The Connex Foundation turns its skills and talents toward Kyle’s Place, a teen residential campus in Lewisville, Texas.
By Shaila Wunderlich
The first wish list Nesa Grider submitted to Connex Foundation, ConnexFM’s philanthropic arm, contained dressers, beds, bedding and a few other necessities required for everyday life
at Kyle’s Place, the Lewisville, Texas, youth facility where she serves as CEO. And it was promptly deemed incomplete. “They handed it right back to me saying, ‘OK, this is a start. Now give us a real list,’” she said.
Coming up on its ninth year of service, Connex Foundation’s IMPACT Charity Project draws upon the skills and talents of the multi-site facilities community to revive nonprofits in need. Its renovations and repairs have breathed new life into several nonprofits across the country, from a women’s shelter in Long Beach, California, to a veterans organization in South Forth Worth, Texas — its gifts extending far beyond furniture and accessories. “The Foundation is about giving back with the special talents and resources unique to this community, whether that be skilled trades or construction,” said Brooke Cowart, Connex Foundation’s Executive Director. “What better people to do this kind of work than the people who live and breathe it every day.”
A Light in Lewisville
This year the Foundation turns its attention to Kyle’s Place in Lewisville, Texas. Named for Kyle Milliman, a local high-schooler who espoused the values of its parent organization, Journey to Dream, and who passed away in 2012, the transitional residential campus houses 14-to-19-year-olds through times of crisis and homelessness. “We’re unique in the sense that we’re transitional,” Grider said. “Our goal is to mentor and prepare these kids for moving onto
a successful independent living situation.”
In addition to providing desperately needed shelter, the organization also assists its young residents in the areas of healthcare, budget planning, tutoring and college and job applications.
Kyle’s Place is also unique in that it is the only such resource in Denton County, where today as many as 700 teens are homeless. “We’re the only facility serving that population,” Grider said. “There are plenty of facilities serving younger children and adults, but there is a true delta for the 14-to-19-year-olds.”
Its services are so desperately needed that Grider and her team hope to open a second campus in the year ahead.
FMs Make a Choice
Each fall, the Connex Foundation committee tours and evaluates approximately three candidates for that year’s IMPACT Charity Project. Nonprofit candidates are selected based on their facility-related needs and the location of the upcoming ConnexFM2023 National Conference, which folds into its opening ceremonies hands-on day of giving. “The Monday before Conference kick-off, member volunteers gather at the chosen facility to execute final touches like landscaping, arranging furniture and installing lighting and appliances,” Cowart said.
While all candidates are deserving of assistance, there is typically one that stands out among the rest. “The committee is almost always unanimous in its final vote,” Cowart said. “Somehow, there is usually one whose need is so great and whose spirit cuts straight through to the heartstrings.”
It was the walk-through tour of Kyle’s Place that stuck with committee members in 2022. “We were in the kitchen and a boy ran in to tell one of the staff members about a good grade he’d earned on a test that week,” Cowart said. “They were so excited they hugged — you could tell they had worked very hard together for that moment. It was very touching.”
Much of the Foundation’s work on Kyle’s Place will center on maintaining its home-like environment, a key component to its overall mission. “We feel strongly about positioning this place as a campus instead of a shelter,” Grider said. “We avoid an institutional look; the kids have their own closets and can decorate their rooms however they want. It makes it so that they aren’t ashamed to tell people where they’re staying.”
Grider’s wish list has grown to quadruple its original length. It now includes new doors, dry wall, floor and wall tiles, ceiling fans, refrigerators, cooktops, bathroom sinks and faucets — and all the accessories and special touches that contribute toward making Kyle’s Place a warm and inviting home for Lewisville’s most vulnerable teens. “These kids need to be here, yes,” Grider said. “But you’d be amazed at how many of them want to be here, too.”
The Connex Foundation is making an impact at the ConnexFM2023 National Conference.
Connex Foundation Annual Fundraising Event / April 2, 2023 / The Star, Frisco, Texas
This annual fundraiser supports Connex Foundation’s scholarship program and IMPACT charity project. Enjoy 2023’s event at the Dallas Cowboys’ 91-acre practice facility. Registration fees fund the Foundation’s scholarship program and charity projects and cover entry, food, drinks and roundtrip transportation from the Conference hotel.
Connex Foundation IMPACT Charity Project / April 3, 2023 / Journey to Dream: Kyle’s Place / Lewisville, Texas
For this sold-out event, FM volunteers will be heading to Kyle’s Place for a morning and afternoon of landscaping, assembling furniture, installing appliances and more.
ConnexFM Awards Luncheon / April 4, 2023 / Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center / Grapevine, Texas
ConnexFM’s annual luncheon features an announcement of this year’s scholarship winners, who will receive up to $5,000 toward career-training and education in the skilled-trades industry and a review of the 2023 IMPACT Charity Project.