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The story of nonprofit Immerse Arkansas begins with the story of a girl named Meagan, who was aging out of foster care.
A victim of horrific child abuse, she had lived in 50 different foster care placements between ages 12 and 18. The day after legal adulthood arrived, she landed at the bus station in North Little Rock with one bag of clothes, one night’s worth of bipolar disorder medication and a bus ticket to reach relatives in Fort Smith who hadn’t seen her in years.
Eric Gilmore and his wife, Kara, house parents at a group home, saw Meagan off at the station, and began asking questions.
“Why isn’t somebody doing something?” was quickly followed by “Can we do something?” And the Gilmores were on their way to creating an organization to help youths and young adults in crisis. “Many people jumped in to create a solution,” Eric Gilmore said, “and this is how Immerse came to be.”
Now, at a center on Asher Avenue in Little Rock, youngsters 14 to 24 can come for help, “and they don’t have to jump through a bunch of hoops.” The assistance starts with basics like food and clothing, showers and laundry facilities. “Then they get paired with a coach to put together a life plan, a job, stable housing, therapy and a path to putting the pieces of their life together.”
Immerse also has houses and apartments where young people can transition into adulthood.
The nonprofit has served roughly 300 young people in the past 12 months. It offers housing and apartments for foster children turning 18, and provides focus to help them get and keep a job, finish their education, and maintain physical and mental health.
The nonprofit has some 100 volunteers and expects to break ground this spring on a 7,265-SF shelter in Little Rock, with plans on the drawing board for another five sites around the state. The nonprofit surpassed its fundraising goal of $4.1 million in 2021.
“I want the young people we serve to be treated the way I want my kids to be treated,” Gilmore said, “with love, respect and a relentless pursuit of what’s best for them.”