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The City of Mountain Home and the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District closed out a $200,000 grant request on behalf of Grandma’s House Children’s Advocacy Center during a special hearing before last night’s regular City Council Meeting.
The community development block grant, which was approved during a hearing in 2020, oversaw the renovation of Grandma’s House’s Mountain Home location, which resides in a former residential home on 914 South Main Street.
Due to the nature of the grant, the City of Mountain Home was asked to receive the grant money on behalf of the children’s advocacy center.
“We do help with grant administration, and this is going to be considered a second public hearing for a community development block grant that the City of Mountain Home received on behalf of Grandma’s House,” said Chelsey Weaver of NWAEDD. “So, those funds have to funnel through the city in this case, but the purpose of it and the benefit was for Grandma’s House.”
During last night’s meeting, Weaver said the total amount for the community development block grant was $200,000, with $180,000 going toward construction and the remaining $20,000 going to design. Risley Architecture of Fort Smith, Arkansas, was credited with designing the remodel of Grandma’s House. The contractor for the project was DC Sparks Construction of Rogers, Arkansas.
Work done on the home included a remodel of Grandma’s House’s various rooms, new heating and air conditioning, new gutters, new bathrooms, and a new therapy room for additional privacy. Grandma’s House’s Mountain Home location does reside in an older home.
“It was a big project, and it was one of the most wonderful projects that I’ve been involved in,” said Michelle Steiner, executive director of Grandma’s House. “I just wanted to say thank you for supporting us and thank you for your help in doing this.”
Grandma’s House opened in Mountain Home back in 2019 following a request by Baxter County Prosecuting Attorney David Ethredge to bring a program to Baxter County to assist children who have been victims of crimes.
Originally established in 2010 with the help of the Merlin Foundation, a non-profit organization that was started in 1993 by Merlin Leach, the organization has worked over the past decade to develop new Grandma’s House Children’s Advocacy Centers in Baxter, Boone, Carroll, Marion, Newton, Searcy and Madison County.
“David Ethredge had approached me, and he had been working with us in Harrison,” said Steiner. “He knew that children in this county were falling in between the cracks, and he wanted the same services for the children of Baxter County and Marion County. It was actually Cheryl Green, that said, hey I think I know of a home you might be interested in. And goodness gracious, by the end of the day we were calling realtors and making the deal on the house.”
At Gradma’s House, advocates work with children who are infants up to age 18. During a visit, children can meet with a trained and certified forensic interviewer to tell their stories in a one-on-one, safe environment.
Interviews over traumatic experiences are already difficult for children and having an entire investigation team attempt to talk to a child can cause further stress to the situation. The one-on-one interviews are designed to help the child relax and open up so that they can recall what happened to them.
The advocacy center also keeps a specialized forensic pediatric sexual assault nurse examiner on hand to perform physical exams for sexual assault, pregnancy, rape and STDs. Children also receive a head-to-toe exam to look for any signs of abuse.
Grandma’s House, despite working closely with DHS, receives no government funding. The cost of an entire exam, interview, advocacy, and therapy assessment runs around $1,200. All costs regarding children are covered by Grandma’s House, which operates through grants, fundraisers and donations.
“It’s a good service and I wish they had it there when I worked in human services,” said Mountain Home City Council member Jennifer Baker.
Following the meeting, City Council annexed several plats of land located behind Cozy Kitchen and the city’s new firehouse into the city proper. Those plats of land will be used to develop new homes that will be connected to the city’s sewer system. The council then ended the meeting by levying a 2-mill city tax on the county tax collector’s books for next year. Next year’s millage rate is unchanged from this year’s. The City of Mountain Home has one of the lowest millage rates out of every city or small town located in Baxter County.