OCC offers 'thanks'

This article was published January 8, 2017 at 4:00 a.m.

Dear editor:

The holidays can be stressful for everyone, but when you are a child in crisis and living in an emergency shelter, holidays are not always filled with warm memories or hopeful expectations. Thanks to our incredible community, however, our youths experienced six weeks of holiday comfort and joy!

It all began in mid-November, when First United Methodist Church of Hot Springs invited us to their Thanksgiving dinner. A few days later, our kids were treated as honored guests to see "The Witness" at the Hot Springs Convention Center. Right before Thanksgiving, OCC staff shared a "Family Potluck Dinner" with the kids and a great time was had by all.

With the arrival of December came an amazing army of volunteers who showed up with hearts full of compassion and love, making the holidays much easier on the hearts and minds of our kids. For example, Ms. Pati Trippel gave a class in making gingerbread houses, then pet therapy dogs showed up and did what dogs do so well -- played and comforted -- and finally Kirk in the Pines Presbyterian Church of Hot Springs Village gave us a pizza party -- all in one day!

By mid-December, Berry Plastics showered our kids with gifts, the Woodmen of the World threw a fabulous Christmas party complete with food and gifts, the South Hot Springs Lion's Club and Wal-Mart donated gift cards for our kids to use, Road Riders for Jesus had a toy drive on our behalf, and Christ of the Hills United Methodist Women of Hot Springs Village, who already bring goodies and toiletries throughout the year, brought a generous donation for Christmas, and the Defenders Motorcycle Club blessed us with gift cards so our kids could shop for themselves. A big highlight of our holidays was the annual Christmas party with our Board of Directors, OCC staff and, of course, our kids. After a wonderful feast, the party ended with a visit from Santa Claus and a room full of gifts made possible by the generosity of our community.

The last part of December included a wonderful Open House at our Clark County branch of Ouachita Children's Center and Kendall Hancock State Farm Insurance sent clothes and food their way. Meanwhile, the Masons brought gifts and lots of yummy pizza, Teen Challenge of Arkansas came out on Christmas Day to carol to our kids, and Top Nails pampered our kids with manicures and special treatment. Cooks-R-Us came out three different times in December to give meal preparation instructions and then cooked with OCC kids who got to eat what they had prepared! To top it all off, Next Level Kitchen prepared a New Year's Eve fun meal to help OCC welcome in 2017.

We are so grateful to be part of such a caring community of folks who recognize it takes a village to raise these children. Thank you so much for being living examples to these kids, that there are good people in the world who care about them!

Linda Ragsdale

Executive director

Ouachita Children's Center

Editorial on 01/08/2017

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