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

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


Marc Sparks Charities

Marc is very active economically, physically and emotionally, in several charities:

The Samaritan Inn ( is a non-profit organization, which is the only homeless shelter in Collin County, Texas. Established in 1984, The Samaritan Inn has provided millions of meals and has helped thousands of homeless people regain their independence with comprehensive programs and the help of caring individuals and corporations. Sparks sits on the Finance Advisory Board and has been integral in bolstering both financial aid and long-term volunteers for The Inn, allowing the facility to assist an even larger demographic of homeless in North Texas. Sparks believes that most people are only two paychecks away from poverty and that everyone needs help at some point in their lives. “The need for The Samaritan Inn is intense, failure of this homeless shelter simply is not an option. We have now built a thrift store, Friends of the Inn, in hopes and prayer, that it will provide an income to support expenses of the Inn” Sparks states.

dallas-canAmerica Can! Academy ( is a Magnet High School program providing education to 8,000 “at-risk” students each year. Sparks is a financial supporter and Academy Development Council member, having become involved in the organization through his foundation, Sparky’s Kids, which donates hundreds of new computers to multiple Texans Can! Academies across the state.

sparkySparky’s Kids ( is a non-profit foundation established by Sparks which provides free brand-new Dell computers to less fortunate but well deserving kids. Sparky’s Kids has given hundreds of computers away to date to kids involved in organizations such as Boys and Girls Club of Greater Dallas, Metro Ministries, the Samaritan Inn and Texans Can! Academy. Sparky’s Kids gave away approximately 500 new computers in 2005 and Sparks anticipates exceeding that number in 2006. “These computers are essential for education today… without them, these kids will end up in our prisons!”

careC.A.R.E. ( The Center for Animal Research & Education was founded to provide for the rescue, rehabilitation and holistic nurturing of sick, injured or abused Big Cats thus ensuring a vital habitat and permanent safe haven for them to live in comfort and with dignity. Further, with public education and research, to ultimately ensure the future of the species.

highlandparkHighland Park United Methodist Church ( HPUMC has close to a 100 year history of worship and outreach. The story of Highland Park United Methodist Church began in the fall of 1915 when students from Southern Methodist University attended the first worship services held in Dallas Hall. The University Church was founded in 1916 and by the end of the year with 225 charter members, the church changed its name to Highland Park Methodist Episcopal Church South. SMU deeded the land for the church and worshippers began meeting in a temporary structure known as the “Little Brown Church.” The current sanctuary was built in 1927, and an activities building along with Cox Chapel were added in the early 1950’s. December 2002 marked the completion of the 122,000 square foot Wallace educational building and the remodeling of the existing educational building while HPUMC’s pristine sanctuary and chapel remained untouched. HPUMC’s sanctuary was recognized as a “Recorded Texas Historic Landmark” in 1995.

carpentersCarpenters for Christ ( Carpenters for Christ’s goal is to do all that they can humanly do to see that poor housing is eradicated in Dallas and those persons’ lives are improved for generations to come.

thriftFriends of the Inn Thrift Store ( The Friends of the Inn Thrift Store is a non-profit, five thousand square foot, sun filled retail space filled with gently used designer clothing, household goods and furniture.

All proceeds from the store are used to support The Samaritan Inn. Our residents work in the store each day to gain valuable job skills and to make their own contribution to our program,. Graduating residents are given vouchers so that they are able to get the things they need to set up their own households at absolutely no cost.

Our goal is to fund a great portion of the Samaritan Inn’s operating budget from income of the, “Friends of the Inn” Thrift Center.

habitatHabitat for Humanity ( Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry. HFHI seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world, and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action.


The North Texas Gateway Apartments 1.3 acres of land has been purchased directly across the street from the Samaritan Inn where construction of a twenty unit apartment complex will soon begin. The apartments will be donated to the Samaritan Inn upon completion and will provide transitional housing for people at a third of normal rental rates so that they can get further education or training or save money so they are able to manage market value rents.

In Collin County the average cost of a one bedroom apartment is $650 per month, plus a security deposit, utility deposits and an application fee are regularly required, this makes housing out of reach for most people who earn minimum wage. We see this problem often at the Samaritan Inn – whereby people have completed our program, they have secured employment and are ready to move out, but there is simply no affordable place to go.

The complex has been christened “Gateway” as it will be the final ‘gateway’ to independence for the people who have worked so diligently to get there.

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