East Dallas is more than just a neighborhood to Jan Worrall. It’s her hometown – the place where she has lived since infancy (except while attending college), the place where she built a career as a volunteer, and the place where her children are growing up as third-generation residents.
“In a lot of ways, Lakewood is still much the same as it was when we were young,” says Worrall, who is married to Lakewood native Gerry Worrall.
“A lot of young families have moved back, and there are a lot of children riding bikes in the streets – which is what we did as kids.”
Some things, of course, have changed in the past several decades. While some East Dallas neighborhoods have been revitalized, many pockets of poverty remain.
Working to improve the lives of the area’s less-fortunate has claimed much of Worrall’s time during the past eight years. She has helped teach illiterate adults to read, helped acquire new school shoes for low-income children, helped provide food and other necessities for struggling families, and helped raise money for the budget-strapped Lakewood Branch Library.
Volunteering is the career path Worrall chose after having her first child and giving up the paycheck that came with a full-time job as a convention services director for a hotel.
“Volunteering allows me to go and do and be busy, but if my children need me for a school event or sickness, I can be there,” Worrall says.
One of her first major commitments was a two-year stint as a reading tutor for Literacy Volunteers of America. After completing one of the first LVA training classes in Texas about eight years ago, Worrall became the first tutor to be matched in a one-on-one relationship with a non-reading adult student.
After her student graduated from the program, Worrall branched into other volunteer efforts, such as the Lakewood Service League, Lakewood Library Friends, and the Wilkinson Center (a social services ministry of East Dallas Cooperative Parish).
As secretary of the Wilkinson Center board of directors, Worrall helps the non-profit agency find volunteers and funds to meet the growing needs of low-income families in East Dallas – food, clothing, employment and, when funds are available, occasional rent assistance.
“I really enjoy helping those who are less fortunate than my family and feeling like I’m a part of this community,” Worrall says. “It’s so important for us to help take care of our neighbors.”
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