Chuck Bloom: Lynn Sipiora for Texan of the Year

sourced from: The Dallas Morning News

Posted by Marc A. Sparks in Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX on Dec 04, 2008

03:06 PM CST on Wednesday, December 3, 2008

She has never thrown the winning touchdown pass to capture the Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl or Super Bowl, nor has she won a Grammy or political office. All she has done is … change the world, at least for some people in need in Collin County.

As executive director of the Samaritan Inn, the county’s only homeless shelter, Lynne Sipiora marshals the task of providing food, shelter, counseling and the possibility of a better future to folks many would rather forget. And on April 9, she fulfilled the goal of opening Gateway Apartments in McKinney, the county’s first transitional housing unit for homeless people.

For that achievement, she deserves this nomination for the 2008 Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year.

Think for one moment what Gateway represents to its residents: For the first time in ages, 20 families (and more in the future) can re-emerge into society as functional, productive citizens with a regained sense of dignity after so much pain and loss. Without Lynne’s initiative and oversight, it would never have become a reality.

She hoisted this challenge on her shoulders and willed Gateway’s completion, doing it without one red cent from the government. She found the perfect silent partner in Dallas philanthropist Marc Sparks, who entirely funded the construction and property purchase; got the builders, Darling Bros., to work at cost; and convinced numerous businesses, churches, social groups and individuals to sponsor aspects of the everyday Gateway regimen.

Lynne’s daily task at the Inn is difficult enough; each resident has a sad story behind their predicament. There is the added heartbreak of turning away others (including families with children) due to lack of space and resources. This work can crush most normal spirits and souls, but she always prevails.

Add to this Lynne’s backbreaking schedule of meetings, speeches and fundraising activities – as well as the role of mother and wife, at which she also excels.

“Sometimes it’s pretty overwhelming, but I love my job; it is my passion,” she once wrote me. Her work earned her the 2007 Executive Director of the Year award from the Texas Homeless Network – and that was before Gateway opened.

Lynne now has her sights focused on the next logical step – more beds, plus a homeless children’s day care center. Only a foolish person would bet against her.

Most people know there is no definitive face of “the homeless.” They come from all cross-sections of society. Too often, they are mirror images of ourselves – people who worked hard, followed the rules and searched for the American dream.

However, a stumble here, an illness there, or a divorce that leaves one former spouse without means … and things get out of control. The problem in these rough economic times is only becoming more acute, and the services of the Samaritan Inn will be needed more than ever.

If, for whatever reason fate decides, should it be you or I who faces such tribulations, and you need that dreaded four-letter word “help,” the person you need at your side is Lynne Sipiora – to change your world.

For more about the Samaritan Inn, or to donate or volunteer, go to thesamaritaninn.org.

Chuck Bloom, a volunteer at the Samaritan Inn, is a former columnist-editor for several North Texas newspapers. He can be reached at chuckbloom@hotmail.com or through his Web site, chuckbloom.blogspot.com.

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