Conversations with Innovators — Q&A with Teresa Jackson of Sharing Life Community Outreach

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Teresa Jackson - SLCO

Teresa Jackson - SLCO

This week we are talking with Teresa Jackson, Founder and Executive Director of nonprofit Sharing Life Community Outreach in Mesquite, TX.

1. What is Sharing Life Community Outreach and what inspired you to create it?

Sharing Life exists to demonstrate compassion by effectively and efficiently providing dignified, benevolent support to people in need in Mesquite and Southeastern Dallas County. I was once a single mom in need of services. My interaction with social service agencies left me feeling hopeless and embarrassed. I wanted to create a place that not only met the basic needs of people in crisis, but also offered compassion, dignity and hope.

2. How is SLCO helping the community?

We provide food, clothing, utility assistance, school supplies, financial capability training and coaching, health care education leading to state certification, ESL classes. We are the pilot hub for the North Texas Food Bank’s ten year expansion plan. We not only provide food to our local community but we also provide millions of pounds of nutritious food to Community Distribution Partners and small agencies.

3. In addition to its daily services, Sharing Life also hosts large seasonal events. Can you tell us more about the Christmas Faire?

The Christmas Faire is my favorite event of the year! We set up a store where parents shop for gifts for their children. This allows parents the dignity of being involved in the selection and giving process. The children never have to know the gifts came from Sharing Life. Our event will be held on 12/20/16 at Eastridge Park Christian Church from 4 PM to 8 PM.

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4. As a nonprofit, SLCO heavily relies on volunteers for its daily operations. What do you look for in your volunteers and how do you keep them engaged?

We look for volunteers who are passionate about helping people in need. Our volunteers have specific jobs and they know we count on them. They own their assignment and shift for the week. When they don’t show up, it creates a significant void in our agency. That ownership keeps volunteers engaged. They know we depend on them. We also work hard to show appreciation for volunteers. We have a staff member solely devoted to volunteer support and management.

5. SLCO has recently partnered with the North Texas Food Bank. Can you tell us more about the partnership?

Sharing Life has long been a partner of the North Texas Food Bank. We treasure that relationship which allows us to feed thousands of people nutritious food every year. In 2015, the NTFB announced their ten-year expansion plan. They chose Sharing Life to be the pilot hub in their new distribution model. As a hub, Sharing Life not only provides food to our own clients, but we also serve as a redistribution center for NTFB to Community Distribution Partners and small agencies. This model has created new opportunities for people in need to receive food near their homes in local churches, schools and community centers. This is especially important in communities that lack public transportation.

6. What’s next for Sharing Life?

The newest program added to our menu is VITA! In January, we will be offering free tax help to people who generally make $54,000 or less, persons with disabilities and limited English speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals. We will offer this service through April.

7. What is the greatest challenge you have faced as CEO and how did you overcome it?

Establishing healthy boundaries. There is no end to the number of people who sincerely need our help. It has been difficult for me to say no when a client’s needs are greater than our capability to help. My faith has allowed me to find peace by understanding that God brings me the people he wants me to help and provides the resources to offer that help. When I have to say no, I know that God will provide for that need through other sources.

8. Based on your experience, what are the five things nonprofits should do to be successful?

1. Show up. Work hard. Never, ever, ever give up. There will be seasons of plenty and seasons of drought. Stay the course regardless of the season. 2. Don’t give in to mission drift. Never chase the money. 3. Go to every event, meet new people, and be fearless in talking about your mission and vision. 4. Diversify your funding sources. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Work to build a strong base of individual and corporate donors. Don’t rely too heavily on grants and government funding. 5. Keep learning. Spend the money to attend workshops, conferences and trainings. Learn from others who do what you do. Collaborate, collaborate, and collaborate.


For Conversations with other thought leaders and innovators in nonprofit, see innovator Mark Divine of Courage Foundation and innovator Sejal Desai of Entrepreneurs for North Texas .

For more information about related legal issues, read our Professional Services industry page.  


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