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Two social workers strive to assist foster teensDate: 06/05/2017
Eric and Kara Gilmore decided it was their job to be the change they desired.
As a result, the lives of several people have been impacted in a positive manner.
“My wife and I couldn’t pretend that we didn’t see what we saw," Mr. Gilmore said. "We felt compelled to do something about it.”
But what exactly did the Gilmores witness?
“We’ve had some situations where we got to establish a bond with some of the youth who aged out of foster care that became homeless or endured different crises,” Mr. Gilmore said.
For the Gilmores, who both have experience as social workers, remaining idle was no longer an option.
Therefore, they established Immerse Arkansas.
The organization's goal is to fill gaps in the child welfare system.
Immerse Arkansas teaches teens in foster care how to live in an economically, socially, and spiritually responsible manner. The group also assists youths who were victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation.
The Gilmores were recently at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock as part of a select group of Arkansans who were honored during the 2017 Community Service Awards. The CSA was sponsored by the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) Office of Communications and Community Engagement (OCCE) and KARK Channel 4, in cooperation with McLarty Automotive Group, the Office of the Governor, and the Governor’s Advisory Commission on National Service and Volunteerism.
"Eric and Kara do outstanding work through Immerse Arkansas," said Kimberly Simpson, OCCE Volunteer Program Coordinator. "The Gilmores are to be applauded for their overall dedication to a special cause."
One development in particular got the wheels in motion for the founding of the program, which currently has four homes, two for girls and two for boys.
“There was a young woman we met while being house parents at a group home," Mr. Gilmore said. "On her 18th birthday she was dropped off at the Greyhound bus station in North Little Rock.
"All she had was a bag of clothes, one night’s worth of her medication, and a one-way ticket to Fort Smith to live with some bio-family members she hadn’t seen since she was 12."
The Gilmores gave the young lady the few dollars they had in their pockets and some food.
That occurrence prompted the Gilmores to establish an initiative that would provide guidance for people who were close to aging out of the foster care system. And in August of 2010, Immerse Arkansas received its first clients.
Soon after, the Gilmores faith was tested.
“It was hard at first, within five months it kind of blew up on us," Mr. Gilmore said. "We didn’t know what we were doing.”
However, through perseverance, modifying the goals, and receiving community support, the Gilmores corrected their mistakes. For that reason Immerse Arkansas is now going strong.