The following story was written by Jacqueline Cordova, a senior, for her Public Relations Writing class at the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas.
February 22, 2011
Imagine losing everything: your job, home, car and your independence. Homelessness can happen to anyone in this economy. The Samaritan Inn is willing to help. As Collin County’s only homeless shelter, it continues to be successful after 25 years. The non-profit was established in 1984 after community leaders acknowledged the issue of homelessness in the county. As a homeless shelter it is not just a place to spend the night, it is an organization that helps families and individuals regain their independence in a positive light--before, during and after a homeless situation.
There are many people who want to have an impact on the residents at the Inn. Staff members and willing volunteers are what keep the organization up and going. With generosity churches, service groups, organizations, corporations and individuals throughout the year make donations.
Of all the people wanting to help, Lynne Sipiora is one who continues to make a difference in people’s lives. As the executive director of The Samaritan Inn, Sipiora has been with the organization five years. Having a degree in organizational psychology and working for non profits, all of her career has helped her gained the success of changing the world-- at least for those in Collin County.
Sipiora always had the desire to change the world in some way, so working for a nonprofit that created social change seemed a natural fit. She believes that homelessness is a significant social problem that is increasing every year. “I believe with the appropriate support services people can become independent, contributing members of society again,” she said.
Of all the things she encounters, Sipiora enjoys being a part of The Samaritan Inn’s success stories every day. “Over 72% of our population re-enter the community and then come back and work with those that are still struggling for independence,” she said. “It is great to see and be a part of.”
There are so many stories that have touched Sipiora’s heart, one of which she remembers vividly. On her first day on the job, five years ago, Sipiora and fellow employees were hit with the evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. Hugh was one man that left a symbolic mark on her heart. Ironically, he was the same age as Sipiora and had the same birthday. “He was determined to make a new life and go to college,” she said. “Four years later when he graduated from Collin College, I gave the commencement address and handed him his diploma!”
Sipiora witnesses many people who walk through the inn’s doors with nowhere else to go. People who would never dream they would live in a homeless shelter have shown up when they were completely out of options. But to see the change in a resident, there’s nothing like it. “To see someone totally beaten down and ready to give up and then watch their progress and witness their independence, well, it’s a miracle!” she said.
Sipiora’s hard work has paid off at the inn. She has had the privilege of receiving personal recognition by winning many awards: Best Executive Director, Best New Program from the Texas Homeless Network, Ebby Halliday Rose of Distinction, Good Samaritan-Marc Sparks Foundation and Portrait of a Leader-Collin County Business Publication.
Sipiora is eager to point out that she alone is not the sole contributor at The Samaritan Inn. “The staff, as a team, holds it all together. Every staff member has made a personal commitment to the organization,” she said.
The passion and enthusiasm exhibited by Sipiora is evident not only in the work- place, but in her home life as well, as she is a wife and mother of three. Her giving attitude is apparent in her three children, all of which make it a priority to help those in need. “All of my children regularly volunteer at the shelter; it is a part of our family life,” she said.
Along with being the executive director of The Samaritan Inn, Sipiora has a fond devotion for writing; she has a book published and writes a regular column for The Dallas Morning News.
Every day is a busy day at the inn, and there is always something to do to fulfill the needs of the residents. “There is no such thing as a normal day, but the majority of it is spent on fundraising,” she said. “Funding is absolutely critical to us.”
The Samaritan Inn continues to live by their mission statement each day by being a comprehensive homeless program that helps willing people gain dignity and independence. Sipiora also has her own personal philosophy summed up by Anthropologist Margaret Meade: “Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can make a difference, indeed they are the only thing that ever has!”