The Samaritan Inn celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2014, and the Wilson family of McKinney has played a continuing role in its development and success.
Jennifer Wilson McCarley had just graduated from law school at Southern Methodist University when she got involved. She was working for the firm of Abernathy, Roeder, Boyd & Joplin at the time, and they encouraged community involvement. McCarley joined a small group of ministers and concerned citizens who had recognized a need for a centralized McKinney site that would provide assistance to people in need.
Men and women in the community sometimes needed food and gas money or a night in a hotel on an emergency basis, and this group of local leaders wanted to ensure that these services existed.
They knew that it would take more than dedicated volunteers to keep such a program afloat and reminded one another of Margaret Thatcher’s famous quote: “No one would remember the good Samaritan if he only had good intentions. He also had money.”
The five churches that were represented each pledged $100 a month to the operations budget. The program was christened The Samaritan Inn, and McCarley drew up the incorporation papers for the new not-for-profit agency. When McCarley’s term on the board came to a close, her father, Dr. Jim Wilson, was asked to join the fledgling board. By this time, the program had moved from a small rented office on Wilcox Street to a house on McMakin Street, which now provided overnight emergency shelter, in addition to the other services.
As a physician with a thriving practice in McKinney, Wilson knew firsthand that people were struggling. He had handwritten signs in each of his exam rooms that said: ‘If you cannot afford to pay for this visit, please take an X and give it to the receptionist. No questions will be asked and you will owe nothing.’ The X was written on the back of his business cards, and a pile of cards was under every sign.
Wilson contributed his expertise to The Samaritan Inn and set up many onsite clinics whenever a virus ran rampant through the newly formed shelter.
McCarley said her father and mother, Marian, valued kindness above all else and consistently modeled this family value with their generosity and good works. “Mom had the ability to mobilize groups and organizations, while Dad focused on one-on-one relationships,” she said.
McCarley was taught that people who had been blessed were obligated to give back. She took that lesson to heart and made sure it was passed along to her own three children.
The Samaritan Inn is engaged in a capital campaign to build a new state-of-the-art family shelter to meet the ever-increasing needs of homeless families in the community. They hope to break ground in 2015.
Enter generation three. Rachel Pittman is McCarley’s daughter and the oldest grandchild of the Wilsons. She is now a caseworker at The Samaritan Inn.
Pittman recently was named Caseworker of the Year by the Texas Homeless Network at its annual conference. The award was presented for her tireless work with people experiencing homelessness and her unflagging compassion. Wilson attended the celebratory luncheon in San Antonio and was the first person to his feet, with tears in his eyes, as his granddaughter left the stage holding her award.
Pittman says the family mantra is, “You can always start over” – and she shares that philosophy with the people she works with on a daily basis.
I have long believed that no one comes out of the chute a philanthropist. It is a quality that must be taught, and the Wilson family legacy is a perfect example of how to do just that. There was no fanfare or lengthy lectures on the subject. They quietly went about offering up grace and compassion to anyone who needed it, and their children watched and learned. And then their children’s children watched and learned. And the world became a better place because of it.
About the author: Lynne Sipiora is executive director of The Samaritan Inn.
About The Samaritan Inn
The Samaritan Inn is a comprehensive homeless program that restores people to independence through training, support and personalized case management. The Samaritan Inn was established in 1984 after community leaders joined together to address the issue of homelessness in Collin County. Thirty years later, The Samaritan Inn is still the leading homeless program in a county of over 854,000 residents. For more information, visit thesamaritaninn.org.