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Unending pizza, slushies, & toys: U.S. Pizza gives Our Club a pizza party as incredible as any kid’s daydream!

Meet Carl. Instantly recognizable & instantly likeable, he keeps nightly watch over The Shelter while the rest of us are sleeping.

Dunbar Garden & AmeriCorps help start the season in Our House’s garden as part of AmeriCorps Week.

Meet two of our 47 team members in each issue.

Georgia reflects on Our House’s first 25 years. Part 3 of 3: Our House alumni

Students from the University of South Dakota & Arkansas Baptist High School spend their spring break with Our House.

302 E Roosevelt Rd; Little Rock, AR

Apply for one of our 20 Summer VISTA positions.

Shop for unique items at My Favorite Thrift Store.

Get your tickets to Our House’s biggest annual event.

After a recent piano donation, we now need teachers!

Get your tickets to the April 26th event.

newsletter design & all photos by Amanda Woods, an Our House VISTA © Amanda Woods/Our House 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

except pg 21 by Peter Miller & pg 23by Justin Sanders

by Megan Corbett, Youth Programs AmeriCorps CIA Member To say that we appreciate all that is U.S. Pizza would be an understatement! We have been smothered in gifts from those willing to sacrifice time and money to meet so many needs at Our House. During Spring Break, Our Club had the pleasure of joining our friends at U.S. Pizza for the party of all parties! When we climbed the stairs to our own floor to party, we were able to make our own pizzas of ANY KIND! We were then handed popcorn and our choice of purple or red slushie, or both! continued on page 6

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“ � continued from page 5 With Finding Nemo playing on the massive television in the background, we had a hilarious competition, with the help of the staff, of stuffing balloons into a two-sizes-too-large t-shirt. It was called Dough Boy. Our littlest and strongest Our Club member, Haylee, won with a total of 64 balloons stuffed into her U.S. Pizza shirt. The mounds of games, balls, and bubbles were then spotted. Balls were flying throughout the room, bubbles were filling the air outside, and all the kids could truly be kids for a while. Next, we got to decorate our own cookies and cupcakes. The adults were a little worried about the amount of icing and sprinkles that were piled like mountains on top of our treats, but we ate every last bite. To top the magic all off, the kids left with bags FULL of goodies. To say the party was a success would be an understatement. The kids went away feeling special and loved, not only because their bellies and hands were too full, but because they got to know people who were putting all that effort in, just for them. At that moment U.S. Pizza became part of the Our Club family. Many of the kids came the next day wearing their new U.S. Pizza shirts, still talking about the party. This will go down for many of these kids as one of those experiences you just don't forget.

Above: U.S. Pizza puts out crusts, sauce, cheese, & toppings so the Our Club kids, like Levi, can make their own pizzas exactly the way they want. Page 5: Zayveon takes his first bite of his very own pizza he made himself, topped with an entire beach of parmesan!

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by Eric Schneider, Housing & Alumni Relations VISTA From Monday through Friday every week, Our House residents rest in assured comfort knowing a gentle giant is burning the midnight oil. During the hours of 12 to 8 a.m., the shelter is under the watchful eye of the instantly recognizable Carl High, currently Our House’s longest-tenured Shelter Supervisor. If you happen to be in the shelter late—or rather early—enough to witness him on the job, you’ll inevitably see Carl in his element through his interactions with current residents which range from stern but sound life and inner-shelter advice to light-hearted joking and motivational pre-workday pep talks. To the casual or even long-term observer of Mr. High in action, it’s hard to get the sense that he was ever anything but a model of responsibility and altruism, but he will also be the first to tell you that this was once far from the case.

“I was on drugs most of my life,” High recounts about his days before arriving at Our House. In fact, Carl needed a second chance within the Our House system as his first stay in 2007 was characterized by “just trying to beat the system” as “pride and ego took over.” After another brief period of substance abuse and run-ins with the law, it really hit High that he needed to make permanent changes. “I needed time to think, to get my family back into my life. The second time I went to prison, it hit me that I didn’t know if I’d get out before my mom died.”

As Shelter Supervisor, Carl uses his experiences as a former Our House resident to lead current residents through their time in The Shelter.

High recognized from his first stay at Our House that “there was always someone asking you about your wants and needs, ready to help. It’s clean and welcoming. I had not seen anything like it before or since.” He also grew to understand that “you have to want to change” and that with that in mind, Carl requested and was graciously granted re-entry into Our House in 2008.

Carl reminisces about stepping back onto Our House’s campus fondly, saying “walking through the gate the second time was like walking into heaven.” While High’s first residency period at Our House found him “scared and unaware of what it (the shelter) [was],” he saw his second chance as an extremely valuable opportunity to pursue Our House’s unique brand of continued on pg 8

The Our House kids have always loved Carl! In 2009, Carl celebrates in The Shelter with one of the littlest residents, Cameron, on his 2nd birthday.

continued from page 5 “self-motivated rehab.” Now, after an extended stint working as a resident and a subsequent promotion to full-time staff upon his graduation from residency in 2009, Carl High’s personal and professional transformation is all but complete as he progresses through what will be a life-long and self-imposed regiment of reevaluation and improvement. Through attentive case management, attendance in Our House’s budgeting and workforce classes, and sheer personal drive, Carl has made himself into a person whose voice carries weight. He is known around the Our House campus as a man of his word, an indispensable source of wisdom, and a rock-solid friend and mentor to those trying to make permanent positive changes in their own lives. Carl’s now-polished skill set makes him capable of just about anything, but he chooses to keep serving and giving back to Our House as it “fills [his] life with joy and happiness.” He continues to impact countless residents’ lives and provides crucial lived-through

9-year-old Hunter is glad to see his friend at a recent meeting of Our House’s new alumni group.

advice to current and departing residents such as taking advantage of all the programs offered, saving more money than you think you’d need, and that negativity begets more negativity while positivity will yield positive results.

The positive changes Carl has made through his time at the shelter has also had a tremendous impact on his family life. While much of High’s previous live saw him mired in cycles of self-destruction and estrangement from his family, he now finds himself talking to his family members every single day. Further, Carl’s reinsertion into day-to-day family life has had the beneficial effect of “restoring sharing” among his family as they are now a more complete unit. Carl once lived in self-loathing knowing he was not the person his mother tried to raise. Before her passing last year, continued on pg 8

Carl met his long-time girlfriend, Trish Hall, when they were both residents at Our House. They are both now members of FRESH, Our House’s new alumni association.

continued from page 5

Mrs. High got to spend the last few months of her life getting reintroduced to her reformed son. “I got to show my mom that I changed.” While Carl continues to help the shelter run evermore efficiently, he has recently taken on a huge leadership role in Our House’s recently established alumni association, FRESH. The association is designed to give former residents an avenue to improve the lives of current residents through continued service as well as to discover ways to continue to help those that have transitioned out of Our House. If Carl High’s track record is any indication, everyone can expect many great things to come.

FRESH, supported by Our House VISTA Eric Schneider, had one of their March meetings at U.S. Pizza on Our House night, when 10% of the profits were donated to Our House.

by Manon Jacob, Development VISTA As part of our summer program at Our House, the kids learn how to grow and tend a sustainable garden where they can pick and eat the foods that they have cultivated. Before the kids can get started, there is a lot of work that goes into the project. Thanks to the wonderful people at Dunbar Garden, the project is ready for the summer. In one day, with the help of the Dunbar staff, several AmeriCorps members from Our House, and members from other sites who joined us for the project that day during AmeriCorps Week, we were able to weed and replenish the three garden beds, build a compost bin, set up bird netting, and even plant new seeds with the Our Club kids. We are looking forward to the continued involvement from the staff at Dunbar Garden, as they plan on coming to work with our kids every week during the summer.

Left page: Our House’s Education & Workforce VISTA, Lara Assaf (center) pulls weeds with visiting AmeriCorps members Tasha Rainey from 4-H & Kristy Brownwell from Mabelville’s Dunbar Garden. Above: Eric Schneider, Alumni Relations VISTA at Our House, adds another piece to our garden’s new compost bin. Near left: Manon Jacob, Our House’s Development VISTA, helps build a bird netting to protect the wheat growing in the garden.

how did you feel at the end of your last summer job?

be an Our House Summer VISTA 20 positions available in these areas Little Learners Child Development Center My Picture Perfect Summer (Youth Program) Summer Feeding Program for Youth Shelter Life & Family Life Fundraising & Development

Positions run June 1st to August 11th, including training. Members get an $858/month living allowance and their choice of either an Eli Segal AmeriCorps Education Award of $1,132 OR a summer stipend of $250.

To apply, send your resume and cover letter to Sarah at

Photo: Jacovee, participant in Our House’s 2011 My Picture Perfect Summer, says good-bye to VISTA Jenn Croft.

hometown Memphis, TN education BS in Sociology, concentration in Gerontology Our House staff since February 23, 2011

I manage the donations that come into the shelter. I solicit needed items for our programs and maintain the relationship with My Favorite Thrift Store, which benefits Our House.

Finding time to do paperwork. It’s easy to forget when you are constantly talking to new donors, picking up needed donations, & soliciting more stuff!

People donate strange things sometimes, like used underwear & broken toys. If you would not give it to your family, chances are neither would we!

It makes me appreciate everything that has been given to me.

I love seeing the men & women dressed professionally on their way to work. It is our number one goal to get people working. I love seeing the enthusiasm in a newly employed adult when they come back to Our House telling everyone, “Hey, I got the job today!�

When I was 16, I worked at the Memphis Zoo as a camp counselor for the summer program.

I love riding my bike on the River Trail, going to the movies at the Tandy 10, & hanging out with my friends.

Martin Luther King, Jr. He stood up for what he believed in despite of the obstacles he went through every day.

hometown Little Rock, AR education Theatre BA, Secondary Education MA family husband Aaron, Our House’s Operations Manager community involvement YNPN (Young Nonprofit Professionals Network, PCDC (Pulaski County Democratic Committee, AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) previous job Our House VISTA, Development Assistant Our House staff since January 2010

I’m a fundraiser, specifically focused on individual, corporate, & congregational giving.

Making sure our supporters know how much we appreciate them. I’m always looking for creative ways to express our gratitude.

I’m constantly thinking & talking about Our House– residents, volunteer opportunities, & most of all making sure people know that this place really works. We witness lives changing every day.

My favorite memory is the very first time I came to campus for my interview. I ran into an old friend. She gave me a tour of the campus, so I assumed she worked here. About an hour later I learned that she was a resident, & my perception of homelessness changed immediately. I didn’t know that “normal” people could be homeless too. I was embarrassed at my ignorance, but I was also inspired.

An astronaut.

I want to be a mom. I make theatre & sing along with Aaron while he plays piano.

Georgia Mjartan

In my past two articles of this series celebrating Our House’s 25-year history, I have highlighted the essential role that volunteers, partner organizations, and donors have played over the years making an impact on the lives of the working homeless families and individuals whom we serve. This month, I have been particularly touched by the people who have come through Our House’s program successfully—the graduates, the alumni, the former residents. I have been reminded that the real legacy of Our House is played out in the lives of the children and adults whose stories took a turn for the better when they walked through the gates of our campus. I am grateful for the chance to see these people today and for their courage to come back to Our House— to revisit a difficult time in their lives—to say thank you, to give back, and to inspire others through their testimony.

It was a Wednesday and my agenda was full. I had back-to-back meetings, but on my way out the door, I got a message that a former resident was coming to see me and would be at my office in 15 minutes. I didn’t have time. I called, apologetic, and explained my situation. She sounded disappointed. “Well, can you meet me?” She explained that she was at the Travel Center downtown, having taken the bus to Little Rock

The Shelter was on Main Street before all programs moved to Roosevelt Road in 2005.

from Pine Bluff just to see me. I didn’t know the woman personally. She had been a resident in 2005, just before I started. But I had spoken to her on the phone some months ago. She is a writer and had wanted permission to publish a piece about Our House in her latest book. I drove to the Travel Center and awkwardly looked for the woman I was there to meet. A white-haired woman in her ‘60s came over, waving at me welcomingly. I asked if she was the person I was looking for. “Yes! Yes,” she said, giving me a big hug. We sat for a few minutes in my car catching up on which staff members from her time still worked at Our House today and where the ones who had left were now. She told me a little bit about her life and reflected on her time at Our House when it was on Main Street. I apologized that I didn’t have time to give her a tour of continued on pg 8

continued from page 5 our new campus and explained that I really did need to go. She said, “Well, I took a bus here so I could give you this in person. It’s just something. I wish it was more.” She handed me a check for $2,000. Reaching into her purse, she pulled out another one dated a week before. It was for $3,000. “I was going to try to come last week, but I couldn’t get here. It’s hard to make it on the bus. I had a little more than I thought, so I decided to do another one today.” I asked if I could take her picture and write up a thank-you in the newsletter. She covered her face and shook her head, saying, “No, no. I just wanted to help. It’s all I could do. Our House helped me so much I just wanted to give back and help you all like you helped me.” With that she was gone, heading back to Pine Bluff on a bus.

While his mom meets with Our House’s alumni group at U.S. Pizza, Hunter entertains Housing Coordinator Justin Sanders & his wife Brittan.

” Last Thursday, U.S. Pizza Company hosted a benefit for Our House. A group of alumni—former residents, as they call themselves—decided to hold one of their twice-monthly meetings there to help raise funds for Our House. The group is new, having just formed this past December. We had talked about the idea for a long time. I thought it would be great to be able to stay in touch with our program graduates. I had thought, they struggle even after they leave Our House. Maybe if we stayed in touch with them we could continue to provide them with support. The group, however, had a different mission in mind. They didn’t want more help. They wanted to find ways that they could help. In just four months, they have adopted a street, planned a fundraiser to raise money to buy food for a meal for the residents of Our House, and have established a monthly program of visiting Our House on Sunday evenings to share their stories—their journeys out of homelessness—with current residents in an effort to provide hope and inspiration. As the group sat around meeting, an Our House staff member, Justin, came into the same restaurant. Justin, having served as many of these people’s case manager and social worker, snapped a photo and sent me this text:

This is what Our House is all about.

Jessica Suitor In-Kind Donations VISTA Our House


antique bed, full size, with mattress & box springs $269.99


teddy bear $2.49


handmade baby blankets $3.99 each


night shirt $5.75


books: adult hardback $1.50 adult paperback 75₵ children’s hardback $1 children’s paperback 50₵ unless otherwise marked


table lamp $29.99


table $29.99

109 N. Van Buren St. Little Rock 353-0642 benefitting Our House

4606 JFK Blvd. North Little Rock 246-5741

Pick-up is available for furniture donations.


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Arkansas Baptist High School The students volunteered & donated new children’s books.

Arkansas Restoration, Inc. Arkansas Restoration built an incredible shelving & organization system for the women’s donation closet.

Church at Rock Creek The Rock Creek group, led by Sharon and Joe Locke, hosted a family fun night in the shelter.

Girl Scout Troop 6499 (Episcopal Collegiate School) While selling their cookies, the girls asked people to buy an additional box to donate to Our House, resulting in 6 cases of donated cookies.

Good Shepherd Retirement & Nursing Home Good Shepherd donated silverware & cups for Our House’s kitchen.

Martha Miller Martha Miller donated a piano, providing an opportunity for music education for both kids & adults. (See page 28.)

Ocean Dental Volunteers from Ocean Dental came to talk with Little Learners and Our Club about healthy teeth.

Salon Avatar Ashley Vinney and Jackson Stewart from Salon Avatar provided hair cuts for our residents.

Vestcom Vestcom collected 50 boxes of cereal for the shelter.

GE Capital Volunteers from GE cooked and served lunch in Little Learners. They also donated diapers.

Martha Miller donated a piano this month. We’re looking for volunteers to teach kids and adults how to play the piano. No teaching experience required. You’ll gain teaching experience while enriching the lives of homeless children and working homeless adults. We need a patient person who can read sheet music, has basic knowledge of music theory, and can come consistently once a week. Teaching materials, curriculum, and teaching space are provided. If you’re interested, contact Aaron at or 501-374-7383 x 203.

After a few days in the child care, the students arrive to the customary greeting for regular volunteers: the Little Learners hug attack!

by Amber Hood, Volunteer Relations VISTA While many students across the country spend their spring break at the beach or catching up on their favorite TV shows, some students choose to volunteer. Students from the University of South Dakota & Arkansas Baptist High School spent many hours pruning, tutoring, and helping out wherever they could.

Individuals Twylla & Drew Alexander Julie Allen Anonymous Donor Amy & Hamlin Au Kate Baer Miranda Burchfield Baker Betsy Barnes Debi Barnes Dianne Branch Mary Brown Susan & Nick Brown Curtis Chatham & Shane Fraizer Susan Cohen Cynthia Crone Lisa & Stephen Dearasaugh Marilyn & Bo Eagan Jami Eaves Stephanie & Jeff Fox Tanya D. Giles Millie H. Hansen Julia & Jeff Hart Stacy & Scott Harter Larry Keith Harvey Jon Michael Haslauer Julia & Lile Heim Sarah & Theodore Hood Amanda Hughes Lance King Shiree Lawson James Maddox Derick Malone Paulette McConnell Katherine Melhorn Cathy & Michael Moran Elaine & Joe Neal

Michele & Clark Nuemany Charles Ray Shana Ricks Andrea Rockefeller Evelyn Rose Guy Sallis Chris Schaffhauser Mindy Simonson Karen Stevenson Kristi Stroud Annabelle C. Imber & Henry Tuck Bridget & Andrew Upchurch Angel & Drew Weber Amanda Wiley Hardy Winburn Jodi Woods Jan Wright Congregations Cathedral of St. Andrew Christ the King Catholic Church Church of the Immaculate Conception Our Lady of Holy Souls Catholic Church St. Anne Catholic Church St. Luke’s Episcopal Church St. James United Methodist Church Government AR Special Nutrition Program CAPDD City of Little Rock DHS: ESG Heart of Arkansas United Way HUD: Supportive Housing HUD: Transitions Pulaski County

Organizations & Corporations 4ArtSake eStem Public Charter School Gap Foundation Gift Match Program

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April 2012  

Our House E-Newsletter April 2012

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