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Bobbi and Dustin McDaniel promise an evening of hospitality and hope at Dinner on the Grounds to benefit Our House.

Bobbi and Dustin McDaniel promise an evening of hospitality and hope at Dinner on the Grounds to benefit Our House.

By Jillian McGehee | Photography by Sara Reeves | Shot on location at the home of Sharon & Johnny Bale

Inviting Arkansas

Friends introduced Bobbi and Dustin McDaniel to Our House – a shelter for the working homeless that offers residents, regardless of circumstances, a safe haven to establish and redefine their independence. Dustin, who served two terms as attorney general beginning in 2006, immediately recognized the invaluable role the organization plays in the community. “I was impressed with their approach to families,” he says. “It’s a place where they can be given an opportunity to restart their lives. It’s not just a place to sleep or eat. There’s childcare, job training, counseling, and there’s really an investment of time and effort for each client to reduce the likelihood of finding themselves in a shelter again. Our House clients are treated with such dignity.”

The couple will host this year’s Dinner on the Grounds to benefit Our House with plans to highlight the hospitality and hope that the organization provides to its residents. This evening of “Hospitality in Bloom,” reflects their perception of Our House and Dinner on the Grounds. Bobbi, who served as board president of a women’s shelter in Jonesboro when she met Dustin, adds that Our House is unique because it gives residents an opportunity to cultivate life skills. “And it does so in such a caring environment,” she says. “This event speaks to what Our House is all about. It’s not a black-tie formal event but all about warmth and a good, welcoming Southern supper.”

Proceeds from events like Dinner on the Grounds support the critical programs and services Our House offers, such as the Children’s Center, at no cost to clients, Executive Director Georgia Mjartan says. Under the McDaniels’ leadership, the event has already exceeded fundraising expectations. “More than $200,000 was raised and that doesn’t include ticket sales or auction proceeds,” Georgia says. “That’s amazing. We’ve never had that happen. Bobbi and Dustin are public servants through and through. With this event, they have brought all of their professional organizational capacity to break our fundraising goals.”

The welfare of the children at Our House is especially meaningful to the McDaniels. “The ‘ripple effect’ from services provided at the organization are dramatic and benefit generations to come,” says Dustin, who practices law at McDaniel, Richardson & Calhoun. “It’s hard to imagine being a child who has to wonder where he will sleep on any given night. Our House offers comfort to adults, but especially to children, and through various programs, these children are deterred from making bad decisions later in life.” The Children’s Center is a licensed child development center offering children – homeless, formerly homeless or those facing adversity – enrichment programs and on-site therapy programs for those who are developmentally delayed due to neglect or homelessness. “With this kind of long-term investment in kids, each one is more likely to become a productive member of the community rather than someone who is at risk for crime or other social problems,” Dustin says.

Dustin jokes that if Bobbi had a tattoo, it would say something about her love of children. She also serves on the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Auxiliary Board of Directors as well as the leadership board of Women & Children First. “Kids are our future and making their lives better and giving their families the tools to provide a good life for them is a top priority for me,” Bobbi says. Hence, it’s no wonder that the Children’s Center at Our House impresses her. “It’s wonderful to see children playing in a safe environment, toddlers napping and children receiving educational and socialization needs while their parents are getting the opportunity to restart. It helps them change their whole outlook on life and sets them up for better opportunities.”

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