Our Opinion: HALO expansion brightens mission

HALO is expanding both its mission and its presence in Jefferson City.

The organization dedicated to the welfare of young people will relocate to the former Rickman Conference Center and expand its Transitional Living Program for homeless youth.

The move will mark another significant advance for an organization that began with a modest fundraiser to help a Mexican orphanage.

Local resident Rebecca Welsh founded HALO - Helping Art Liberate Orphans - and has guided its mission, which continues to aid orphans abroad and young people here at home, including Jefferson City.

Based on a survey of local needs that revealed an estimated 135 homeless youth in our community, HALO began a Transitional Living Program in 2014 to equip young people with needed life skills and housing.

The program has been serving five teens on average and operating from an apartment complex. Thanks to a long-term lease offered by Farmer Holding Co. - which purchased the former church-operated Rickman facilities and grounds - HALO will occupy the center and expand the service to about 30 people ages 16-21 and their dependents.

"What we do," Welsh explained, "is respond to needs - the most difficult, desperate situations there are, whether it's child soldiers in Uganda or girls who are sex-trafficked in Kenya or homeless kids in Jefferson City. We're in the state capital, and we don't even have a youth shelter. They literally have nowhere to go."

Soon, they will have someplace to go. HALO intends to renovate the conference center building, rename it HALO Home and expand its Transitional Living Program. The program helps young people learn to manage finances; commit to employment or higher education; and develop life skills including cooking, cleaning and grooming.

Welsh said the program is designed to help young people achieve their potential and become contributing members of the community.

HALO is a success story that is helping youth not only to survive, but to thrive. Expansion brightens the future for both the organization and the young people it serves here and abroad.

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