One Group of Friends Proves Anyone Can Make a Difference In Their Community
By Terrah Baker
It’s amazing what a group of friends looking to make a difference in their community can accomplish. That’s what Julie Yell and the group they now call Walk In Love did when they saw the need. Since their beginning, they’ve provided hundreds of donated items to children and families in need in Arkansas and beyond.
“There are people who want to help. It is something that is hard-wired in human beings — to be compassionate and have a sense of community. But a lot of people don’t have a direction and don’t even know how to give. That’s one of the reason why we all banded together,” Yell said.
They’re not a nonprofit or any official recognized organization, they’re just friends from the community getting together, she explained. Their first volunteer endeavors were small in comparison to what they’re now accomplishing.
“We focused on filling a need we saw in the community. If we were at the park and saw trash, we took the time to pick it up. Then, we started organizing more often, and said we should start organizing projects,” Yell said.
Their first larger project idea in 2009 had a simple premise — after identifying a need, everyone gets together and brings something, anything. They were first inspired by a friend from Arkansas who moved to New Orleans and took in several foster children over the holidays. The children had rough home lives and had never had a real holiday celebration. She wanted to give them something, and asked the group if they could help.
“We realized that the opportunity to help people during the holidays was a culmination of things we were doing throughout the year. We do little things throughout the year with our friends under the pretense of community service, but the holiday event is like a grand finale,” Yell explained.
Everyone had their own way of contributing, from money to shampoo, to toys. That first year they sent down boxes of necessities and gifts for the children, and they realized how good it felt to make a significant difference in the lives of someone else. The next year, they decided to take on a more local project with the Arkansas Children’s Shelter. At the time they had 33 children without homes, and with 15 members of the growing Walk In Love group, they knew they could fill their needs.
“What happened was people started showing up to the party I had never met. People showed up with twice as much stuff as I expected. They brought truck loads of toys,” she said.
The next year they decided to sponsor Youth Bridge of Northwest Arkansas — a home where troubled youth find sanctity and emotional and physical support.
“When we visited, we saw them all playing around one basketball goal, so we said ‘let’s get them another basketball goal.’ They didn’t have a picnic table; ‘let’s get them a picnic table.’ That’s all it takes when you have a large group of friends to call upon,” Yell said.
This year, the group is sponsoring The CALL in Arkansas (thecallinarkansas.org), whose mission is to have “no waiting children in foster care.” Given that there’s only 156 foster homes in the community, and over 400 children in foster care, their mission can be difficult. The CALL relies on the faith-based community to provide temporary homes for the children who need them.
This year, at the third annual Winter Solstice Party where the Walk In Love group meet to collect their donations, they’re taking all items a child without a home or possessions would need. It doesn’t have to be much, as one recent donator proved to Yell.
“I just had this big, burly guy in his work truck with his muddy boots drive up to my house. He wanted to donate $5, and said to me ‘that’s what it’s about isn’t it, giving what you can?’ He wanted to make his small donation turn into something big,” Yell said.
To learn more about the group, to donate, to take part, or to learn how you can start your own group and make a difference in your community, visit the Walk In Love Winter Solstice Holiday Party Facebook page at goo.gl/iJbwSO.