J.B. Hunt executive vice president speaks at Open Hearts, Open Homes Gala

by Nancy Peevy (npeevy@nwabj.com) 1,114 views 

A sold-out crowd of 350 attended the Open Hearts, Open Homes Gala at Horton Farms on Tuesday (Oct. 10).

We all have influence on the people around us. The question is to consider what we will do with that influence, Nick Hobbs, president of Dedicated Contract Services and executive vice president for J.B. Hunt Transport Services, told a sold-out crowd of 350 on Tuesday (Oct. 10) at the 3rd annual Open Hearts, Open Homes Gala.

The event, held at Horton Farms, benefitted The Call, an organization that mobilizes and equips local churches to be actively involved in helping to solve the foster care crisis in Arkansas and encourages adoption through foster care.

“The reason this is personal and close to me is, I was adopted when I was a baby, back in 1962… in northeast Arkansas,” Hobbs said.

Hobbs shared the story of his adoption and then the subsequent divorce of his parents when he was 5. He was raised by his father, a disabled veteran, who didn’t give Hobbs much guidance.

“I basically raised myself and set my own rules,” Hobbs said.

However, a neighbor family took an interest in him, had him spend time in their home and took him to church, where he accepted Christ at age 9. Hobbs said that family was the first of many throughout his life who invested in and influenced him. He encouraged the crowd to consider how they might invest in others. Hobbs encouraged the crowd to find a way to help The Call with foster care and adoption, whether that was through financial support or giving children a temporary or permanent home.

John Laney, vice president, divisional merchandise manager Walmart merchandising, and The Call in NWA board president, shared with the crowd that there are over 500 children each day in foster care in NWA, but there are only 180 families to care for these children.

“If you do the math… that’s a lot of kids per home. We’re taxing these families so hard and we just simply need more. So the ambitions of the organization are just simply to grow. We want to grow. And we want to grow fast,” Laney said.

The Call, a 501©(3) non-profit organization, began in 2007 in Pulaski County as a way to increase the number of families providing foster care in the state.

According to their website, “The Call encourages families in the Christian community to consider foster care and then equips those families through training and walking through the process to become certified as foster or adoptive parents by supporting those families once they are actually doing foster care or adoption.”

(left to right) John Laney, vice president, divisional merchandise manager Walmart merchandising, and The Call in NWA board president; Ann Meythaler, The Call in NWA Coordinator; and Nick Hobbs, president of dedicated contract services and executive vice president, J.B. Hunt Transport Services. Hobbs was the featured speaker for the event.

Ann Meythaler, NWA coordinator, said that The Call, is not a licensing agency, but works in partnership with the Arkansas Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

“The Call works to bridge the gap between the state agency of DCFS and the local Christian churches who are stepping in to provide (foster care),” she said.

In 2010, The Call became a statewide organization and is now active in 44 counties, including the counties of NWA, with plans to expand to all 75 counties. Families recruited by The Call make up over half of all foster families in the state.

Guests at the gala had the opportunity to bid on silent auction items, which included 10 trips ranging from 10 days in Greece; to a James’ Bond Secret Hideway trip which included stops in the Swiss Alps, Venice and Monte Carlo; to a tour of castles in Ireland. Retail cost for the trips ranged from $7,500 to $17,700.

Ann Meythaler, said that organizers hoped to raise $125,000 from the event. All the money raised will go to support, recruit and train fosters families in NWA, she said. The presenting sponsor for the evening was Sam’s Furniture. Other sponsors included Thera Play Pediatrics, Harps, and Anna Grace Formals.