Offering critical support to pregnant and parenting teens
By Kara Isham | Photos courtesy of Compassion House
We all have times when we need someone to listen, someone to help support us when our lives have gone off track. That is the purpose of Compassion House – to provide compassionate support for pregnant and parenting teens on their journey toward independence.
Located in Springdale, Compassion House has been helping pregnant and parenting teens for the past 30 years. The nonprofit serves young mothers ages 19 or under, with an average client age of 15, and is the only shelter of its kind in Arkansas. And, even though teen birth rates have declined slightly in the past few years, Arkansas still has the highest number of teen pregnancies in the nation.
Rachel Cox, executive director at Compassion House, says the organization began as an emergency shelter for pregnant teens and teen mothers, but has undergone a lot of change over the years. Rather than simply meeting the minimal needs of shelter, i.e., food and safety, Compassion House now offers programs to help its residents reach independence, including skill-based classes related to life, parenting, literacy and vocation.
Compassion House staff members develop a specific case plan for each mother based on her individual needs so that she can complete her education goals and plan for the future. The program is designed to help develop and support young mothers on their journey to becoming productive parents and contributors to the community – all in hope of helping break the cycle of poverty, abuse and neglect that many teen mothers experience.
“Our goal is to work with each of these women until they are self-sufficient,” says Cox.
One of the main needs of the organization is a donation. It takes nearly $20,000 a month to provide all the services to teen mothers living at the house. Currently, the nonprofit can only house 10 mothers at a time, so they are working on future development plans for expansion and growth.
Compassion House also keeps a “current needs” list on its website and social media pages for those who want to donate useful items. As with many nonprofits, events and fundraisers are critical for meeting budget needs. With the COVID-19 pandemic canceling most large events last year, the organization is looking forward to two upcoming outdoor fundraisers.
Participants at the nonprofit's annual Tour de Tacos cycling event
Compassion House clients
enjoy a day at the zoo.
On June 5, Compassion House will host its annual Tour de BBQ cycling event. Taking place on the Razorback Greenway, with start-and-stop points at Lewis & Clark Outfitters in Rogers, this unique event features barbecue pit pop-ups along its route. Six local restaurants will provide a variety of fare to cyclists, who will have the choice of riding a 50-, 30- or 7-mile route. For health and safety precautions, all cyclists will have staggered start times.
The nonprofit will host another cycling event, the second annual Tour de Tacos, on Sept. 11. With a similar concept as Tour de BBQ, but with taco rest stops, this event will offer cyclists a choice of riding 62, 30 or 7 miles. Organizers hope to have 300 to 400 riders for the Tour de BBQ and more than 500 riders for the Tour de Tacos.
“It’s exciting to celebrate a community that believes in being active and healthy, and to be able to use the infrastructure available in Northwest Arkansas, like the Greenway,” says Cox. The events also align with Compassion House’s mission to teach young mothers and children the importance of health and wellness. Many of the nonprofit’s residents plan to participate in the two cycling events, either as volunteers or riders.
Compassion House always needs volunteers to help with its events and indirect services such as administration, transportation, facility and grounds support (the house has its own garden to provide residents fresh food). Cox adds that another volunteer need is for mentors: folks who can walk alongside the young mothers during their time at Compassion House as well as after they leave the program. “We always need women in different seasons of their lives who will give back with their time,” she says.
Cox has seen a lot of development and changes during her time as executive director. “The most exciting thing for me being at Compassion House, in the last two years alone, has been seeing so much growth and excitement [and] what is possible for programming,” she says. “Just being a shelter is no longer enough. We have the opportunity to give back to teen moms and let them know they have a purpose. Our team is in place working day in and day out to show these young women that the possibilities for their lives are endless.”
To learn more about Compassion House and its services, visit www.compassionhouse.us.