Cho­co­late fundraiser to help non­profit aid home­less

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - THREE RIVERS EDITION - BY AN­GELA SPENCER Con­tribut­ing Writer

CABOT — Fe­bru­ary is of­ten one of the cold­est months, and the volatile weather can mean dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions for the home­less. Cur­rently, the home­less have very few op­tions for help in Cabot, Austin and Ward, and a group of con­cerned ci­ti­zens has set to work to change that.

“There is a group of like-minded in­di­vid­u­als in the Cabot, Ward and Austin area, and we formed a coali­tion and started ask­ing peo­ple if they were in­ter­ested in join­ing,” said Naomi Brat­ton, one of the found­ing mem­bers of HELP. “That was in June 2017.”

HELP — or Hous­ing, Ed­u­ca­tion and Life-Skills Pro­gram — is a 501(c)(3) non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that is work­ing to help the home­less in the Cabot, Ward and Austin area. The ul­ti­mate goal, Brat­ton said, is to open a tran­si­tional liv­ing fa­cil­ity for those who are home­less or at risk of be­com­ing home­less.

On Feb. 11, HELP will hold the sec­ond an­nual Cho­co­late HELPs event to raise money for the non­profit. From 6-8 p.m. at the Cabot Na­tional Guard Ar­mory, lo­cal busi­nesses will share their cho­co­late of­fer­ings with the crowd.

Tick­ets for the event are $5 and in­clude all the cho­co­late items from busi­nesses.

“Last year, we had cho­co­late chili, cho­co­late foun­tains, cho­co­late pret­zels, pe­tits fours, cho­co­late-cov­ered

pop­corn, hot cho­co­late, cho­co­late pro­tein shakes, gourmet cup­cakes, cake pops, cho­co­late-chip cook­ies, candy bars, brown­ies,” Brat­ton said. “It’s a great, great time.”

There will also be door

prizes through­out the evening, and vis­i­tors will have an op­por­tu­nity to pur­chase ad­di­tional tick­ets for more chances to win.

“It’s com­mu­nity out­reach, as well as a fundraiser,” Brat­ton said of the event. “We want them to know who we are. We want to help peo­ple get off the streets and break the cy­cle of poverty.”

All the money raised at Cho­co­late HELPs will go to­ward the mis­sion of HELP. Brat­ton said the non­profit’s next step is to pur­chase a build­ing to house HELP’s planned tran­si­tional fa­cil­ity.

“With our pro­gram, it’s hous­ing for some­one who is home­less or at risk for home­less­ness,” Brat­ton said. “The ed­u­ca­tion part of the pro­gram will be sup­port­ive ser­vices. We want to set up classes for peo­ple to get their GED if they don’t have it. The life-skills part comes in where we help them write re­sumes and get them in touch with lo­cal busi­nesses.”

An­other founder of HELP, Allen Miller, has been help­ing the home­less and at-risk pop­u­la­tion for years through CATCH — Cen­tral Arkansas Team Care for the Home­less. Miller said his work with CATCH and through vet­er­ans or­ga­ni­za­tions has helped high­light the re­al­ity of home­less­ness in the Cabot area.

“I’ve been with CATCH for

15 years,” he said. “Dur­ing this time, I’ve ob­served nu­mer­ous home­less peo­ple. Be­ing with CATCH, there’s noth­ing to help the home­less north of North Lit­tle Rock. … I started the HELP pro­gram as a con­cerned cit­i­zen.”

Miller said he took on the idea of help­ing the home­less in his com­mu­nity 12 to 13 years ago and is now an ad­viser to the board of HELP.

“You come to Cabot any day, and you’ll see peo­ple on the street cor­ners and in park­ing lots with signs. It’s a need, but there’s noth­ing for them,” he said. “Most of the home­less in this area don’t want to go to North Lit­tle Rock or Lit­tle Rock for help.”

Brat­ton said that keep­ing fam­i­lies in their own cities while they get back on their feet is im­por­tant, es­pe­cially if

there are chil­dren in­volved.

Brat­ton, whose de­gree is in el­e­men­tary ed­u­ca­tion, said it can be es­pe­cially detri­men­tal to a child’s de­vel­op­ment to be up­rooted sev­eral times while the fam­ily gets the help it needs. Cur­rently, a fam­ily that is fac­ing home­less­ness with no other op­tions has to go sev­eral cities south to get help. This means the kids have to be taken out of their schools and away from their friends. Then when the par­ents get in a bet­ter po­si­tion and de­cide to move back to Cabot, the chil­dren are up­rooted again.

“What we’re try­ing to do is not only help those peo­ple who are home­less, but pre­vent that type of up­root­ing sit­u­a­tion,” she said.

For more in­for­ma­tion on HELP or the Cho­co­late HELPs event, visit the Hous­ing, Ed­u­ca­tion & Life-skills Pro­gram Face­book page or email [email protected] help­cares.org.

AN­GELA SPENCER/TRILAKES EDI­TION

Naomi Brat­ton shows some of the items that HELP — Hous­ing, Ed­u­ca­tion and Life-Skills Pro­gram — has col­lected for the home­less in Cabot, Austin and Ward. HELP’s up­com­ing fundraiser, Cho­co­late HELPs, will as­sist the non­profit in pur­chas­ing a build­ing for a tran­si­tional liv­ing fa­cil­ity for the home­less and those at risk of be­ing home­less.

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