BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
There are seasons in life that take our breath away, not because they are priceless moments, but because they knock us down. Suffering seems to be inevitable, it not only pushes limits, but like heat from the fire, it refines everything. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at a time of challenge and controversy.” Teena Brown, founder of Clarice’s Room of Hope, has walked through those times of challenge and crisis and is now standing beside others who are doing the same.
In 2008 she lost her mother, Clarice, to Acute Leukemia. Preparing for chemotherapy therapy treatments, doctors told Clarice she would lose her hair. During her treatments, Teena and her mom asked where they might be able to find help with wigs. They began to visit the Reynolds Foundation in Fort Smith Arkansas. Each visit Clarice was welcomed with warm smiles and hugs as she tried on wigs and hats. “They cared for my mom so well. It meant so much to her and just as much to me,” Teena says thankfully. Through this process, a passion was lit in Teena to provide services for people in Mena that were suffering through cancer just as her mom was. She felt she had a purpose to stand beside people during their hurt and suffering.
One season of suffering and hurt seemed to open up to another season for Teena and family. In 2009, just one year after losing her mom to cancer, she lost her dad to Alzheimer’s disease. Shortly after her dad’s death, Teena was allowed the opportunity to continue her career as a cosmetologist and store wigs in a space that was provided. “At the time, I worked at The Look Salon with Michelle and she was really kind to let me begin to start with the wigs,” says Teena. This started the process of developing a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that has become a tremendous resource to many local patients and caregivers, now known as Clarice’s Room of Hope. Though she is far from where she wants to be with Clarice’s, Teena is filled with thankfulness that the organization is where it is now. “I have big dreams, but I still can’t believe that we have been able to do what we have already. This is a God thing, I don’t have it in me on my own to do this.”
Since the inception in 2012, Clarice’s services have grown and as a result, Teena has been able to serve more people that are fighting cancer. “It’s amazing to see where we have come, this all started in a cubby hole,” Teena says with a smile. She has been serving people as a cosmetologist for over 30 years now, and she gets to use her experience in hair styling to help cancer patients get fitted for wigs. Teena does one-on-one consultation with patients to help them find the wig, scarf, turban, or hat that fits them the best. “This is a time that is all about them, I want to help them find something that is going to put a smile back on their face.” These services are free for any women that are going through chemotherapy or have lost hair due to their cancer.
Along with providing services to assist patients in finding a wig or hat, Teena has been blessed to offer different outreach services to help the families affected. “I realize after driving my mom back and forth to the doctor or consultations that the cost adds up quickly. We have been blessed that we are now able to offer help in these areas.” Customers and family members can stop by to talk with Teena about getting help with transportation and lodging costs, or even expenses that pop up unexpectedly. At this point in the year, Clarices’ has already served nearly 40 clients. Cancer knows no age limit, with this in mind Teena has been able to serve cancer fighters from six years old to clients in their eighties. In addition to these services, Teena has offered a monthly support meeting for those going through cancer and for their families as well. “This is a time that is important to me. We pray for our clients and their needs, we talk through what they are going through and try to offer support and hope,” explains Teena.
Clarice’s is a non-profit 501(c)3, meaning that the organization is funded through donations and is supported by the help of volunteers and people in the community. “People may not realize this, but I don’t earn or profit from any of the money that is donated. It is all put towards operating Clarice’s and the services we provide.” Clarice’s has grown immensely since it began, but with growth comes new challenges. “There is so much going on, so many things that need to be done that we could really use more volunteers. We don’t have any paid employees so any of the work that gets done is either by me or a couple of our volunteers Currently, Carol Sickles has been assisting us and she has been a huge blessing.”
There are many areas that somebody can be involved with Clarice’s. More assistance is needed in helping clients try on wigs and Teena would love to have more community involvement with their Monday night support meetings. “We have one pastor that comes now and he does a great job just listening to the hurt of the people and praying for them when needed. I would love to have more pastors get involved, or people in the community that have a heart for what we are doing.”
Until the day that cancer is defeated, services like Clarice’s will always be needed. Thanks to Teena’s passion and her heart to serve others, families walking through this difficult season will be cared for in their greatest trial. “It’s all worth it if we can put a smile back on someone’s face.” For more information on services provided or opportunities to volunteer, call Teena at 479-385-5071 or visit Clarice’s located at 403 N Morrow Street, Suite C.