The Restore Hope Christmas Tree in front of the McInteer Bible & World Missions Building was lit on Nov. 27 to represent foster families in White County.
The first Restore Hope Christmas Tree was created last year with Governor Asa Hutchinson’s Restore Hope initiative. The ornaments on the tree are all available to be purchased and the money is used to help families with foster children around the Christmas season. This year, the money will be used to help families who are new foster parents. For most of these families, this process is seen as a happy time, but during the holidays, the adjustment can make things financially difficult for a family that is not prepared.
“We wanted to create something within Harding’s Christmas craziness that communicated ‘Yeah, but we also see a marginalized group of people,’” said foster parent and executive director of the Mitchell Center, Andrew Baker. “Foster kids are a group that people are usually positive toward and positive toward helping.”
Joey Myers, husband of resident life coordinator Emily Myers, designed and built the tree. The design of the tree is unique and very symbolic of the cause it represents. The tree is wooden and spiral shaped and is topped with a red star that has one broken extension.
Graduate student Ben Hanson, graduate assistant for Baker, has participated in the fundraiser. He said he believes Restored Hope is a beneficial program helping people get back on their feet.
“(As) students, we have the opportunity to provide a Christmas to kids who are in our community and are living for the most part without stability in their lives,” Hanson said. “Students have the opportunity to look out for kids who are lost in the shuffle of life … We know what Christmas should mean for kids because the majority of us experienced waking up to presents. Now, students can give the gift back and really embrace the gift of Christmas.”
Joey Myers, husband of resident life coordinator for Armstrong Hall, Emily Myers, designed and built the tree, which is symbolic of the cause it represents. The tree is wooden and spiral shaped and is topped with a red star that has one broken extension. According to the Arkansas Department of Human Services, the tree’s design symbolizes the steps of hope necessary for the restoration of the families served by the Division of Children and Family Services. The red star at the top signifies ‘beauty in the broken.’
Along with Restore Hope, the tree is also in partnership with Searcy Children’s Home and White County Foster Care Ministry with the goal of raising awareness on Harding’s campus. They collectively decided to focus this years’ profits on families who have regained custody of their children to ensure a smoother transition into the holiday season.
Freshman Elizabeth McHan lives in a family that has been fostering children for seven years and has had twelve placements in that time. She said their placements ranged from three days to over two and years. She said that her family gets a lot of help from organizations like Restore Hope during Christmas time to ensure the children have a good Christmas
“These kids don’t have a lot, and many times the toys and clothes they do have are beat up, so seeing their joy to have a full Christmas with all new presents just for them is absolutely priceless,” McHan said.
As of press time, the Mitchell Center has raised approximately $240 for reunited families.