BEDFORD– Last week, almost 400 men and women from organizations all around North Texas gathered at Campus West, a face-lifted venue on Industrial Boulevard. Built by a church, maintained in partnership with a nonprofit and bordering a major highway as well as a community garden operated in part by the city itself, the setting could not have been more poetic. There was no better rally point at which this coalition of churches, cities, schools and industry leaders could break bread. Especially given that said bread, in this case, was delicious barbecue donated for the occasion by neighboring Spring Creek.
There's nothing quite like seeing a community come together. It's the best part of everything we do, from the incredible volunteers who power our home revitalization efforts to the amazing sponsors who help us provide school supplies for thousands of students in HEB ISD and the countless groups and organizations that fill the ranks at every Night of Hope, Food Drive, and Run for Hope. 6 Stones runs on the remarkable men and women who make this stretch of suburbia into something special. On Thursday, we gathered to celebrate their accomplishments. We put every member of our team under one roof, and the scene was downright beautiful.
We host our annual Catalyst of Hope Luncheon to show our partners just how valuable they are. It was our pleasure to share the numbers and stories that reflect the work done here last year, but statistics and video recaps can only capture so much of the magic. The real testament to our progress is in the sheer volume of partners therein represented. Whether they were seated in the room or present only on screen on this particular day, each and every person who lent a hand in the past year was essential to what we accomplished together. Moreover, they're the reason we can be so confident in our plans for the future.
“The reality is that you have created this energy. It's you. It's not us, it's not me. I've stirred, but you've created it. And the world is beginning to notice,” Executive Director Scott Shepard said, addressing the crowd of on the day of luncheon. “I tell people all the time that my job is to stir it up. That's it. That's all I do… Together, you and I have been building this platform. This thing that's got energy and life to it.”
That platform, as it turns out, is a key component to something spreading across our nation. We're excited to be part of a burgeoning City Transformation Movement; a trend toward community engagement manifesting in close to 300 organizations just like ours that have popped up all around the country. As our staff has researched this trend in an effort to be a useful part of it, we've run across theorists and specialists like Eric Swanson and Reggie McNeal, authors who not only help us to better understand our goals and strategies but also empower us to share what we've learned here. Everyone wins when we share our victories, and both men were more than happy to tell the coalition here in North Texas what the future holds.
“Lately I've been thinking about City Transformation as a platform,” Swanson said, appearing by pre-recorded video. “Platforms, I think, are the most revolutionary business model today. For instance, the world's largest Transportation company, Uber, doesn't own any vehicles. The largest Lodging company in the world, Airbnb, doesn't own any hotel rooms. The largest Retailer in the world, Alibaba, doesn't own any product. The largest Media company in the world, Facebook, doesn't create any content.”
“What platforms are able to do is turn latent energy into active energy. In other words, whoever thought that 2 million people would want to rent their homes out to strangers?” the theorist continued. “All around the city, there's latent energy of people who want to make a difference. Just like a windmill can tap into the wind and a water wheel can tap into moving water and solar panels can trap the energy of the sun. That's what platforms do.”
This community has been anything but latent for the past seven years. Together, we've renovated over 400 homes, clothed an average of 300 individuals per week and stood in the gap between thousands of students and their lack of funds for school supplies. What's happening here is something for which no single non-profit or church or company could ever take credit. No small group could accomplish the kind of transformation we're aspiring toward together.
“What we're realizing is that your reach is limited. I don't care how big your budget is, your reach –your influence — is limited to whatever sector and network and relationships that you've got in play. When other people come into your constellation, they bring with them their networks, their relationships,” McNeal explained, also appearing by video. “When something really happens, the genius in it is the people or person or organization that can come along and create kind of a neutral platform so that other people can get in and play. So that they're not in competition with each other; they're actually in a collaborative initiative together… that's what 6 Stones has done here, and that's what other folks that are really beginning to move the needle on stuff have figured out.”
“You're modeling the way for some other people, and that's why I'm glad to know about you, to have already seen some of the work that you're doing. As you move forward in the days ahead and make even more impact, greater impact, in your area, the way that you're going about it is so transferable that we can help other communities do the same thing. So I want to just say you're part of something really big. It's bigger than you, but it starts right here. What you're doing is fabulous. Keep it up, way to go, we're counting on you.”
Whether by luck or God's grace or sheer effort, we've stumbled onto something profoundly effective here. The kind of thing that sees companies from all across the board joining forces with city governments and school districts and churches to battle against any and every obstacle between community members and the quality of life they desire. We're going farther than we've ever gone before, and we're doing it because we're going together at once instead of individually as time allows. The progress we've made has attracted the attention of others, and we feel it's only right to share what we've learned even as we strive to better serve the people who have been learning alongside us.
“City Transformation Movement. That's a lot of plates spinning… as we're spinning these plates and trying to do these things, we realized one thing. And that's our commitment to this community, specifically,” Shepard told guests during the luncheon. “The reality is this: we were given an assignment to go meet the needs of the community. And all we've done as a staff is we've put our head down — and that's all you've done, is put your head down — and you worked hard for seven years.”
“The phrase is this: keep the main thing the main thing. And the main thing is that the light that shines the farthest will shine the brightest at home. That's our commitment to you. We're building playbooks; we're building models and strategies and best practices. It's not that we can send those out. It's because we want to be able to do more here in 2016,” he said. “As we look at 2016, we don't want to rest on our laurels… want to push this thing further and harder than we ever have.”
As much as we're thrilled to join a conversation that's slowly growing louder in cities across the United States, we're even more excited to be doing so as members of an outstanding community. There's nothing special about us, our assets or our staff. There's something special about the people and place into which we were planted and put down roots. This community has done and will do amazing things. We simply give it a little boost once in a while.
It's that magnificent raw material — the sheer power and elegance of the people here — that we came together to celebrate on February 4th. At the heart of the luncheon was the highest accolade we give all year: the Gary McKamie Catalyst of Hope Award, granted to the singular individual who best embodies the principles and practices upon which 6 Stones was founded. One man or woman who inspires, encourages and challenges everyone they encounter. A person whose presence and purpose are the starting point for change. For hope.
This year's recipient is, quite possibly, the most legendary figure in the history of the area. You'd never know it from talking to him. In fact, he spent the majority of his acceptance speech marveling at the quality of people around him. From his fellow coaches at Trinity High School to the young men who grew from football players into police officers, fathers, and volunteers; Steve Lineweaver used his time in the spotlight to celebrate everyone else. That's not new to him.
“I just invited a few here. They allowed themselves to be interrupted from their day to come and it meant a lot to me,” Lineweaver said as he accepted the award. “My hero, my wife, Melinda. She's fighting the good fight at Oakwood Terrace Elementary, every day. She stands in the gap for those kids. Every Tuesday night she goes to Tarrant County Jail to minister to those incarcerated women. She's my hero. She teaches me how to serve.”
He continued down the list, thanking fellow coaches Chris Jensen and Donald Tryon as well as several long-graduated players in attendance and former Trinity Principal Andy Cargile before concluding with a message of gratitude. “We've got a sign at Trinity that says ‘Enter to Learn, Exit to Serve.' I've been on with these guys for years… Trying to teach kids to be servant leaders. Now I've changed horses. Now I'm arm and arm with a great group. To mention a few: Scott Shepard, Joe Ader, I don't think she's here, but Joyce Dodson — she's probably back in that warehouse sorting cans — Mark Vera, Bob Bell and Calvin. I'm so proud to continue to serve arm in arm with these guys. Thank you.”
There was little left to say when Lineweaver left the stage. His legacy, as several peers and mentees noted during the tribute to him, was cemented long before he won three State Championships in five years and nearly snagged a national title for the Euless Trinity Trojans. As successful as he was as a coach, his greatest wins had nothing to do with scores and trophies and very little to do with football itself. They are living in this community, better for having met him. Fortunately for us, they want to be just like him.
We're glad to have them join us in our work. The world needs more like them, and it's our joy to carry their example forward as we build our platform. We can and will better serve this community and this nation by following their lead. Scott said it best:
“We want to leave a mark somewhere, right? A positive mark, changing lives. The great thing is that we hosted this little gig for you because the reality is we've got Champions. We've got Game Changers. We've got Catalysts of Hope in this room, right here, right now. That's why we're here today.”
Thank you for joining us in working together for the good of this community. For helping us to learn and develop and share with the rest of the world. For fearlessly joining us in the trenches when it looked like the battle would be too big for any of us to fight alone. Thank you for being a Catalyst of Hope, just like Steve Lineweaver.