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Ministry reaches out for 10 years

Nov. 11, 2004

By JESSICA YOUNGPETER, reporter

In 1994, Compassion Ministries of Waco, on Austin Avenue, opened its doors in hopes of assisting the homeless in getting back on their feet and integrating them back into the real world.

Compassion has helped nearly 1,500 women, children and families by providing temporary housing.

Compassion's executive director, Jill McCall, said the program's ultimate goal for the families is self-sufficiency. According to McCall, this goal has been reached because of the community's willingness to lend a helping hand.

Compassion
Robert Shaw | Lariat staff
Compassion Ministries has worked since 1994 to assist Waco's homeless community, providing shelter and help with integration into society.
"I believe our program has been totally embraced by the entire community evidenced by the fact that all monies for these facilities were raised before construction even began," McCall said. "It's truly been a collaborative effort between government, foundations, religious communities, civic organizations and individuals."

Compassion will be holding its annual fund-raising dinner, "Giving Thanks, Giving Hope," as part of the 10-year celebration.

The dinner event will be held at 6 p.m. Nov. 14 in the Lion's Den, located at 1716 N. 42nd St.

This celebration will give the Waco community a chance to learn more about the organization.

"We are still the only transitional housing, up to six months, facility for single women and families with children," McCall said.

The dinner is donated and catered by Outback Steakhouse.

It will feature a presentation by local community members who first envisioned the homeless shelter and turned the dream into a reality.

Those who first envisioned the shelter include: the Rev. Jimmy Dorrell, pastor of Church Under the Bridge and executive director of Mission Waco; the Rev. George Holland, former pastor of Central Presbyterian Church; Kerry Hagan, former Waco attorney; Nelwyn Reagan, an early board member; and Jimmy Taylor, executive director of Compassion in its early years.

Dorrell said he saw a need to reduce the homeless rate in the Waco community while worshiping with them at Church Under the Bridge.

He and the other founding fathers wished to create a way for families to integrate back into mainstream society after living on the streets.

"Since I hung out and worshipped with the homeless, I became aware of the incredible lack of shelter opportunities for them," Dorrell said. "We knew that the community would quickly support an effort for women and children so we began there."

The program also will feature a video presentation and a performance of Song of Compassion, written by former Compassion board member Lauren Barron.

There also will be a silent auction and raffle to raise money for daily operations within the program.

In addition, the dinner program will recognize donors who helped complete the construction of the Hope House, Hope House Too and the Compassion Ministries Community Center.

Compassion leased a three-story house until it raised enough funds to build the permanent residence.

Hope House and Hope House Too, completed in 2002 and 2004 respectively, are about 16,000 square feet.

These new buildings have allowed the program to reach out to more families.

"In the beginning, Compassion was capable of housing eight single females and three families with children with a total bed capacity of 26," McCall said. "We have now increased our capacity to 12 families and eight single females with 60 beds."

In order to qualify for housing, one must be a single female or a family with children.

Compassion defines a family as any entity with children.

"In other words, it could be a single mom or dad, married couple or grandmother, as long as they had children with them."

According to McCall, Compassion also has set other guidelines so it can be as successful as possible.

In order to be admitted, a person must be able to pass a drug and alcohol screen, they can't have any assaults in their background and if they've been in any other programs, they must have left that program successfully.

McCall said Compassion is always in need of volunteers.

Twice a week, outreach services provide food, clothing and personal hygiene items to homeless people who are not in the program.

Volunteers also are needed to tutor students after school and to assist with activities while the children's parents are taking classes.

In addition, Compassion set up a program for residents to discuss employment and budgeting skills with community volunteers.

This program not only offers knowledgeable training so residents can survive after leaving Compassion, but it also allows for personal contacts to be made.

"The curriculum is there, but the important thing is the relationships that are built," McCall said.

Cost for the dinner is $50 per person.

For more information concerning tickets and reservations, call 755-7640.