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Hope through Haven

BY JENNIFER STANLEY

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRANDY STRAIN-DAYER

Haven is a qualified residential treatment program in Conway serving females in foster care ages 12 through 18 who have experienced trauma. Junior Auxiliary founded Haven 30 years ago, and it began as a home for women and children. Soon after, the community recognized the growing need for a group foster home, so Haven transformed into a home for girls.

Emma Freeman was recently named development manager of Haven and is excited to lend her expertise to the organization. “Our girls can live at Haven for up to a year, depending on the circumstances. They participate in individual and group therapy weekly. Our goal at Haven is to teach them skills to get them to a lower level of care,” she says. The organization has helped over 3,000 young girls since its inception.

Though located in Conway, Haven accepts children from every Arkansas county, and

its residents are referred by the Department of Children and Family Services. “Our mission remains to provide a safe, nurturing environment for every child who comes here.” Through local support of individual donors, families, corporations, and foundations via a capital campaign, Haven raised the required funds to build their new home in 2019.

Emma grew up in Conway and attended college at the University of Arkansas, where she earned her bachelors in psychology. She returned to Conway after graduation and began graduate school for mental health counseling. “I realized quickly that wasn’t my thing,” she says. “I knew I wanted to have a part-time job in the psych field. I had heard of Haven but didn’t know much about it. I knew a few board members who recommended [the job] to me. After I started, I knew very quickly it was my passion, and I wouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon.”

In her spare time, Emma enjoys reading, shopping, cooking, working out, cheering on the Razorbacks, traveling, and hanging out with friends. She has been with Haven for about three years, starting as a mental health technician. “As a mental health technician, I hung out with the girls, cooked dinner, helped them do their chores and made sure they were done, provided intervention when needed, and was their listening ear and their shoulder to cry on,” she says.

Haven’s former director, Marti Jones, who was in the position for eight years, was hesitant to leave until the perfect person came along. “That person was Emma,” says Marti. “Like many before her in this position, Emma has done what I like to call ‘the real work’ of Haven, which means actually working day-to-day with the girls. This hands-on work gives you something you can’t just learn in books…Emma has a relationship with the girls; she has the stories to tell, the heart to go after anything

the girls need, and the spunk tonot stop until she gets it. She willsoon find out exactly how great thepeople of 501 are to Haven andhow lucky we are that Haven getsto live in Faulkner County. I can’twait to sit back and watch her go!”

“Foster care is hard, especially for teenagers. Our girls have been through the worst stuff imaginable. I want Haven to continue to be a loving, safe environment that our girls are proud to call home.”

- Emma Freeman development director

Emma began her new role inNovember 2021. She is responsiblefor grant writing and donations,planning Haven fundraisers,organizing program activities,marketing, social media, and public

speaking. Her near-term goals for Haven include awareness: “Haven is a wonderful place, and the more people know about it, the better it can be.” Another is ensuring Haven is the best home possible for its residents. Emma explains, “Foster care is hard, especially for teenagers. Our girls have been through the worst stuff imaginable. I want Haven to continue to be a loving, safe environment that our girls are proud to call home.”

Her longer-term goals include opening more Haven locations across the state. “Haven is currently the only all-female home for teens in Arkansas. There are roughly 4,800 kids in foster care in the State of Arkansas. The need for housing is huge, and opening more Haven houses can hopefully fulfill that need in some way,” says Emma.

COVID has presented, and continues to present, challenges for businesses and organizations of all types. Its impact on nonprofits such as Haven are especially challenging, but they pivoted and adapted to the

girls’ changing needs. “When COVID first hit, the girls were participating in school virtually. This was an obvious challenge. Some of our girls already have a tough time academically, and having to do everything online made it even harder. Luckily, Haven was able to hire an on-sight teacher. This was a huge blessing. Our teacher is available to help the girls in all subjects and keeps track of their missing assignments,” says Emma.

In addition, Haven is staffed 24/7, and there are multiple people present in the home at all times. “When COVID began, we feared we wouldn’t be able to keep staff healthy. To ensure this, staff must take their temperature when they come into work and are

required to wear N95 masks and eye protection,” she says. “There is a lot of unknown surrounding COVID, but at Haven, we have adapted and will continue to adapt however we can to ensure the health and safety of our residents and staff,” says Emma.

Fortunately, Haven is able to move forward with its fundraising efforts. Specifically, their large event, “Pony Up for Haven,” is scheduled for May 6. “The board and I have already started planning. We haven’t been able to have this event since 2019 and are very excited and ready. We would love any willing person or business to donate, buy a table, or give an auction item/service/experience, so please let me know!” says Emma.

Save the Date

Date theMAY 7

Pony Up for Haven

A FUNDRAISING EVENT

Marti adds, “Fundraising for a program is hard work, so your heart has to be completely in it. You have to be able to tell the community where their money is going. You need to be able to tell success stories, along with the failures that Haven picks back up from. Haven never gives up on these kids, and a large part of that is because of this very giving community.”

As a nonprofit, Haven always provides opportunities for people to donate and help. Due to COVID, Haven is unable to accept used items. However, the girls always have a need for new body wash, face wash, tampons (no pads), makeup wipes, fans, and pillows. “We also have a positive reward room that our girls can choose something from when staff notices exceptional behavior. We gladly accept new inventory for this room. Some things we could use are variety of makeup, art supplies, press on nails, clothes, purses/ bags, shoes, gift cards, jewelry, and similar, new items,” says Emma.

To learn more about Haven, or to make a monetary donation, visit their website at havenconway.org/ donate-2/ or send via mail to PO Box 11348 Conway, AR 72034. fl

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