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NWA Children's Shelter Celebrates 20 Years

The Northwest Arkansas Children's Shelter kicked off child-abuse awareness month with a late birthday party Tuesday.
Highfill, AR - The Northwest Arkansas Children's Shelter kicked off child-abuse awareness month with a late birthday party Tuesday.

The shelter turned 20 in December, but Winter weather delayed the celebration. Attendees toured the facility, and heard from a former resident who came to live at the shelter when she was 13-years-old.

"I believe it's important to be able to share my story just as a way to maybe pave a path for another child," she says. "There's a lack of volunteers to get up and speak about what they've been through in life, especially with an organization like this."

Today Anthony is a successful 24 year old, but she says her life was on a dangerous path until she found safety and security at the shelter. At eleven years old she started taking care of her younger brother.

"My mother fell into a deep depression," Anthony says. "She could no longer care for us. I ended up being the adult and kinda taking that role on."

With no adult supervision, she fell in with a bad crowd, and eventually Anthony's mother lost custody of the children.

"I got called into the principal's office and was told I wouldn't be living with her anymore," Anthony says. "She basically left us in the foster care system."

The kids bounced from home to home, but couldn't adapt to the strange situation they found themselves in...

"Some of the foster homes I was in were not great," she says. "The fact that there was drug use in one of them should speak volumes."

Anthony says she lost her faith in humanity, until social workers brought her to Northwest Arkansas Children's Shelter.

"The people were sincere and really cared and took the time to just get to know you," she says. "It was very freeing and comforting to be able to just relax and be yourself for once, and not have to worry about being on your best behavior at all times to avoid getting moved again."

That freedom gave her the confidence to pursue an education, and a career with Walmart and the Arkansas Army National Guard.

"I'm great, loving life!" she says. "I travel, you know, do normal things, hang out with my girlfriends on the weekends. I really don't believe that i would be the same person that i am right now had i not come through this shelter."

Over the last 2 decades more than 7-thousand abused or neglected children found safe haven at the non-profit. In 2011, the shelter opened a 48-bed facility in Highfill, and Anthony is impressed by how far it has come.

"It's completely different than the old shelter," she says. "I really hope and believe that they can make a difference in so many other children's lives."

The shelter is always looking for volunteer help. To find out how you can pitch in, visit this site.
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