“I didn’t think that I’d ever be content or happy… If it wasn’t for people like Eric and all the others at Immerse Arkansas, I might have never got that push that I needed, that guidance that I needed, or that sacrificial love that I’d never had before. Immerse Arkansas gave that to me.”
– Lee, former Immerse Arkansas youth
One of the most comforting feelings a young person can have is the knowledge that they are surrounded by people that love, care, respect, and protect them. The security and warmth of a loving home is something that, in a perfect world, all children would have access to. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
The sad reality is that as of 2018, according to the Arkansas Department of Human Services, there were more than 4,470 youths in foster care in the state of Arkansas. Though that number has slightly decreased by 14% in recent years according to the “Foundation for the Future” report, the fact remains that thousands of children across the state do not have a permanent home nor can they enjoy the security and support that entails.
One of the organizations tackling this issue is Immerse Arkansas, a non-profit organization in Little Rock that aims to give youths a place to find themselves and help them find that support system that they so dearly need. This organization is a prime example of supporting the community through the values that Good Grid and its Community Certified Partners hold dear: collaboration, wraparound support, and the providing of helpful services.
Immerse Arkansas: A Pillar of the Community
Immerse Arkansas was founded in 2008 by Eric and Kara Gilmore, the latter being a caseworker at the time. As Kara states, they quickly realized that the youths aging out of the Arkansas foster care system were often left to their own devices and, as a result, had nowhere to turn. Especially considering a number of these youths came from backgrounds of trauma and neglect, the Gilmores recognized their opportunity to get involved and make a difference.
“Youths need a place that they can find identity, have their basic needs met, and feel safe. In short: a place where youths in crisis can heal and become whole.”
– Kara Gilmore, founder
With the help of donors across many walks of life, Immerse Arkansas began providing supportive housing to youths aging out of the foster care system in 2010. The Gilmores quickly realized that these youths, aside from being left on their own, were also lacking basic resources and needs that would aid them in building successful futures.
“They all need the same basic things: they need a place to stay, they need life skills, basic resources, a place to belong, a place to heal, a place to find a purpose, and people who are there for them.”
– Eric Gilmore, founder
Aside from providing emotional support and care for their youths, Immerse Arkansas also provides a number of priceless services for their residents. The truly exemplify the values of a Good Grid Connected Partner by collaborating with providers and service leaders to get their youths the help they need. Immerse Arkansas illustrates their commitment to wraparound support and services by providing:
Immerse Arkansas’ Growth in Service
As an organization determined to aid as many youths as possible, Immerse Arkansas has not stopped there. In 2016, Immerse Arkansas announced the opening and dedication of their brand new Drop-In Center. This new building, located on the 5300 block of Asher Avenue just down the street from the UALR campus, provides a multitude of services for youths aged 16-24. Aside from providing a quiet place to relax or enjoy comfortable solitude, the Center also allows youths the opportunity to take art and cooking classes, play ping pong and other games, as well as taking care of household needs such as washing clothes and taking a shower. The new building has also gone through periodic renovations since 2018 in order to expand its offering to the community.
Looking to the Future
Since its inception, Immerse Arkansas has provided housing and care for a great number of youths exiting foster care. However, they do not plan on slowing down any time soon. As time has progressed, the Gilmores have noticed other gaps in the child welfare system that need addressing. Beyond supporting older youths, Immerse Arkansas will continue to work on collaboratively addressing and filling those gaps in order to help as many youths as possible.
“We’re going to go after these kids. We’re going to pursue them, we’re going to go find them, we’re going to go out looking for them, and we’re going to bring them in. We’re asking everybody: the church, businesses, government and anybody else to jump in and say ‘This is NOT OK, and together, we are going to do something about it.’”
– Eric Gilmore, founder
5300 Asher Avenue, Little Rock, AR 72204