Photography by Lori Sparkman Photography
Fellow Arkansans – neighbors, colleagues and friends – are sharing a light of peace, kindness and generosity that makes The Natural State a little brighter. Inviting Arkansas and Methodist Family Health celebrate individuals who illuminate our community with goodness. Nominate someone today for a future feature that SHINES.
Lauren remembers her childhood as a “dysfunctional situation” where she was “the definition of an outcast” despite her best efforts to be accepted by her peers. She was a good student and played sports, but never felt connected until she discovered classmates who introduced her to drinking and drugs at 13 years old. She was incarcerated at 18 years old. “I served three long years of a 12-year sentence,” she explains. “A lot changed in that time. I came home at age 23, my mother was dying of cancer, but she had no love nor care of whom I was or what I needed. When my toxic relationship got bad, I withdrew from everyone. Her death mixed with all the mental and physical abuse I’d endured – I had a mental break. I don’t remember much. I knew I was pregnant and was worried about my baby,” she recalls. “I stopped all the drugs, but after my daughter came along – I ended up back in an even worse toxic relationship. I was tied up, beaten and thrown out of a car.” This brought a revelation. “I realized I might not wake up next time… I might lose my daughter… I might be headed back to prison… I was at rock bottom and wanted to do what was best for me and my daughter.”
Through her parole officer, Lauren discovered the Methodist Family Health Arkansas CARES program. For more than 120 years, Methodist Family Health has helped rebuild the lives of children and families who are abandoned, abused, neglected and struggling with psychiatric, behavioral, emotional and spiritual distress. The Arkansas Center for Addictions Research, Education and Services (Arkansas CARES) offered by Methodist Family Health is a three-month treatment program for expecting women and mothers that provides a family-centered approach to decrease maternal substance abuse and promote healthy families. In addition to research and education, the program advocates for prevention and effective treatment of substance abuse as well as mental illness – with the objective of keeping the family together throughout the process. Providing childcare, counseling for parents and job-preparedness training – Arkansas CARES specializes in guiding families through recovery to a full life. The consistent care and support offered breaks the cycle of poverty and addiction for all family members, so future generations can live healthier.
“The Arkansas CARES program was a world changer for me – it changed my life,” Lauren elaborates. “I felt a sense of safety, security and dignity for the first time in a long time. There was no looking back from there; I had some huge decisions to make.” Lauren and her daughter were accepted into a program-based shelter that provides resources + training for career opportunities, financial responsibility and independent living. Lauren is also a Methodist Family Health Foundation college recipient. She is a student at UA Little Rock pursing a degree in business management. “I am now a strong citizen of the community who is thriving and moving forward with every chance I get – meeting new friends and living happily – just blessed.”
Sponsored by Methodist Family Health | Nominations accepted at Foundation@MethodistFamily.org
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