Mission Waco has turned a crime-ridden North Waco neighborhood into a ray of hope for the poor, homeless and drug-addicted for 25 years, and now it has launched a campaign called “The Next 25” to build on its success in changing lives locally and around the world.

It has held meetings with more than 40 community focus groups to receive input on goals for Mission Waco in the coming years, executive director Jimmy Dorrell said. The ministry is proceeding with a $9 million fundraising campaign to turn goals into reality.

“We begin again to dream the improbable and believe by faith the next 25 years can accomplish more than we ever imagined,” Dorrell wrote in a message to potential donors in a promotional brochure.

“The good news is we now have an incredible staff, hundreds and hundreds of volunteers, and years of successful experience to build on. What is needed now is the financial underwriting to sow, water and trust God for the harvest over the next 25 years.”

Nearly $2 million in financial commitments already have arrived, said Ernie Stiba, with Stiba Wealth Management, a longtime supporter of Mission Waco who is serving as chairman of The Next 25 campaign.

“We are hoping to have the money committed by later this year and plan to collect the pledges over three to five years,” Stiba said. “I’ve talked with others about the feasibility of getting this done, and we all have come to the conclusion that with the high boss, which is God, anything is possible.”

The plan of action calls for $4 million to create an endowment for “legacy building,” while $3.3 million will go toward capital needs, $1 million toward international ministry support and $700,000 to advance local programs sponsored by Mission Waco, based at North 15th Street and Colcord Avenue, according to a 20-page booklet the Texas Farm Bureau prepared to promote the undertaking.

About a thousand copies have been printed for use in soliciting contributions, said John Calaway, associate executive director of Mission Waco/Mission World. Calaway, 32, a graduate of Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary, returned to Waco in April to work with Dorrell.

‘Hope to accomplish’

“These booklets are not being mailed out. We will use them to sit down with people one-on-one and talk about the next 25 years,” Calaway said. “Some have a very narrow view of what Mission Waco does, and we hope to walk them through this multifaceted ministry. It is designed to let people see what is done and what we hope to accomplish.”

The board of Mission Waco, assisted by a professional fundraising organization, James D. Klote & Associates, received input from more than 300 people, including college professors, business and community leaders, and members of the Mission Waco staff.

“It is always our philosophy, when we are considering long-term transformation, to make the community part of the decision-making,” Calaway said. “The board, meanwhile, digested the recommendations, prayed a lot over them and came up with a shortlist of real needs.”

Identified as long-term capital needs were expanding the children’s center that provides after-school activities for youngsters; securing a new residential treatment center, doubling capacity; purchasing a storage facility next to Mission Waco’s administrative offices to serve as a youth center or community center; making improvements to Jubilee Theater, including new soundstage and storage areas; and purchasing new vehicles to accommodate growth in youth programs.

Other capital needs include renovating the World Cup Cafe and Fair Trade Market at 15th Street and Colcord Avenue; addressing aging issues at the Mission Waco Clothesline discount store; making interior and exterior improvements to the Ark Apartments, which provides safe, inexpensive housing; purchasing the Martha Jane’s liquor store near Mission Waco’s headquarters and converting it into storefronts; improving technology tools for the staff and offices of Mission Waco and Mission World; and clearing and landscaping the vacant lot at 12th Street and Colcord Avenue.

On the international front, Mission Waco proposes to expand medical clinics and emergency services for partners in India and Haiti; develop programs to ensure clean water in Haiti and replace a well drilling rig there; create microloan and savings programs and a widow’s business incubator program in India and Haiti; support orphans and widows in Mexico and India with funding for education; and provide staff and programming support for those involved in the Mission World efforts.

“The long-term capital needs are by far our highest priority, and we’ve already done some fundraising for that,” Calaway said. “We believe our proposed building renovations would double our capacity for after-school programs. We have 40 participants now and that many on the waiting list.”

The soul of Mission Waco/Mission World involves “helping people with a hand up instead of a hand out,” Stiba said. The nonprofit entity has provided sponsorships for people wanting to pursue marketable skills at Texas State Technical College in Waco.

“I think it’s done better than Jimmy and Janet Dorrell ever thought it would do. A lot of people who were helped are now working with Mission Waco,” Stiba said. “It’s hard to put a value on saving even one person’s life.”

Turning a life around

David Daniels, 68, said the acceptance he felt upon applying for a job at Mission Waco gave him reason to believe God had a plan for his life.

Prone to binge drinking and drug use, Daniels started attending Jimmy Dorrell’s Church Under The Bridge at South Fourth Street and Interstate 35 about 20 years ago. He showed up mainly for the free meals served after services.

“But something changed in me, and one day I poured out the rest of my drink and threw out my drug paraphernalia before I attended church the next morning,” he said. “Listening to Jimmy, I realized someone cared. Jimmy and Janet gave me the chance to become a new person.”

Daniels began to regularly perform odd jobs at the Dorrells’ residence, and then Jimmy Dorrell one day popped the question about going to work for the ministry. Daniels said a background check would reveal a sordid past, but Dorrell assured him he would find a place on the payroll.

“Sitting in the Mission Waco office, listening to the people coming in with attitudes, wanting help paying bills or buying groceries, giving the staff a tongue-lashing, I thought the police would be arriving any minute,” he said. “But they never came. Their attitudes never drew anger in response. That made an impression on me, changed my life. And Jimmy Dorrell just recently awarded me my 24-year sobriety pin.”

Today, Daniels serves as produce manager at Jubilee Food Market, a grocery store at 15th Street and Colcord Avenue that opened late last year. Dorrell raised almost $1 million to renovate an old Safeway store and stock it with merchandise to eliminate a food desert in North Waco.

“There are three things that will put you on my bad side,” Daniels said. “Talk bad about Jimmy Dorrell, Church Under The Bridge or my mama. Mission Waco changes my life every day.”

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