A few weeks back, it was my privilege to visit Children’s Home outside Paragould, Ark. That visit led to a lengthy feature – but one without the backstory of how Delta Farm Press and the charity came together.
This is a truncated version of that backstory and, hopefully, a few words that will bring sweet memories, a smile, and renewed appreciation of a missed colleague back to the fore.
But before continuing, please read this first.
It began in 2011 when Gary Cupp ran across an elderly farming couple with a story to tell. Childless, heirless and with no family to leave their estate to, the couple had written a large check to a solid charity doing good work. They’d been led to the charity through a tiny ad in the back of an agriculture journal.
The couple made it clear to Cupp -- who is director of development for Arkansas-based Children’s Home -- that if he’d gotten to them first, he could have been the one bringing those funds back to the orphans, foster children and needy at the Paragould-area campus. “My first thought was just depressing: ‘Oh, man, why didn’t I get in front of them somehow? We dropped the ball.’”
Driving back to his office, Gary’s second inclination was to be proactive. “Well, why can’t we start running ads in some farm publications? We should be tapping into that.”
Upon reaching his desk, Gary began pulling agriculture publication e-mail addresses, typed a generic message asking for any sales staff help -- perhaps at a discount or gratis -- and hit “send.”
“I wasn’t expecting to hear back from anyone but at least I’d tried.”
He wasn’t counting on Scarlett Bright. Then sales team leader at the Farm Press headquarters in Clarksdale, Miss., Scarlett, “jumped in quick,” says Gary. “She said to send her an ad and if there was space, she’d try to get it in. So I did.”
Sure enough, not long after, the ad showed up in Delta Farm Press. Then, it appeared again.
Gary called Scarlett. “I said, ‘This is amazing. Can I come to Clarksdale and thank you in person?’ She said, ‘Sure! Come on. We’ll get a bite.’”
Over a meal at a Mennonite-run restaurant downtown, Gary first heard that Scarlett was battling breast cancer. At that point, she had only months to live.
“It was a surprise. She acted like she felt well and happy and I had no idea she was ill. She was all smiles and very positive.”
That afternoon, back at the Farm Press office, Cupp asked if Children’s Home could pay for some advertising. “She just grinned a little and made it clear we should just keep doing what had already been working. I’m not sure if the ads were under the radar, but I do believe she was at a time in her life where she was committed to helping those who need it so desperately. And if she got in trouble, so what?
“I can’t say for sure, but I think that’s what was going on.”
The ads continued.
One day, not long after, Gary got a call from a family in Missouri wanting to adopt a child. Because Cupp’s main focus is fund-raising he’d not expected the ads might actually facilitate children to finding a loving home.
“I thought it was so neat, I had to send Scarlett an e-mail. She was very pleased and we continued to talk and e-mail.”
Then, abruptly, one his e-mails wasn’t answered. Several weeks went by. “I thought that was kind of odd. She’d usually fire something right back.”
More weeks passed. Then, Gary picked up the latest Delta Farm Press and read Hembree Brandon’s ode to Scarlett (linked above). He began to cry, clipped the article and pinned it to his office wall.
“I thought, ‘You know, that was a nice little ride we were all on. I reckon that’s over now.’”
But Cupp, driven to let folks at Farm Press know what she’d done, got in touch with Brandon. “I wanted him to know how this had unfolded and how much Scarlett had done. But I still expected the relationship was over.”
Gary was wrong. The ads continue to run and bear fruit. You may have seen them.
“We just need to get in front of folks. When they hear what we’re doing, most people want to help. Or, they know of a child that needs what we offer. Scarlett understood that instinctively.”
In print, I have never before endorsed or suggested anyone check out a charity. It’s time to start. I say this without hyperbole: Children’s Home is doing great, noble, needed work; work that will reverberate through generations to society’s betterment.
Merry Christmas! Brava Scarlett!