By Emily Iazzetti
For the first time in more than 20 years, the only transitional housing facility for families in Central Texas will have new leadership. Amanda Samaniego will become executive director of Compassion Waco in October.
The Compassion Board of Directors started the official search for a new executive director this summer after Executive Director Jill McCall announced plans to retire. Finding the right person committed to help homeless families was fundamental.
“Amanda’s work experience and her volunteer experience showed us she has a true heart for the work at
Compassion,” Board President Debbie Luce said. “She has a heart for helping others and understands how important Compassion is in our community.”
A Waco native, Samaniego returned to the Waco area eight years ago and brings corporate experience to the position, including five years at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce. However, with a master’s degree in public administration, her heart has always been in the nonprofit sector. Samaniego said she has a calling to help reach struggling parents, especially women, and to help them find their potential.
After her husband died when her daughter was 3 years old, Samaniego spent 13 years as a single mom rebuilding her own life.
“I feel strongly that my personal story helps me understand the guilt and the shame that can come with
struggling when you are a parent,” Samaniego said. “When you have a child to raise, and you feel like you
don’t know how to do it, it is hard. I hope that I will be able to support the parents at Compassion as they
work to build better lives for their kids.”
McCall has led the Compassion organization since 1999 and oversaw the building and fundraising for Hope House, a 14-apartment facility, in the early years of her tenure. McCall will stay with Compassion in an advisory role through the beginning of 2023.
Compassion is a transitional housing program and facility for homeless families in Central Texas. Started in 1994 by a group of local pastors and community leaders, Compassion has worked to serve Waco’s
homeless community. In 1995, the organization began housing homeless families and became the only
transitional housing facility for families in the area. With on-site case management and a dedicated team of community volunteer “co-partners,” Compassion has a program to help families end the cycle of
Editor: In honor of Women’s History Month, we are featuring interviews with local women leaders. These pieces were written by Baylor University students from the Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media.
By Arden Huston
There are people in Waco who need a little more love, understanding, and compassion. It’s time we not only feel their pain but also be moved to help relieve it. We need to give the homeless a little more compassion.
Compassion Waco is working to do that. Compassion is a transitional housing facility for homeless families with children where families can stay up to six months or a year until they learn effective ways to live on their own.
“I don’t know that I had a passion for Compassion when I came, because my image of the homeless was the guy on the street corner who needs a bath and a shave. But I now understand who we serve here is not necessarily that demographic,” Jill McCall, executive director of Compassion Waco, said.
Compassion Waco focuses on serving a specific demographic, which includes families and children. McCall mentioned how it’s important to consider the average age of the homeless in the United States today is 11 and 57% of the homeless are women and children.
“There certainly are those guys on the end of the street corner, but they’re not the majority of the homeless, and they’re not the homeless we serve here in Waco” at Compassion, McCall said.
McCall also shared that her father died when she was 4 and her mother had three kids to take care of. At the time, her mother was lucky enough to have the support of an extended family that was able to assist her emotionally and financially.
Then one day it hit her. “I could have been a child of Compassion, had my mother not had those things and had there been a Compassion, because there wasn’t one then,” McCall said.
When you put things into perspective in this way it’s easier to sympathize with the homeless. The reason many people become homeless is because of a lack of support and financial understanding.
“I think we all can agree most of us get out of high school or college and most of the time we haven’t been very accountable with our money. I mean we’ve never been made to be,” McCall said.
This is a common reason for homelessness. People that come to Compassion often haven’t had anyone to teach them how to budget their money, and they come to learn just that.
“People have to want the help; they have to be at that point in their lives where they’re ready to accept that help. Sometimes people are too proud to accept it,” McCall said.
Compassion has a variety of volunteer opportunities for people who want to help, especially those who like working with kids. They are always in need of people to provide after school care and monitor the children in the computer room.
McCall mentioned a challenge of the job is not being able to see the people while they’re on the other side of things, when they’ve gotten their lives together and aren’t in need of help anymore.
She cites a popular proverb of uncertain origin. “We are planting trees knowing full well, we will never see the shade,” McCall said. “That, on the other hand, says the shade will come. We may not see it, but that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that they find the shade.”
Arden Huston is a sophomore at Baylor University from Houston double majoring in psychology and professional writing.
The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].