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Episode 50: The Soup is on! A conversation with Laura Kellams from Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families

Spread the Ozark love

Randy Wilburn 4:59

Hey folks, and welcome to another episode of I am Northwest Arkansas. I'm your host Randy Wilburn and I'm excited to be with you today it's one thing that I'm doing right now that I've promised my listeners is that I'm going to be really active to get out there and get ahead of events that are happening so that we can highlight and promote those events. And today, I actually get to sit down with another guest that I've had on the show I get to sit down with his beautiful wife, and Laura Kellams is the Northwest Arkansas, Director of Arkansas advocates for Children and Families ACF I know that is a mouthful, but it's because they do a lot of great things here in the state and so without further ado Laura It is so great to have you on the podcast, how are you doing today

Laura Kellams 5:43

I'm doing great, thank you so much for inviting me to be part of this.

Randy Wilburn 5:46

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Well, I got it I want to tell the audience I mean when I read about their soup Sunday program which if you haven't heard about it. They are doing a program at the john q Hammons center in Rogers Arkansas which is right up there basically where the Embassy Suites is right off for 49, they're doing a soup Sunday program from four to 6:30pm. On January, 26 2020, if you're listening to this podcast episode. After that, trust me I've eaten all of the soup so there will be some for you next year but I want to encourage you to come out. There's still opportunities for sponsorships, some of the finest restaurants in the area are participating in this and I'm not going to steal. Laura's Thunder I'll let her tell us a little bit more about the event but I'm just excited about it because it is for a good cause, and it benefits Arkansas advocates for children and families so certainly want to encourage you to be a part of that as again January 26 2020 from 4pm to 6:30pm at the john q Hammons in Rogers Arkansas, and any questions or information, I'll give you all of that it'll be in the show notes, you can check it out. But without further ado, Laura, how are you doing

Laura Kellams 6:58

Great, good I'm so glad I'm so glad that I can be part of your podcast.

Randy Wilburn 7:02

Yeah, no, I am too. I mean, it's this this this will be, this will mark and I'll have to mark this down this will be the first time I've actually had a husband and a wife on talking about two different things and, again, Laura is the, the wife of Carl Kellams who is part of Kf and he was on a previous episode of this podcast and Kyle's just a great guy and he joked with me when I asked him about Lauren whether she'd be able to come on the podcast was, you know, he said well you know certainly you won't be at a loss for words and it's just because he and I don't are certainly a never had a last word so that that that's great but why don't you tell our audience a little bit about yourself, and give us your superhero origin story and how do we find you here now is the Northwest Arkansas director, of AACF.

Laura Kellams 7:48

That's a great question. I moved to Fayetteville, to go to college and and never left. Okay, and in 1990 and it fable has, or Northwest Arkansas has its way of doing that right, you get out of school and they're the economy has always been good and so it was a good opportunity to just stay but my, what I originally worked in was journalism yeah so I was a newspaper reporter for 15 years, and I loved that. And I covered, mostly covered local and state politics so I covered local governments for the newspapers and I ended up most of spending most of that time covering state government for the Arkansas democrat Gazette and so I would go and cover the state legislature and learned a lot about how the legislative process works. And I learned a lot about public policy, and what's good public policy and what's not so great public policy. And one of the things I noticed when I was a reporter was that there weren't that many like quote regular folks, right, who were at the Capitol, who were engaged in that process. And one organization that I saw that that kind of filled some of that role was Arkansas advocates for children and families and so it's an organization that's been around since 1977, and it works to change public policy in ways that can really help children and families thrive. So, you know examples could be a good pre k program or Children's Health Insurance Program, and we can talk more about that but but I I saw that the you know there were just a handful of organizations and people who were part of that policy process at the state legislature. When I was observing it as a reporter, and even at that time I remember thinking, you know, that would be a really cool way to to spend your life and you know, make a difference would be to represent regular folks at the Capitol and then that process and so when Arkansas advocates decided to open an office in Northwest Arkansas, in 2008, I jumped at the chance to totally switch careers and do something completely different. Although it's still public policy and I was sort of watching public policy. It's a whole new thing to actually be an advocate for for change as opposed to just being an observer, but I found that I think that's really my niche that not just watching other people try to make a difference in the community but really trying to jump in and do that myself as well and so I was really glad that advocates was willing to take a leap of faith on someone who hadn't worked in the nonprofit community and hadn't been an advocate but just knew the public policy process. And so they were willing, and I opened this office in 2008 by myself. I mean obviously I had a lot of support but I was the only employee for a long time. And now we have another full time employee here who works with me Missy Kincaid, and a part time person too so in an intern. So going from one to four and we're real happy about that.

Randy Wilburn 11:04

Now how big is the, the main office down in Little Rock,

Laura Kellams 11:07

And we have 13 full time staff members down there and then we have the staff members

Randy Wilburn 11:13

Is there any other satellite offices in the state besides

Laura Kellams 11:17

Nope just Northwest Arkansas and Little Rock, and we were the first ever satellite office and the you know the organization was more than 30 years old at the time, but they really recognize that if you want to make a difference in public policy in Arkansas. You need to have a strong voice here in Northwest Arkansas because the you know the increasingly the political clout from this region is, you know, driving a lot of statewide policy and so we need to have a lot of influence here to have influence statewide if you think about you know the governor's from here. You know, the, a bunch of the folks who make the big decisions and little rocker from here the head of the State Senate is from Benton County. And so we need to make sure that we have strong relationships with those folks. So when we go talk to them about hey here's something that is a good idea, that would really help kids in our state, that they have a relationship with us already and also, we want to make sure that people who live in Northwest Arkansas know about these important issues. And then they can talk to their lawmakers into the governor and you know folks who who might be their constituents appear. We want to make sure that they're hearing the same messages that we're trying to put out statewide

Randy Wilburn 12:32

Yeah absolutely and it gives new meaning to having skin in the game because you know you got people here that represent you. So, how do you, I mean, and I just this is kind of off topic but how do you guys get down to like reach, like the Delta region and other parts of the state which are a lot different sure the Northwest Arkansas,

Laura Kellams 12:50

Yeah we have really strong partners I mean we do, we do have statewide outreach so we engage communities in the as much as we can with our size and capacity, but we have really strong partners, including the Arkansas public policy panel citizens first Congress I don't know if you've heard of that organization, but they do a lot of grassroots on the ground work, not only with trying to influence state government, but trying to get folks to engage in their local governments and make sure that that people who have been disenfranchised for a long time or who haven't been part of that process, whose voices are included not only at the local level and regional Delta level but at the state level to and so we that's their strong suit and so oftentimes we work closely in partnership with them just to make sure that we're hearing that voice. Another cool thing we do is go directly into as many communities as we can get to in the state, whether we have an office there or not but we go into the communities and have what we call policy roundtables and or even sometimes we call them policy cafes, and we get folks from a community together around tables and you know just depends on how many people can come and we hear from them. So you know one way to do our work is to tell people hey this is an important policy stance that we think people should take. But then, at least as important as that is hearing from people in the community and saying, what should we be working on what are we missing, what are the challenges that kids and families in our state are facing that we need to tackle so we go into communities to hear from people, not only here in Northwest Arkansas Little Rock but all around the state so.

Randy Wilburn 14:32

Yeah that's really interesting and when I, when I look at where your location is and for those that are familiar with this area you're right down the street from the Jones center right here on Emma, if you keep going down him a little bit further you kind of hit the middle of the downtown corridor for Springdale which is kind of revitalized and taken on a new turn you've got Tyson as a location, you've got Apple Blossom. You've got a bunch of different breweries that are right here so Bella

Laura Kellams 14:59

New Holler, like a Springdale version of the Holler.

Randy Wilburn 15:02

Yeah, which is gonna be nice it'll be a nice I don't have to drive all the way to Bentonville oh I don't mind going up to the a street market that is gonna be nice I mean we keep seeing this revitalization but I was saying all that to say that we're also right in the backyard of a very large community that only exists in Northwest Arkansas. And speaking of the marshalese community, and it's you know I was explaining to somebody that isn't from here like yeah we have a, you know, large group of folks that are from the Marshall Islands and people like what the Marshall Islands, what, where is that so I can start you know educating people about it and about all all the testing that we did over there as a country back in the day and how you know most of the displaced people that are not that are from the Marshall Islands are based in this area just like a lot of people from Somalia went to two places here in the United States refugees they went to Minnesota, and they went to Maine. And that's why you have a large population of Somalis in those two specific areas but which, which could you talk just a little bit about how you do you guys work with the marshalese community at all.

Laura Kellams 16:04

Yeah, this is one of the best examples of having strong community partnerships is really the only way we can do our work, we don't do direct services to families we only work on public policy solutions. And so when we to know what's going on in the community, we have to have these strong partnerships with, you know folks like I mentioned the public policy panel and others who are working directly with families. And so, when Arkansas coalition of marshalese is a is one of our partners and also another organization called marshalese educational initiative. We make sure that we're in close contact all the time and they're actually in the same building as us, right, yeah, with some of these organizations to make sure we're hearing what they're hearing. Another example would be their folks in this building, the community clinic and others who who help children get insurance and they sometimes will highlight bureaucratic barriers that are causing problems for children and families and so we hear that but up so for years, even when I was a reporter, we had, I had learned more and more about the health issues in the marshalese community, and not only just like health issues that were caused by some of our own our own governments work in the Marshall Islands, with nuclear testing but also just with access to care, here in the United States, and that access to care, was really caused the trouble that they have with access to care was really caused by inadvertent changes in federal and state law that accidental basically typos in, like in the Welfare Reform Act, that was passed in 1996. They just wrote the version of someone who would be lawfully living United States, they just wrote it too narrowly to include marshalese people who are lawfully living in the United States, because of the comeback. And so there are things like that that we started to notice in the, in the federal law and in the way the state was interpreting it that were unnecessarily keeping kids out of the doctor's office and so we helped in 2017 pass a new state policy that allowed children from those who were born in the Marshall Islands to have to have access to our kids first which is the Children's Health Insurance Program in Arkansas. So that's probably our best example of, you know, looking at Northwest Arkansas community partnerships and communities like the marshalese who live here but mostly don't live in the rest of the state. And because we have those strong partnerships, we can be. We can know what the challenges that children face and we can also use our public policy expertise to say you know what, all we need to do is this one little change. And we asked you know we went through two governorships trying to get that change made, and we finally got it in 2017 and families were able to in 2018 for the first time, sign up for, for our kids first thanks to Governor Hutchinson making that a priority to change that and a Springdale lawmaker who also understood the uniqueness of the population here so that's what I mean, one reason why we need this office here for Arkansas advocates is we we saw the changes coming down at this at the federal level and we said, you know, if marshalese kids aren't kids who are eligible for this program then nobody is right so let's fix it and so we so that that's one of the examples and this is where I should probably mention that our work is. We want all kids and families in, in the state to thrive and to meet their full potential and have the economic opportunity that they need to succeed but our work is very focused on low income kids and families and kids in poverty and their families. Because statistics show that the type of opportunities that I may have had growing up, might not be available to children whose families live at at at or under or near the poverty level. And so, so we, what we do is look at what are those opportunities that we could be providing to kids everything from like I mentioned early childhood programs to after school programs mentorship programs, access to the doctor, what are the things that help make sure that kids stay healthy and and learning and succeed. Are there things that we can do as a state. And so we've had a lot of big accomplishments over the years and that includes you know, changes in the juvenile justice system and the foster care system, and even in our own state tax policy. A lot of people don't understand that lower income people pay a much bigger percentage of their income in taxes than higher income people and so sometimes we look at changes to the tax state tax policy as well.

Randy Wilburn 20:44

Yeah, no, absolutely. So, I'd be curious to know what I mean what's on your radar now I mean what do you mean it seems like you've gotten a lot done and you've been in this role for like 12 years now, your time is flown for Yeah, but But what are you doing now what are you seeing is like the next step for for your organization.

Laura Kellams 21:03

We right now one of the big things that we have that's really timely going on is the census 2020 census so we're children actually are the most likely age group to be under counted in the census, families, literally just, you know, sometimes don't recognize that they need to have the kids counted on their census, or they maybe kids are living with grandparents or in some other complex kind of family situation and they aren't counted and so what we're trying to do is get the word out to parents early childhood providers, others to make sure that everybody understands what that it's the census is happening and why they why it's important. And one of the big reasons that we're reminding people why it's important is federal programs often are really, directed by census numbers or at least influenced by census numbers so everything from our highway funding in Arkansas to, you know, the number of school buses that a school district can can buy to special federal funding that might come to schools based on population, we, we want to make sure that every child and every adult is counted and across the state and so we're really concerned on that in Northwest Arkansas, that's one of one reason why those close partnerships with like marshalese, and with other immigrant rights organizations are really helping to make sure that we and they can help get the word out about the census. So that's one big one. And then we're always working. As I mentioned, to try to improve tax policy in the state and one thing that we really want to get done, is an earned income tax credit at the state level, there's a federal earned income tax credit that is a targeted tax credit to low income people, and most states have their own. But, which helps kind of mitigate that unfairness factor in the in the tax policy but Arkansas doesn't have one so we'll continue, continue working on that we got that earning him tax credit, pass out of the State Senate in the last legislative session but didn't pass in the house and so we'll continue to work on that. And we're always you know we we helped expand the state's pre k program, but we aren't serving them as many kids as needed. So it's called the Arkansas better chance program and it is targeted to three and four year olds who are low income, and we're not serving even all of those kids, let alone all the other kids in the state who need it. Right. wow, that's just a few examples of, I'll give you one more quick one that juvenile justice reform. One of the really cool things that the legislature and governor Hutchinson did last year, yeah. Last year, it's 2020. Last year in the 2019 session was changed the way that we spend juvenile justice money and they, we want to incarcerate fewer kids who aren't a safety risk to their communities. If they're not like an imminent safety risk, they don't need to be going down to a state prison for kids basically what we need is more local community programs and so the the government made a made a priority to spend less on incarceration and more on community programs. And so we're going to be kind of monitoring that to make sure it works the way it's supposed to, you know, one of the things we do at advocates is you know we we talk a lot about kind of new programs or new services that families might need. But another maybe at least as important thing that we do is make sure that the state is doing a good job with what exists today. And you know juvenile justice is a good example of that because it's cheaper and more effective to spend money on community programs, but often we don't do what's cheaper and more effective and so we we don't necessarily need to spend more, we need to spend better, and we need to make sure that kids are a priority and so that's why we never, never are satisfied.

Randy Wilburn 24:47

Yeah, absolutely. And why why spend money on prison beds when you can reach before they even get there and changed their lives.

Laura Kellams 24:56

And you know we all know that once once somebody is in prison, you know, the chances of them having a total rehabilitation has a lot less benefit service in their community and so Washington Benton counties actually have been real leaders in doing that already they were ahead of the state so our juvenile courts here we're already doing that so one one thing we did was just show the rest of the state, that it works here in Northwest Arkansas that we actually send fewer kids to prison kid prison than we used to and and that, you know, we're still we still have safe communities. This can be done. And so we wanted to show the rest of the state that they can do

Randy Wilburn 25:31

that to listen, the communities here and just for perspective, are really safe. It's like I tell people all the time and everybody that's listening to this podcast for more than once knows that I rich, I came here from Boston 17 years in Boston and my wife, happens to be there right now and it was so funny. We were talking on the phone yesterday and I'm like, I could hear in the background like police siren going off or whatever people are doing something I'm like, you know where you never hear police sirens in Northwest Arkansas. And I mean, of course, every now and then you do but it's more of an event, then it's like an everyday occurrence. And so people have to recognize that, you know, this is a pretty safe place to be and that it's, you know, you go to some bigger cities, it will give you a quick perspective on how life is. And so, and how the other half lives if you will, in other parts of the country. So,

Laura Kellams 26:22

one thing we know is that a lot of that is about economics Yeah, it's about family economic opportunity, which creates, you know, communities, if they're if they don't have economic opportunity it creates communities in which crime you know increases. And so we know that we have economic opportunity here and we just need to make sure that it's available to all. Or we might see our community change so we really want to make sure that economic opportunities available to all, actually we have a lot of economic growth in this region but we also have a lot of families who are struggling economically and children. We have more than 20,000 kids in this region Washington counties who live in poverty. And that's not even counting the kids who live near poverty. And so we want to make sure that they have the opportunity today. We're 20 years down the road, we're still saying those great things about Northwest Arkansas we're still talking about how, what a great place it is to live because we have an educated and engaged workforce and educated engaged neighborhoods. That's what we want to make sure that we keep,

Randy Wilburn 27:24

Yeah know, as I'm thinking about this, it's that that age old idea of you know you know don't just give somebody a fish to teach them how to fish and I think that that this this area is ripe for those types of opportunities so so that's exciting.

Laura Kellams 27:40

Sometimes if I'm like talking to the rotary or something I'll try to explain like why this work matters and I'll say, you know, think about the show my picture of a childhood a Springdale headstart right you know have to live in poverty, to, to qualify to be in headstart. Here are the kids in today's Springdale Head Start, 20, years from now, to 25 years from now, what, what if they live next door to you or they were coming in your business to get a job or what would you want for them. Would you want what would you want for them to the education that they would need to work for you, or to live next door to you the kind of engagement in the community you would want them to be your next door neighbor. So then, rewind back to right now, what do we mean, what do we need to be doing for those kids today to make sure they're the ones that that are part of your community 25 years from now, and so it's kind of just getting people to vision, you know, what do we want for kids and selfishly. What do we want for our own community and all of us, and that will get that if we make sure that kids have what they need.

Randy Wilburn 28:41

Yeah, I mean, foresight is everything. I mean, it really is and it's not practice as much as I'd like to see it practice but certainly in the five years that I've been here in Northwest Arkansas, it seems that that is a consideration that a lot of people have a lot of organizations have, you know, I've sat down some really fabulous organizations comparable to yours like single parent scholarship fund at Northwest Arkansas and just other organizations that are really doing some great great things and I think it's that kind of foresight that exists in organizations like yours and others that will will lead this state in a, in a, in a good way, so that you know when you look at it and it's like you know people aren't saying well at least we aren't Mississippi or at least one or whatever because you know we'll be at the top of the the states around the country in terms of our ability to provide the needs that all of the citizens of this great state have so

Laura Kellams 29:37

So yeah you know one of the best things we do is, in partnership with an organization called the Annie Casey Foundation that's based in Baltimore. And we do something called the Kids Count rankings and kids. The kids count data book comes out every June, and it ranks states and child well being, and that there are all these different areas of child well being that they rank everything from teen pregnancy and high school graduation to third grade reading levels which I'm sure you know are super important and making sure a child succeeds. And so the Annie Casey Foundation and we put all this data together and then we have every state and territory of the US are all part of that ranking as well. And so we can see how we compare to other states, and just in, just in case you're interested at we're 40 in 2019 on that database will have new numbers come out in 2020, but we've actually improved significantly over the last few years, you know, 40 is obviously nothing to be satisfied with right. But it is, it does show some improvement in our state based, you know in education and health care access, and other areas that I mentioned but the best thing about that is that we can look at that. we can look at that number one state. And, you know, which is kind of alternately sometimes Minnesota sometimes, New Hampshire, Vermont so we look at the what, what the best states are in terms of child well being. And then we can look okay well what are they doing on juvenile justice or what are they doing on access to early childhood education. and is it something that will work in Arkansas, not everything that they do in Minnesota, or in New Hampshire is going to work in Arkansas, but some of the things will work, and are pragmatic and or something that we can push for in our state. And so that's where we use those rankings, which is something that's really good like we don't know how we're doing unless we measure. And so one of the most important aspects of our work is that measurement.

Randy Wilburn 31:33

Yeah, I absolutely I agree, and you know, it's funny i mean i'm certainly going to date myself now but I remember a program when I was growing up called riff reading is fundamental. And I think LeVar Burton at the time was a big spokes riff but that was a big deal back then but it was constantly beat into our heads over and over and I read at a high level from a very young age and it's probably the reason why I talk so much and talk about so many different things but but I think more and more kids need to gravitate towards something like that and it needs to be. It needs to be firmly planted in their minds at a it's okay to read it's cool to read. I make my kids read before they get Xbox time because you know nowadays it's like kids that they're, they're quick as go to is, you know, get it put that putting that headset on getting on their iPhone or getting on an Xbox game or whatever and start, you know, playing and that's great but I like, I tell my kids, I just want you to be able to critically think to be able to read anything. And with those two skills right there, you're pretty much okay, because when you look at the overall where we're headed as a society that is going to be one of the areas that fewer and fewer people are going to be able to master, because of where things are now and yes we still have a, there is a yeoman's road for us to go down in order to overcome this. I think it's possible but it starts with each of us trying to be really vocal about that and so you guys are doing a great service to that issue and I think each of us as individuals needs to do it so but I think we need that reminder, you know, at 40 is nothing to be excited about I think we need to get higher than 40 we need to get to 30 and then we need to need to go the 20. I mean, Doggone it in 10 years maybe all the kids in Arkansas, that are in third grade read at such a high level that you know we're off the map,

Unknown Speaker 33:29

and yeah, just reminder that it that we can be that state. We don't have to be satisfied with where we are and we don't have to be satisfied with being doing better than some other southern states we want to do, as well as any state Yeah,

Randy Wilburn 33:42

and there was no shade thrown towards Mississippi I just, I just, you know, it's always the case because Arkansas sometimes is up there as well but I mean I think we need to be we need to be. We need to want better for ourselves hundred

Unknown Speaker 33:53

percent agreement and actually one area where we're 50th it sometimes surprises people is for 50th in teen pregnancy. And, and that is a policy that is straight policy issue states, we are actually improving as a state, but in our teen pregnancy numbers but other states that have better policy are improving faster than us. Yeah, that have really taken that issue on and so a good example but, yeah,

Randy Wilburn 34:21

yeah. Okay, well let's talk. Let's talk a little bit about sleep, okay cuz. Yeah, cuz I'm, I'm just really, I, you know, again, part of why I'm here is that the folks from cityscapes had a great article about Super Sunday. And this is in its fifth year or six year?

Laura Kellams 34:41

19th!

Randy Wilburn 34:43

I'm sorry, I'm sure. Five plus fourteen is 19,

Laura Kellams 34:47

Well let's started really small so it's hardly, there's a bill right yeah it was hardly what it is today so that you can be forgiven, but it's been big for five or six years really big but, but, yeah, it did start a long time ago. And actually, if you count our little rock office which has Super Sunday on Sunday in February, and that this fundraiser is 39 years old, there's this the 39th. It's one of the oldest fundraisers in the state.

Randy Wilburn 35:15

So is this your biggest fundraiser of the year. Yes.

Laura Kellams 35:18

The Northwest Arkansas office is almost totally paid for through Soup Sunday. Okay, that's our biggest fundraiser that keeps our voice here in this part of the state.

Randy Wilburn 35:27

Well we got to raise some money for that!

So you guys had over 1200 people attend last year. So that means, the goal is that actually each year you're growing and adding more and more and with people like chef Matt Cooper from the preacher son who's been on this podcast and others. There's going to be some really good soup there so why don't you just give us just a quick commercial about this event, again, it's the 26th of January, from four to 6:30pm at the john q Hammond center in Rogers which is basically connected to the embassies

Laura Kellams 35:58

yeah the convention center right yeah the inner say the, the best thing I can say about this event I think to convince people who haven't come before is that it's a lot of fun, and that your whole family can come and it's really casual, so you know you think about a fundraiser that might be kind of fancy or that you have to dress up for this is not that event, so you can come and you know in the middle of the day you're back home by six 637, and you've experienced the whole event on a Sunday afternoon and in the food is incredible, the, you know, we will have 35, restaurants, all local all providing great homemade soup made in their restaurants, everybody from you mentioned preacher's son we have here in downtown Springdale Spring Street grill has actually been serving soup at soup Sunday every year since we started and Susan's restaurant which is a really home homestyle restaurant here in Springdale is part of this event. So it's the hive, you know, at 21 C, and the some of the restaurants, even the hauler is making soup we mentioned the hall earlier restaurants from Louie yeah several of the, of the rope swing groups Louise at at the Bentonville airport is one of those and then we have that trro 1925 interview goes and in downtown Fayetteville so we have restaurants in all of our cities in the region, and some of the places that people love to go to the most that may are making local delicious food and so they'll bring those soups you know in the 1015 gallons of soup. And then what you do as a person who comes to the event is you. You walk in and you just get as many samples as you want it's served in little sample cups. Okay, and people actually bring their own muffin tins from home so they can hold as many soup cups as they can possibly carry around together pro tip is if you can tell people who've been before or who've read about it closely, that has they will show up, literally from with their own muffin tin from home. And so, but we but if you don't have one. We serve we get people little suit carriers that are like those little beverage containers that you get in the drive thru, so people can get those and we compost and recycle almost every single thing in the room. We don't even have garbage cans in the room, does

Randy Wilburn 38:21

that mean you're working with food loops Yes. Okay, another guest on the podcast. Yeah started

Laura Kellams 38:27

this probably 10 years ago composting and recycling. And then once we heard about the service that food loops provides we started partnering with them. Last year was our first year to partner with Phillips and this year they're helping us with that too, but we've been doing it for a long time and we try our best to create the least amount of waste that we can at this event, and we have a lot of fun doing it.

Randy Wilburn 38:51

Yeah, they were, they worked at the roots festival and I was blown away by the amount of waste that they were able to get rid of, and just just phenomenal phenomenal so all right well this is exciting so you guys, there are individual and corporate sponsors such sponsorships are still available. Right. And then there's going to be a silent auction. What is it, what's that what's part of this I'm sure

Laura Kellams 39:14

we and we in the past we've had a silent auction and this year we're all putting it all in the silent auction, including vacations, I mean, so the sound I shall have everything from like a Keurig coffee maker and a Persian rug to a vacation in Costa Rica, and another in in Florida and another in Mexico and another in hot springs and so well it's just a huge variety and even including books and things that kids can bid just a few dollars on if they want to. So it's like a really big wide variety right up things in our auction, and we have a band and kids hilariously dance the whole time. and we're in this year we're gonna have a kids zone, which we've never had before which Mercy is sponsoring and, and in in that kids zone, not only will we have folks from mercy, entertaining kids and you know coloring and showing them some of the cool things about mercy, but we also have the Arkansas coalition of marshalese so we mentioned earlier, they'll be helping kids with some crafts that are very, you know, culturally March marshalese so we're really excited about that that'll be our first is this will be our first time to have the kids zone so we're excited about that.

Randy Wilburn 40:24

Yeah, well I'm excited I plan to bring my kids. It's, it's the, what's Pro Bowl Weekend and nobody watches the NFL Pro Bowl so that that's okay.

Laura Kellams 40:35

The Super Bowl. Yeah, exactly.

Randy Wilburn 40:39

Not that not that big of a deal you're not missing anything. Come on out, really come out and support, Arkansas, advocates for children's and families. This is the 19th annual supe Sunday. There are several different ticket options available there's a patient what is the patron ticket. Sure,

Laura Kellams 40:55

Yeah I figured that people who are listening to this the first thing I want to know is how much are tickets oh I should have mentioned that beginning but adult tickets are $35, and kids tickets are $10 and that's just five to 17 so kids under five are free, so you can come for like you know what you might spend it a fast casual kind of restaurant on a Sunday for your family, you can this can be your whole meal lunch plus supper probably. But, um, and then we have a patron ticket, which is just basically making an extra donation to advocates, but it also includes a couple of adult beverages if you want those. So that's a $60 ticket. And, and, but then. So, but most people buy the adult tickets for 35 unless they want to make that extra donation which we, of course, appreciate and then the sponsorships go from $300 for a family sponsorship, all the way up to $25,000 for a presenting sponsor. Our presenting sponsor this year is endeavor Foundation, I'm very grateful to the support that they provide for our work in Northwest Arkansas,

Randy Wilburn 41:53

well yeah we'll have to give a big shout out for them Yes One of the benefits of when you sponsor, any type of event like this people give you a shout out will give a shout out for to the endeavor foundation for that and if anybody wants to get tickets they can go to 2020 soup Sunday NWA that's all one word, 2020 soup, Sunday NWA dot event, bright.com, you can you can sign up for and get your tickets there. You can do your sponsorship there, all kinds of stuff there and I know chef Matt Cooper is going to be there again this year, so it'll be interesting to see does he do the same soup every year and then

Laura Kellams 42:30

He does something different every year and he. So we, one of the cool things we do is have what's called the soup Sunday best right competition.

Randy Wilburn 42:38

And so as a warning like two years ago

Laura Kellams 42:40

Did two years in a row so people, if you go as a ticket holder you can vote on I can't remember two or three soups we give you tickets you can either put them all in the same little jar or you can disperse them around people really take very seriously they're voting and who they vote for. But yes, Chef. Matthew Cooper has won two years in a row and so we'll see who brings their A game and wins this year,

Randy Wilburn 43:01

So he has serious super baller status. And that's awesome so all right well then, then, count me in my family and I, we will be there I hope to see some of you guys listening to this episode there at the john q Hammons Convention Center, January, 26 2020, from 4pm to 6:30pm, if it's after the event that they're listening to this episode which is a good chance. What are there any other events that you guys do throughout the year or how can people get in contact with you if they want to help out.

Laura Kellams 43:31

Sure. We do have a good number of events throughout the year, sometimes like we'll have an event to talk about that Kids Count data but we had an event on the Bentonville square to talk about that last year and really how people can get engaged, we'll be having some policy roundtables with the elections coming up, we've produced an election guide that people can actually use to just ask, what are the questions you should ask your local lawmakers and others. Other people running for office about kids, is it on your website, it is and it's a our advocates stuff o RG, and I was just going to tell people if they have any trouble finding soup Sunday or finding us just just google Arkansas advocates, right, and our web page will be what comes up, and you can't there's a banner on there about Super Sunday so, and there's also an event page on there so if you're hearing about this hearing this later. You can go on to that event page and see like what we have planned coming up in Northwest Arkansas and throughout the state. And you can also sign up on our advocates. org for our emails and for even text alerts, we do even do text alerts to people who you know if your lawmaker if you live in center 10 and your lawmakers on an important committee for a kid's issue that's going to come up next week. We might even text you to say hey, let that person know that this is important to you because I stuff matters. That's right and they you know they get tired of hearing from us, you know, the US but they do knit they never tire of hearing from their potential absolutely not that we have. So it's really important you know we, we'd love to see people at soup Sunday, but we really would love for people to just get engaged in the work, and can you take a look at our emails see what we send out or just go on our web page we have a plethora of information and data on kids and policy solutions that'll be great for the kids and.

Randy Wilburn 45:15

And as they say the squeaky wheel gets the grease. That's right. Definitely go in and help out those that need to help the most So Laura Kellams, thank you so much. I got it I'll be excited to tell your husband that I enjoyed this interview just as much as his interview and, and I appreciate all that you're doing with Arkansas advocates for children and families and so excited about this Sunday I really appreciate you moving things around and you're scheduled to meet with us and to join us because you really are. You are Northwest Arkansas, and so we appreciate you sharing today and we do look forward to checking back in with you in the future to see how things are going. And if there's anything that we can ever do here and I am Northwest Arkansas to help out. Please never hesitate to ask.

Laura Kellams 46:02

Thank you so much for having me. I really really appreciate it.

Randy Wilburn 46:05

Absolutely. Absolutely. Well there you have folks, another episode of I am real close to Arkansas. It was so great to sit down with Laura and I do seriously hope to see some of you guys at the soup Sunday event on January, 26, I will be there with the whole family in tow, and I'm going to see if my 15 year old can out suit me when it comes to all the different suits that will be available. And one thing I will mention is that my understanding is that they'll, there will be a lot of different types of suits because I know some of you have unique dietary needs and. And some of you may have allergies to certain things so there'll be a little bit of, there'll be a different types of soup for everyone that will be there so I really want to encourage you to come out, take advantage of it and find what you like and share it with those that are around you so that's all we have for this week we really appreciate you listening to I am Northwest Arkansas please remember telephone Sharing is caring, let them know that you heard about this program or that you heard about something that was revelatory for you right here at I am Northwest Arkansas, calm, our episodes come out every Monday at noon. We'd love to hear from you if you have feedback if you want to share some things with us. We've got some new sponsors coming up in the coming weeks that we can't wait to share with you. There's a lot of great things happening here on the, on the show so we really appreciate you guys we only exist because of you. And so we appreciate every everyone that listens. We appreciate the reviews, thank you for checking us out, and thank you for sharing it. That's all I have for right now i will see you guys next week. Bye for now.

We recently had a chance to sit down with Laura Kellams, Northwest Arkansas Director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (AACF). AACF is a public policy organization that has been around since 1977. AACF works to change public policy in a way that will allow children and families to thrive.

Laura started out as a journalist covering politics and other news in Arkansas. She eventually became the first Northwest Arkansas Director of AACF.  She started as a team of one locally and has grown AACF in Northwest Arkansas over the past 10 years.  

In addition to all of the work that Laura and her team do here and across the state they also host a pretty cool annual fundraising event, The Northwest Arkansas Annual Soup Sunday Event. 

On January 26th the Annual Soup Sunday event will be held at the John Q Hammons Convention Center in Rogers from 4 PM to 6:30 PM. There will be over 40 local restaurants represented, like Hugo’s, The Holler, and The Preachers Son and more than 1200 + people in attendance.

This is the primary fundraising event for AACF.  They are also having a Silent Auction with some incredible items. You don’t want to miss this.

Big “Shout Out!” to the Endeavour Foundation the primary sponsor of AACF’s NWA Soup Sunday

Please come out and join us. As of the date of this podcast, tickets are only available at the door. 

If you like soup you don’t want to miss this event and because it’s for a great cause it’s easy to say “Yes!” to AACF. 

If this podcast episode resonates with you please let us know by commenting below or by dropping us an email. We appreciate each and every listener of this podcast. 

 All of this and more on this episode of I am Northwest Arkansas.

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