When Deliver Hope Founder Daniel Tyler was younger, he was in and out of juvenile detention, struggling because of the hand he was dealt in his family life.
Tyler said he was suicidal, depressed and that he often lied, building himself up to be somebody worthy of his name.
He said that followed him into his adulthood and it wasn’t until someone looked him in the face and told him that he was good enough, that he didn’t have to be anything more than what he was, that he accepted that.
“That’s the kind of heart we want to give kids,” Tyler said. “That’s why we say ‘those kids have a name,’ because we want to look every young person in the face and say ‘you are good enough for me, you don’t have to be anything more, all you have to do is trust me and let me walk through some of this stuff with you so you can be who God created you to be.’”
He said from the beginning — this is Deliver Hope’s fifth year in Conway — the group has focused on that and reaching an at-risk teen where they’re at, providing them with tangible resources they need to succeed.
Tyler said those can vary. For example, he said, it could mean providing a teenager with a way to clean themselves every day or a way of transportation.
Tyler said in one setting, he had two brothers who had great athletic potential but were wearing shoes too small and sleeping on the floor at night and the resource was just getting them shoes that fit.
“When you have a kid like that who doesn’t have running water at home, how are they supposed to act right at school?” Tyler said. “Those needs are incredibly important for them.”
He said once that is accomplished, then hope is available for these kids and when that is there, these kids can dream. And when they dream, they get off the streets.
“So many programs funnel kids through; we worry about helping one kid at a time really well,” Tyler said. “Basically, what we’ve said from the very beginning is we wanted to be a gap filler so wherever the gaps were between high-risk, or at-risk, teenagers and our community, we tried to figure a way to fill that gap.”
He said they’ve seen the greatest impact through their mentoring program in partnership with the juvenile court, the staff going above and beyond to give a teenager what they need “basically, to remove all excuses for bad behavior, and, it’s working.”
Tyler said the “biggest kicker” for them is their work with Faulkner County Circuit Judge Troy B. Braswell, who loves the kids just as much as Deliver Hope does.
“Deliver Hope is a vital partner with the Court as we strive to provide restorative justice and support to at risk youth and their families,” Braswell told the Log Cabin Democrat in an email. “While the court's new assessment tool has helped identify areas of risk and need, Deliver Hope stands ready to provide the classes, mentors, time and compassion to kids that need both consequences and rehabilitation.”
Since its implementation, he said, there has been a 47 percent reduction in kids going to jail and a 33 percent reduction in delinquency petitions filed by the prosecuting attorney, important because “public protection” is always a top priority for the court.
“While there are many organizations and factors that impact our court, I am thankful for Deliver Hope and their tireless work and dedication to make a difference,” Braswell said. “We would not be the same without Deliver Hope. I invite anyone interested in having an impact on youth to contact the court or Deliver Hope. We will find a place for you to serve. This is our community and these are our kids.”
Tyler said through that partnership they are able to first connect with kids through the intake process. They work with the court to provide two “significant programs,” that the kids are ordered to take including sober support and justice circles, a restorative justice program where they focus on victim impact, how to make it right, what they would say to their younger self if they had the chance to do it again and then set goal for their future.
“It’s a really basic opportunity but it’s incredible to watch the kids grow through that process,” he said. “Our staff works with kids one-on-one in the court system through that process and after we build relationships in that process. It’s easy to: if the kids wants a mentor, well, then we can get them a mentor.”
Tyler said the staff also works with the alternative learning environment through Conway Public Schools, puts on a sports night at the Boys and Girls Club every Tuesday and holds bible studies for kids in jail as well.
“Those are the ways that we’ve shown up,” he said.
Especially working with kids who already have trust issues, consistency is No. 1, Tyler said.
While Deliver Hope has grown and its had success and impact through the years, that time hasn’t been without strife and challenges, he said, including getting people to believe in the same mission and have passion for that.
“You’ve got to understand, this was a faith deal for me,” he asid. “This was a ‘I believe God called me to do this and so walking in obedience and faith for me is the kicker. I think when we walk in obedience, God’s just faithful in it to take care of the needs that are there.”
Tyler said another is burnout.
“I hate the saying but, you can’t help people who don’t want to help themselves,” he said. “You hear that saying all the time and there’s so much truth to it that it’s a hard pill to swallow. You invest and invest and invest and invest and then all of a sudden, nothing. It doesn’t work.”
Tyler said that can be discouraging and force the staff to ask themselves if they’re even making a difference.
“But, like I said, the big kicker for us is we’re not trying to funnel hundreds of kids through we want to help one kid at a time really well,” he said.
It’s the success stories, the kids who have made it out and changed their course, Tyler said, that keeps them going. That, and supporting each other through the good and the bad.
“I think that’s the big deal for me is I wasn’t trying to make this the Daniel Tyler show because Deliver Hope has always been more about the kids than it was about me,” me said. “I would, in a heartbeat, leave if that meant I couldn’t keep my staff. The staff is the one who’s making an impact in the community.
“I think what we do … I hope any person who runs any kind of organization believe this, but I think what we do is right. It’s making a difference and kids lives are being changed for the better and our community is better because of it.”
That belief, that need, is why Jordan Camp, who used to work at Deliver Hope in Conway, started a Deliver Hope in Mobile, Alabama and works as the program director and is working on forming relationships with the court system down there to, in turn, build those needed relationships with the at-risk teens.
Tyler said he’s had at least 12 other counties call him, interested in what it would take to implement a Deliver Hope in their area but it’s all about finding people who will seek the welfare of their community.
“When you think about the amount of money it costs our county to incarcerate a young person and then to know that because of Deliver Hope and our partnership with the court, we’ve been able to lower the number of kids going to jail, then we end up saving our county money and we can use that money for other things that are needed in our community,” he said. “That’s special to be a part of. I like to see that that’s working.”
Tyler said he has a tagline that he loves to use: “We’re dedicated to inspiring young people to dream beyond their circumstances, to excel despite their disadvantages, so they can reach their fullest, God-given potential.”
“Our circumstances don’t determine our destiny but our choices will. Helping kids see that, is one of the greatest … when a kid gets that it’s like the greatest thing for me to see them catch that because that’s what it was for me … when I realized that my circumstances don’t determine my future is what we’re about,” he said.