By Jennifer Igbonoba
In a small town with a little over 5,600 rests a nonprofit like no other.
Cynthia Mickens Ministries provides programs designed to transform the lives of Hutchins community members. The work of Dr. Cynthia Mickens Ross, the founder of the organization, is known throughout the local community and the idea behind it started from a place of confusion and a call from a higher power. “I just started asking the questions to God and I asked him who am I? Why am I here? What is it that you want me to do with this life?” Mickens Ross said about what led her to start the nonprofit.
After dealing with numerous personal events, including the death of her father, Mickens Ross had a talk with a higher power on what her next steps were in life. The first program Mickens Ross started after finding her purpose was establishing a 12-week pathway to purpose course in the early 2000s to help people discover their individual creative purposes.
After a few years of doing the course, Mickens Ross realized its potential for growth.
“I had a lot of corporate women coming to the class and, after about two years, I started hearing from them that they needed more because they kept saying, ‘now that we know what it is that we’re supposed to be doing with our lives, how do we get there?’” Mickens Ross said.
In response, Mickens Ross said she created an additional 12-week phase of the program to help people establish a timeline when they want to achieve their self-determined goals. After several years passed, Mickens Ross created a third phase of the course by teaching the fundamentals of how to start a business.
In 2008, the organization purchased a church, a multipurpose building, two acres of land, and two houses in Hutchins, one of which housed single mothers with young children for up to two years.
Shortly after, the nonprofit established a summer program for children in the community, providing both educational and nutritious options for attendees throughout the duration of the camp, including trips to the African American Museum of Dallas and the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum.
The organization is also working to address food insecurity issues in the town by launching a community garden and teaching residents how to harvest their own produce. In 2021, 340,260 people in Dallas County were food insecure, according to Feeding America.
While the works of the organization continue to expand, Mickens Ross said the impact it has made is not the credit of one entity.
“We couldn’t, number one, do the programs without partners,” Mickens Ross said.
The organization partners with a variety of local organizations including Dallas City of Learning, Texas Capital Bank, Young STEM professionals, and Oak Cliff real estate developer Amanda More-no-Lake.
Mickens Ross said the organization is also working on a “social venture project” that morphs one of the houses into a combination of a coffee shop and laundromat to bring in additional revenue to support their various programs. “With this coffee shop, it’s going to make money but we’re also going to be able to hire people from the Hutchins community,” Mickens Ross said.
Congresswoman Jasmine Crockett, who represents Hutchins, attended a presentation on the summer program. “Every day in DC is a fight,” Crockett said. “It’s a fight to make sure that there is a future for these amazing kiddos.”
Mickens Ross invited Crockett to the summer camp to show he creative work the children produced during their time at the camp including their musical beats.
“The mission of Cynthia Mickens Ministries is to transform lives to transform communities,” Mickens Ross said. “So if we’re going to make Hutchins a better place to live, then we have to add the resources that are missing in that community. Well, that is what the government is for.”
Mickens Ross said there’s an “area of opportunity” for local, state, and federal representatives to support the organization in ways not limited to finances.
“We don’t want to leave any [kids] on the streets, but we can’t afford to take them all in because we don’t have the resources to do that,” Mickens Ross said. “But there’s ways that we could take more children in if we had more resources, and so that’s the responsibility of our elected officials on the local level, state level, and on the national level.”
Jennifer Igbonoba is a sophomore at George Washington University where she is studying economics and journalism. She was a 2021 Fellow in the Scripps Howard Program at the University of North Texas and this is her second internship with I Messenger Media.