Posted on April 2, 2019
Officials set six-month timeline for developing ‘actionable plan’
By Madeleine Leroux
The SHARE Foundation announced Monday that it has acquired the Agape House Children’s Home campus in El Dorado and will develop a plan for its continued use in the community.
In February, the Agape House announced its impending closure, which took place in mid-March, because of changes in federal funding for group homes. The changes, laid out in the Family First Prevention Services Act, which was placed within a bipartisan spending bill that President Donald Trump signed into law in February 2018, meant that the local home would not receive the same amount of funding as in previous years, and Agape House had to close its doors.
When the closure was announced, Executive Director Melinda Gatheright said she and the Agape House Board of Directors were hopeful they would be able to find a community organization or nonprofit that could take over the campus and use it to continue serving area children.
“Even though we do not have the opportunity to continue to serve foster children in our community, we wish to see the many gifts bestowed upon us by donors and grantors continue to benefit our community,” Gatheright said in a news release issued Monday. “SHARE Foundation has a unique gift for identifying the needs of our community and addressing those needs. For that reason, and after much prayer, the Agape House Children’s Home Board of Directors is thrilled to place our campus in the hands of SHARE Foundation. We are confident that in doing so, the campus will continue to benefit our community.”
At the time of the Agape House’s closure announcement, Gatheright said the organization had five children in their care. On Monday, Gatheright said the state moved the last of the children on March 15, though she did not specify if they were able to stay in Union County.
“Agape House joins similar ministries such as Arkansas Baptist Children’s Home and Vera Lloyd Presbyterian Children’s Home both in Monticello, Arkansas, in closing their familystyle foster homes in response to the Family First Prevention Services Act,” she said. “We are just a few of the ministries across the state who have, or will, close their familystyle homes over the coming months.”
Brian Jones, president and CEO of the SHARE Foundation, said the property “was graciously gifted” to the foundation. He said the foundation is still unsure of how they will use the newly acquired property, noting that Debbie Watts, vice president of community impact, will lead an exploratory committee made up of “SHARE Foundation board members, select staff and input from community stakeholders.”
“We will be relying heavily on the work done for the (Union County Violence Intervention Plan) and areas where we see community gaps and how this facility may be able to help fill those gaps,” Jones said. “We have established a sixmonth time frame for an actionable plan that we can build into the 2020 budget, which would commence in early fall.”
Jones said the foundation will be working with the Agape House Board of Directors to get their input on the process and keep them informed of developments.
“Words can’t express the gratitude that the SHARE Foundation has in being trusted to develop a community plan with the Agape property and possessions,” Jones said in the release. “The SHARE Foundation Board of Directors is always looking for ways to fulfill unmet needs in our community. This donation affords us yet another opportunity to help impact the health and wellness of Union County.”
Gatheright said the Agape House board has full confidence in the SHARE Foundation and shown that through the gift of the property. She noted that the Agape House had previously been a beneficiary of SHARE Foundation funding, crediting the foundation with helping the Agape House serve foster children in the area for more than three years.
“We know they have the heart, vision, expertise and resources to place something on the campus that will be a needed service to our community and a proud legacy to Agape House,” she said. “After all, they once saw something amazing in us, supported our dream, and helped make it possible for us to fulfill our mission of showing ‘Agape’ love to over 50 foster children in our home. For that, we will always be grateful.”
Madeleine Leroux can be reached at 870-862-6611 or firstname.lastname@example.org.