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A Small Texas Town Makes a Big Difference

by Lee Warren (Farmersville Rotary Club)

The Samaritan Inn is Collin County's only homeless shelter.  They focus on giving a hand up and not a hand out to their "residents."    The residents go through rigorous programs in an effort to get them back on their feet to be self-sufficient once again.  Those that "graduate" through those programs are allowed to move into the Gateway Apartments, which are residential apartments that were built through a number of donations and hard work.  It is a great way for the residents to get into their own place, at reduced rent, and starting getting their lives back to normal.  By getting utilities in their name, it helps them rebuild their credit history so that they won't have to have such large security deposits when they go completely on their own.

The Inn provides the apartment and the major appliances.  Other than that, the place is empty.  They rely on sponsors to fill the apartment with the items that the residents will need.  Beds, furniture, linens, dishes, desk, toiletries, cookware, televisions, alarms clocks, etc.  The best part is that when the residents move out on their own, they get to take all of the items with them.  That way they don't have to start over and buy things while they are going through the expense of moving.  Once they move out, the process starts again.  The Farmersville Rotary Club is proud to have sponsored 5 of these apartments thus far since they were built.  We get items donated from not only our club members, but from others in the community.  It has provided a great way for us to promote Rotary in general to our local community and beyond.

The Farmersville Rotary Club has also taken part in fundraising efforts to support the Inn.  We have also sponsored dinner at the Inn, where we not only pay for the meal, but we actually serve it to the residents as well.  It is one thing to send a check and say we have done our part.  It's a complete different thing to physically get involved and see the faces of those that you are helping.  The vast majority of those truly appreciate the efforts that are made.  There are exceptions of course, but you can't let that disenfranchise you from wanting to make a difference. 

Many years ago, I was close to being in need of a place like the Samaritan Inn.  I was living in a 10x10 room with a community bathroom down the hall for two years, had a couple of bags of clothes to my name and was working 4 jobs to try and get back on my feet.  To be able to be in a position where I am able to give back makes all of that come full circle.  To have a group like our Rotary Club of like-minded community members to share in a common goal of making life better for those around us only makes my drive stronger. 

There are community projects and needs like this all over the country.  I love that Rotary helps in areas all over the world.  However, sometimes that vision can impede the needs we have right in our own back yards.  There are so many organizations that need help.  Not just monetary help either.  Meals on Wheels (another of our Rotary projects) is a great way to take just a little time out of your day to make it so much brighter for others.  It doesn't cost anything.  It doesn't require a lot of physical strength.  Just time. 

There are so many organizations right in your own towns that are in desperate need of assistance.  If you are able to write a check to RI, or be a sustaining member, then that is great.  I am proud to be a Paul Harris Fellow and current sustaining member.  However, sometimes the biggest difference you can make on people's lives is not with your pen.  It's with your hands and your heart.  Don't be a Rotary Club member.  Be a Rotarian.  There's a difference.




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