By Deanna Atkinson | Photography by Rett Peek
“I live by the mantra – wake up everyday and make something happen,” explains Joe Smith. And that he does. As the North Little Rock Mayor, Joe juggles the day-to-day decisions of city and civic leadership that enrich the lives of all Arkansans. “We can’t ever stop trying to improve. If we’re standing still then we’re falling behind. So every day I work on economic development and building a city that attracts business and residents who will help our city grow, not just in numbers, but in quality of life.” For their commitment to Arkansas Enterprises for the Developmentally Disabled and the City of North Little Rock, Missie and Joe Smith will receive AEDD 2019 Jim Hinson Spirit of Giving Award at this year’s Curtain Call – featuring two evenings of entertainment and festivities in the heart of the Argenta Arts District.
Joe is a fourth-generation North Little Rock resident and credits the citizens of the city as his motivation. “The best part about North Little Rock is, hands down, the people. I haven’t met all 62,304 of them yet, but I’m trying,” he jokes. “North Little Rock has been very good to me from childhood, to now. I love this city and that love inspires me to give back to it and residents in the best way I know how.”
Missie is a member of the volunteer auxiliary and an ardent advocate for AEDD. She recruited Joe and he admits, “I naturally followed suit and wanted to help. I was familiar with the organization’s work and the incredible satisfaction that comes with it. This was a natural fit.” Missie and Joe believe that investing in people is the key to building better communities. That vision parallels the legacy of AEDD as a premier provider, advocate and leader in creating communities that recognize the value and ability of all people.
Through almost 50 years of education and employment programs, AEDD empowers children and adults with developmental disabilities gain greater independence and personal achievement. “AEDD’s dedication to providing individualized care is their greatest contribution to this state. EVERY consumer is unique and AEDD works hard to provide services that will benefit each and every person,” explains Joe.
Curtain Call takes friends of AEDD back to the golden age of entertainment – showcasing a variety show in a dinner theater setting. A highlight of the evening is ACTS in the Rock – Acting Creates Therapeutic Success – a drama troupe that performs each night. Proceeds from Curtain Call support the continued mission fulfillment work of AEDD – specifically the Jobs 4 You program. This highly successful program began in Little Rock and expanded into North Little Rock + Cabot. Vocational training, job coaching, life skills training and transportation are provided to adults with disabilities as they prepare to work in the community. These resources are necessary for them to achieve and maintain success in meaningful jobs and gain independence.
As John, an ACTS in the Rock participant exclaims, “I put the able in disable. Can you see the difference in me now?” These partnerships – between Joe + Missie; North Little Rock + AEDD; Curtain Call + courageous spirits like John’s – are the catalysts that enable Central Arkansas to make a difference in these often marginalized people and their families.