A Shelter From Life’s Storms

This nonprofit has helped support its neighbors in crisis for more than 35 years. Learn how it answered the call to serve the larger community when a natural disaster struck.
Apr 12, 2024 9:00 AM ET

By Kim Borges

An EF-3 tornado ripped a path of destruction and despair six football fields wide across Little Rock, Arkansas, last March 31.

The compassion and support that followed the devastation stretched even wider.

One year later, we’re sharing perspective from a Little Rock nonprofit leader whose team immediately sprang into action to help people and families in their greatest time of need. It’s what Our House does – not only when natural disaster strikes, but every day. Learn more about this Regions Bank and Regions Foundation community partner.

“It’s a universal thing; everyone needs support at some point in their lives.”

Ben Goodwin knows. At age 10, his family home burned down. And, in 2009, Goodwin and his wife faced the crisis of their newborn daughter needing significant medical care, bringing their family to Little Rock, and subsequently bringing him to Our House.

“I needed flexible work because we spent a lot of time at the hospital,” he explained. “I had volunteered at Our House before joining the team as a part-time grant writer. I knew the mission, loved the mission – but the hard time I was going through helped the mission resonate even more for me.”

While Goodwin’s trials have offered him greater understanding and empathy, the now-executive director of Our House, which provides housing assistance, career services, child education programs and more, is the first to say the personal challenges by no means compare to the challenges their clients face.

“In most cases, the families we serve don’t have a deep and strong safety net,” he said. “We want to be that support network for people when they need it. We work really hard to help them build a cushion to weather the storms in their lives.”

Meaning, when the actual storm came, Goodwin and team were ready.

“We’re always mobilized for things like this,” he said. “It felt like a dramatic example of the types of things we deal with every day. We’re in the business of helping people who don’t have homes.”

The Regions Foundation, a nonprofit primarily funded by Regions Bank, provided a $10,000 grant to Our House last April to assist with shelter and childcare services for people impacted by the tornado. Regions Bank in Little Rock recently contributed $5,000 to assist with Our House’s operational support and team members also teach financial education classes to the organization’s career center clients.

“Support from Regions Bank and the Regions Foundation is important because, ultimately, we’re all in this together as a community,” said Goodwin. “We’ve worked to build our value proposition at Our House by focusing on what we do best as an organization. Regions Bank and the Regions Foundation care about the community and want to make an impact. There are a lot of deep connections here that mean a lot to us.”

Regions Bank and the Regions Foundation care about the community and want to make an impact. There are a lot of deep connections here that mean a lot to us.

Those connections also mean a lot to Regions Bank Commercial Banking leader and Little Rock market executive Rodney Abston, who’s seen how the organization’s work has lifted the community.

“Our House has bridged the divide between homelessness and homeownership in Greater Little Rock for more than 35 years,” said Abston. “The team offers care in many forms and extends a helping hand to their clients facing crisis moments, so it was natural they extended that same care and helping hand to our larger community impacted by the storm.”

While Our House’s immediate tornado response resembled the usual measures of checking on personal safety and assessing physical damage, it marked only the beginning of their efforts to help their Little Rock neighbors get back on their feet.

“It’s our team’s job to help our clients navigate resources, so we quickly took on the mantle for the larger community by serving as the go-to resource for sharing what support was available,” said Goodwin. “We had our hotline people could call, but we took it a step further with a web-based portal allowing them to learn what support was available such as access to food pantries, clothing, financial assistance, even the schedule when trucks would come by to pick up tree branches from their yard.”

And the support didn’t end there. Several Our House staff members, some personally impacted by the tornado themselves, stepped up to do even more.

“One of our team members went out and bought a chainsaw to help cut tree limbs,” said Goodwin. “Another joined someone for breakfast each day to check in and offer emotional support. There’s a bunch of stories like that of people banding together, working long hours to do what needed to be done.”

Consider it the normal course of business for an organization fielding more than 1,000 calls each month and serving 500 onsite clients daily.

“It’s always a beehive of humanity here,” said Goodwin. “Whatever role you have on our team, if you’re part of this work, you’re getting to know our clients, you’re learning their stories.”

The only thing better than learning those stories? Celebrating their clients’ successes.

“Our House is a home to new beginnings,” said Goodwin. “We say, ‘This is your place, this is your chance, this is where everything hopefully aligns to an inflection point in your lives.’ We know and see people are capable of great things every day.”

Our House will soon have its own new beginning of sorts as well when it opens the doors of its expanded campus in April, allowing the organization to double it housing space and service capacity. The milestone marks quite a journey from Goodwin’s part-time grant writing days.

“We have a great team that really does the hard work and I’m privileged to lead them,” he said. “I feel very fortunate to do this work and be a steward of this organization and the work it does. I see it as the best our community has to offer.”

About Regions Foundation 
Regions Foundation supports community investments that positively impact the communities served by Regions Bank. The Foundation engages in a grantmaking program focused on priorities including economic and community development; education and workforce readiness; and financial wellness. The Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation funded primarily through contributions from Regions Bank.