JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - “I just came in here,” E.B. Johnson recalled her early days at Cornerstone Transition Home.
E.B. Johnson is writing a new chapter these days.
“This place changed my life,” Johnson said.
She’s now a house mom at the Cornerstone Transitional Home in Newport. But, her life went down a different path as a teenager.
“I was 13 years old and I didn’t have much guidance,” Davis said. “Got with an older man and was introduced to heroin.”
Six trips to prison...
“From 13 until 2018, 22 years,” Johnson explained.
And then she landed at Cornerstone.
“It was a God thing because it wasn’t where I wanted to come,” Johnson explained.
Without the vision of Bethany Davis... this facility almost didn’t happen.
“One of the ladies who is now the President of our Board of Directors, she messaged me and said, “‘What about Oakdale,’” Bethany Davis, February’s Gr8 Acts of Kindness winner, said.
Oakdale had been an assisted living facility. Davis, a longtime teacher in Newport and Jackson County, felt compelled to help the women incarcerated in the McPherson unit after hearing from Jennifer Smith.
“Her going back to see the ladies in the unit and hearing their stories and seeing the same thing that I’ve been watched the word capture her heart with that,” Jennifer Smith said.
“I had just said on the way home. ‘Lord, I don’t know what you’re going to ask me to do. But, whatever it is, I’m just going to tell you yes, now,’” Davis said.
But, how to find the money and Davis would have to quit her paying job, leaving steady income, benefits, and insurance for her family behind.
“God’s wanting us to step out on faith without seeing,” Davis said. “Cause that’s what faith is. It’s not seeing.”
She was just about to give up...
“People began to realize what we were doing and donations started coming in,” Davis said. “We were at $8,000. I went to work that day and I remember crying all the way to work. Cause I thought that I had missed it.”
Thinking she had missed the mark to make it happen.
“But, I went to open the post office box and there was one on below and it was for $2,000 that put us at $10,000 and that was confirmation to me that He did expect me to step out in faith.”
185 women have graduated from the program.
“They start with nothing and then, by the time, they leave here, they have full-time employment,” Lynn Leonard, staff member since 2019, said. “Most of them have a vehicle or are trying to get a vehicle. They have their forms of ID.”
But, one was unable to leave.
Rebecca Larch had mouth cancer.
It eventually spread to her lungs and spine.
She passed away and now her name appears on a new Cornerstone outreach program: Rebecca’s House of Hope located near downtown Newport.
Work is underway to turn it into a soup kitchen and that’s where we were able to pull off one very big.... “Surprise!” A crowd has assembled, and they all yelled, “Surprise!”
“Bethany Davis, you are the next winner in the Gr8 Acts of Kindness. 400 hundred, five, six, seven, eight. 408 dollars!”
Money that Davis says will go right back into Rebecca’s House of Hope which also features a clothing closet.
“I want to say thank you for everything you do for our community and for these wonderful women,” Billy Keedy, First Community Bank, said.
“Thank you for what you do to make this a better place,” Allen Williams, First Community Bank, told Davis.
“It’s a labor of love,” David Daniel, First Community Bank, sad. “You can tell that.”
“This is what I walked out in...these pants and my socks and shower shoes,” Chelsea Watson said. She just left prison today.
So, her first articles of clothing will come from here.
“I am looking for some clothes so hopefully I can get a job real soon and to work,” Watson said.
Hope for a better tomorrow, thanks to the dedication of Bethany Davis.
“We’ve watched Moms get custody of their kids back,” Davis explained. “So, now we have Cornerstone kids.”
What an incredible difference Bethany Davis has made in Jackson County!
If you know someone like her, nominate them for the Gr8 Acts of Kindness.