By DEANNA ATKINSON MCGILL | Photography by LORI SPARKMAN PHOTOGRAPHY
“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry” is a common response when plans change. Janie Smith of the Jackson House in Hot Springs agrees, “I never intended to be at Jackson House. Dad started it but I went another direction.” Eventually Janie returned with no intention to stay, but then three hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast in 2005. The house was filled with refugees in crisis – doubling the occupancy – and locals facing poverty during the recession. With so much to do and so many improvements to be made, Janie’s plans changed and she recognized a heartfelt need in her community.
The Jackson House is an interfaith community crisis center, providing short-term emergency assistance for those who need it most. The addition to lodging – the house provides a portfolio of crisis intervention designed to help clients utilize community resources, access direct assistance and receive counseling to break the cycle of poverty that often results from a crisis situation. The Jackson House currently serves 25,000+ people. This translates to one in three people in Garland County. “It seems excessive but it matches the poverty rate for our county. When the main income in the area is tourism and retirement, we do the best we can in those industries since many are living paycheck to paycheck,” explains Janie.
Volunteers comprise the administration and logistics for the house. “We work with churches, schools, retirees, professionals and homemakers. It takes the coordination of many people and services to address such a weighty need,” says Janie. The operating budget of the Jackson House is stretched thin with the increased demand in Garland County. Resources are required to continue effective programming as well as maintain the historic home – built in 1800 and signed onto the national historic registry as the Dougherty House. Janie recalls, “This house was chosen as the place to help people by my dad for a reason. He wanted a home, a place that felt safe and welcoming. Not a cold social service type of feel. We continue to honor that choice to provide a warm hug of services.”
Janie will welcome patrons to the Thanksgiving Cocktail Event for an evening of friendly fellowship that supports these critical services provided by the Jackson House – breaking the cycle of poverty in Garland County. “We are keeping the peace with our work. These people are in desperate situations which can lead to crime if we’re not helping,” Janie elaborates. “Dorothy Morris and her team are working hard to make this event unique.” Guests will be greeted with a signature cocktail and party favors – as well as entertainment and Thanksgiving-themed heavy hors d’oeuvres. This is the perfect way to count your blessings by being a blessing to the Jackson House and community.