Nearly 40 years ago, the Rev. Clayton Lewis saw a neighborhood child rooting through garbage for something to eat.
That sight led to the 1982 creation of a food and clothing pantry at the Munger Place United Methodist Church. The congregation would use the pantry to meet the needs of the church’s East Dallas neighbors who were struggling with poverty and hunger.
That quaint neighborhood project grew as the demands did.
This led, in 1985, to the formation of what is now Wilkinson Center.
Wilkinson Center has grown into an organization that helps individuals and families pull themselves out of poverty. The center serves about 40,000 people a year with emergency food and shelter, counseling, free after-school programs, and free adult education.
The core mission of the Wilkinson Center is to transform the lives of Dallas families by providing pathways to self-sufficiency with dignity and respect.
Wilkinson Center utilizes a holistic approach to poverty intervention. Its vision is to eliminate generational poverty by addressing clients’ most significant issues: basic human necessities like food and shelter, education, and employment.
The center has improved and adapted over the decades. Programs offered now cover a host of services aimed at empowering adults to achieve diplomas and helping those working towards transforming their lives.
“Going back to school as an adult, you have to sacrifice something,” said Anne Reeder, Wilkinson Center executive director. “Whether it is time or money; you are sacrificing something with the hope that your life is going to be better.”
And that is the Wilkinson Center’s goal: to enable those who are actively making a change.
Reeder said that the heart behind the cause is “definitely the clients, they inspire us so much.”
Because of the clients, the Wilkinson Center has become the second-largest adult education program in Dallas.
To help raise funds for the Dallas nonprofit, the Friends of the Wilkinson Center will host its sixth annual southwestern themes Spirit of Taos event this September.
“We are there to support people and help them realize that they matter,” said Wilkinson Center volunteer Claudia Davis. “I hope that the Spirit of Taos event helps others see the good things taking place at the Wilkinson Center.”
The Friends of the Wilkinson Center are not just doing this for a night out, but for the greater good.
The Spirit of Taos event is the primary source of support for the Wilkinson Center.
“I do not know what we would do without the Friends of the Wilkinson Center,” Reeder said. “The money raised at this event impacts so many lives in the Dallas area. This event is not only a celebration of that but an opportunity to continue to better the community.”