The Well Auxiliary was formed in late 2016 in response to the desire of many volunteers to develop additional avenues to serve The Well Community and to find new ways to help members prosper. The Well is a nonprofit organization that depends on donations, grants and volunteers to help those who struggle with mental illness in Oak Cliff. To learn more about this exciting new initiative, The Well interviewed Vickie Fisk, President of The Well Auxiliary.
The Well: How did the idea for the Auxiliary evolve?
Fisk: I first got involved with The Well by helping through my church, Kessler Park United Methodist Church. As I became more involved, I also became more aware of The Well’s needs. At the same time I learned that the Stewpot, a ministry for homeless people in Dallas, has a group called the Alliance, which is an independent organization that has supported the Stewpot for 15 years. I thought, “We have to have one of those for The Well!”
The Well: What is your vision for the Auxiliary?
Fisk: Certainly to help The Well financially, for things small and large. We want to provide necessities like personal care products for their members. I’ve also seen the need for special help when a member of The Well dies or has a death in the family. Well members don’t have money to live day-to-day, so there is certainly no provision for death. It’s really up to The Well to help put together a respectful memorial. There are also annual special needs like Christmas gift cards, which are a much-anticipated treat every year. By providing merely a hundred $50 gift cards, we could raise $5,000 to directly benefit Well members! We dream that someday we could help develop a licensed boarding house for female members of The Well to complement Jacob’s House, The Well’s boarding home for men. Women in the homeless community are at much greater risk than men.
The Well: How will the Auxiliary impact the Oak Cliff community?
Fisk: Oak Cliff is a special place—everyone who has ever lived there knows this. We remember that charity begins at home. Joel and Laura Pulis began The Well by walking the streets of the community and inviting every lonely, hurting soul they met. That is a great legacy. The Auxiliary continues this mission in caring for our neighbors and building awareness about those least-served in the community. And finally, affordable, safe housing is a primary need for those with mental health difficulties. Dallas is beginning to see and address this truth. As I mentioned, we would love for the Auxiliary to be a catalyst in the community to tend to the housing needs for women struggling with mental illnesses.
The Well: Why would someone want to become a member of The Well Auxiliary?
Fisk: You can be assured that you are helping people in need, immediately. You can also be better informed and equipped to become a champion for those who because of mental illnesses are some of the most vulnerable in our community. You can be as involved as you wish. If you are too busy to do anything but write a check, that’s fine! We will greatly appreciate your donation! But if you want to be even more involved, come serve dinner at The Well or volunteer on a weekday morning. We are going to plan some fun events for Auxiliary members and will need volunteers. Tell us what you like/want to do—we will show you a way to use it for good!
The Well: How does someone become a member?
Fisk: Joining The Well Auxiliary is super easy. Just go to the Auxiliary membership sign-up page, and make your membership donation by PayPal or credit card. Individual annual dues are only $50. And let me emphasize that the Auxiliary is an organization for men and women, couples and singles, all working together. We hope to welcome many new members this year!
The Well: Tell us about your first event that was held on January 28.
Fisk: We were excited to host our first big event at the Bishop Arts Theater! Nearly 70 people from the community joined us.
ReShonda Tate Billingsley, author of the book, The Secret She Kept, which was made into a TV One movie, joined a panel of experts to discuss why those who suffer with mental illness need more than a bandage. The panel, moderated by Joel Pulis, included Senior Corporal Herbert Cotner, Behavioral Health Liaison with the Dallas Police Department, Brian Cuban, a Dallas attorney who speaks openly about helping fight forms of addiction, and Sherry Cusumano, President of NAMI Dallas. U.S. Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30) was scheduled to join us as well, but was unable to participate because of illness. The Auxiliary also hosted a reception to welcome new Auxiliary members upstairs at the theater prior to the event. (See additional photos below).
The Well: What are the Auxiliary’s big goals for 2017?
Fisk: Our desire is to give Auxiliary members opportunities to become more educated about mental health and to give them ways to serve The Well. A primary goal for 2017 is to provide $5,000 worth of gift cards to give away to The Well members in December and to be able to help with personal needs of members as they arise.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Auxiliary or becoming a member, contact The Well Auxiliary today.