If relationships are the keys to success, Park Cities resident Will Dowell says relationships can also help someone out of poverty.
“In ‘A Framework for Understanding Poverty,’ Ruby Payne identifies several types of assets you lack that indicate poverty,” said Dowell, executive director of Behind Every Door Ministries. “Number one is the lack of relationship with someone not in poverty.”
Dowell’s friendship with employee Lawanda Thompson backs up this notion — not that their relationship directly removed her from poverty, but it helped her realize her own worth.
At 16, Thompson was deep into Louisiana “street life.” Instead of staying in school, she got her GED so she didn’t have to blame school for missing street activities.
By 20, she was in Dallas and pregnant. She returned to Louisiana to seek her mother’s help in caring for her son. Her real plan was to leave the baby and disappear back to Dallas.
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But a severe asthma attack put Thompson’s son in the hospital month later. She brought him back to her home at Village Oaks apartments, a community in southeast Dallas, but the family’s path to a fresh start came with several speed bumps.
“Most nights, we slept on the floor or in the closets, because there was always a shoot-out,” Thompson said.
One day, Thompson noticed a group of 30 people handing out food, playing with the kids, and talking to residents. That’s when she met Dowell. He introduced her to Behind Every Door Ministries.
“I knew these people actually cared,” said Thompson, now the community ambassador for Behind Every Door.
Relationships and collaboration are the principal values at Behind Every Door, an organization committed to improving life for those in underserved neighborhoods.
“There are amazing people here and amazing potential,” said Dowell, who spent time with Campus Crusade for Christ at the University of Texas. “We just need some help.”
Founders Dean Wilson, Ben Logan, Mike Downey and John Wallace all share a heart for helping those in need. Dowell joined the team shortly after its formation, but he knew right away that this was his dream job.
“The idea of going where no one wants to go and trying to love, serve, care, and make life better for people who are in those places — that paired with a collaborative approach just drew me in immediately,” Dowell said.
The ministry serves Willow Pond apartments and Village Oaks. They had an open conversation with the residents and simply asked, “What do you want?”
“The kids had nothing to play on,” Dowell said of Village Oaks. “There was a massive amount of graffiti, and when you put it all together you see that it’s really a result of them not having anything to do.”
Today, kids can enjoy the after school programs such as tutoring, enrichment activities, and free meals. Adults have access to life classes that teach the community about relevant topics, as well as addiction-recovery programs.
Thompson now has two jobs she loves, knows how to manage money, owns a car, and can’t remember the last time she was behind on rent.
“When you think no one notices you, you’re always watched by somebody,” Thompson said. “I learned that with Behind Every Door Ministries. They had to be watching me very closely to realize that I had potential.”
Dowell’s future goals for the organization are simple: branch out and change more lives.
“We want to see thousands of people who have been believed in and walked with,” said Dowell. “Every community is different, every person is different, and every person has a story.”