How can everyday citizens use his or her skills and resources to produce a small amount of change in the city in which he or she lives? In 2007, my family moved to Conway with the intent of remaining for a short time and continue our lives in the Active Duty Army. Fourteen years later, we have had various opportunities offering small contributions to the lives of men, women, and children. When you live in a particular area, at some point you must confront the very human question of, “What is my purpose in the place?”
I initially understood my purpose was to remain in this city temporarily, gain knowledge, and continue to defend the United States of America through military service. Overtime, one door led to the next door and the skills obtained in my previous leadership life, resulted in the development of our nonprofit, The City of Hope Outreach. I had an aim. If you were to pin me down and ask, “What is the aim of my life?” I would state my aim is to affirm the dignity and worth of human beings who are all made in the image of God. This certainly did not develop overnight and many times I have fallen short of the target, but through long months and years of working with citizens of Conway and Faulkner County who face difficult social, economic, and political circumstances related to poverty and homelessness, my aim is clear. It is humbling work with more failures than successes, more listening than speaking, a realization people have more in common than we want to realize. I found not only my aim in life but meaning as well.
In the next few weeks, I would encourage you to take a drive down Robins Street and head east. Cross over the railroad tracks and see what happens when everyday people choose to assemble and act on behalf of others. You have the opportunity to see the beginnings of what is the culmination of four years of conversations, resourcing, and planning. What you will see is CoHO Hope Village.
Hope Village is an answer to the nagging problem of housing for the homeless and other beautiful people who have had a significant impact on my life since 2007. Hope Village is a solution for my friend Gary Harrison who died in a house fire. Hope Village is an answer in response to how homeless men, women, and children can be assisted and offered an opportunity of rest and restoration through supportive housing. Will it address every possibility? No it will not. But we have an estimated 902 homeless individuals in our county based on the 2021 Toad Suck Coalition Homeless Count. These are our neighbors. Hope Village offers a twenty-first century solution of imagination and possibility in Conway and Central Arkansas to improve the well-being of people who desire to flourish in our city.
I have hope. I have hope for each person who will open a door and walk into his or her own home. Equally, I have hope for each of you who wrestles with how to make this city better than when you moved here or whatever circumstance keeps you in Conway. So aim for something larger than yourself. Pursue it with vigor, discipline, and the expectation you will find purpose and meaning. If you need some motivation come down East Robins Street.
CoHO Hope Village is meant to demonstrate the possibility of everyday people coming together from various backgrounds with various skills to answer that very personal and universal question, “What is my purpose?”
Dr. Phillip D. Fletcher is the founder and executive director of The City of Hope Outreach which is a multi-community nonprofit focused on supporting human dignity and flourishing in Conway and through the state of Arkansas. Please visit the website: welcometohopevillage.org
This essay was originally published in the Log-Cabin Democrat on May 18, 2021