BRYAN, Texas — While Doug Weedon spent the past three decades helping the homeless in the Brazos Valley, he routinely would take the opportunity to educate the public on the issue.
“It’s not a choice. It could happen to any of us,” he was known to say, then give details about the hearts and minds of the people Twin City Mission took under its roof.
The Eagle reports those were the exact words he spoke in 2007 when launching a capital campaign to raise $5.5 million to build a new shelter for the homeless and refuge for domestic violence victims. Within two years, more than $2 million was raised. Just over 10 years later, the mission is $500,000 short of meeting its goal, but Weedon is confident it’ll happen.
He vowed at the start of the project to not retire until it was paid for. Now that the time is drawing near, Weedon, 71, said it’s time for him to pass the job on to someone else. The Bryan native is retiring to the home he and his wife built on the land where he grew up. He said it’s time to enjoy some of his hobbies and passions — raising cattle, gardening, landscaping and leather work — while keeping connected with those who matter to him.
Weedon, who publicly announced his retirement this month, told his board of directors about his plans in the fall. A search is underway for a replacement, but Weedon said he’s not in any rush to exit and can help through the transition. And, in true Weedon style, he said he likely will volunteer at the mission.
While he’s eager to see what comes next for the mission, he said there are core values and a historic structure that need to be honored and cherished at Twin City Mission.
“Change is a six-letter word that people don’t like, but it’s inevitable,” he said, adding that he hopes a current management policy is kept: It’s the belief that all people are welcome, and are allowed to “enjoy the consequences for their actions,” as Weedon phrases it. If a shelter occupant or program beneficent breaks the rules, they’re gone. Twin City Mission staff teach people to be to be accountable for themselves and responsible, Weedon said.
Weedon started out with Twin City Mission in 1987, when he was hired as a program director for the store and recycling. He had grown up on a Bryan dairy farm and attended Texas A&M University for almost four years before dropping out to join the National Guard. Upon his return from military service, he jumped into the insurance business and then tried his hand in the oil industry, working offshore for six months at a time. But he didn’t like being far from Bryan.
“This is my home,” he said. “These are my people.”
In 1987, an acquaintance at Twin City Mission asked him to try out the position of program director.
“I’ve been here ever since,” he said, with slight sarcasm in his voice: “I’ve worn them all down.”
In the early ’90s, Weedon helped lead Twin City Mission out of financial debt, and in 1991 he was appointed to the position of executive director. Once the capital campaign hit, he was named CEO and turned his attention full time to raising money, while an administrator was brought in to handle the daily operations of the facility. Within two years, the new facility opened 10 blocks from its old site in Downtown Bryan. The new site on the 16.3-acre spread increased the capacity from 64 beds to 127.
As CEO, he’s been responsible for managing 58 employees, whom he said he considers family. His most notable skill, he said, is his ability to work with and connect with other people. He’s seen a lot change since his first day on the job, though.
“The big difference in Twin City Mission back (in the 1980s) versus now is that the homeless population is younger. Homeless people are in their 30s, not just their 60s. Now they have drug problems, behavioral problems, some don’t want to conform to the rules of the home and all that.”
Weedon said the homeless also had those problems in the ’80s and ’90s, but there seem to be more people in those situations now. Though men typically make up most of the population at the mission, the number of women has increased in recent decades, he said, adding that Phoebe’s Home — the 24-hour emergency domestic violence shelter that opened in 1978 as part of Twin City Mission — also has grown and remains an invaluable resource for the region.
The Twin City Mission staff continue to help the community’s downtrodden to find homes, get jobs and regain their self-esteem, Weedon said. They offer more services now than they did when he started, including a housing program and counseling services.
Weedon has a lot of good memories of the people passing through, asking for a helping hand. He said he loves the unique personalities of different men and women.
“Just because you’re homeless doesn’t mean you’re a bad person — God doesn’t make junk,” Weedon said.
Those who make these people become successful are the individuals themselves, pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, Weedon said.
“It’s important to the me that the community has an awareness of Twin City Mission,” he said. “Our goal is to help people, and not to judge them.”
Information from: The Eagle, http://www.theeagle.com
This is an AP Member Exchange shared by The Eagle