Breaking Into the News: Media Literacy in the Digital Age

16700547_1282676498466641_6939204457640759670_oImage by Emily Young of Dog Ear Books

When: Saturday April 8th 5:00-7:00 p.m.

Where: Dog Ear Books, 301 West Main Street, Russellville, AR 72801

What:  Breaking Into the News: Media Literacy in the Digital Age, a Community Skill Share

RSVP by clicking here. 

Join Dog Ear Books, Voices of the Valley, and McElroy House: Organization for Cultural Resources for an interactive community forum discussing media literacy in the digital age.The panel will feature local print, radio and television journalists discussing how to identify reputable news sources versus clickbait and fake news; the importance of identifying opinion pieces versus new stories, and resources for finding and supporting responsible investigative reporting. Panelists will also touch on the ethics of journalism and share their own personal stories of why they are dedicated to this work at the local level. Participants will leave with information on importance of supporting ethical reporting and specific ways to do so. While we tend to think of media in terms of national networks, panelists will outline why local journalism is equally essential. An open community discussion will follow the panelists remarks.

This Community Skill Share is supported by funding from Alternate ROOTS and is part of our year long series of events focusing on what it means to call a place home.




Drew Brent is the owner of Brent Media Properties and the Local Rundown. His career has spanned twelve years, with stops in print, television, and radio.

Drew began his career in Russellville at River Valley Radio in 2005 as a producer. He moved quickly, taking on co-host duties for “GSC Gameplan” on 103.7 The Buzz, and providing play-by-play for statewide high school football broadcasts.

Drew was hired as a sports producer by KATV in 2007. He would fill a variety of roles at KATV, including producing news and sports, editing, and  spearheading   He moved back to sports radio in 2009, hosting “The Sports Guys on KUOA 105.3 in Fayetteville.

He would continue in sports play-by-play as the lead commentator for the Arkansas and Oklahoma state football championships, commentator for the Great American Conference, and has been on the Heartland Conference Championship broadcast crew the last two years, this year being promoted to lead analyst.

Drew has been published in Arkansas Sports 360 (Arkansas Business), has appeared for 40/29 ABC in Fayetteville, and has freelanced video for major networks including CNN and ESPN. He has hosted radio shows on the Arkansas Radio Network, contributed for the Arkansas Razorback Sports Network, and currently owns and serves as the operations manager of The Local Rundown.

Billy Reeder has worked in broadcast news, served as a municipal public information officer, consulted on national advertising campaigns and served as the state director of communication for the Arkansas Conference of the United Methodist Church. Currently he resides as a tenured assistant professor of multimedia journalism at Arkansas Tech University where he teaches multimedia journalism, visual storytelling, and documentary film making. He continues to travel extensively consulting on social media and branding. Billy holds a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and an M.A. in Multimedia Communication.

Melissa Lea Simpson is an award winning crime reporter formally with The Morning News of Rogers. She also worked over three years in circulation with The Northwest Arkansas Edition of the Democrat Gazette and the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. She has also freelanced for several local publications. She holds a dual BA in political science and journalism from The University of West Florida. She currently works for a local nonprofit, the mother to a 2 year old and native of Arkansas.

Travis Simpson is an award-winning journalist and photographer. He has worked for The Courier in Russellville for almost five years and has nearly a decade of professional writing experience.

Moderator:  Meredith Martin-Moats works with the McElroy House and is a former radio journalist and freelance writer.


Plant Drawing Class, Making Non-Toxic Bug Sprays, Building Healthy Soil: An Afternoon in the Garden


Artist and Farmer Kim Doughty-McCannon will lead the plant drawing classes!

What:  An Afternoon in the Garden: Drawing Plants with artist and farmer Kim Doughty-McCannon and Talking Soil and Gardening with heirloom gardener, Debe Hudson.

Where: McElroy House, 420 S. 2nd Dardanelle, AR 72205

When:  March 25th 2:00 p.m. -5:00 p.m.

Contact: 479-957-0551

See the facebook invite/RSVP by clicking here. 

This is part of our yearlong series of workshops and skill shares exploring the concept of home.

We will be making original art to be taken home and/or showcased in our community art show this coming summer.


Calendar made by Kim!

Artist and farmer Kim Doughty-McCannon will offer free plant illustration classes in our garden using our brand new art supplies purchased with funding from our Alternate ROOTS art grant.

Native plant grower Debe Hudson will be on hand at the “Ask a Grower Booth,” and will be there to teach us about building up organic soil, creating non toxic bug sprays, and answer any questions you have about your own garden.  

We’ll have free seeds to give away and our resource library will be open, you can check out our portraits of gardeners on the wall, and we’ll also have snacks on hand. We’d love to meet you and hear about your own garden!

This is part of our year long series funded by Alternate ROOTS, focusing on what makes this place home. Join us each month for interactive workshops and creation events. Help us build beloved community!

AND a Visitor from Utah!

Nelda will be visiting from Utah, and has agreed to do a short presentation and share information and resources with the community while visiting. She’ll be presenting around 4:00, but she will be at the event from 2:00-5:00, so stop in and say hello!

More on Nelda: Nelda Ault-Dyslin has worked and volunteered with refugees and immigrants for eleven years. In 2014, she helped create the Cache Refugee and Immigrant Connection, a non-profit in her hometown of Logan, UT. CRIC’s volunteers assist Cache Valley’s 300-400 refugees through education and connection to community resources. Last year, CRIC volunteers logged over 1,000 hours of service. Nelda has a master’s degree in Folk Studies from Western Kentucky University, where she studied community education and the importance of culture and communities. She currently works at Utah State University as the community service coordinator in the Val R. Christensen Service Center.

More on our skillshare leaders:

Kim Doughty-McCannon is an Arkansas GardenCorps site supervisor for the Faulkner County Urban Farm Project in Conway and she is starting her own urban farm in Conway with husband Zack. Nature and gardens are the major sources of inspiration for her artwork. You can see examples of her work online at and learn more about her farm, Bell Urban Farm, at

Debe Hudson created A B C Nature Greenhouse and Herb Farm in 1998. From Debe: “We started with orchids and herbs.In 2006, we changed over to all edible plants. We grow organically and don’t believe in using any pesticides, insecticides or herbicides of any kind. WE only use the IPMS system in which good bugs are used to eat the bad bugs.

We grew lots of herbs: culinary, medicinal, curative aromatic, and spices. We are now only a seasonal greenhouse and only grow things for gardens. Tomatoes and peppers are the primary plants; plus herbs and a very few spices.”

The Nature of Here: Touchstones and Resources from Johnny’s Talk


Johnny talks at the McElroy House

Our February Living Room Conversation featured Johnny Sain, author of the site A View from the Backroads and assistant director at the Arkansas Wildlife Federation.

His talk was entitled the Nature of Here, and explored what it means to call a place home.

From Johnny’s description:

A “sense of place” is best described as recognizing the identity and character of a location. It’s an understanding of what makes here “here.” Various aspects such as flora, fauna, topography, climate, and history can all contribute to the distinct aura of the place you call home. An awareness of place is the foundation of culture. But sadly, this awareness is dwindling.


People at the gathering looking through the resources Johnny brought.

He shared stories about how he went from being a young hunter posting photos of dead animals to appreciating the seasons as a spiritual practice grounded in a concept of land and home.

One of the most powerful parts of his talk was how he walked through all the steps it took for him to get to the world view he has today. He talked about childhood, killing his first animals with bb guns, being a hog farmer, going back to school, and his slow walk to becoming a writer. It was an interactive discussion, with everyone contributing their own stories and questions to the mix.

From Johnny:

The key to resolving many of our environmental issues is understanding and appreciating our relationship to place. This can be accomplished by once again becoming aware. It really is as simple as opening our eyes and ears, of taking a deep breath and savoring the flavors. From this awareness will spring humility and gratitude. And establishing this deep, even emotional connection is how we will protect, preserve and even enhance what is left of our natural world.

Below is a list of books and resources Johnny shared as touchstones along his journey. We’d love to have these books on hand, so if you have spare copies lying around you’d like to donate, we’ll take them!

Ecology, nature writing, a sense of place, hunting/fishing as a natural human act, natural heritage, etc.

~A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold
~A Rough Sort of Beauty From U of A Press

Heartsblood by David Petersen

~Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey

~ The Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game by Paul Shepherd

~With Respect for Nature by J. Claude Evans

~ Walden by HD Thoreau

Scots-Irish culture:

~ Albion’s Seed by David Hacket Fischer

~ Cracker Culture by Grady McWhiney

~ Ozark Magic and Folklore by Vance Randolph


~ Anything by Mary Oliver Anything by Gary Snyder

In recent year’s Johnny has become a well-known nature and wildlife writer. Here are a few of some of his best pieces.

Read more of Johnny’s writings here:

“Through my veins” Hatch magazine.
 “So what do the creeks mean to you, Johnny?” The documentary producer asked me this question while we were standing on the banks of Big Creek in Newton County, Arkansas, while videoing a segment for his upcoming documentary.


“A Personal Rewilding” Hatch magazine

Click here to read:

“If you don’t know who Aldo Leopold was, please, stop reading and do a Google search. I’m not kidding. If you’re into fish and wildlife and healthy ecosystems and how biological systems — from the formation of proteins on up to the biosphere — hinge on one another to encourage and enable life on this…”

“Hallelujah” – ABOUT…the River Valley Online

 Throaty hoots of a great horned owl echo through the trees as I swig the last lukewarm coffee and gently close the truck door. Hunting license — check. Shotgun — check. Pocketful of shells — check. Apple and water bottle — check. Keys slide into a front pocket and into the dark woods I go. …


“The New Normal” –Hatch magazine

August in Arkansas. Lawns dried to a crispy, dusty brown. Bathwater lake temperatures, creeks cinched down to trickling riffles with pools full of hungry smallmouth bass. Day after day of 95-105 degree sunshine, which seems a damn near impossible combination with the ungodly and stifling humidity …”

“Work of the Quiet Mountains” | Arkansas Life
  In Newton County, there is the rugged terrain and native culture. But there are also devotees of Buddhism and an aging population of back-to-the-landers, all of whom have come from far-flung places. And somehow, they fit together

“Last Word” | Arkansas Life

Chocolate-milk-colored seeps and tinkling rocky rivulets no wider than a long stride are the most persuasive. I know the denizens of those tiny waters, and they call as well. They whisper of a time that seems not long ago when all I wanted could be found at the end of a long dirt drivew…
“Little Lives of the Creek”
My first memories of a creek trace back to Hacker Creek. As water runs its course, Hacker transforms it from the spirited rapids of the Ozark Mountains to the somber brown might of the Arkansas River. Topography is the deciding influence for any creek’s personality, and Hacker reflects the gentler r…


“A Sense of Place on Your Plate” – ABOUT…the River Valley Online
Fire and meat. Is there a pairing more quintessentially human than fire and meat? The hunks of whitetail tenderloin in front of me just came off the grill. Seasoned with garlic, salt, pepper, cumin and just a dash of crushed red pepper they were every bit as mouth-watering delicious as they looked.…

 About Johnny:


Johnny Sain is an Atkins native who now lives in Dover. He’s a hunter, writer, editor, and environmentalist and has been referred to as a “philosophical hillbilly.”  You can read of his writings via his site, A View from the Backroads. 




All Hands on Deck Weaving: Sunday Afternoons at the McElroy House


Jeannie shows a visitor how to knit.

This year all of our skill shares and workshops will focus on the concept of HOME. Thanks to a generous grant from Alternate ROOTS, we are able to fund more artisans, artists, and speakers to come offer classes and workshops.

Every Sunday we are offering All Hands on Deck weaving, a knitting and crochet circle open to everyone. We’ll supply you with yarn and any other tools you need to get started. We also open up our library, we have free wifi, and our garden is started to bloom!

Jeanie had this to say about the Sunday gatherings:

Funny, but the living room conversations take me back to when I was growing up and my family would travel across town to spend a good chunk of the day visiting another family whose mother was my mother’s best friend. It has been about forty years since I last visited with my sisters and parents. Both my parents and one sister have already passed, but those relationships I have with that family are still going strong. Those children I grew up with are like my own siblings. When I visit those elderly parents, we share memories of my parents and my sister. I have never had relationships like that in my life. The living room conversations remind me that it takes a long time to build relationships, but it is that connecting that defines home.

As with everything we do at the McElroy House, there are multi-layered goals. Bringing yarns together can mean many things. Come join us in creating a web.

Together we can build beloved community and support all our neighbors!

Click here to RSVP!

An Afternoon of Home: Poetry, Pies, and a Conversation with Hunter Johnny Sain



Hunter, environmentalist and writer Johnny Sain will lead a discussion entitled “The Nature of Here.

Join us Saturday February 18th for an afternoon of events!

~ 3:00 Poetry and Pies: An intergenerational poetry workshop with yummy pies

~ 5:00: The Nature of Here: A Conversation with Hunter Johnny Sain.


The details:


We’ll begin at 3:00 with an interactive workshop on poetry and pies. Samantha Dill, local educator, will lead a poetry activity, “How Do You Turn Yourself Into a Poem?” This is an all ages activity for children and elders alike. During the workshop you can enjoy some locally made pies and hear the stories behind them!

Beginning at 5:00 we’ll host a potluck and community conversation with local hunter and writer Johnny Sain.


Johnny Sain is an Atkins native who now lives in Dover. He’s a hunter, writer, editor, and environmentalist and has been referred to as a “philosophical hillbilly.” He’ll be leading an open community conversation on the importance of what makes this place home. From Johnny:


A “sense of place” is best described as recognizing the identity and character of a location. It’s an understanding of what makes here “here.” Various aspects such as flora, fauna, topography, climate, and history can all contribute to the distinct aura of the place you call home. An awareness of place is the foundation of culture. But sadly, this awareness is dwindling.


The key to resolving many of our environmental issues is understanding and appreciating our relationship to place. This can be accomplished by once again becoming aware. It really is as simple as opening our eyes and ears, of taking a deep breath and savoring the flavors. From this awareness will spring humility and gratitude. And establishing this deep, even emotional connection is how we will protect, preserve and even enhance what is left of our natural world.


Potluck will begin at 5:00 with the conversation starting around 5:30. Bring a peanut free dish to share or just bring yourself. Kids always welcome. Please let us know in advance so we make sure to have enough room!

Call 479-957-0551 for more information


Links to the fb invites:

These events are part of our year-long series focusing on the theme of HOME.  Thanks so much to Alternate ROOTS for helping us fund these events and give money back to the community.

Growing a Garden, Carving Out a Space: A Review of 2016


We got our start waaaaaaay back in 2008.

But it wasn’t until 2015 that we began offering events and programming at the house.

2016 was our first year to offer open doors and programing all year long! Thanks to funds raised from our second annual Harvest Run, we built a garden, offered numerous skill shares, opened our doors for community conversations and workshops, partnered with other places and organizations to host community conversations around the region, grew our cloth diaper bank, collected seeds to give away, produced a small amount of food that we used both in our events and gave away to neighbors, and so much more.

We know we haven’t been great at posting here regularly. We are a totally volunteer run organization, staffed by caregivers with full time jobs. Things move at a turtle pace. But still they move. And here we are.

It’s February and we’re now starting our 2017 events. Our core goals will be to continue to provide the community with hands on skills and a space for conversations and planning that build up “beloved community.” We hope you will join us. We need one another now more than ever. Support our work here. 

Take a look and see what we did last year.

December 2015

Second Annual Harvest Run


Marie Williams organizes our run and the 2015 Harvest Run brought in 1,300.00! It was our biggest fundraiser yet. In January we met as a group to allocate this budget and make it last for the entire year. We are so grateful for everyone who took part and helped us raise this money!  The run was held at beautiful Bona Dea Trail and Sanctuary in Russellville, Arkansas. Bryan Moats designed our t-shirt for the run, which featured our plant symbol, the yarrow.Want to know more about why we love yarrow? Read about the backstory here. 

Check out this photo montage below!

2016: Here’s what we did with your support!


Open House and Healing Herb Skill Share


Kristin Simmons shares information on chickens, herbs, and her families famous cold remedies.

We started off the year with a skill share and open house. It was led by Kristin Simmons, RN, BSN and entitled, Plants Heal Too!

Here’s our description of this event:

“An insightful look into easily grown and maintainable herbs with medicinal properties. We will also hold a workshop on how to make an old family herbal recipe to tackle the common cold and fever.” Simmons and her family live in Dover and raise chickens and plants. She brought homemade batches of her families famous healing herbal cough medicine. We now have the recipe on hand and you can come get one!

People left with a recipe for Kristin’s family’s traditional cold medicine and a fresh batch to try at home.

A few photos from the gathering



Reducing Incarceration Rates in Arkansas, a Community Conversation with Seeds of Liberation

In February we partnered with Omavi Shakur and Seeds of Liberation to host this conversation at the Cavern in Russellville. Seeds of Liberation is “an organization working alongside Arkansas’ marginalized communities to create a just, equitable and empowering means for addressing crime through policy research, community education and amplifying the voices of the formerly incarcerated.”

Arkansas has one of the highest incarceration rates in the nation. Once incarcerated, former felons—urban and rural, men and women—find it hard to gain employment and build back their lives.

Shukur is the author of the recent article, “Prisons, Profit, and Politics: How Arkansas Politicians “Fixed” a System That Wasn’t Broken.” Before founding Seeds, Shukur was a Staff Attorney at the Orleans Public Defender’s Office in New Orleans.

A few photos from the event:

February Skill Share

Home Weatherization with Arkansas Interfaith Power and Light and the United States Green Building Council

Matt Poe of the United States Green Building Council led the workshop and walked participants through simple, DIY techniques for keeping older homes warm in winter and cooler in the summer. Participants left the workshop with the tools and skills needed to make changes in your own property as well as a free goody bag filled with LED lightbulbs.

In addition to leading the workshop, Arkansas Interfaith Power and Light donated all the materials to weatherize our 1940s building and hosted an interactive skill share for the community. They also hosted all participants for a free lunch at Tarascos in downtown Dardanelle.

This was a beginning step in turning our center into a working example for home owners, renters, and landlords seeking to make similar changes to their own properties.

The Arkansas Affiliate of Interfaith Power and Light is established by individuals and participating congregations who share a concern for the earth’s environment from a unique, nonpartisan, theological perspective. In addition to leading this workshop they are also working with the McElroy House to raise money for our weatherization work, enabling our center to be a working example of affordable and sustainable green retrofitting.

A few photos from the event


Garden Work Begins!


Since we first began in 2008 we have dreamed of—and planned for— a garden. This year we actually began to build it! We got compost from the city and began with a handful of donated plants from volunteers. Terry Sigle of Dardanelle donated cedar wood from his property for the raised beds, and a crew of volunteers helped us build our first beds.Volunteers from Tech came to help us build the beds!

Each year we will grow the garden, adding more raised beds and in ground gardens. We will also add more potted plants in the coming years. We intend for the garden to be a working example of a variety of growing techniques, applicable to all kinds of homes.

Creating ADA Compliant Raised Beds

Our goal is to make our space ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. We are a long way from getting there, but we are making small changes as we are able. After building the beds we realized they were not high enough for wheel chair accessibility and so we raised them.

Below are a few photos examples of how we did that.

We are far from being ADA compliant. If you are willing to help us become more so, please let us know. We need donations and volunteers to reach our goal. If you have experience in writing grants to help with this work, we would greatly appreciate that!


Here is a photo of Terry Sigle, who donated the local cedar for the beds. Thank you, Terry! We are so grateful to use local wood!

March Skill Share

Caregiver Expo

Anola, Samantha and Sarah Aspel of Riverfront Doulas hosted an interactive skill share on cloth diapering, allergies, and doula work. Anola worked hard to build up our cloth diaper bank, and started a facebook page specifically for this growing community resource. Go here to learn more. 

Our cloth diaper bank is open to anyone who can use it. The application process is simple and does not require any special paperwork. If you can use the resources, they are your’s to borrow. No questions asked. If you are interested in helping us get more diapers out to the community, please let us know! Samatha will get you to work!


McElroy House Cloth Diaper Bank Visits the Green Day Festival

We partnered with the Green Corner Store and the Bernice Gardens to host a booth for our diaper bank during their Earth Day events. Anola put together a wonderful display about the importance of choosing cloth and many people from Little Rock came to donate diapers for the bank!  We also got to connect with others interested in this work.

Here are a few photos from the event:

April Skill Share

Butterfly and Bee Gardening for Grief and Healing

In April we came together to grow our garden into a story space and plant heirloom flowers and native varieties known for attracting pollinators. We asked participants to bring “story” plants to the gathering—the kind passed down among generations and communities and/or any varieties that are especially meaningful to you. The plants could be something in honor of a lost loved one, a past home, or even a plant in honor of an idea. We then listened to one another’s stories and planted these in our growing garden space.

We also planted our native varieties we purchased from Pine Ridge Nursery, a regional business working to preserve native plants.  We were also given donations from New South Nursery, a small nursery working with heirlooms.

Our garden went from one small stretch to a large square and now it’s filled with stories passed down! We will keep adding to it each year until it covers the whole yard.

The Garden Grows

Our tomato plants, donated by Linda from Dardanelle (see photo above), were passed down in her family for over a hundred years. They soon started growing, as did our many wildflowers and walking onions. We tried to take photos of the plants in progress. We also dug up some wildflowers from private land to bring to the center.

May Skill Share

Rain Barrel Workshop with Sergio Picado

In May we used some of our money to buy recycled rain barrel safe containers and Sergio Picado taught us how to build our own rain barrels!  As time goes on we will continue to build more and have a working water system on hand that can be used as a teaching tool for the community. These rain barrels are connected to our drip hose watering system.

As part of the event we also recorded part of Sergio’s talk and taught people a little bit about documenting stories. As always, our skill share was open to young and old alike.


Garden Grows, Diaper Bank and Caregiver Resources Expand, Behind the Scenes Planning, Bees Come to Visit

Throughout the year we grew our diaper bank.  Samantha took over the bank and began to build on the strong foundation Anola created. Samantha also hosted knitting circles with out yarn stash at her classroom in Danville. All the while, the plants continued to grow and the bees and butterflies started to come to our space. Some days you could hear the wings and the buzz from the front porch.

July Workshop

Building Strong, Diverse, and Beloved Communities, a partnership with Catalyst.

Catalyst came to Arkansas to work with us and Little Rock Collective Liberation to host workshops on helping us name and fight racism. To learn a little more about this workshop read the write up here:

Hate, discrimination, racism, and fear are pervasive in our world today. It’s not solely up to people in the cities to address this problem. Here in the smaller towns and communities we must take a stand, love our neighbors, and develop locally-grown solutions to the national rise in racism and fear.

A central goal of the McElroy House Organization is to provide spaces where we can can reach across the divides of racial, economic, religious, and various boundaries and stand in solidarity through the inter-relatedness of our lived experience. As an extension of our core values, we are partnering with Catalyst Organization for an interactive community-wide workshop to talk about race and racism and learn about what institutional racism is and how it shows up in our everyday lives and in our communities.

Catalyst Project is an education and movement building organization committed to engaging white people in fighting racism. Aspects of this training will be specifically geared toward helping white people gain a deeper understanding of how racism shows up in white communities and the importance of standing alongside communities of color to make a difference.

This workshop isn’t just about naming the problems. It’s also about digging into our common visions for the world we want to live in and the world we want to leave for our children and grandchildren. We’ll be reflecting on our visions for the future and begin to develop some practical tools for getting there. The training is open to everyone interested in developing local solutions to fighting racism.

Lunch and childcare will be provided. To ensure we have enough volunteers and food, please rsvp before Wednesday July 13th.

Our event was well-attended and we came away from the workshop with a deeper understanding of history and future. We are grateful to Little Rock Collective Liberation for helping us make this happen. After their visit, Catalyst worked to raise money for our organization, bringing in 1,500.00. We still have most of it in the bank for our 2017 funds. We’ll be using it to provide free internet service at the Mc House and we also purchased a screen door to help our place be more welcoming.

A few photos from that day

Yard Sale

Samantha and Eliza hosted a yard share and sale on the same day! We took donations and gave away things to the community, including bouquets from our garden. Someday soon we hope to give flowers away all the time. We also plan to keep doing yard swaps in 2017!


Community Talks Gathering: Building Safe Spaces for Transgender Communities


Kat organized this wonderful event featuring panelists from around the state. It was our best attended event, with great conversation and community building. Here is the write up from Kat:

Come visit us at the Train Depot Park in Russelville to listen to leaders, allies, and people who have a lot to share about how to be an ally to the transgender community and learn about important issues. The event will be panel style with breakout sessions to get into more depth about specific issues or learning opportunities.

This event is a safe space and also a space of empowerment. So bring your respect, open your minds, and lets get ready to learn together!

More information will be added as time will go on, but mark your calenders and follow the event to learn more.

August Skill Share

Budget Meals and Bumper Crops


We came together to share food and talk about using local produce. Ray and Jill came to the event to tell us more about the Diamond Access Pipeline resistance and share ways we can get involved. There were caterpillars in the garden and food on the table. Growth is always.


Welcoming Wings


We didn’t have any public events in September, but things are always happening behind the scenes. The garden kept growing, we added an organ to our living room, we started giving away free tomatoes, hung up an inspiration quote wall to help us learn more about organizing around the nation both past and present, harvested some luffa gourds, and welcomed in more butterflies and bees than we could count.


Kat goes to Southern Movement Assembly!


Thanks to our funding from Catalyst, we were able to send a representative to the Southern Movement Assembly in Chatanooga. Kat was was able to meet with people from other organizations around the south and develop a strategy for work in central Arkansas across rural and urban divides! Look for more updates on this in 2017.


SMA Reportback and Art Sharing


Kat updated us on her trip to SMA and we shared art pieces and creations that are close to our heart. People brought quilts, visual arts, and we had some music. And, as always, great food. Kenny and Ben visited from Little Rock to speak with us about building rural to urban cooperatives.


Kenny and Ben talk about cooperatives.

November Conversation and Skill Share

Learning about Ella Baker, Grandma Pie Circles, and Work Day!


In November we came together to to learn more about Ella Baker and her models of community leadership. And, of course, we had pie.

Here’s a little bit about that event from our press release:

We’ll be learning more about Civil Rights leader Ella Baker and her ideas on building up leaderful communities. We’ll focus on the ways in which her ideas are essential to our work today.

We’ll share some seasonal pies and swap ‘grandma in the kitchen’ kind of stories, learning more about where we’ve come from and how to make much out of little. And we’ll get some work done in the garden, work on the rain barrels, put in some bookshelves and grow our space for the coming spring! Everyone is invited to take home some yarrow seeds for their home garden.

These events are open to everyone and we’d love to meet you! Pie and discussion on Ella Baker will take place at 3:30 with work day to follow.

We’ll close out the night with a meeting and our monthly potluck. We’ll be talking about our upcoming run, have a report back on the rural faith and justice gathering, meet with area activists and organizers to find ways to partner and much more.

Everyone is welcome to stay for the meeting!


How Did We Get Here? Histories and Elections


Historians Marie Williams and Eric Totten

After the election people in our community began to wonder where we go from here. We are an organization that loves people and our home. We do not welcome hate.

So we invited two historians to come and talk to us about how we got here and we all brainstormed where we could go from here. From our event invite:

Many people are wondering how to make sense of the election season and the election results. Everyone is welcome to this event, regardless of how you voted or didn’t vote.

Join us and take part in an open discussion with Marie Williams of Dover and Eric Totten of Fayetteville, two American History PhD students, talk about the historical context of this election. We’ll bring this information into the present by talking about how we build more loving communities.

The McElroy House does not affiliate with political parties, but we do have a strong stance on loving our neighbor as ourselves and building up local solutions that bring people together across race and region to stand against poverty and hate.

Bring a potluck dish to share or just bring yourself. Childcare will be provided but please rsvp so we can make sure to have enough. If you have accessibility needs, please let us know and we will do our very best to address them.

The gathering was very well intended. We saw old friends and new faces. We talked about growing our work in bridging cultural divides. And we started making plans for 2017. And we were overflowing with children! Extra special thanks to Little Rock Collective Liberation for providing childcare for us!

Here are a few photos:


The Loose Ends:

Wouldn’t it be nice if everything could easily be summed up?  Yeah, life is not like that. And running an all volunteer organization on little money is CERTAINLY not like that.

Here are a few other things to know about us that happened this year. Throughout the year our garden grew, we made some signs for our building, and a lot of behind the scenes work took place:

Given our schedules and life, we were not able to do a Harvest Run this year. We were pretty sad about that, but this work is never linear. After Catalyst came to visit this summer, they worked to recruit some of their friends to donate to our cause. Thanks to their fundraising, we raised 1,469.00 which will be going toward our 2017 work.

So far we have used the money to get internet access and a screen door, Two essential organizing tools for our community!

Stay tuned to learn more about our upcoming year of work. Thanks to Alternate ROOTS and Catalyst, Little Rock Collective Liberation, and YOU, we are able to provide this space and put resources into the community’s hands.

Story Plants: The McElroy House Garden

A version of this column first appeared in ABOUT the River Valley Magazine. 

13528609_1139200962810424_6506698281333317111_oWe started our McElroy House pollinator garden during a workday back in the fall of last year. We put down cardboard across a square of the front yard bordering Second and Green Streets. It wasn’t much, but kept down the weeds and served as a marker throughout the winter, reminding us of the spring commitment we’d made.

In March of this year we started removing strips of the cardboard slowly, digging into the loamy soil and planting as we went. For a while it was just a small little row of yarrow and day lilies. But as time went on we pulled back more and more cardboard and dug new patches, being careful to work slowly enough for the plants to take root. Then in April we hosted our flower planting skill share. We pulled back the last layers of cardboard and dug up the entire square. We’d purchased native plants from Pine Ridge Gardens in London and New South Nursery in Roland. We’d brought more yarrow and Black-eyed Susan and Echinacea And we’d put out a call to the community to come bring seedling versions of their favorite flowers to add to the beds. Most importantly, we asked that people bring story plants and share their stories as we put them in the ground.

What exactly is a story plant, you might ask. Well, it can mean any number of things. For starters, plants have their own stories about how they replicate. Plants can live very long lives — especially in the multi-generational sense —  and they replicate in a myriad of ways. Take for instance the yarrow, our plant mascot for lack of a better term. It produces by rhizomes, a kind of stem that actually grows underground.  Basically, yarrow grows from it’s offshoots. And it’s tenacious and drought-hearty. Cornflower, the delicate blue flowers that covered our garden in the spring, are self seeding. They’ll return on their own next year without our having to do much of anything. Others, like Echinacea, are perennial. They die back in the winter to return in the spring. The day lilies  grow by bulbs. They stay dormant in cold weather and shoot forth new growth when it warms up.  So first there is the story of how a plant keeps going.



But beyond that, plant stories are about how plants become connected within our own lives. There is the ancient story of people and food—a story we too often take for granted—but there is also the very recent narrative wherein old plants weave their way into our short lives. You may think you don’t know any story plants. Or maybe it’s just you don’t know the plant names. But you still know the stories.  Maybe you see an iris and think of a grandmother or grandfather. Maybe a patch of wild daisies reminds you of your mother. In many instances we can write new stories with plants. A sunflower can become a new beginning; a hyssop can mean building community; a yarrow is knitted into a story about persistence. Plants help us learn about solidarity, about who came before, and about what we can do now right where we are. Plants remind us that the world is so much bigger than we can ever imagine and that our interconnectedness is more vast than our language could ever convey.

Everything we planted at the McElroy House garden is there for the butterflies and bees. We worked with native plant and pollinator specialists to make sure that our garden is quite the buffet for them. And these days the garden is crowded. There are little yellow sulphur butterflies and buckeyes and monarchs. The bees are everywhere, too thick upon the bee balm to even begin to count. We’ve got some tall milkweed growing, the only plant where the Monarch will lay its eggs.

But the garden is also for us. It’s there for us to remember people we’ve lost—the ways we’ve lost ourselves, even—and to sit with our grief in a way that gives honor to these struggles and these memories. It’s there to remind us that no matter how many times someone uses the metaphor, it’s fundamentally true that everything in the garden starts as a small, fragile seedling. It’s there to help us have an ever-growing visual image of what happens when hard work meets solidarity. And it’s there to liven up the place, to fill the space with color and wings. Building an intentional place of beauty is never a frivolous undertaking.

Beyond that, the garden is there to help us build up collective stories that are both new and generations old. We are an organization that stands for justice and solidarity–across class, across race, across region. We believe in centering the diversity experiences of our community as the foundation for our work. This doesn’t always lend itself to tightly wound mission statements or bullet pointed lists so readily employed by the majority of the non-profit world. We are an action organization but we are also an idea organization. And we move at the speed of caregiving. We care for babies; aging relatives, and our own bodies with all their struggles and beauty. Most of us live paycheck to paycheck, and there are no paid positions at the McElroy House.

Some people might call our work slow. We’d probably agree. But when we look at the garden we see time differently. And we can begin to see that what we do is root work. Not everything is visible above ground—at least not all the time.

We remember that our work is in everything we do in and outside of the McElroy House: Caregiving, working low paying jobs that seldom make the bills, struggling with mental illness, fighting the destructive world of poverty, teaching in our public schools, teaching in universities, getting PhDs in history, single parenting, struggling with family members who don’t understand us, studying the effects of racism on our population, building rain barrels, speaking up for ourselves or our trans friends in a community that fears us/them, breaking down ideas of race, class, and gender in our communities, sharing stories of how we learned to fight self-hate, forging paths for women in engineering, growing a little patch of food, letting our kids see us wrestle with injustice, writing music, standing up for justice even when we don’t know all the terms our urban friends so readily spout, wrestling with the role of white people in #blacklivesmatter, working to understand immigration and stand with our neighbors facing fear of deportation, fiercely loving our homes—pain and all, refusing to take part in fear of our neighbor, and a rejection of the so-often told stories, that it’s “normal” for all of us to be fearful and divided.

And when we forget this—as we so often do— we can look at the garden and remember.

The world is full of injustice. There is so much work to be done. Plants can help us forge new ways of fighting this—in our own communities with the tools and resources we have right in front and inside of us. It can remind us of the skills that live inside of us. It can remind us that the fight for racial justice, indigenous solidarity, eradicating poverty at the roots, is important no matter where we are. It can help us develop new models for ancient struggles. It can collapse time and connect us to something so very far beyond ourselves.

13606505_1142793365784517_6649053907878097659_nThis fall we’ll put down more cardboard to prepare for the coming spring. Our goal is to slowly add onto the garden each year, filling the yard with flowers (and stories), leaving only a walking path large enough for wheel chairs and feet to pass thru. It’ll take years to get there, but there is no better place to learn patience—and perseverance— than a garden.

We’d love to have you come join us. Bring a plant in honor of a loved one or as a nod to a new story you’re writing. Or perhaps both. We believe in people coming together across differences; we believe in equality and equity, and we are certain that our plants — and our stories — are stronger together.

Keep up to date with all our work on facebook by clicking here. 

Want to work with us? Learn more and fill out our volunteer form here: