Wildflowers Ministries plans battered women's shelter

Saturday, June 9, 2012
The Wildflowers Ministries volunteers welcome everyone as they strive to do God's work. From left, front, are Wildflowers originators Rocky and Anne Whitely, Tina and Ronnie Lewis and Gary Clampitt. Back row: Linda Jetton, Ann Chambless, Bill Grissom and Robin Campbell. Kathryn Lucariello / Carroll County News

EUREKA SPRINGS -- "We have the acreage; we just need the funds," said Sr. Pastor Rocky Whitely of Wildflowers Ministries in Eureka Springs.

He was speaking about opening a shelter for abused women in Carroll County. It will be called Safe Haven.

"This has been (my wife) Annie's dream for the past 18 years," Whitely said. And in fact, Annie and Maggie Duran, who started the St. Vincent DePaul Thrift Shop in Berryville where Annie volunteered, did start a battered women's shelter in Carroll County in 1991, called the Martha Mary House.

The house was kept open for three or four years, Rocky said, then it closed.

"Since that time, we haven't had an abused shelter. Wildflowers has been putting people up in motels for 18 years."

But the need for a shelter is there, he said. Robin Arnold, an investigator with the Carroll County Prosecutor's Office, said she sees an abused woman every day and five every weekend, "but there are no beds in Northwest Arkansas."

Wildflowers Ministries has long been involved in helping the community. They started their food pantry 18 years ago, said Rocky.

In 1992 they added the chapel and became an official church, obtaining non-profit status in 1996, when their food pantry went full time. Each year they hold a full Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.

Their service to the community has only grown.

"We had 130 families signed up last year for the Thanksgiving dinner," Rocky said.

Miracles are not uncommon at Wildflowers, to hear the Whitelys and their volunteers tell it.

That is true of the dinners, especially.

"One year we only had eight people show up for the dinner," Rocky said. "Then Annie said, 'The Holy Spirit said we'll feed 111 people.' I said that's crazy, we only had eight people!

"The next year, we had 100 people come to dinner. Later when I was checking the sign-ins, we had 11 people take carry-out."

There are more stories, of complete and immediate healings too numerous to recount, and other events unexplainable except by faith and belief that what the Bible says is true.

"It's all about believing," Rocky said. "God does heal you if you have faith."

There are no paid personnel at Wildflowers; everyone, including the Whitelys, works on a volunteer basis. Everyone is welcome; no one is turned away.

"We're the smallest church in Carroll County," Rocky said. "None of this is for pats on the back. This is for Jesus Christ. We just want to serve the Lord."

The congregation gives donations and another church helps with food for the pantry.

"There's no way we could have all the food that keeps coming in," Rocky said. "We spent $100,000 in food last year, but only took in about $30,000 in donations. The Lord just multiplies the food. God's taking care of this little ministry."

And now it's time to open the abused women's shelter. Everything is ready to go, he said.

The church has two acres with two completely furnished homes on them, totaling 5,000 square feet of living space. This can house six shelter managers, a counselor, Paramedic and six families. A constable will also live on the property.

Wildflowers will provide job training and life skills help to women get on their feet and provide for their families.

The goal is to raise $444,000 to purchase the property, of which $310,000 will pay the mortgage, and the remaining $50,000 will be used for operating expenses.

Last week Wildflowers opened a furniture bank warehouse at its property on Hwy. 62 West in Eureka Springs. Funds from furniture sales will help with getting the shelter open.

Wildflowers is also part of a cooperative group called the Nehemiah Project, made up of the ECHO Clinic, which gives free basic medical care and which is helping to raise funds for a homeless shelter, and Soul Purpose, a group in Green Forest who helps women get off alcohol and drugs.

Wildflowers' fund-raising efforts include having a table at local events, such as the "All For Him" rally this Saturday at the rodeo grounds in Green Forest, and having volunteers canvass businesses, churches and organizations for donations for the shelter. A fund-raising event will be planned for Eureka Springs soon, Rocky said.

"If we can spend $9 million on a jail, why can't we build an abused shelter?" he asked. "We're going to finish the job we started. We need the community to help us. It's needed."

Wildflowers Ministries is located at 6789 Hwy. 62 West in Eureka Springs and welcomes any and all to its numerous services and activities. Bible study occurs Friday at 9 a.m. and Sunday at 9:30 a.m. Sunday services are at 10:45 a.m. and the healing House of Prayer is Sunday at 1 p.m. The thrift store is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The food bank is open Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

For more information, call 479-253-5108.

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