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Episode 124: Stacy Harper is the Connector of Needs in Northwest Arkansas

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IANWA - 124 - Stacy Harper is the Connector of Needs in Northwest Arkansas

Randy Wilburn [0:00] Support for this episode comes from Signature Bank of Arkansas. Founded here in Northwest Arkansas in 2005, Signature Bank of Arkansas is a full-service bank offering traditional checking, savings accounts, investment accounts, business and personal loans, and mortgages. When you bank with a community bank, you're investing in local businesses, local entrepreneurs, local charities, and the causes that are close to home. Signature Bank has worked hard to earn its tagline, Community Banking, at its best. Give the folks at Signature Bank a call today at 479-684-4700 or visit their website, signature.bank and let them know you've heard about them here first, on the I am Northwest Arkansas Podcast. Signature Bank of Arkansas is a member of the FDIC and an equal housing lender.

IANWA Open [1:06] It's time for another episode of I am Northwest Arkansas, the podcast covering the intersection of business, culture, entrepreneurship, and life in general here in the Ozarks. Whether you are considering a move to this area or trying to learn more about the place you call home, we've got something special for you. Here's our host, Randy Wilburn.

Randy Wilburn [1:37] Hey folks welcome to another episode of I am Northwest Arkansas. I'm your host, Randy Wilburn and I'm excited to be here today. I'm sitting in front of Miss Stacy Harper, and Stacy is the Proprietor/Founder of Lighthouse Solutions. They are a really cool organization that I learned about through Nate Walls. Most of you have heard me talk about Nate in the past. He has Secondhand Smoke BBQ and Second Helping NWA. And since this pandemic has started, he has uncovered the issue with folks struggling with food insufficiency, and he has just thrown his whole heart and his whole back into serving people in a unique way ever. And I know there are a lot of people out there that are doing that in Northwest Arkansas., but Nate is certainly one of those individuals, and he is making a difference. But it's always interesting to see people who make a difference attract other people who make a difference. And Stacy Harper is one of those people, so without further ado, I want to welcome Stacy Harper to the I am Northwest Arkansas Podcast. How are you?

Stacy Harper [2:45] I'm doing well, Randy. Thank you for having me.

Randy Wilburn [2:48] So, I told you this before we started, as we always do on the I am Northwest Arkansas Podcast. We always try to get an individual superhero origin story because we are all superheroes. So I'd love for you to share with our I am Northwest Arkansas audience your background and how you got to where you are now?

Stacy Harper [3:08] I want to do it quickly because it's so long. Long story short, I started working for Walmart at a very young age as an Assistant Manager in Georgia. That's all I've ever known is management- get my stuff done, write-ups, hire, fire, all these things that come along with retail management. And so, I was a Vision Center Manager for Walmart. I stayed with Walmart for about five years in Georgia and then transitioned into Brand Co-managing for Express. And then I became a mother, moved to Marilyn with my daughter's father, and went into retail banking, I was a branch manager for SunTrust Bank, and that's when my life began. When I moved up into that area, my soul was stretched, okay. And so, I was working and you know how you try to bring in clients, especially business clients. And one day, this particular lady comes in and tells me about the work that she does. And it was surrounded around human service, workforce development, and just getting to know her. I said, hey, I was like, I don't know a lot about that industry, but I have a lot of life skills that I think I could do a really good job of teaching your clients on sustainability and reframing your life. And she said, let me ask my manager and see if you can come in and talk and things of that nature. Well, she did. She came back and she was like, you're on. So I taught my first class call today is that day and I think I taught it in front of about 60 women from all different walks of life. They were women in the system, and they were looking for just a way out and just looking for sustainability and growth. And so that's when life began for me. I started volunteering my services for this program as a workforce development center program. And on my days off, I would go there and teach classes and give a voice to the voiceless. And eventually, I left SunTrust, loved SunTrust, and never looked back, and I started volunteering my time. Eventually, I started working as The Director of this program over the job readiness services and continued education. It's kind of like a principal over adults that were looking for assistance. And we lost our contract about two or three years later, and I said, never again, will somebody else tell me when to feed my daughter. That's been my mantra for a very long time. I created my own company and never looked back. And this has been a blessing where, since 2012, I started working in the inner cities of DC, Maryland, Virginia. I created a Children's Exercise Program called Extreme Achievers, which helps children become young self-starters, inspiring motivators, and academic achievers. And I do that through sports, dance, and fitness. And yes, I have a 21-year dance background. And I just started working with children because I said, what I saw with adults, it's really hard to get them to change overnight, they're going to have to do that on their own. With children, you can just get in front of them, and they instantly conform to what they see in front of them. And if you're a positive being, then you're going to get some good results out of these children, and so that's what I started doing. I taught my daughter at the age of four how to be my assistant coach, and we hit the stages in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. And life just began, life began. I started really understanding the true definition of humanity and just being the voice to the voiceless once again. I decided to start working within the State of Arkansas with my sister, who was already here. We started working in our hometown, Lewisville, Arkansas, five miles from where Maya Angelou was raised as a little girl.

Randy Wilburn [7:19] Let me ask you a question about that. Growing up there, were you aware of Maya Angelou? You're a poet yourself. So I mean, how did that impact you, knowing that you were just five miles down the road from where she grew up?

Stacy Harper [7:35] I did not know the history of Maya Angelou until I was older. They didn't talk about it in schools where I grew up at all. And as I got older, that's when I started to understand who she was. I didn't become a poet until, like, my late 30s. I dabbled in it in college, but nothing to this magnitude. And to know that we walked the same streets, we breathe in the same air, we had the same fears, and we also had the same confidence because we couldn't understand that everyone was just walking in fear in that area, and nothing was changing. It was like the old was not recycling out, and the new was not coming in. It's beautiful to know that I can understand everything she talked about now listening to her poetry. She used to say when a white person would say something to her, and it was offensive, she would just tee hee hee and grin. I've had to tee hee hee and grin for a very long time, so I understand the root of that statement.

Randy Wilburn [8:51] Well, I mean, Maya had such a way with words. She was a wordsmith in terms of her ability to take a word and wrap it around your brain. I remember somebody actually telling me a story recently about that she was supposed to come here and speak. And this was right before she got really sick. She had agreed and told David Johnson, the head of the Fayetteville Public Library, that yes, I would come and speak. I think tickets sold out in like, 28 minutes or something crazy like that. I wish I'd been here for that, but of course, it never happened because she was unable to. But she was actually really big about giving back to her state where she was born and where she grew up. I just think the stories that she had to tell, and you see so much of Arkansas in between the lines of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and so many others. So, and of course, this is not a podcast about Maya, but I mean, certainly, there are those people that come into our lives, either through our physical experiences or through written or verbal experiences, that impact the way that we see and do things. So I'm sure she had a profound effect on you?

Stacy Harper [10:00] Oh, absolutely. I strive to dance in the wordplay that she used. My goal is to represent myself the same way because it's real. It's a real-time talk. It's what she experienced. It's what I experienced growing up in Southwest Arkansas. You see a lot, and you have to tee hee hee and grin a lot?

Randy Wilburn [10:29] Well, you have obviously done well for yourself. As I like to say, you certainly didn't allow grass to grow into your feet because you have really built some things up. As I said earlier, one of the reasons I wanted to connect with you, and one of the things we like to do here at the I am Northwest Arkansas Podcast, is to highlight organizations and people doing unique things here in the area. And so you got Extreme Achievers, which you've been doing for a number of years. I know you used to do that at the Yvonne Richardson Center and now Lighthouse Solutions, which is like the overarching umbrella for kids, teens, and adults. Could you walk us through how you came up with that? And I love your slogan, See a Need, Fill a Need. You don't wait to ask for permission to do something about that. You're like, oh, you see a problem, you will solve it or come up with a solution. And so you've certainly done that. I would love for you to tell our audience a little bit about Lighthouse Solutions and all that you do.

Stacy Harper [11:29] So, as I said, I started with Extreme Achievers and really didn't know that it was going to birth into what it is now. Lighthouse Solutions is the 501c3. We became a 501c3 back in 2015 here, and their whole mission is to bridge gaps between resources and the community. There are many organizations here, but there are a lot of people walking around here that have no earthly idea how to make the connection. And so I pride myself and I pride my team volunteers on being able to make that connection with a sense of urgency when someone is in need- see a need fill a need. So many times, we come to the table, and people will tell you, this is what you need, without listening to understand, then move with empathy. That's what we do. We listen to understand then we move with empathy. And so see a need fill a need is tell me what your need is, tell me what your wants, what are your desires. And once we uncover that, then out of our programming, we can fulfill that, and if we can't fulfill that, trust and believe we have the connection to make it happen. And so, that's how See a Need Fill a Need came about, and that's our mantra. But our aim is all about connecting resources to the community. And we do work with people from all different walks of life, especially during this pandemic. Everyone is in dire need, and so the programs that we focus on our youth enrichment, which is our arts and education program, and Extreme Achievers. Two years ago, we started working within the Fayetteville Public School for the pre-k Department, and my PE program is new for pre-k kids. And so I go in, and I teach PE to the pre-k kids once a month. And it was beautiful because I'm teaching children how to compete with their peers in a positive way, and then we added art into the blend. Get the kids to open up and express themselves. I work a lot with my sister, Lakisha Bradley, where MY-T-BY DESIGN. We've been in this thing for a very long time, and so under the youth enrichment program, it's merging art and recreation. We serve the ages of four to 13 years of age under Extreme Achievers. And then, our second program is dream big, which is our teen workforce development program. Our teen workforce development program really focuses a lot on teens at risk, teens with barriers, teens who are on probation, and teens who are incarcerated. Teens that are on probation because they don't go to school for whatever reason. So we work a lot within the Benton and Washington County with those teens, getting them prepared for the workforce and just helping them uncover themselves. And we do that through a curriculum that I designed called Talent Mapping through the Arts. And Talent Mapping through the Arts is a combination of art mixed in with life skills. Often, these kids don't want to sit in front of a counselor, so we had to find a new innovative way of getting teenagers to talk, and that's through the canvas. And so my sister from MY-T-BY-DESIGN will come in, she'll get them to talk, open up, draw on the canvas, and then I can come in, and I can actually write a resume based on their canvas. So we have one of the most highlighted programs in Benton County where all the kids want to come into our program. We've been doing that now for four years. [RW - And it gives new meaning to art therapy]. Absolutely. An alternative way- a second layer of healing.

Randy Wilburn [15:19] I don't know why, but I think a lot of times because so many people look at things logically from one side of the brain versus the other, we sometimes deny our creative side because we want things to be in a nice, neat box. And unfortunately, just like when you color by numbers, a little paint will get outside the lines. You're going to miss or make some mistakes with certain interpretations on how you paint something and design it. And I think in the same way, the way young people are growing up these days, we want everything to be so structured because we want to keep kids within a certain confined space. But the reality is, kids are pliable, they're moldable, and they're amenable to change. They are. At least I see it in my kids. They can figure out something once they've made a mistake, overcome it, and then course correct it. And that's the key thing, and I know you're doing a lot of that through the sessions you provide. It's needed here in Northwest Arkansas, just like it's needed all over the country. Because this Gen Z, specifically, this group of kids, these guys are about to come out and wreck the world. They iterate faster. They think faster. They process a lot of information. I know they get a bad rap with social media and a lot of other things, but that's what they're dealing with. But I believe they will overcome a lot of the challenges that many young people face because of programs like yours.

Stacy Harper [16:57] Our programming is so advantageous to the soul. There's no judgment when you walk into our space. There's no judgment because I don't look like what I've been through nor what I go through. And that's the way I treat everyone in our programming. When I write content, it's just all about my experiences, my barriers that I grew up with. You're looking at somebody that was mute at a young age. I didn't speak that much because I was afraid if I spoke too much, I would tell my business and it was going to get some people in trouble. I didn't speak a lot and I wasn't the best student. I wasn't an academic achiever. It took me a little longer to learn. Back then, teachers really didn't take the time to uncover what type of learning style you had. I didn't learn that until I was out of college and I was in the workforce. That's when I found out that I was a kinesthetic learner. And when I found that out, my confidence just went through the roof because I'm like, oh, this is why I couldn't. Okay, you got to be in it. I got to touch it, see it, feel it. I got to dance in it. I had to do all of that for me to understand. And that's how I treat a lot of our youth today because a lot of our youth are kinesthetic learners, but they took that out of the curriculum.

Randy Wilburn [18:26] I don't even know if we have time on that. That's a whole different story. But no, seriously, though, I think it's important because anybody listening to this may be struggling with a teenager or a youngster in your house, and you can't connect with them for one reason or another. Often, it's because their learning styles have not been fully evaluated, and they haven't been given the opportunity to develop that learning style and operate within it. And that's the thing I look at. And this is just a shout-out to where my kids go to school. They go to the Arkansas Arts Academy, which is an Arts Academy. My kids are good students, but they are very artistically inclined. My father was an artist. I have some artistic ability. I mean, I do what I do here. I found that the outlets provided to them through the program where they have traditional school. But then they also have an opportunity to learn new things, especially from an artistic perspective, which has really opened their minds. My youngest son now plays five instruments. He's very artistic, and he now plays five instruments, but that's because he was exposed to five instruments, right? It wasn't like you could only play one. When I was growing up, I took violin, and they were like, that's all you can take. You can't take anything else. I wanted to take drums. I wanted to take piano, but I couldn't. He's been open and he can play all five instruments really well, and I'm just blown away by it. But it's just because he's been given that opportunity to do it. And I think that anybody listening to this that has a kid, I don't care what age range they're in when those kids are given the opportunity to evaluate who they are in terms of their creativity fully, you'd be surprised you probably won't recognize them what they're capable of doing.

Stacy Harper [20:08] That was me, and that's why I take my journey, my walk as a youth, and apply it now to how I teach all kids and all teenagers because we didn't have that opportunity. My mom and dad worked every day, all day. And, it wasn't that they had the money to put us in those extracurricular activities. We had to do extracurricular activities through the school that was already paid for. And we're dealing with a target market that, yes, their parents are the same way, maybe single parent households. We don't have time. We don't have the money to say, hey, what is it that you want to explore? So here at Lighthouse Solutions, you can explore all day long, and that's what we do. We have under our Team Workforce Development Program. We have another program called the Dream Big Experience. For five years, we've partnered with the LPGA. You're like, Stacy, the LPGA Golf? Who plays golf? My sister and I. We played golf in college? And how did we get to play golf in colleges because we didn't have the money to go to college. So we had to find all different types of scholarships to sustain. And so my sister went in first, and she was like, Stacy, you may want to take a look at this because it pays for your books and tuition. So I had to take a class before I got on the team because I played a lot, and the coach is like, you're not getting on my team until you take a class and you get serious. So I did. My sister and I were on the golf team, and it paid for the rest of our years in college. Because we didn't want to ask our mom and dad because we knew they didn't have it. And so, we learned a lot through that. My sister continued to play golf with Walmart because she worked for Walmart. And, I dabbled in it now and again, but people knew we played golf. And they were like, look, hey, put a program together during the LPGA. So we did the Dream Big Experience, which we get kids. We used to get kids from Southwest Arkansas, Little Rock, Pine Bluff, and kids up here. And for one week, they do a tour around Northwest Arkansas and talk to many business owners. We partnered with Walmart. We go into the Davie glass building to understand technology. It's a world of career exploration. And we put these kids in front of opportunities to where there's no such thing as being shy. You need to tell somebody who you are when they say, tell me a little bit about yourself. You got five seconds.

Randy Wilburn [22:38] Give your elevator pitch.

Stacy Harper [22:39] Not even 30 seconds anymore. You got five seconds now with everybody's attention span. And so we teach kids how to be ready, and then they get to play golf with the pros. We stay at the Embassy Suite Hotel, and we get to ride around in a Mercedes Sprinter. Why do we do that? We do that because it's what I'm tired of. I'm tired of people saying, dream big, dream big, and you don't show me how. What if I don't know how to dream big because I come from an environment where we don't talk about that? So we teach kids when we say dream big, I'm going to show you how to dream big. I will show you what it feels like to ride in a Mercedes Sprinter because you can. I will show you what it looks like to eat at a clubhouse because you can. I'm going to show you what it looks like to live in one of those nice homes because you can. And so, we're building and boosting their confidence during that entire weekend. We have had some kids that changed their life. We've had over 35 kids go through that program for five years. So we handpick our kids, and we're going to do it this year. We're going to put that out there that we're looking for about eight to nine kids, but this time, you're going to have to probably do a 60-second video of why you think you want to be a dreamer because that's what they're called, dreamers. But we do a lot with our youth because they need that proper guidance and we are here for it, and we are ready to show up for it. Our last program is Trails of Love. My sister and I have been partners since 2012 with Trails of Love, and we just got a great opportunity through someone at Walmart that knew what we were doing in the community. We started doing back-to-school events in southwest Arkansas to where we had over 200, 300 people, 400 people coming out yearly, and it evolved into doing Christmas giveaways, so now we do Christmas events. This year because of the pandemic, we had to do a drive-thru. We partnered with the Fayetteville Police Department, Fayetteville Fire Department, and we partnered with Nate. Nate has been just the nucleus of everything that we've been doing. And so, we just really blessed a lot of families through these programs. And the reason why people come to us is that there is no judgment here and we treat people the way we were treated when we were growing up. There was always a party at our house. We 5were having fun. Anybody that comes in, my Mom and Dad are like what you want to eat, open up the refrigerator, whatever it is that you want is yours feel comfortable? So that's how my sister and I treat people when they come into our space as though we're back at home. Just have a good time. What is it that we need to work on? Don't make anybody feel pressured because we're already going through enough as it is. Sometimes you go in a lot of organizations, and it's all rigid, and it's like, am I being judged? No matter what walk of life you come from, we are here for you because we need people to advocate for us and speak for us and get us to the proper resources that they need to be at to get them sustainable. And I talk a lot about emotional sustainability. Without proper services that are meeting the needs of our target market and really looking at them as a whole and treating them like a human, because we've all been through some things. You cannot sustain their emotions. It's hard. You could provide the services all day long here, go here, go here, go here, do that do this, but if you don't tap into the root, and really get to the heart into the core of why are you here, how can I help you? I will treat you as though you are my family? Then we are now tapping into that emotional sustainability piece of it. Not only am I sustaining you from a resource standpoint, but I'm also going to sustain you from an emotional standpoint, which that's longevity.

Randy Wilburn [26:40] And I always liken that to like dealing with the whole person, not just one aspect of them. You struggle with financial fitness, fine, we can deal with that, but let's look at the bigger issue. What is systemically affecting that financial fitness issue? And typically, there's something else. It could be emotional. It could be a number of things. You may be dealing with issues with generational or lack of money in your family, or whatever. And a lot of people feel like, oh, I'm cursed to be this way because that's how it wasn't my family. I always tell people, all that stuff can be overcome. Once you deal with the root issue and get proper knowledge and education, and you guys are certainly doing that. If anybody is listening to this today and they say I want to partner up with what Stacy is doing, how would they do that? What would be the best way for them to reach out to you because I'm sure organizations are connecting with you to find out what you're doing? It's not like you're the best-kept secret, but many people may not be aware of what you guys are doing. I hope this platform, this podcast, gives you some more exposure. What would you want to say to somebody who's thinking I need to figure out a way to partner up with those guys there at Lighthouse Solutions and see if we can do something together?

Stacy Harper [27:58] Well, the first thing you can go to our website, which is www.lhsolutions.org. You can find us on social media @lighthousesolutions on Instagram and Lighthouse Solutions on Facebook. We're not hard to find. And you guys can look me up, Stacy Harper on Facebook, and just stay connected with us. Also, email us at donate@lhsolutions.org. Email us and say, hey, I heard you on the podcast and you are doing some really good work, and we partner. We're always looking to connect and increase the number of resources out there, especially during this pandemic.

Randy Wilburn [28:53] .... and awareness. Whether people are listening to this now or they're listening to this a year from now when the pandemic has hopefully passed us by and we've gotten some herd immunity, because we got a ways to go to get to herd immunity, but we'll get there. I think you should definitely reach out to Stacy and her sister Lakisha and find out what these guys are up to. They're doing some great things, and if you come to her space, which is right here on Sunbridge right around the corner from Brahms off North College. There's a big sign out front that says The Connector, and that's what they are doing. They're connecting things here in Northwest Arkansas, and so I can't think of a better person to represent what's special about this area, but you and what you're doing, so thank you so much for just taking the time to come on this podcast and share a little bit of your story.

Stacy Harper [29:43] Like Randy said, the connector. You know, two non-profit organizations coming together, Second Helping NWA Nate Wall. A shout out to Nate. We're in the same office space and right down from us is Lakisha Bradley at MY-T-BY-DESIGN Therapeutic Art Studio. And we all came together because we could increase the services during the pandemic and after the pandemic. Because we're still going to need these essential services, and it's just all about making the right connection. So we are offering youth enrichment services, workforce development, community outreach, food resources. Guys, come and check us out because we are going to lead the charge. Feet on the street is the equation for the solution. Getting out there. Nate Walls knocking on those doors, helping frontline staff members, uncovering needs and bringing that back to us. And we're figuring out the solution to help fulfill those needs. So make sure you guys check us out. We are here at The Connector, office Sunbridge.

Randy Wilburn [31:00] Well, that's great. I really appreciate that. We will make sure we put everything in the Show Notes that you'll be able to find at iamnorthwestarkansas.com. We will put in the actual episode number and all that good stuff. You won't have any problems connecting with Stacy and the rest of her team here or even connecting with Nate, who has been on this podcast before. We will certainly even put in contact information for her sister Lakisha and her organization right down the road here. So again, we want to just thank you so much for creating a space for people to dream, creating a space for people to eat, to do all those things. Things we sometimes take for granted, but everybody should be able to dream everybody should have a hot meal. All these things are important as we continue to press on, and so as I always like to say, it takes a village and you are an important part of that village here in Northwest Arkansas. So thank you very much.

Stacy Harper [31:53] Thank you for having me, and it's always the who I am, is the what I am. And the what I am is me. Therefore, I define the I am because Christ lives within me, so I am Northwest Arkansas stand up. Thank you so much, Randy.

Randy Wilburn [32:08] I like that. I may have to use that. I got goosebumps hearing you say that, and I never put those two together, although I am is such a [SH - As above, so below, that's the I am]. And honestly, I've been trying to serve this community with this podcast. Thank you so much. You're blessing me. I hope the audience was as blessed as I was, so thank you so much.

Stacy Harper [32:35] Appreciate it. Take care. Thank you.

Randy Wilburn [32:37] Well, folks, that's another episode of the I Am Northwest Arkansas Podcast. To learn more about us or to read or download the Show Notes from today's episode with Stacy Harper, please visit iamnorthwestarkansas com. You can listen to this podcast and sign up for our free newsletter to keep up with us and all things NWA. Sign up today. You can also subscribe to the I am Northwest Arkansas Podcast wherever you listen to it, and please consider rating and reviewing us on Apple Podcast. Our podcast comes out every Monday. I'm your host Randy Wilburn, and we'll see you back here next week for another episode of the I am Northwest Arkansas Podcast. Peace.

IANWA Open [33:21] We hope you enjoyed this episode of I am Northwest Arkansas. Check us out each and every week available anywhere that great podcast can be found. For Show Notes or more information on becoming a guest, visit iamnorthwestarkansas.com. We will see you next week on I am Northwest Arkansas.


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