In the wake of COVID-19, former political science professor Allan Saxe pledged up to $10,000 in matching funds to the Arlington Life Shelter in August.
After extending the original deadline to Sept. 7, the shelter matched Saxe’s pledge with donations made by other community members, said Jim Reeder, Arlington Life Shelter interim executive director.
The shelter assists homeless men, women and children in transitioning back to self-sufficiency by providing shelter, employment programs and transitional services. It has served more than 25,000 North Texans impacted by homelessness in the past 33 years, according to its website.
“We want people that we can help turn around,” Reeder said. “Ultimate goal is to get them back in their self-sufficient situation.”
The shelter completed renovations and opened a new building this summer, allowing staff to welcome about 40% more clients and providing more space for programming, 12 workstations and extra classrooms and children’s areas, Reeder said.
A fundraising campaign in 2017 raised about $5.8 million from local organizations and community individuals, which funded the shelter’s recent renovations. The shelter closed its doors Jan. 6 to begin construction and remained closed until early June.
In celebration of the expansion’s opening, Saxe’s donation offer of $10,000 kicked off a separate campaign by the shelter to match his funds through donations from other people and organizations. The shelter prompted community members to match his donation by Sept. 7, according to an Arlington Life Shelter Facebook post.
“A lot of people really care about Dr. Saxe and things he’s done for Arlington,” Reeder said. “Not just Arlington Life Shelter but all across Arlington.”
Saxe worked at UTA for 54 years. He was recognized for outstanding teaching by the UT System Board of Regents in 2014.
Saxe has donated to various venues and local businesses throughout his years, including Allan Saxe Park, Allan Saxe Parkway and UTA’s Allan Saxe Field.
The life shelter has been overwhelmed due to the pandemic, Saxe said. He’s observed people in Arlington who need housing, food and protection. The shelter does wonderful work on a normal basis, but during the pandemic it’s even more important.
“The Arlington Life Shelter is just great,” he said. “I knew that they were assuming a big burden.”
Megan Waguespack, chief operating officer of client services and operations at Arlington Life Shelter, oversees all client programs. She overlooks safety, classes, food service and other important resources.
Demand is higher for a community of people needing shelter due to the impact of COVID-19. New protocols are being enforced at the shelter to accommodate for social distancing measures in order to keep families safe, Waguespack said.
“The need has increased, and our availability has decreased,” she said. “We definitely are seeing quite a problem in normal services.”