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Woman of the Year

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By KIM MEYER-WEBB | Photography by DERO SANFORD  | Hair by KIM CARTER with CARTER MILLER HILLCREST | Makeup by BRIDGET BALTIMORE with BARBARA JEAN

Sharri Jones credits her tenure as a Girl Scout for introducing her to the transformative power of community service. Cultivating courage, confidence and character through this experience – Sharri supports a multitude of organizations that improve the welfare of fellow Arkansans. The family business, Sissy’s Log Cabin, is synonymous with extraordinary civic leadership and Sharri believes it is a personal responsibility. For this commitment, she will be recognized as Woman of the Year by Women & Children First.

 width=Woman & Children First breaks the cycle of domestic violence – providing crisis intervention as well as social and legal advocacy that are essential resources for families. Each year, the state’s largest domestic violence shelter garners support for this continued mission fulfillment work through the Woman of the Year Gala. The evening celebrates the continued generosity of constituents and the organization’s most valuable commodity: COURAGE. Capital Campaign Chairman Cathy Browne elaborates, “In an abusive situation, when a woman leaves – she has a high probability of being killed. It takes courage to leave, lots of courage.”

Proceeds from the gala comprise a significant portion of the Women & Children First annual operating budget, generating not only necessary revenue but also community awareness. Sharri notes, “The gala brings the organization centerstage and to the forefront of everyone’s mind.” Women & Children First Board of Directors Executive Committee Member Wallace Smith notes that domestic violence and sexual assault are not easy topics to address; the survivor testimonial is always compelling. “Someone who escaped a horrible situation often shocks our guests back into the reality of domestic violence.”

Last year, the shelter answered more than 5,600 calls on the 24-hour statewide crisis hotline and provided 14,146 emergency shelter days to more than 400 adults and children. These staggering statistics reflect an undeniable need for what Sharri calls “a safe place” – adding “Women & Children First helps educate and empower families.”

For more than 40 years, this continuum of services has relied on strong community partnerships. Collaboration is evident at the Arkansas Children’s Clark Center for Safe & Healthy Children and with Children’s Advocacy Center throughout Arkansas. Wallace explains, “Women & Children First is a miracle-producing organization. We take families who have lost everything and help rebuild an entire life.” From medical treatment to protection and securing meaningful employment, Women & Children First offers assistance and compassion. A centralized location to address immediate needs is a critical component to increasing efficiency and confidence for clients. Cathy adds, “The Campaign of Courage will build a new shelter with 132 beds for domestic violence and sexual assault victims. Our current 115-year-old building has seen better days and has 54 beds that are full every night.” The new facility, called the Family Peace Center, will consolidate the agencies required for families to recover + rebuild. Cathy notes there are 150 Family Peace Centers around the world with proven success. “What now takes women weeks to accomplish, should take a few days at the new center. We are slowly filling our war chest with local, state and federal money; everyone can join this dream – making the Family Peace Center a reality
in Arkansas.”

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Sharri has graciously become a part of the dream team and recognizes the importance of philanthropy. “At Sissy’s Log Cabin, we are servant leaders where family is first. The act of giving back and helping others is so important.” Cathy believes these are attributes of every Woman of the Year, “We have honored 17 exceptional women and four exceptional men to date who exemplify generosity of time, spirit and expertise. Sharri was chosen for these reasons, she understands the mission.” Cathy realizes it’s the shared vision – a brighter future for fellow Arkansans – that makes the work of Women & Children First and Campaign of Courage possible; women, like Sharri, who will continue the Women & Children First legacy of service.

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