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

by Randy Wilburn
June 14th 2021

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support for this episode comes from signature bank of Arkansas. Founded here in Northwest Arkansas in 2000 and five, 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 479684 47 100 or visit their website, signature dot bank and let them know you heard about them here. First on the I am Northwest Arkansas podcast, signature bank of Arkansas is a member of the F D I C and an equal housing lender. Yeah, 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 Wilbur. Hey folks, welcome to another episode of I am Northwest Arkansas, I'm your host, Randy will Burn and I'm excited to be here today. I'm sitting in front of Miss Stacey harper and Stacy is, she is the proprietor or founder of Lighthouse Solutions and they are a really cool organization that I learned about through my man Nate walls. And you know, most of you have heard me talk about Nate in the past and Nate is has secondhand smoke barbecue and second helping N W A. And Nate is really just since this pandemic started, he has really, he uncovered the issue with folks that are struggling when it comes to food insufficiency and he has just thrown his whole heart and his whole back into serving people in the most unique way ever.

And I know there are a lot of people out there that are doing that Northwest Arkansas but Nate is certainly one of those individuals and he is making a difference. But it's always interesting to see people that make a difference attract other people that are making a difference. And Stacy harper is one of those people. So without further do I want to welcome Stacey harper to the I am Northwest Arkansas podcast. How are you? I'm doing well, randi, thank you for having me. Oh absolutely, this is exciting. So you know, I told you this before we started, as we always do on the I? M Northwest Arkansas podcast. We always try to get an individual superhero origin story because we are all superheroes. So I'd love for you just to share with our I am Northwest Arkansas audience, your background and how you got to where you are now. Okay. I want to do it really quickly because it's so long. But you know a long story short, I started out working for walmart at a very young age as assistant manager in Georgia. That's all I've ever known is management, you know, getting my stuff done, write ups, higher fire all these things that come along with retail management.

And so I was a vision center manager for walmart, stay with walmart for about five years in the state of Georgia, then transitioned on into brand co managing for express. And then I became a mother, you know, moved to Maryland with my daughter's father and I 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 I was working and you know how you just try to bring in clients, especially business clients. And one day this particular lady comes in and she's telling me about the work that she does and it was surrounded around human service, workforce development and just just getting to know her. And 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 at teaching your clients on just sustainability and just reframing your life.

And she was like, well let me ask my manager and see if you can come in and you know, talk and things of that nature. Well she did, she came back, 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 just, you know, women that, you know, we're in the on 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 at this program is 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, left Suntrust and I never looked back and I started volunteering my time. And eventually I started working as the director over this program over the job readiness services as well as the continuing education. It's kind of like a principle, you know, over adults that we're 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? Okay that's been my mantra for a very long time. And I created my own I created my own company. Never looked back. And this has been a blessing where since 2000 and 12 I started working in the inner cities of D. C. 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 and dance and fitness. And yes I have a 21 year dance background and I just started working with Children because I said and 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. You know with Children you know you can just get in front of them and they instantly, you know, are conforming 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. You know, I taught my daughter at the age of four, out to be my assistant coach and we hit the stages in D. C. Maryland and Virginia. And the life just began. Life began and I started really understanding the true definition of humanity and just being the voice to the voiceless once again. And I decided to start working within the state of Arkansas with my sister, who was already here and we started working in our hometown Lewisville Arkansas, which is five miles from where my Angelo stamps? Yeah, I was raised as a little girl. So let me ask you a question about that growing up there. Did you, were you aware of my Angelo? Obviously 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? I didn't know the history. I did not know the history of my Angela until I was older. You know, they don't, they didn't talk about it in the schools where, you know, I grew up at all. And as I got older, that's when I started to understand who she was.

I was, I didn't become a poet until like my late thirties, you know, in life, like I doubted it in college, but nothing to this magnitude, you know, 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 what we couldn't understand, you know, is it everyone was just walking in fear in that area and nothing was changing. It was like nothing, the old was not recycling out and the new was not coming in, you know? And so it's just it's beautiful to know that it now listening to her poetry. I can understand everything that she was talking about. One of is that when she used to say when a white person would say something to her and it was offensive. She would just t he he and grin. I've had to t he he and grand for a very long time. So I understand the root of that statement, you know?

Um Well, I mean Maya had such a way with words and she was a wordsmith in terms of her ability to take a word and wrap it around your brain. And I think that's, you know, I, I remember somebody actually telling me a story recently about, you know, that she was supposed to come here and speak and this was like, right before she, she got really sick and she had agreed, she told David johnson, the head of the faithful public library, that y'all come and speak and I think tickets sold out in like 28 minutes or something crazy like that. And I said, man, I wish I had been here for that. But of course it never happened because she was unable to, but you know, she was actually really big about giving back to her state, where she was born and where she grew up. And, and I just think the stories that she had to tell, you know, and you you see so much of Arkansas in between the lines of, I know why the caged bird sings and and so many others. So you know, and of course this is not a podcast about Maya, but I mean certainly, you know 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. Oh absolutely, I mean I strive to to dance in the wordplay that she used. I mean that's my goal is to represent myself the same way, you know, because it's real, it's real time talk, it's what she experiences what I experienced. You know, growing up in southwest Arkansas, you know, you see a lot and you have to t he he and grin a lot. Well you obviously done well for yourself and you, you know, you certainly, as I like to say, you didn't allow grass to grow under your feet because you have really built some things up. And as I said earlier, one of the reasons why I wanted to connect with you and one of the things that we like to do here at the I am Northwest Arkansas podcast is, is to highlight organizations and people that are doing unique things here in the area. And so you've 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 kind of like the overarching umbrella, overarching umbrella if you will for kids, teens and adults and you could, you kind of walk us through how you, you know, you came up with that and I love your slogan, see a need fill a need, right?

It's like, you know, so you don't you don't wait to ask for permission to do something about that. You're like, oh, you see a problem, you're going to solve it or come up with a solution. And so you've certainly done that. I would love for you just to kind of tell our audience a little bit about lighthouse solutions and all that you do. Okay, Well, yeah, so like I said, started with extreme achievers and really didn't know that it was gonna birth into what it is now. You know, Lighthouse solutions is the five oh one C three. We became a five oh one C three back in 2000 and 15 here and the whole mission is to bridge gaps between resources and the community. There's a lot of 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 and see any felony. So many times we come to the table and we'll tell 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 any 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 any felony came about. You know, 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, you know? And so the programs that we focus on, we focus on youth enrichment which is our arts and education program and that's extreme achievers things. Two years ago we started working within the federal public School for the Pre K department and my P. E. Program, it's 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 it was beautiful because I'm teaching Children how to compete with their peers in a positive way, you know? And then we added art into the blend, you know, get the kids to open up and express themselves. I work a lot with my sister Lakisha Bradley with my T by design. We've been in this thing for a very long time. And so under the youth enrichment program is merging art and recreation Together we serve the ages of 4 to 13 years of age under extreme achievers. And then our second program is Dream Big, which is our teen workforce development program. Our team workforce development program really focuses a lot on teams that are at risk, teens that have barriers, teams that are on probation, teams that are incarcerated, you know, teens that you are on probation because they don't go to school for whatever reason. Okay, so we work a lot within the benton in Washington County, you know, 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. A lot of times 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 mighty by design will come in, she'll get him to talk, open up, draw on the canvas and then I can come in and I can actually write a resume based off your canvas. Yes, so we have one of the most highlighted programs I think in benton County where all the kids want to come into our program now, we've been doing that now for four years, wow and it gives new meaning to art therapy. Absolutely. It's an alternative way, a second layer of healing people don't think, I don't know why, I mean, I think a lot of times, because so many people look at things logically, our, you know, from one side of the brain versus the other, that 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, you know, you're a little pain is going to get outside the lines, they're going to be, you know, you're gonna miss or make some mistakes with certain interpretations of how you paint something or design it. And I think in the same way, the way that young people are growing up these days, really, it's everything, we want, everything to be so structured because we want to kind of keep kids within a certain confined space. But the reality is is that, you know, kids are pliable there, Moldable, they're amenable to change. And you know, they are at least I see it in my kids. They have an ability to figure out something once they've made a mistake, overcome it and then course correct and you know what I'm saying and that's, that's the key thing and I know you're doing a lot of that through the sessions that you provide and I know what's needed, I mean, it's it's needed here in Northwest Arkansas, just like it's needed all over the country, but because this young just gen z it specifically, but that this group of kids, I mean these guys are about to come out and wreck the world and you know, they iterate faster.

They think faster, but they process a lot of information yet, you know, I know they get a bad rap with social media and a lot of other things, but you know, that's what they're dealing with, right? And so but I believe that they will be able to overcome a lot of the challenges that many young people you know, face because of, you know, programs like yours Absolutely. Our programming is so advantageous to the soul. You know, 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 would I go through. Okay. And that's the way I treat everyone, you know, and our programming. When I write content, it's just all about, you know, my experiences, my barriers that I grew up with, okay, you're looking at somebody that was mute at a young age, you know, I didn't speak that much because I was afraid if I spoke too much, I was going to tell my business, it's gonna get some people that draw born stopped by, I didn't speak a lot and I wasn't the best student, it wasn't an academic achiever, you know, it took me a little longer to learn, you know and teachers back then they 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, okay, you got to be in it, I got to touch it, see it, feeling I got the dance in it, I got to do all of that in order 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. Yeah, man, I don't even know if we have time on this, talk about that, that's a whole different. But no seriously though, I think it's important because anybody listening to this that you know, maybe struggling with a teenager or a youngster in your house and you can't connect with them for one reason or the other. A lot of times 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 to operate within it, right, And that's the thing and I kind of 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 and my kids are you know, they're good students, but they are very artistically inclined.

My father was an artist, I have some artistic ability. I mean, you know, I do what I do here and you know, I found that the outlets that were 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 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 can only play like 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 want 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 there in when those kids are given the opportunity to fully evaluate who they are in terms of their creativity, you'd be surprised. You probably won't recognize them what they're able or capable of doing. Absolutely.

That was me, you know, and that's why I take, 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, they worked every day all day and you know, it wasn't that they had the money to put us in those extra curricular activities. We had to do extra curricular activities through the school that was already paid for. And that's, we're dealing with a target market that, yes, their parents are the same way maybe single parent households, you know that 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. You know, 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 L. P. G. A. You 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, you know, tuition. So I had to take a class before I actually got on the team because I played a lot, you know, and the coaches like you're not getting on my team until you take a class and you, you know, get serious, so I did and my sister and I was 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 during that and you know, through that world, my sister continued to play golf with walmart because she worked for walmart and you know, I'll dabble in every now and again, but people knew we played golf and it was 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 ark and kids up here.

And for one week they do a tour around Northwest Arkansas and they talked to a lot of business owners, we partner with walmart, we go into the David glass building to understand technology. We're, it's a world of career exploration. Okay. 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, you have five seconds, give your elevator pitch, why 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, we get to ride around in a Mercedes sprinter, Why do we do that? We do that because this is what I'm tired of. I'm tired of people saying dream big, dream big and you make 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 gonna show you how to dream big, so I'm gonna show you what it feels like to ride in a Mercedes sprinter because you can, I'm gonna show you what it looks like to eat at a club house because you can't, I'm gonna 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 whole, entire weekend, we have had some kids to change their life.

We've had over now about 35 kids go through that program for five years. So we hand pick our kids and we're gonna do it this year. So you know, we're going to put that out there that we're looking for about eight, 29 kids. But this time you're going to have to do probably about a 62nd video of why you think you want to be a dreamer because that's what they're calling dreamers. Yeah, but we do a lot guys, we do a lot with our youth because they need that proper guidance. Okay? And we are here for it and we are ready to show up for it. Okay. And um, our last program is trails of love, my sister and I have been partners since 2000 and 12 with trails of love and just got a great opportunity through someone at walmart that knew what we were doing in the community. And we started doing back to school events in Southwest Arkansas to where we had over like 203 100 people, 400 people coming out yearly. And it evolved into doing christmas giveaways. And so now we do christmas events this year because of the pandemic, we had to do a drive through, so the families had to drive through, but we partnered with Federal Police Department, Federal Fire Department and we partner 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 because there is no judgment here and we treat people the way we were treated when we were growing up, it was always a party at our house. We were 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, you know, because we're already going through enough as it is, you know, and a lot of organizations sometimes, you know, you go in and it's so 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 in 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. Yeah, that's a big one without proper services that are meeting the needs of our target market. And really, you know, looking at them as a whole in treating them like a human, because we've all been through some things, you cannot sustain their emotions. It's hard. You can 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 and to the core of why are you here? How can I help you? I'll treat you as though you are my family, then we 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. Yeah, that's and I always, I always liken that to like dealing with the whole person, you know, not just one aspect of them. Yeah, you struggle with financial fitness fine, we can deal with that, but let's look at the bigger issue, right?

What's what's, 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, it could be, you know, you may be dealing with issues with generational or lack of lack of, you know, 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 was in my family. And I always tell people like all that stuff can be overcome and, you know, once you deal with the root issue and then and then get some proper knowledge and education and I mean you guys are certainly doing that. If anybody is listening to this today, and they say, man, 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, you know, organizations are connecting with you, finding out what you're doing and you know, you guys are like, it's not like you're the best kept secret. But yeah, there's a lot of people that may not be aware of what you guys are doing. And I hope this platform, this podcast gives you some more exposure. But what would you want to say to somebody who's thinking, man, I need to figure out a way to partner up with with those guys there and at at Lighthouse Solutions and see if we can do something together.

Yeah, absolutely. Well, first thing you can go to our website, you know, which is www dot l H solutions dot org. You can find us on social media at lighthouse solutions on instagram and lighthouse solutions on Fed ville. I'm not, I'm sorry, I'm talking about Fed ville facebook, sorry. But but yeah, on facebook, not hard to find. You guys can look me up Stacy harper on facebook, you know, and just stay connected with us. Also email us at donate at L H solutions dot org, email us and say, hey, heard you on the podcast and doing some really good work. And we partner, we're always looking to connect and um increase the amount of resources that are out there, especially during this pandemic and awareness, but and you know, whether people are listening to this now or they're listening to this a year from now when the pandemic is hopefully passed us by.

And we've gotten some herd immunity using air quotes there because we got a ways to go to get to herd immunity, but we'll get there. You know, I think you should definitely reach out to Stacy and and uh and her sister Lakisha and find out what these guys are up to and they're doing some great things. And if you come to her space, which is right here on Sun bridge, right around the corner from Brahms off North College, you know, there's a big sign out front that says the connector and that's what they are doing, their 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 time to to come on this this podcast and share a little bit of your story. Absolutely guys like Randy said the connector, you know, to nonprofit organizations coming together. Second helping nw eight Nate walls lighthouse solution shoutout to Nate. We're in the same office space and write down from us is Lakisha Bradley at mighty by design, therapeutic art studio.

And we all came together because we could increase the services, you know, during the pandemic and after the pandemic because we're still going to need these essential services, you know, and it's just all about making the right connection. Okay, 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. You're getting out there Nate walls knocking on those doors, you know, helping people frontline staff member uncovering needs and bringing that back to us. And we're figuring out the solution to help fulfill those needs. So man, make sure you guys check us out. We're here at the connector office on bridge. Well, that's great. I really appreciate that. And we'll make sure we put everything in the show notes that you'll be able to find it.

I am Northwest Arkansas dot com and we'll put in the actual episode number and all that good stuff. But you don't have any problems connecting with Stacy and the rest of her team here or even connecting with Nate who's been on this podcast before. And uh, well, certainly even put in contact information for her sister Lakisha and her organization right down the road here. So again, we wanted to just thank you so much for creating a space for people to dream, creating a space for people to eat. I mean to do all those things, right 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, thank you for having me and it's always the who I am is the, what I am and what I am is me. Therefore I define the I am because christ lives within me, you know, so I am Northwest Arkansas stand up, thank you so much randi like that.

Hey, I have to use that you guys like I got goosebumps hearing you say that, so you know, and I never put those two together, although I am is is such a yeah, you know, as above, so below you know. Absolutely. So that's what I am. Yeah and and honestly I've been, I've been trying to serve this community with this podcast, so yeah, absolutely. I love that. Thank you so much for your blessing me. I hope the audience was as blessed as I was. So thank you so much, appreciate it. Take care. Thank you, yep. 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 I am Northwest Arkansas dot com. You can listen to this podcast and sign up for our free newsletter to keep up with us and all things in W. A 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 podcasts. Our podcast comes out every monday. I'm your host, Randy will Burn and we'll see you back here next week for another episode of the I am Northwest Arkansas podcast piece.

We hope you enjoyed this episode of I am Northwest Arkansas. Check us out each and every week available anywhere that great podcasts can be found for show notes or more information on becoming a guest visit. I am Northwest Arkansas dot com. We'll see you next week on I am Northwest Arkansas. Uh huh. Mhm.

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