Bentonville Rededicates Emergency Shelter
By: Lindsey Sullivan
Twenty years ago, there was a need. Northwest Arkansas was growing, as companies like Wal-Mart, Tyson and J.B. Hunt pushed the economy forward. Bentonville, a once small community, began to see unparalleled growth.
But not all felt this swell of positive change. As the general population increased, so did homelessness. And there was no refuge for them. The community saw this need. Through the work of The Salvation Army and local partners, a plan was born to build an emergency crisis shelter in Benton County.
In September, 1997, the shelter was officially opened to the public, dedicated in honor of Pat and Willard Walker, visionary philanthropists in Northwest Arkansas and strong supporters of The Salvation Army’s work.
Twenty years later, the community celebrated the immense impact made in the lives of the hurting and broken through the work of The Salvation Army Emergency Shelter in Bentonville. In the past decade alone, the shelter has provided 75,982 nights of housing to more than 7,600 guests, and it continues to meet needs in the community.
Mayor Bob McCaslin opened the ceremony Wednesday, Sept. 6, with an invocation giving thanks to God for the refuge The Salvation Army provides to those in need in the community. Mayor since 2006, McCaslin has seen the shelter’s work in his community for more than a decade.
Following the invocation, the Bentonville Chamber of Commerce performed a ribbon-cutting ceremony as Captain Joshua Robinett rededicated the shelter to the work of the Lord.
Attendees were then taken on a tour of the building. They saw where men congregate to play games and watch TV before heading to their assigned bunks in the dorm room. They toured each family room, walls lined with beds and cribs, that have lulled to sleep so many children experiencing trauma. They got to touch the books, toys and desks where students work on their homework and play with their siblings, trying to forget the hardships they have endured.
Each shelter guest who comes through the doors has a unique story, but all are seeking refuge. Providing community members with the opportunity to see, hear and feel those hardships as they walk from room to room cultivates compassion. And compassion is a catalyst that begs one to not just watch need pass by; it inspires action and compels change.
Twenty years ago, a need was met. And needs continue to be met every day.
Captain Joshua Robinett said, “We rededicate this Salvation Army Emergency Shelter for the service of God, the communities of Northwest Arkansas, and those in the greatest need. May it continue to be a beacon of hope and healing to the vulnerable and hurting for many years to come.”
May it always be a place that sparks empathy to act, and action to make a difference.