501 Life Magazine | Restoring hope: Foundation teams up with First Security Bank
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Restoring hope: Foundation teams up with First Security Bank

For more information on the Restore Hope Initiative, visit reddoortables.com or call 501.279.5823. (Photo courtesy of Ashel Parsons/ashelparsons.com)

by Monique J. Cooper

’Tis the season for twinkle lights, baked goods, loved ones, gratitude and generosity. Communities bustle with shoppers, and carols buzz through seemingly every building in the 501 area code. Kids count down the days until the grandeur of Christmas morning finally arrives, as we anticipate sweet memories to be made. 

We call it the most wonderful time of the year for a reason — it can feel warm with hope and light. Yet for some, the season serves as a reminder of lack. Foster children, the families who take them in and the parents who miss them all are reminded during the holidays, maybe more than any other time of the year, of what is missing. 

Sure, many face the reality of the cost of the holiday season with its feasts and festivities, not to mention gifts, but the heavier weight felt by too many in Arkansas is the lack of a unity in their families. Foster children, unfortunately, cannot be sure whose home they’ll awake in on Christmas morning, and gifts and stockings are often difficult to come by. 

Thousands of parents and children in the state of Arkansas will experience this holiday season apart because there is an alarming number of children in foster care. This means children bounce from home to home as parents seek readiness to take them back in a healthier, more sustainable environment. What if those parents had help cultivating a healthier lifestyle and home so they could one day share the holiday season with their children again?

The goal of the Restore Hope Initiative, created in 2015 by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, is to do just that — to help reunite families by reducing the number of children in foster care as well as the state’s recidivism rate. In Arkansas, one in two people who leave prison will return. This means helping parents become healthy.

Dr. Andrew Baker, whose family was named Foster Family of the Year in 2017, founded Red Door Tables Foundation to bolster this initiative. In Colonial America, a red door signified a place of safety and belonging. Red Door Tables invites businesses, churches, families and individuals around the state to partner in the effort to support those in the foster care system, whether children, parents seeking reunification or those opening their homes to the most vulnerable.

This season, Arkansans across the state can participate in supporting this effort at many of the First Security Bank locations, which will host red doors and Restore Hope Christmas Trees in the lobbies in honor of 2018 foster families. Customers can donate to help foster families provide gifts to the children to whom they have opened their doors of safety and belonging.

The trees themselves are a symbol of hope. Winding steps comprise wooden trees, each representing what a child feels as they overcome life’s hurdles. A red star on top reminds everyone of the beauty that can be found in the most broken situations.

We are all worthy of mercy, peace and love, despite our flaws. Working together, we can help even the most vulnerable children and families know they are loved, safe and belong this holiday season.