On the outside, 10905 West Markham Street in Little Rock is nothing out of the ordinary. The single-story building is nestled behind a strip mall, bordered on one side by a pizza joint’s parking lot. The other sides face a large field, the borders of which are under constant threat from Chinese sumac and quick-spreading kudzu.  

Four massive oaks in the front yard stretch their branches over the paved walkway. Dark-leaved crepe myrtle and potted plants adorn the paved walkway. At the large glass and wrought iron front door, you can see all the way through the building and into a small inner courtyard. The building’s façade is humble: tan brick and beige stucco, aging but well-kept.  

As advertised: nothing spectacular. But inside? 

The best way Collin can describe it is simply, “It’s a blessing.” 

10905 West Markham houses the Hidden Creek reentry program. It serves men and women like Collin – non-violent, non-sex offenders who are looking for a second chance. When asked about his past, Collin is brutally honest.  

“I chose the wrong path,” he admits. “If I would have made better choices, I would still (have) had everything (my family) built when I was a kid.” 

His parents passed away before his release, but he has a support network. Since day one, he remembers, all the staff at Hidden Creek made him feel welcome, treated him like a human. It was “a whole different world” from the one behind bars. Just being able to do his own laundry, or cook and eat a meal, felt like a special occasion.  

Another blessing for Collin was the discovery that Hidden Creek is supported by donors to Feed the Children through its community partner, L.O.V.E. Healing Waters.  

“If (we) were running low on things to eat or cleaning supplies, laundry detergents, just everything to help the center run, (they’d) help,” he says. “I think that’s a really good thing, to help people like that.” 

For Collin, receiving donations was about much more than tangible items. He felt like the people who donated were out there encouraging him, rooting for him to make the most of the opportunities he’d been granted. He was so grateful that as soon as he qualified to take a paid job, he also began asking if there was any volunteer work to be picked up. Community service wasn’t a stipulation of his release – it was just something he felt called to do.  

And as much as Hidden Creek needed help with supplies, Feed the Children and its partners are always looking for capable volunteers. Collin quickly fell in love with volunteer work. The sheer scale of what Feed the Children and its donors could accomplish was incredible to him.  

“I’ve never seen nothing like this before, ‘til here,” he says. “I’ve heard of... little food drives and stuff, but nothing like this happening on the regular. On Sundays, it’s like, 150, maybe 160 families that we’re able to feed and serve, and that’s just amazing.” 

The fact that he’s able to help kids and families through his volunteer work doesn’t make up for the family he lost, but it’s a comfort, nevertheless. And out of everything he’s done to improve himself since leaving prison – his new work as a mechanic, the substance abuse counselling, the friendships made – this has had the most impact on him.  

“When we’re up here, passing out this food to all these families, and (they have) little kids in the car... if you hand them some cookies or something, just look at their faces. They don’t have it. They can’t afford it. The little ones, they’re so polite when you give them stuff, like, ‘Thank you, thank you,’” Collin says with a smile. “To be able to do that, it’s had a big impact on me. It’s helping me grow and become more of a man.“ 

Collin has high hopes for his future.  He wants to keep working and build a business of his own. Although he doesn’t distance himself from the mistakes of his past, he doesn’t let it drag him down. If anything, he’s using it as a stepping stool to build himself back up. Ultimately, he says, he’s even grateful for his arrest: 

“I feel that me going where I went, that was God putting me there to save me, if that makes sense,” he says. “By being on the streets, running around, doing what I was, there’s no telling what would have happened to me, or if I would have ended up dead. I’ve been blessed.”  

And those blessings, like food, like friendship, and like second chances, are meant to be shared. Volunteering for Feed the Children was a blessing for both Collin and the families he was able to help.