Sharing thoughts and visions in written form by a diverse group of individuals is an important dimension of our project. We invite you to read the thoughts and opinions from various City employees in the coming months and then send us your thoughts outlining your vision and ideas on how to create an even stronger southern Dallas. (To submit thoughts/ideas, see below.)
Column by Norman Henry, President of Builders of Hope CDC
Building a culture of community
You might wonder what a real estate developer, a pharmacist, ex-offenders and north and west Dallas residents have in common. Well, if you happened to be driving past Shaw Street in west Dallas recently you would know the answer. Because just blocks away from the Trinity River, volunteers from all walks of life were smoothing out dirt, laying sod and trimming trees; working together to restore and revitalize two houses in the community. As the morning progressed, many of the volunteers were excited to see the change in the neighborhood. First time Builders of Hope workday volunteer Chris Murphy said he gained several benefits from coming out to volunteer that Saturday morning. “It’s an opportunity to get involved in the community,” Murphy said. “A lot of us sit behind computers all day, and to actually get your hands dirty with the people that live down here is a good feeling. It’s a great way to spend your Saturday morning.” Long-time Builders of Hope volunteer Lawrence Henry shared a similar view. “At the end of the day, I walked away with a good feeling, knowing that we did something for the community,” said Henry. “We need people to serve and give back, and that’s what we’re doing. We are here to serve and not be served.”
Making a difference
Builders of Hope CDC are not only building affordable homes. They are also changing the lives of young men in the community; teaching them to be Godly men and change agents in the west Dallas area. Builders of Hope strives to make a difference in the community and thrives on positive change. Overall the sentiment on that Saturday was about individuals coming together for a bigger purpose. And in the end, everyone helped or touched someone. When all is said and done, the volunteers came out because they wanted to give back and show their love for other people. In doing so, they ended up receiving much more than they gave. When I think about the people who pitched in, working as a team, I am hopeful that this day will be one that inspires a tradition of more service from DFW residents in the future.
About Builders of Hope
Builders of Hope CDC is a Community Housing Development Organization with the City of Dallas and a non-profit, tax exempt corporation that delivers quality affordable housing to stimulate the revitalization of west Dallas and develop a safe and healthy community.
Column by Susan Oakey, Senior Pension Specialist
Tucked north of Wynnewood Village and south of Clarendon is what my neighbors and I believe could be Dallas' best kept secret: a pocket of midcentury modern homes nestled among curved and wooded streets: Wynnewood North.
Built just after World War II, our homes harken back to a simpler era. And so does our community. In this day and age, when so many people don't even know who lives in the apartment next door, let alone the house down the street, it is refreshing to live among neighbors who actually look out for each other. For instance, three years ago, when a van took an unexpected turn and ended up embedded in my house, one neighbor proffered a huge tarp and spent the wee hours of the morning putting it up. Another couple opened their home to me (and a number of cats then under my care) for three months while repairs were being done.
I so often hear north Dallas friends grousing about their autocratic and overreaching neighborhood associations. I feel sorry for them. I brag about mine. Membership in the Wynnewood North Neighborhood Association is totally voluntary and there are no required dues. To help pay for the many neighborhood projects, we hold fund-raisers, pass the hat at our quarterly meetings, and solicit grants.
On two Saturdays each year, everyone who is able pitches in to clean up the alleys and creek. We show up at a designated area with work gloves, weed eaters and clippers, and form teams. The clean ups are often followed by a picnic lunch. Of course, in our neighborhood, it seems as though there is always an occasion to gather over food and drink. Whether it is a scheduled happy hour, a block party in conjunction with the nationwide "Night Out", a "movies on the lawn" party, Terry and Janice's annual New Year's Day open house, or our huge December holiday pot luck, there is no shortage of opportunities to meet your neighbors.
Our largest social event, the "Wynnewood Wander" is part fundraiser and part progressive dinner. The Wanders are held each spring and fall and give us a chance to meander through three or four beautiful homes while eating, drinking and visiting with old and new friends. Sometimes we are given little neon necklaces or rings to wear, so as we stroll through the streets, we twinkle like fireflies.
But our neighborhood isn't all about parties; work gets done here, too. Last year, in one of many neighborhood beautification efforts, our board coordinated with the City of Dallas to get 28 trees planted in the greenbelts. As part of this effort, the neighborhood had to agree to water the trees for two years to make sure they would get off to a healthy start. However, carting water to that many trees in the midst of a wickedly hot summer was no small feat.
How did our beautification director get the work done? He created a "Tree for All.” Everyone had the opportunity to choose a tree to adopt. We signed adoption papers and got a map to our tree. We named our trees (mine's named Bill), and it was our responsibility to go by once or twice a week with water. Watering one adopted tree was easy. And it was fun to watch them grow and to know that we had played a part. One couple in my neighborhood has a beautiful koi pond, which they clean once a week. Knowing how trees enjoy "enriched water" they offered to fill the jugs of anyone who asked. Bill loved his koi water!
Many Wynnewood residents have demanding full-time jobs , but they always find time to volunteer. Board members and block captains spend hours organizing events, preparing and distributing newsletters, and keeping neighbors informed via e-mail blasts and a very attractive website (www.wynnewoodnorth.org). When a bank planned to redevelop a large group of apartments bordering our area, our resident architects gave of their time to make sure that the bank understood our needs and to see to it that our interests were protected. At the same time, our board scheduled special meetings to get everyone's input and make sure that we knew what was going on.
We also have a dedicated group of people who took the Dallas Police Department volunteer training program and who drive around Wynnewood North, sporting special signage and a yellow flashing light, looking for open garage doors and suspicious vehicles. Whether it’s the Volunteers In Patrol, helping to keep our neighborhood safe, or a neighbor's non-profit animal rescue, which pulls dogs from the overcrowded Dallas Shelter to fly them to loving homes in other towns, my neighbors are constantly striving to make Wynnewood, Oak Cliff, and Dallas better places to live.
This is not to say that everyone is active in our community or that there aren't occasional disagreements. We are a large family, after all. But I cannot imagine a kinder, more generous, harder-working group of people or a better place in which to live.
GUEST COLUMNS: All submissions will be considered. All we ask is that your comments be thoughtful and add to the public discussion of the SEEDS of Change that help transform misguided perceptions of southern Dallas and/or your suggestions on what SEEDS lead to neighborhood change. This forum is meant to not only serve as a repository of work completed or in progress but also a healthy discussion on how all of us can work together to make southern Dallas prosperous and thriving. Submit a column by sending it to