said one of the reasons Changing Lives With Chocolate does so well is because “it’s a well-programmed event.”

“I do believe it is one of the better-priced events, and it is because of our cause,” she said. “This is a cause that helps the future of our community. The kids in foster care are our future.

“By investing in The CALL, they are investing in the kids in the community.”

DesCarpentrie said The CALL works with both foster families and families that are open to adopt kids.

“We also continue to work with families who have adopted and closed their home,” she said.

This year, Vibrant Occasions will cater the event, serving Southern comfort food such as chicken and waffles, and shrimp and grits, DesCarpentrie said.

“We will also have 12 chocolate vendors, and some local churches are supplying two caterers, so we will have a wide variety of desserts coming that are going to be amazing,” DesCarpentrie said.

Part of the proceeds will help provide more supportive services for adoptive families such as educational materials or conferences.

“We have hired a new family-support coordinator to focus specifically on support for both foster and adoptive families,” DesCarpentrie said, “so we were able to hire more staff this year.”

She said Saline and Perry counties currently have enough beds for kids in foster care.

“Rarely do our kids have to go out of the county to find a foster home,” DesCarpentrie said. “But we are constantly recruiting families so we can continue to have enough beds and are able to actually care for our kids.

“Because we have been so well supported by our community, we are able to continue to open more homes and keep up with that need.”

DesCarpentrie said she is always looking for more adoptive families, especially for children school age and older or those who are willing to adopt sibling groups.

“Those are our greatest needs,” DesCarpentrie said. “I believe God has given us all unique gifts, and some of us are not gifted to foster or adopt, but it may be to volunteer, whether it is for us or the Department of Children and Family Services.

“We have a lot of volunteer opportunities as well.”

Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or spierce@arkansasonline.com.

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