“Empathy is the starting point for creating a community and taking action. It’s the impetus for creating change.”
(Bentonville, AR) 20 years ago, there was a need. Northwest Arkansas was growing, as companies like Walmart, Tyson and J.B. Hunt pushed the economy forward. Bentonville, AR, 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, and 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 of 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.
20 years later, the community comes together to celebrate 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 over 7,600 guests, and it continues to meet needs in the community each day.
Mayor Bob McCaslin of Bentonville opened the ceremony Wednesday, September 6th with an invocation, giving thanks to God for the refuge The Salvation Army provides to those in need in Northwest Arkansas. Mayor of Bentonville, since 2006, Bob McCaslin has seen the work of the Bentonville Emergency Shelter in action in his community for over a decade.
Following the invocation, the Bentonville Chamber of Commerce performed a ribbon-cutting ceremony as Captain Joshua Robinett rededicated the Bentonville Shelter to the work of the Lord in Northwest Arkansas.
Attendees were then taken on a tour of the building. They saw where the 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 so many children experiencing trauma to sleep. 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 holds a unique story, but all are seeking refuge. Providing the community with the opportunity to see, hear, and feel those hardships personally as they walk room to room cultivates compassion. And compassion is a catalyst that begs one not just watch need pass by, but rather, inspires action and compels change.
20 years ago, a need was met in the community of Northwest Arkansas. And needs continue to be met every day. Therefore, “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.” -Captain Joshua Robinett. May it always be a place that sparks empathy to act, and action to make a difference.