Eric and Kara Gilmore were working as house parents for a group home for foster kids when he decided he needed to do more and enrolled at UALR to earn a master’s degree in social work. He was selling ads for a radio station when one of the foster kids they had worked with got into trouble.
Here’s how he describes it.
“She left with one bag of clothes and one night’s worth of her bipolar medications. And that was her entrance into adulthood.
“So that lasted, I think, about a month. They kicked her out. She lived with us for a little while but decided that she wanted to be a prostitute, and that was where she was going to make the most money. So unfortunately, that’s what she’s still doing. …
“It was one of those things where we decided two things: One, this is not OK. There’s an injustice here. And two, we can do something about it.”
That was what they were supposed to do – help foster kids who age out of the system to transition into adulthood. It’s a difficult path for all of us but can especially so for foster kids. According to a 2007 report by The Pew Charitable Trusts, one in five foster kids who age out will become homeless within two years.
The Gilmores founded Immerse Arkansas, which now provides an apartment, counseling, and volunteer mentors for six ex-foster kids. But there are 250 who age out every year.
So far, Immerse Arkansas is in its early stages. Open for business since August 2010, this year’s budget is $65,000, but it has recently raised a chunk of money that will enable it to serve at least 15 people.
Want to invest in this great organization? Read more here.
Here’s a column I wrote about Immerse Arkansas for the Arkansas News Bureau.
Joyce started the Center in 2001 less than a year after her son, Charles Jr., was murdered by two men in Little Rock. Its mission is to help victims of crime, but part of its purpose was to help Joyce heal. The wounds were so deep that she found it hard to get out of bed, but with God’s help, she forgave the men who did it.
As part of her ministry, Joyce started teaching life skills to inmates. One day at Tucker Max, one of her son’s killers, Christopher Bush, was there. Already warned that this would happen, she was prepared to see his face for the first time since he was sentenced to 40 years in prison eight years earlier.
Before starting the class, Joyce told the rest of the inmates that she couldn’t talk about forgiveness and reconciliation without practicing them herself. She approached Bush.
“Mr. Bush, today is, I guess, our day of reconciliation,” she said. “I understand that you have something that you want to say to me. Guess what? This is your time.”
He asked for permission to stand and apologized for what he had done to her family.
“What did you do?”
“For killing your son.”
“My son has a name, Mr. Bush.” She reminded the rest of the class that they always included the names of their victims in their discussions.
“I’m sorry for killing Charles Raynor Jr., that everyone called Chuck,” he said.
She told him she appreciated it and that she already had forgiven him, but if he was being insincere, that was between him and God.
For more, check out my column this week for the Arkansas News Bureau.