Sherri Mixon: Building the Ideal Neighborhood
Sherri Mixon grew up watching her mother stand up for what is right in a neighborhood where there was a lot of wrong happening. Born in the southeast neighborhood of Dallas called Ideal, Sherri spent her early years watching the adults around her go through hurts and challenges. “As a child, it was a lot to take on and try to understand,” she reflected. But her mother, with her resolution for good, was the best kind of role model, and Sherri inherited her perspective.
Even in elementary school, Sherri became someone that other kids knew they could count on for safety. “Bullying for me was always a no-go, and the kids knew that. Kids would come sit next to me on the bus because they knew I wasn’t one to be bothered – they felt safer around me,” she remembered. “I stood firm on an issue even at a young age – I was being protective of my brother and sister, but also for others who couldn’t stand up for themselves.” Sherri also credits another role model in her life – her kindergarten teacher Ms. Goodwin. She saw that Ms. Goodwin did not discriminate against any children, and saw the beauty in each of them. She also saw that Ms. Goodwin dealt with bullying very seriously – she did not tolerate it, and the kids respected her.
Starting with elementary school at HS Thompson, Sherri worked hard as a student and graduated from Lincoln High School. While at Lincoln she brought her passion for golf, a sport she learned from her uncles, and helped start the school’s first golf team. Lincoln’s golf team went all the way to national competition while Sherri was on the team. After studying science in undergraduate at Prairie View A&M, she went on to graduate school at Sam Houston State University, but ended up leaving early to help her mother take care of their neighborhood and the people who call it home.
The TR Hoover Community Development Center (CDC) was born in 1997 out of that helping spirit. The center is named after Sherri’s great grandfather, TR Hoover himself. Hoover migrated to Dallas in the 1800s and left behind a great legacy of taking care of his community. Sherri, as the center’s current executive director, serves to keep up her great grandfather’s legacy. The desire to serve, protect, and help the people around them runs in the veins of the descendants of TR Hoover.
In its beginning, the center arranged homebuilding for residents of Ideal. They built 55 homes in the area to provide affordable housing for people in the neighborhood. The center now runs an after-school enrichment program for kids as well as a summer camp that neighborhood kids can attend. The kids get to read, learn, play, dance, sing, make art, and spend time with one another. “I’ve raised a lot kids, none of my own, but I’ve raised a lot of kids,” Sherri said with a chuckle. The team at TR Hoover is currently developing a community garden, with classes for the kids about how fruits and vegetables are grown, and the value in taking care of their bodies. “People in food deserts don’t understand where healthy food comes from – they’ve never experienced seeing food from the earth grow. We want them to understand, and have access to it, so they’ll be more likely to eat it,” Sherri said.
The “Me First Community Health Initiative” also originated at TR Hoover, and serves all individuals – men, women, and children – in the neighborhood. Each year the community center brings in various providers for a comprehensive health clinic. The clinic is open to anyone who does not have adequate access to health care, providing information sessions, screenings, and treatment, all at no cost. Through this initiative, individuals in the area have been diagnosed with serious illnesses and given access to life-saving treatment. “Some who have been diagnosed with cancer at the clinic find it early on enough that they can be treated, and some find it too late. There is something, though, in the wealth of knowing,” Sherri said. The TR Hoover Community Center is helping to bridge the gap between healthcare as a luxury and healthcare as a right.
Another service the center offers is an emergency pantry. As transportation is an issue in the neighborhood, residents in the area will not only run out of food but also have no way to get to more food. People in the area will donate any extra food they have, and the center keeps it for those who run out of food. There isn’t a specific day this service takes place, but operates on a case-by-case basis. The community center also offers workshops for adults on an array of topic such as home repair, taxes, computer education. The TR Hoover Community Development Center is sustainable because it receives support from the entire surrounding community, and doesn’t simply offer handouts. People in the community have become drawn to it because there is joy in putting in the work to help the center truly fulfill its mission. “The community is the caretaker,” Sherri said.
Whether it is time or funds that someone can offer, TR Hoover CDC is grateful. “Nonprofits are profitable in the people arena. We invest in people, people are the fruits of our city, and they lay the foundation for the future,” Sherri said. Volunteers from outside the neighborhood are encouraged to join in. Sherri commented that she loves watching volunteers from different parts of Dallas come together with neighborhood residents and step outside their normal experiences by engaging with one another. “We don’t prosper as individuals if we never step out of our comfort zones,” Sherri said.
There is an assortment of options for volunteer work for anyone who would like to get involved. The TR Hoover CDC is always in need of volunteers to teach classes about computers, music, dance, and reading. Students also benefit greatly from individuals willing to provide homework help. And when it comes time for the garden to be planted, volunteers, students, and community members will come together to grow.
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Stories and photos by Hunter Lacey.