There's a lot of hope today at Hope Village for Children following a visit by presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain, and a number of other political and community leaders.
Opened seven years ago Hope Village is a home for abused, neglected or displaced children. It was founded by Emmy-winning actress and Meridian native, Sela Ward, who was also on hand for the tour and says she's optimistic about what it could mean.
"When you get a captive audience of politicians who can help you make a difference it's just a wonderful thing," said Ward. "It's always been my dream because I like to think big to create a best practices model here at Hope Village and sort of franchise across the country because I think Hope Village is very unique."
Ward said it's unique and just getting better. In fact, there's now a project underway to provide housing for students who live at Hope Village after they turn 18.
"As I told them today, having a child in foster care and having them successful is not getting them to 18 and letting them age out. The success is did they go to college? Did they get a job?" said executive director Tina Aycock. "Are they successful when they leave? That's how we measure our success and we believe you can't do that by releasing children into the community at age 18 or 19. They're just not prepared."
Transition houses are set to be finished within the next six weeks. They will house up to four young people and a house mother. These houses will be for students who live at Hope Village up to age 18. They can stay in these transitions houses for up to two years after that.
Lauderdale County Habitat for Humanity is handling construction of the houses.
"Habitat's mission statement is that we want to eliminate poverty housing throughout the world and in Lauderdale County," said executive director Fonda Rush. "So, if you're putting young people out on the street they become homeless and that was one of the issues that we were concerned about."
Officials say there is much more in store for Hope Village.
"My dream would be that Mississippi statewide first would become an amazing model," said Ward. "That we could take this state and divide it up and create Hope Villages and get a whole system in place to help the foster care system actually work. Wouldn't that be great? And then go nationally."