Christmas 2017

Kathy French - Thursday, January 11, 2018

Thank you for sharing your light!

Have you ever complained about the chaos of Christmas and been secretly (or not so secretly) relieved when it’s over?  In the mad rush to celebrate and decorate, shop and visit, sometimes we lose the meaning.

Here at Vera Lloyd, the music, the decorations, the gifts, the parties…it’s all precious because we’re creating happy memories and teaching our boys and girls the true meaning of love and family.

The boys and girls at Vera Lloyd are working to heal from the pain of abuse, neglect, abandonment or adjudication.  Not only are they dealing with painful backgrounds, but they are trying to find a new normal during what is supposed to be the happiest time of year.  Your gifts share a ray of hope in their darkness, and tell them that they are valued and not alone.

Please enjoy a quick snapshot into one of our Monticello homes this holiday season…

Trimble Home shares abundance.

On December 22nd, Joe came to live at Trimble House.  The house was decorated and scents of cookies and candy filled the air, but the chaos of life left him little anticipation for what he would find on Christmas morning.  When asked what he would like to receive, his only requests were a soccer ball and a watch for his sister.                

On Christmas Eve, after all the boys had gone to bed, Michael and Melissa Brock, Trimbles’ house parents, had much to prepare. Mrs. Brock began cooking at 4am including peeling 15 pounds of mashed potatoes!  Gifts were arranged with care, and Joe awoke to find so much more than a soccer ball.


In fact, Mrs. Brock shared that Joe was shocked at the number of gifts under the tree with his name on them.  Over and over Joe asked if these presents were really for him.He was overcome with emotion and started to cry.  Long after all the other boys had finished, Joe was still reeling.Mrs. Brock sat beside him on the floor, and encouraged him until he finally finished unwrapping his gifts.  Later, they shared a traditional Christmas lunch with all the trimmings.  The youth ate all the mashed potatoes, and also enjoyed ham, chicken and dressing, sweet potato casserole, fruit salad and pecan pie.

On December 27th, the fun continued with a trip to Little Rock to go shopping.  The boys visited Westover Hills Presbyterian church, and had lunch and fun in the church gym.As the season came to an end, Joe echoed the sentiments of many in the house…this was the best Christmas they had ever had.  For some it was the first ‘real’ Christmas they had ever experienced...

You might be surprised when you hear how much upheaval the children who come to Vera Lloyd face before they walk through our doors.  This year alone, there were six children admitted to our care in the week before Christmas.Our team works diligently to transform their chaos into peace and hope.  For those who chose to donate gift cards: please know that this is one way we are able to ensure that every child enjoys gifts from their lists under the tree.  For kids, who have come to expect so little from life, to ask and receive, is more powerful than many of us can imagine.

From all of us at Vera Lloyd, we hope you had a wonderful Christmas.We also pray that these stories inspire you to see the difference you make, and that you continue to experience the joy, beauty, and meaning of the Christmas in this New Year.

Your Light and Generosity shine into the darkness to shine Christ’s healing love.

Thank you for sharing the true meaning of the season with boys and girls at Vera Lloyd.


Summer at Vera Lloyd

Natalie Clark - Thursday, August 24, 2017

Vera Lloyd youth are already back in school, but thanks to you they had a great summer! We are grateful for the support of many foundations, churches and donors. Trinity Presbyterian Church and Holmes Chapel Presbyterian Church hosted pool parties and cookouts during the summer for boys and girls at Vera Lloyd. Youth also learned how to play the drums because of a grant from Arkansas Arts Council.

Vera Lloyd youth were able to participate in a summer enrichment program thanks to the Riggs Benevolent Fund. Vera Lloyd contracted with teachers from the Monticello School District. This was an eight-week enrichment program that exposed students to the culture, language, crafts and foods of Japan, Peru, England, Swaziland, Romania, Mexico, Hawaii and Madagascar.

A grant from Blue & You for a Healthier Arkansas funded nutrition and cooking classes for our youth. Vera Lloyd contracted with a registered dietician to teach youth about things such as healthy fats and whole grains. Youth used this knowledge in their cooking classes to make things such as quesadillas, fruit salsa and guacamole. One youth said she had never even tried guacamole before! This grant from Blue & You also funded the “Beauty and the Beast” program for girls on our campus. They learned about confidence, manners and self-image during the program. Thank you to our incredible supporters for making this summer possible for boys and girls at Vera Lloyd.

We are proud of Vera Lloyd youth!

Natalie Clark - Monday, May 15, 2017

It’s the middle of May and we are getting closer to summer and the end of school. For four boys at Vera Lloyd, Ramon, Rian, John and Jerry, that means graduating from high school. In the United States, about 50% of youth in the foster care system graduate high school by the time they are 18. For children not living in the foster care system, the graduation rate is much higher--82%.

Vera Lloyd recently hosted a celebration for these boys who reached this major milestone. On our Monticello campus, staff threw a graduation party with cookies, cake and plenty of 2017 graduation decorations. The four young men will soon walk across the stage and accept their diploma from Monticello High School.

With help from our Transition Services Coordinator Tiara Miller, they are ready for their next steps after high school.

  • Ramon wants to move to Michigan, where he has family. He is considering enrolling at the University of Arkansas at Monticello to complete his first year of college. He wants to earn a degree in criminal justice and have a career as a probation officer.
  • Rian is considering the military or UAM.
  • John is working for the City of Monticello this summer and will enroll at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock this fall. He wants to earn a criminal justice degree and aspires to open his own private investigation firm.
  • Jerry plans to move back to northwest Arkansas and work in automotive repair with other family members. 

We are excited for what the future has in store for these Vera Lloyd youth!

We are Family!

Natalie Clark - Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Family is one of Vera Lloyd’s core values. The definition of Family has certainly evolved over the years. A modern description is two or more people who share goals and values and have long term commitments to one another.
At Vera Lloyd, we use the word Family often. Our youth live in Family-style homes with house parents and their children. We hear time and time again from Vera Lloyd current and former residents that we are their Family. We’ve had former residents marry on our campus, host their children’s birthday parties on our campus and visit regularly to tell our staff about their lives—the peaks and the valleys.
In addition to Vera Lloyd’s youth living in Family-style homes and viewing our staff as Family, our staff often refer to each other as Family. You’ve heard, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and our staff often come together as a Family to determine how best to meet the needs of our youth. Our staff Family works diligently to provide healing to our youth who have experienced trauma in their biological families.
You may remember the 1979 Sister Sledge song “We Are Family.” My favorite line from that song is: “High hopes we have for the future and our goals in sight.”
At Vera Lloyd, we definitely have high hopes and goals for the future of the youth we serve. We are Family.
Blessings to you and your Family,
Donna Mahurin


​ Thank you for being our angels this year!

Melissa Hendricks - Thursday, December 29, 2016


Christmas at Vera Lloyd

 Because of you, boys and girls at Vera Lloyd this holiday season experienced the gift of your generosity and love. Thank you for purchasing gifts for children who are healing from abuse, neglect, abandonment and adjudication while they live at Vera Lloyd’s children’s home in Monticello. Let me tell you a little about Christmas Day at the Barton Home for girls and the Trimble Home for boys, two of the five homes for youth at Vera Lloyd.

Barton Home for girls in foster care

Clare and Deverick Franklin, house parents, and the eight girls at Barton Home decorated for Christmas weeks ago. The girls received a small gift for each of the 12 days leading up to Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve, they shared hot chocolate and opened one gift before heading to bed.

On Christmas Day, the girls woke up about 7 a.m., came downstairs for hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls and gathered—excited—around the Christmas tree to open gifts. They stayed in their pajamas for the morning festivities.

They were thrilled to open gifts of clothes, shoes, gift cards, make-up kits and more. They attended church with their house parents. After church, Clare and Deverick prepared steak and potatoes at the girls’ request. They ended the day watching Christmas movies together.

The girls traveled to Little Rock after Christmas to have lunch at Chili’s and spend gift cards at Park Plaza.

Trimble Home for boys in foster care

Brandon and Wendy Williams, house parents, said the boys’ wish lists were all fulfilled. “The boys had a great time and were thrilled to receive gifts they really wanted and needed,” Wendy said. Favorite gifts included clothes, tablet computers and shoes.

A few days before Christmas, Brandon, Wendy and the boys opened board games for a game night. They had hot chocolate, played games and enjoyed a fun family night.

On Christmas Eve, Brandon and Wendy put gifts under the Christmas tree. The next morning, the boys had breakfast and opened gifts. After they tried on clothes and played with their new games, they had a big lunch of ham, potatoes, macaroni and cheese, rolls and pie.

They, too, traveled to Little Rock over the holidays to spend gift cards on clothes and other items.

Brandon and Wendy were equally excited to receive gifts for the home, especially a coffee pot—the Trimble Home has not had a coffee pot in recent months.

Some of the boys and girls at Vera Lloyd had home passes so they could visit family members or family members traveled to Monticello to visit with youth on campus. A grandmother for one of the boys at Trimble Home made a special trip to see her grandson on Christmas Day.

Love. Caring. Generosity. Christ’s healing love. Thank you for sharing the reason for the season with boys and girls at Vera Lloyd.





Natalie Clark - Thursday, August 04, 2016

August 15th is National Relaxation Day! A lot of us live a fast-paced lifestyle. We often neglect time for ourselves. As this occurs, our physical and mental needs are not met which moves us actually away from achieving our life goals. Overall health is more than just the physical component; it involves an emotional, mental, and spiritual wellness. All of these components either complement or work against each other and one area can impact the others.

Counseling techniques, when warding off stress or burnout, can start off simple but require a change in habits. The person must actually engage in the effort of utilizing coping skills. Change is difficult especially with a busy lifestyle, but quite necessary if new results are desired. Positive coping skills are essential for everybody, not just individuals seeking counseling. However, what works for one person may not work for another. For example, if gardening is not your passion, it may not be a suggested coping skill. However, if you are open to the suggestion of incorporating it, then it could be.

Other examples of positive coping skills include: listening to music, playing with a pet, going to the movies, taking a hot shower, writing/painting, praying, and engaging in outdoor activities. Many coping skills are available and can be individualized. Negative coping skills include: driving fast, biting fingernails, drinking alcohol excessively, eating too much, smoking, avoiding friends and family, and many more. The negative coping skills are the ones that are to be avoided. However, all coping responses have limitations (WebMD, 2015-2016). They have to be used on a regular basis to be effective or sometimes can even lead to new stress. Even overuse of something once positive can become ineffective. A vacation to the beach can sound relaxing but could start off being stressful with all of the planning details. Even taking the same yearly trip could become monotonous and not present itself as an effective coping skill.

There are more detailed relaxation techniques available via counseling. If you feel overwhelmed with every day or chronic stressors, please see a counselor who can introduce you to deep breathing, positive self talk and cognitive coping, visualization and/or mindfulness techniques. Those may sound like foreign concepts but anyone with the attitude for change can learn and utilize them. If you are in the Monticello area, please call the Laurence E. Schmidt Counseling Center for more information or to schedule an appointment 870-367-9035.

Common Coping Responses for Stress - Topic Overview (2015-2016). Retrieved August 4, 2016 from:

-Cynthia Polk


Vera Lloyd Goes Back to School

Natalie Clark - Friday, July 29, 2016


It is almost that time of year again. School aged children, whether ready or not, will be going back to school. Some have relocated while others await new challenges and situations from attending a higher level school i.e., advancing to middle school or high school. Parents, educators and others need to be mindful of the difficult adjustments that some children face. Research has continuously proven that a variety of psychosocial, adjustment and health problems impact learning and performance in a profound way. Children and teenagers have the propensity to internalize some emotions which could lead to poor academic performance (School Mental Health Project, 2010).

The following are suggestions to follow to ease difficult adjustments.

1. Show that you care and are open to talking. Keep the communication lines open. A child needs to feel that others are receptive and understand.

2. Be physically and emotionally available to the child. Genuine interest in a child’s well-being requires face to face time (without distractions such as a cell phone).

3. Realize that simply listening is a crucial step. Everything does not have to be solved in one quick step.

4. Pay attention to your emotions as he/she relates to you. If the child confides in you, that displays trust.

5. Gauge a child’s response to how much help he/she wants. A child may want you to be very involved or just take a silent back seat approach (and be available when he/she decides).

6. When attempting to help formulate solutions, involve the child in his/her own approach. Don’t be demanding of the child to follow your rules and ways of approaching things.

7. Reinforce good sleeping, exercise and eating habits.

8. Encourage the utilization of positive coping skills. Ensure that the child engages in healthy, enjoyable activities that encourage good mental, emotional and physical health.

School Mental Health Project: Mental Health in Schools: An Overview (2010). Center for Mental Health in Schools. Retrieved July 29, 2016 from

- Cynthia Polk, Clinical Director, LCSW



Core Values know no season

Natalie Clark - Tuesday, July 12, 2016

In the last newsletter I wrote about Vera Lloyd’s number one Core Value…Love. In this issue I want to share with you how our other core values are reflected in summer activities.

Trust –Each home has a Nurture Group or circle of trust at least once a week where our youth talk about what one young lady referred to as “real issues”. The youth also receive instruction from staff on self-regulation.

Family –Families experience vacations and outings during the summer. Our youth have enjoyed a trip to Magic Springs, a week at Ferncliff Camp, and a visit to the Museum of History with their Vera Lloyd family.

Respect –Guitar lessons continue for our youth this summer. Learning to play the guitar requires respect for the instructor and each other, as well as discipline to practice.

Empowerment –Our first Junior Academy is taking place this summer, as part of the Transition Services curriculum. This program prepares juniors for their senior year and beyond. The goal is to teach personal responsibility and empower our youth for life after Vera Lloyd.

Love, Trust, Family, Respect and Empowerment…our core values know no season. Thanks to your support and our dedicated staff Vera Lloyd youth will have a summer to remember.


Donna Mahurin

Mental Health Month

Vera Lloyd - Monday, May 09, 2016


Take care of yourself during National Mental Health Month

by Cynthia Polk, Director, Laurence E. Schmidt Counseling Center

May is National Mental Health Month. Our mental well-being is a component of overall positive health. Life can get so busy juggling extra responsibilities and stressors. When it becomes excessive to the point of negatively influencing every day functioning, it may be time to consider seeing a counselor/therapist. Work, school, family life and other relationships can be impacted by unresolved stress.

According to a recent article in the Journal of Counseling Psychology (2016), many stigmas exist about seeking mental health counseling. A therapist? But I am not “crazy!” Other resistant mindsets include being strongly motivated to protect self-concept, minimizing issues, gender resistance, family, friend and co-worker attitudes, seeing it as a sign of weakness, being worried about confidentiality and not believing it will be effective.

Think of it as another confidante (who will not tell your business) and will provide advice and suggestions to promote positive living. Therapy can also promote improved inner peace, help identify goals, assist with learning new patterns of behavior, clarify the thoughts and feelings of self and others, and provide an impartial sounding board and a safe and friendly ear. 

If you are someone you know is feeling overwhelmed with life, I encourage them or yourself to make an appointment to see a licensed professional counselor. 

Lannin, D.G., Vogel, D. L., Brenner, R. E., Abraham, W.T., & Heath, P.J. (2016). Does self-stigma reduce the probability of seeking mental health information? Journal of Counseling Psychology: (63): 3-351-358. 

Three Vera Lloyd residents graduating this spring

Vera Lloyd - Monday, April 11, 2016

Spring is a busy time of year, especially for seniors in high school. Vera Lloyd’s three seniors are no exception. They recently enjoyed prom and have graduation coming up soon.

Like many other seniors, our girls are both excited and anxious about leaving home (Vera Lloyd).Our Transition Services Coordinator Tiara Miller just stepped in to her position in December, so she has focused a great deal of her attention on preparing these young ladies for their next chapter. They have toured colleges, technical schools, and transitional living programs, in addition to working on independent living skills and transition plans.

As you know, many seniors take a senior trip. The Vera Lloyd seniors do not usually have this opportunity, but Tiara has organized a Senior Retreat Trip for our girls. They will head to Fayetteville in early June to tour the University of Arkansas, explore other educational opportunities and have FUN visiting a place where they have never been. Thanks to a generous donor, they will have wonderful accommodations while in Northwest Arkansas.

Our Transition Services program is in its infancy, but we know that giving our youth a chance to explore education and career options beyond high school, master independent living skills and create support networks through mentor relationships will make a difference in their lives after Vera Lloyd. Our senior girls are looking forward to their future and we are looking forward to seeing them become successful adults.