Children’s Safety Center receives $3 million gift from Hunt Family

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 833 views 

The J.B. and Johnelle Hunt Family has donated $3 million to Springdale nonprofit Children’s Safety Center Inc. (CSC).

The money is a lead gift for CSC’s $12.5 million capital campaign to support constructing a 15,200-square-foot building in Springdale south of Arvest Ballpark on Gene George Boulevard.

CSC officials, Hunt family members and other supporters announced the gift Tuesday (Oct. 12) during a celebration event at the future construction site. The building will be named the J.B. and Johnelle Hunt Family Children’s Safety Center of Washington County.

“We hope children and families will find healing, comfort and hope in this new space that we are proud to have our name on,” Jane Hunt, daughter of Johnelle Hunt and the late J.B. Hunt, said in a statement. “We hope it inspires others to join in and help this dream become reality. The Children’s Safety Center is bringing back hope into these children’s lives. They are bringing a solution, and we need to support this solution.”

CSC said it has raised $9.1 million in cash, pledges and estate gifts toward the capital campaign goal. Groundbreaking is expected in April 2022. When construction is completed, CSC will relocate from its downtown address on East Emma Avenue, where it leases space from The Jones Trust. The new building will be nearly three times the size of CSC’s existing location.

“On behalf of the Children’s Safety Center, we are honored to have the Hunt Family name on our new building,” said executive director Elizabeth Shackelford. “Children in crisis will know the Hunt Family —whose name is on their school, their local park, and their hospital — cares about them, too. I want to thank the entire Hunt family for their extraordinary gift, their example and their care for children who will begin their healing process in this state-of-the-art building. In the future, as the community drives by, as our team comes to work, and as children and families walk through our doors, we will continue to be inspired by your family.”

J.B. Hunt and Johnelle Hunt are c0-founders of J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. in Lowell and are members of the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame. J.B. Hunt died in December 2006 at age 79 after slipping and falling on ice. Johnelle Hunt, 89, is a well-known philanthropist and chairman of the development firm Hunt Ventures in Rogers.

Shackelford and other CSC officials shared the expansion news with their partner agencies earlier this year, just a day after closing a $1.8 million land purchase for the new building. According to Washington County property records, CSC paid $6.20 per square foot for 6.67 acres at 3284 Gene George Blvd. Arvest Bank provided financing.

Bentonville firm BUF Studio is working on the building’s preliminary design. Besides being a much larger building, Shackelford said a new building would be intentionally designed and built to fulfill the nonprofit’s mission. Among many design features, it will include the first specialized therapeutic playground in the region, soundproof interview rooms with 2-way mirrors, and better security for staff and clients.

Founded in 1997, CSC is a child-friendly, family-centered organization that serves Washington County. It assists in children’s sexual and physical abuse cases by coordinating the investigation, prosecution process and treatment services to prevent further trauma to children during the process. That involves several professional teams, including law enforcement, child protective services, victim service providers, prosecutors, medical personnel, mental health professionals and community volunteers.