Tom and Gail Wisdom had been working closely with families of the predominantly minority community of Eastside, Wichita Falls. This had caused them to realize that Eastside was a community in decades-long decline and so they sought a deeper understanding. They learned that along with a crumbling infrastructure, there are no full-service grocery store, no gas stations, and virtually no businesses located in Eastside/ Also, through their work with the African American Educational Association (AAEC) they discovered the deplorable percentage of elementary school children who were not reading at level in third grade (70%!)
Having come to the understanding that his is one of the statistics the State of Texas uses to determine how many new prisons will be needed in the future, their volunteer work turned toward a critical eye of the system(s) that provided this failure and the seemingly utter abandonment of that community.
While at a Palo Duro Presbytery meeting, Tom heard stories from an involved teaching elder about the successes of bringing social change in other Texas communities by the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF). This prompted Tom & Gail to attend a week-long training session held I Scottsdale, AZ. From the training emerged the dream to launch a local branch of the IAF. After several months of talking with various religious leaders in the community and developing relationships with many others which are so essential to IAF’s work, the Wichita County Action Network. (WeCAN) was born.
A core team has emerged which is dedicated to the flourishing of the residents of eastside. WeCAN’s first objective was to raise money in order to fund a training contract with Dallas Area Interfaith, and IAF affiliate. WeCAN has reached its funding goal which is substantially aided by a generous grant from Synod of the Sun and other denominational agencies. Now our hopes are to begin the eight-month training program by early summer 2916. We have been asked to speak in many different venues and community support is burgeoning to include the superintendent of schools, other school officials, and a city councilor. Recently we gained the backing of the Coalition for Hispanic Education as well. We welcome inquiries and would be glad to speak about it with you as well.