After seeing a child dig in a dumpster for food, Reverend Clayton Lewis (then pastor of Munger Place United Methodist Church) resolved to do what he could to relieve this situation in East Dallas. In 1982, he began programs to assist families with food and clothing. In September 1982, Rev. Lewis provided 67 families with food and clothing, and thus the seed of Wilkinson Center was planted. Rev. Lewis’s initiative quickly grew, and assisted by church member volunteers, he provided food and clothing to 82 families in October, 104 families in November, and 330 families in December 1982. By January 1983, the program had support from 27 volunteers.
In addition, the East Dallas Cooperative Parish was formed to provide the churches with resources to become outposts of service for their neighborhoods in need. This led, in 1985, to the formation of what is now Wilkinson Center, an agency that combines food and emergency assistance to families with educational opportunities that change their lives. The name honors volunteer Ruby Wilkinson whose family gave the Center a generous legacy gift.
A lot has changed in the last 40 years, but Wilkinson Center’s goal of ending generational poverty has not. Today, Wilkinson Center is a dynamic service provider for families struggling to escape poverty, providing services throughout Dallas County with a focus in East and Southeast Dallas.
Wilkinson Center utilizes a holistic approach to poverty intervention. Our vision is to eliminate generational poverty by addressing clients’ most significant issues: basic human necessities (food and shelter), education, and employment. Wilkinson Center’s impact is only possible with the support of dedicated volunteers, donors, and staff and through the hard work of our clients.
We look toward the future with hope but remain ready and aware that the need for our services in Dallas will continue to shift and grow. We strive to reach clients in new ways and continue to bring support directly to the neighborhoods that need it most. Wilkinson Center will evolve to meet the challenges of poverty while keeping the same commitment to dignity and self-respect as we have since 1982.