Faith Love & Hope was always a labor of love for Rosie Warfield McGill who founded the youth organization in 2001.
The agency, which provided programming for underserved youth, closed its doors in 2014 after falling on hard times, leaving a hole in the community where it's located at 2300 Preston St. in Texarkana, Ark.
But now a special group of people are working toward their goal of reopening the neighborhood center. There will be a community work day at the building from 8 a.m. until about noon today to see what needs to be done and to make a plan of action on how to get the center up and running.
"Some of the people from the community came together and wanted to start doing something with it and they did. They really want to see the building back open. We've got a lot of work to do," McGill said. "I've been wanting it back open for a long time."
"When I first shut it down the Lord spoke to my spirit and said not to cut the lights off so I've been paying the light bill for five years because the Lord told me it would reopen based on faith," she said.
The years the building has been closed have not been kind to it. Air conditioners have been stolen along with kitchen sinks, roofing materials, drain plugs and more.
Reopening Faith Love & Hope will be a big task, but it's one that Courtnei Banks, who has been spearheading the community effort, fully believes in.
"I am a recipient of Faith Love & Hope. I came there at the age of 10. When I came in, I was a broken child. I had a lot of anger and tension. Faith Love & Hope and all the different activities changed my perspective on everything. I watched a lot of families get mended back together. I watched a lot of children get the confidence to be who they really are, and the community actually came together as one when it came to feeding the kids and back-to-school programs and to support the different events all the way around," Banks said.
The response from the community has been positive so far, but they would like to see more people get involved.
"There's always room for growth," Banks said. "I've been seeing people say Texarkana doesn't have a lot for kids. I wish they could see what's going on here. I've just been trying to get the word out using social media, flyers and word-of-mouth. We haven't had as many people come out as we'd like. I'm praying that the outcome for (today) is great."
McGill believes opening Faith Love & Hope for the children in the Ozan Inghram Iron Mountain neighborhood was truly a calling.
"When I first got the school, I asked God why he put me in this neighborhood. He told me it was where I was needed and I saw the impact. There was so much crime in that area. The first week we were there, children broke in and stole a lot of things I had in the building preparing for them," McGill said.
Instead of becoming discouraged, she walked the neighborhood with her husband talking to families and telling them what they were trying to do with the center, how they weren't trying to put children in jail but instead keep them out of jail.
"That was on a Friday. On Saturday when I pulled up at Faith Love & Hope I had 19 children standing there with smiles on their faces. They told me they were sorry. One child stepped up and said they would've brought the TV back but their mom had taken it to the pawn shop. Those things touched my heart. I will never forget that. That's why right now I'm ready to do it again," she said.
"The community changed, not only where the children were concerned, but the whole character of the community changed because somebody stepped up to do something for them and they appreciated it, so they stepped up to do something for themselves. I won't say it was all perfect, but at least 95 percent of the children that came through the program, it changed their lives," McGill said.
Banks was one of the lives changed inside the doors of Faith Love & Hope.
She found a place to flower participating in activities like choir, drumline and praise dancing. Despite the guidance and support she received inside those walls, Banks found herself pregnant at 15 years of age. As a young mom, she struggled.
"I was bullied. I went through a phase where I was depressed. I had suicidal thoughts but Faith Love & Hope didn't allow me to sink. They kept my mind at ease. There were counseling programs and Ms. Rose took me in as her own," Banks said. "She took my daughter in. As a family we never had a dull moment and we never needed for anything. She taught me the parenting role."
Because of her life-changing experience, Banks will keep working so that Faith Love & Hope can provide that support for other kids and teenagers who desperately need it.
"As long as there is breath in our bodies and God continues to lead us, we're going to do what we have to do to get Faith Love & Hope back up and running," Banks said.
She's hoping people will join in their mission so those children who are lost and struggling like she was will have a place to receive faith, love and hope.