Arms of Hope is a lifeline for single moms and kids in crisis
Story by Andrea Agardy
Every day, Joel Derrough sees how struggling single moms and children can build happy and healthy futures when they have the help they need.
“We’re changing the trajectory of their lives,” says Joel, the executive director of the Arms of Hope Boles Campus. “We have a mom who was literally living in a homeless shelter last year. This year, she’s in a house and on her way to getting a degree. That’s a far cry from where she was. The moms who come to us are very aware that this is the opportunity to change their lives.”
Arms of Hope is dedicated to providing the shelter, resources and support single mothers in crisis need to forge bright futures for their families. “This is not just a food basket or something temporary,” Joel says. “Those things are awesome, and there’s lots of great ministries that do things on a temporary basis. This is literally a life-changing event for our moms.”
A Long History of Helping
Arms of Hope formed in 2009, when two long-running children’s homes consolidated and broadened their scope. The Medina Campus began operating in 1954. The Boles Campus, the Christian nonprofit’s facility in Quinlan, started in 1924 as the Boles Orphans’ Home, named after its original benefactors, William Foster and Mary Barnhart Boles.
The Boles Campus spans 160 acres and has a variety of housing units, a commissary, a gas pump and even a splash pad where kids can cool off from the blistering summer heat. “We’re kind of a little town unto ourselves,” Joel says.
Open to children ages 5 through 18, the residential child care program offers a safe, stable and nurturing place for kids who can no longer live at home. These children are not under state care. Rather, their guardians enter them into the program. “There are a variety of reasons why parents or guardians might not be able to care for them, from mental health and behavioral issues to grandparents who just can’t take care of kids anymore,” Joel says.
The children attend the local public school. They live on the Arms of Hope campus in cottage-style homes, and the organization’s employees provide around-the-clock care. The children receive food, clothing, medical care and counseling, and they often build sibling-like relationships with the other residents. “From the moment our kids set foot on campus, we are trying to connect with them,” Joel says. “We take them to Walmart to shop for some things to make their room their own and try to establish that connection with the house parents first thing. School will be there the next day. First, we establish that they’re safe and loved.”
The ultimate goal is to reintegrate the children back into their families, but that isn’t always possible. Some remain in the program through high school graduation. “There’s no back end to that program,” Joel says. “It’s as long as we need to care for the kiddo.”
Resident children who graduate high school can stay on cam- pus and transition to the college and career program. “We open it up to them to stay here and work on college or a trade school and do those first steps as an adult,” Joel says.
Arms of Hope’s biggest program is also its newest. Launched in 1995, the Together Program provides mothers with a fully furnished place to live with their children while they attend school or job training and sometimes work part-time jobs, too. “We realized we could help break some of that cycle of kids going into state care by supporting single moms before they run into that problem,” Joel says. “The whole program is designed to help lift up that single-mom family to where she can stay and provide for kids. The way to do that is through education.”
A Source for Support
Support in all its forms, including financial, emotional and spiritual, is at the core of Arms of Hope’s endeavors. “In all of our programs, we do case management, counseling, life skills, and then church is a big part of our ministry, as well, so we do church here on campus,” Joel says. “Sharing the gospel and promoting the person of Jesus is our mission.”
Arms of Hope runs entirely on private funds, receiving no state or federal grant money. More than 400 churches across Texas contribute to the organization’s financial support alongside individual donors and partnerships with businesses. Youth groups visit the campuses for weeklong projects every summer, and volunteers of all skill sets are always appreciated. “Someone looking to do something, I can almost always find a spot for them to land,” Joel says.
The organization strives to build stronger families, and it enthusiastically welcomes any assistance it can receive in that effort. “For many people who have some degree of success in life, they have somebody who stands in the gap for them. Usually, that’s a parent, grandparent or a friend,” Joel says. “Our moms don’t have that person, and it ends up being Arms of Hope who says, ‘Hey, we can give you a hand up.’ They can take that opportunity to really change their lives. We’re standing in the gap for them and give them an opportunity they wouldn’t have otherwise.”