Andrea Wilson Women’s Fund of Smith County

A feeling of change is in the air. Fall has arrived with thoughts of pumpkin spiced everything, football rivalries and the radiant foliage that God gifts us to mark the beginning of autumn. The trees perform their magnificent grand finale and we start to reflect on the end of another year – it’s a time for slowing down, for thankfulness of our abundance, for rest and comfort.

Despite God’s intentions, we often miss the opportunity that this yearly ritual presents to reflect on the bigger picture and rejoice in the seasons of our own lives. Even as an adult child, accepting the knowledge that my parents’ season of rest had arrived was difficult. In their last few years, as my parents’ health declined, we had to make the difficult decision to seek a place that could provide for them 24/7 outside of their home. 

My mom pushed her walker down the halls and gave everyone she met candy; her way to care for the friends she made at the memory care facility. My dad’s prudence over the years ensured that their care in their final years was financially feasible. In the autumn of their lives, they still modeled the values of generosity and stewardship that formed the foundation of our family. I’d like to think that they passed both of those traits along to my sisters and me.

I recently met a man named Vernon who was facing some of the same heart-wrenching decisions as I did during that season. Vernon’s wife of 38 years was facing a health crisis and he was not able to give her the care in their home that she required. Vernon sought a new home at a memory care facility for his wife where she would be cared for as her needs increased.  

However, this decision was made even more difficult for this family because they depended on her social security benefits to make ends meet for their monthly expenses. When Vernon’s wife was admitted to the care facility, her social security check no longer went to help Vernon cover the costs like their mortgage, insurance, utilities and other household expenses. I vividly recall Vernon walking in the doors of PATH; his steps were hesitant, and he was unsure of how to ask for help. Thankfully, PATH was able to say yes through the generous grant funding provided by the Women’s Fund to help families through a housing crisis.

There are many Vernon’s out there who find themselves in a situation that causes them to seek help. I’ve watched our neighbors in need slowly get out of their cars and reluctantly walk in our door. Once there, it is our mission to make them feel safe. We want to make sure they are treated with kindness and we want them to know that they matter. We can’t always send them off with what they came looking for, but we can always pray with them, connect them with someone to talk to who cares about them and open the conversation for a future relationship that may meet a deeper need in their life.  

It’s impossible for me not to see the face of my parents in these seniors who come to PATH in need of life-sustaining support. I remember my mom and dad teaching me about loving our community, and the God-given dignity of every human being. I think that is how I imagine the concept of philanthropy now – the fight to restore the dignity which God gave to each and every one of us, which we so often deny to each other.

As I strive to be a good steward of my finances, I realize that I may not be able to affect great change alone, but as a member of The Women’s Fund of Smith County, my gifts are combined with others and together we are making a difference in the lives of folks across Smith county. 

I believe that The Women’s Fund of Smith County is the manifestation of the best qualities of our community; compassion, advocacy and radical love. In the last year, when humanity is struggling to remember the best of itself, agencies who administer direct services, like PATH, provide a reminder of our great potential. Survival is insufficient; together, we thrive. 

Andrea Wilson is the executive director for PATH, People Attempting to Help which has been serving East Texas since 1985.