Article and photos by Ethan Nahté
The CALL in Polk County held an open house at their new location the week before Christmas. The new space is considerably bigger than where they were housed, and it offers some privacy for families who need a cozy space to talk and interact. It has nice furniture, toys to keep the younger children occupied, and a changing station.The new location is housed in a building within the Dallas Avenue Baptist Church in Mena.
Alyssa Green, church coordinator at The CALL in Polk County, said, “We’ve been hoping for another space for the last year or so, then we got offered this place about six months ago. It’s been a little bit of a process for us to get here… and we got here, thank the good Lord. It’s been great.
“We had the JAG class from [Mena] High School come over and help move us. They loaded up the school bus, brought the school bus over and packed all of the stuff in two school busloads. That was really good. It’s been a lot of team effort, for sure.”
The CALL Mall
The CALL Mall accepts donations for items to primarily help foster families within Polk County.
“Our CALL Mall coordinator came over,” Green said. “She’s come in and organized all of this.
“We take new and used clothing, always new diapers, socks, underwear and things like that.
“We take shoes. Shoe Sensation actually has a collection box that they keep year around for us. You can donate anytime to Shoe Sensation. They collect them for us and we go pick them up, or they can come here and drop them off, too.
“We have hygiene items that we give the families. We have a deep freeze back there that has freezer meals. It’s not full right now; we actually need more freezer meals.
Rachel Lance is a volunteer and the fundraiser coordinator. She also happens to be Green’s mother. She said, “We tell people who don’t know how to help — who can’t foster care — we tell them we need all kinds of [help]. If they fixed a casserole in a to-go pan, we could freeze it. We could give that to a foster family when they need it. Fix a freezer meal once in a while and bring it by.”
Green said, “The families actually prefer the homemade ones. If 10 people did that once a month, that would be 10 meals a month. We’ve really tried to tell people we know that everyone can’t foster kids. It’s not for everybody, but everyone has been equipped with something from God that they can do. If you can make a meal, if you can donate something, if you can help come set up for an open house or something, that’s great.”
“Toddlers to teenagers grow out of their clothes so often,” Lance said, “We always tell [people] if you’re kids have outgrown their clothes, bring them by. We have kids that need them.”
Green said, “We’ve been so blessed with clothing and stuff that we have enough for a seasonal swap out. We have a whole storage with our summer and spring stuff in it. Whenever the seasons change now, all we have to do is come in with the totes and swap things out.
“It’s become a lot more functional to us and our families. We haven’t been serving them long out of here. Our first week or two we were in here this table and another table were sitting in the middle of the floor and all of these clothes were in big piles where the high schoolers unloaded them. We were digging through the pile of clothes and serving people, but they were getting what they needed.
“The [clothes] are for our foster families. We always prioritize foster families and foster children. Our main ministry goal is to recruit and train Godly foster homes for these children. We support them in any way we can, whether it’s setting up homes to foster, or if they are already open to foster and they get a placement in the middle of the night and they need diapers or anything, we can do that. We’ve been so blessed this year we’ve extended our services to other families where we were able. It always stays in Polk County.
“We do have a lot of [Child] Protective Services cases that have been sent to us. That’s kind of to prevent children from going into care. We don’t have a lot of homes here. Helping combat that on the front end of it, too, is serving our ministry as well. We have found that the families that were able to help through the protective service cases, it prevents those children from going into care. We’re battling the crisis before it starts. We’re trying to help prevent it on the front, also while they’re in care, and we even help biological families get reunified. I think that’s been one of my favorite parts of this is to help families get reunified.
“When a family reunifies, they have been separated by the court systems and separated from their children. They get to work a program where they can come back to their children and be put back in the home together after a certain amount of time. Every case is different. When they reunify, they go through a process where they get to have the children start having overnight visits. Then they’ll get to go home and be a family again and come back together. They’ll keep them on services a little bit where they’ll make sure that the family is doing well and they’re getting the services they need and things like that.”
Lance said, “Sometimes they’re still struggling to support those kids and that’s probably why they lost them in the first place. When they get back together, we don’t want them to just be dropped from the program. What we do is if you need diapers this week, you need a meal this week, you need some socks and shoes, winter comes on and all of a sudden, they need coats for the kids and they don’t have the money to buy them… just to help them keep going until they can manage on their own.”
Green said, “We stay in contact with them. The reunification rate to the rate of children who return to care is not very different. It’s pretty high if they don’t have post-support services. We have found that if we have support for these families once they get reunified, if it’s not a conflict for us with our other foster families we serve and we’re able, then we can continue to help and [hopefully] prevent them from being put back into the system in the future. We’re trying to help combat it from all sides, but we just go where God leads us for the most part, and He’s been good so far.”
Some foster families came in during the open house, needing supplies. When asked how many children they have had come through their home, one of the women stated they have had 43 or 44 children over the past three years or so, and she’s in the process of adopting two of them. She has another adopted child, as well.
“That’s actually a pretty low number,” Green said. “We’ve had multiple families who have actually had hundreds. One of those families has been fostering for over 16 years. They have adopted seven and they have seven of their own, I believe.”
“We have lots of families that have adopted multiple children and fostered hundreds like that. It’s amazing. I don’t know how they do it. I can’t imagine having 43 children going through my home just visiting.”
“You fall in love with those kids,” Lance said.
A couple of little girls who had been fostered were surprised to have a house with a ceiling that didn’t have holes and a floor that they didn’t have to worry about falling through or where wild animals could enter.
“There’s been lots of families with amazing stories that we’ve heard,” Green said. “One of the families that reunified is actually someone that I grew up with. We helped him and his kids reunify and that was really special to us.”
Lance said, “We are going to be focusing more on the recruitment side of things… recruiting more homes. That is a focus of ours for .”
If a family would like to open their home to foster, Green said, “They can come to me. We get them started with the process. We do the training, and we work with DHS for them to come in and do their home study and open their homes.
One of the items that catches the eye in The CALL Mall is a large posterboard providing some of the facts about foster care. The informative, artistic board was created by Emmaly Dominguez.
“She is amazing,” Green said. “She is Shari and Rodney Dominguez’s little girl. She’s only 10 and she did this for a school presentation last year. I believe she did this when she was in fifth grade. She put this whole board together by herself.
“We had done a story about her a year-and-a-half ago because she had actually helped save a baby during a tornado when they had to get into a tornado shelter. When that tornado came over Mena, her and her mom were trying to get all of the foster babies out of the car, and she was only 8 or 9, I think. She grabbed him and ran into the shelter with him on her own. We thought that was pretty cool. She just really has a heart for all of the kids that come through their home.”
“How it works in Polk County is when someone donates to us, if they write us a check, they can send it to me,” Green said. “I send it to our state office, and it goes to our county account. Our county is a part of a much bigger puzzle. We have grants through our ministry. Each month every county gives back to that grant fund ministry. We give a certain percentage back a month, but it also comes back to Polk County because we’re guaranteed that grant once a year. It kind of helps keep all of the counties going, but the money stays here in Polk County. We are trying to make that transparent to our donors, because we do want them to know we support our whole state ministry, but it comes back to Polk County.”
Checks can be mailed to P.O. Box 1075, Mena, AR 71953. To assist in other ways, Green said that people can call, text or email her any time.
As mentioned, if someone can’t foster or donate money, there are plenty of other opportunities to assist. “We always need volunteers to come in and help sort things, help run The CALL Mall… just anything they can do.”
The new location is behind the chapel at Dallas Avenue Baptist Church at 300 Dallas Ave.
Currently, they are open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays. They can be reached at 501-813-6480, 479-234-3498 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We’re pretty much doing things seven days a week,” Green said.
“We have a Facebook page and they can private message us,” Lance said. Just search for The CALL in Polk County.