CADDO MILLS — Even as Deidre McGinn and Shaney Welk saw their congregation in Caddo Mills begin to dwindle in number, the two sisters did not lose faith in their belief that their church building could continue to be a beacon of personal healing and community.
With that faith, McGinn, Welk and a handful of volunteers that shared their vision, worked with the board members of the church to transform the property, which had been a place of worship since 1954, into the Common Ground Mission community center.
McGinn, the executive director of the center, said one of the original plans for the center was for it to serve as a resource for those who cannot find affordable healthcare. She said she learned about some of the hardships of low-income families seeking medical attention during her time as a nurse.
“The road to being able to provide those kinds of services is a long process, so we began to think about what other services the community needs in the meantime,” McGinn said.
Located at the heart of Caddo Mills, near the corner of Highway 66 and Gilmer Street, the cathedral currently boasts a sign that reads, “Iglesia de Dios Jehovah-Jireh,” a Spanish-speaking congregation that currently rents the property on Sunday’s and Thursday’s.
Though McGinn is happy to see the building continue to serve as a church, the nonprofit has provided more than spaces for rent since opening in early 2017.
In addition to offering grief counseling services for those who have lost loved ones, the center provides a place for local groups to meet and socialize.
“We wanted our community to have healthy relationships. We wanted them to be happy spiritually, mentally and physically,” Welk said. “Ultimately, be followers of Jesus.”
The seven-member board currently consists mainly of McGinn and her family members. Her husband, Matt, whose father served as the pastor of the church before its transformation, was also one of the founding members of the center.
Welk’s son, Jordan Higginbotham, who works as a volunteer, said his work with the community helps him cope with hardships he experienced in his youth.
“Something that you learn is that you have to get your mind off yourself,” Higginbotham said. “Helping other people really brings joy to my heart, because I want people succeed in life; I don’t want to see them go through the things that I went through.”
Despite the center’s roots in Judeo-Christian principles, McGinn said the organization does not discriminate on the basis of race, ethnicity, culture, gender or religion.
Since its inception, she and the other board members envisioned a place where people from all different walks of the life could find common ground, hence the name of the community center.
“Whether our faith is common or not, we all have common struggles. We have common needs. Being able to provide for those needs -that is our vision,” McGinn said.
The vision of the board, McGinn said, is to continue communicating with the community to identify its needs, as well as to share the mission of the center.
As a part of this effort, board members e-mailed churches in Caddo Mills, inviting them to learn more about the facility.
In August 2017, Welk, who also serves on the board, started a library at the center after seeing a lack of libraries in Caddo Mills. In one of the books, she said she was surprised to find a note with a note that paid respects to her father, who died in 1998.
“Our Dad died 19 years ago, and here he is in our library -in a way,” Welk said. “So that’s a little confirmation from God, I think.”
Though the library is still growing, it features a reading room and more than 2,000 books that are available to the local community.
The facility is also going through renovations, which will maintain the look and feel of the 64-year-old building as much as possible. Until now, board members have been largely responsible for the costs for the operations and developments of the community center. On Saturday, Feb. 3, the center will host “Bingo Night” as its first official fundraiser.
“It’s our one-year anniversary party, so we decided to make it a fun, family bingo night. You can get four to five cards for $20, and that all goes towards the community center,” said Erin Kincaid, who volunteers at the center as a counselor.
Prizes for winners include, among other things, jewelry that was donated to the center. A silent auction is also planned for the event.
Kincaid, who also serves as the vice president of the Royse City Chamber of Commerce, said she hopes to see the center strengthen relations with local municipalities and other nonprofits. She said she also looks forward to finding more ways to fund the center and its activities.
“At this time, God just hasn’t opened those doors, and so the families that are involved, we are the ones supporting it financially; it’s our mission to the community,” Kincaid said.