FORT WORTH — Before the Mavs Foundation built a computer lab at the Union Gospel Mission in East Fort Worth last year and equipped it with 10 large touch screen computers, the husband and wife team of Michael and Becca Conner had a serious dilemma.
Often needing to view and print important documents on a computer, the Conners were instead relegated to viewing those critical papers on a cell phone. That includes key medical documents for their infant son, Zacari.
But when the Dallas Mavericks used their Foundation to step in and solve a critical need for the Conners and others who reside at the Union Gospel Mission homeless shelter, an immediate need was suddenly realized.
“The computer lab has helped us out a lot by making it easy to fill out documents for (food) stamp benefits and Medicaid benefits for (Zacari),” Becca Conner said. “And then it’s also helped me write a letter to the Tarrant County College for a letter of appeal so that I can get the process going again to get back into school.”
Michael Conner came to the same conclusion about the computer lab’s effectiveness as his wife.
“It’s helped me out a lot because I did a lot of research on my own to get W-2 forms and talk to old employers,” he said. “I wish I would have gone to the computer first and had something like the (computer) lab.
“I thought it was always good to check our Credit Karma account. It’s good to check it when we went to the computers versus the phones, because there’s a lot of stuff that shows on the computers that doesn’t show on the phone.”
Don Shisler, the president and chief executive officer of Union Gospel Mission, said his shelter is a place where families can stay, including single dads with their kids and single moms with their kids.
The Scott Walker Women & Families Service Building – located on the grounds of the Union Gospel Mission — had its dedication ceremonies last September 21st. The new facilities are where the computer lab is located, and to hear Shisler tell it, this is something that’s very essential in their quest to assist the less fortunate.
“It’s been quite an addition to our new Scott Walker building,” Shisler said, referring to the computers and computer lab. “It was a need that we had in this community for the last three or four years that we saw statistic-wise, which led us to building the Scott Walker facility, which increased our capacity by 150-something beds.
“And we’ve been able to transition a lot of those people in our program, because that’s what we’re all about is working with one individual holistically – their spiritual needs and physical needs — to ultimately get them back into society as a whole and have a place to stay and a job.”
Jordan Wright, the director of development for the Union Gospel Mission of Tarrant County, was a key figure in getting the Mavs involved in their much-needed project.
“When we started communicating with the Mavs a little bit they came over and took a tour and saw what we did and how we did it and really hit it off with our development lady, Jordan Wright,” Shisler said. “They really understood what we were doing and our needs, and that’s how it got going.
“It’s all positive with the Mavs. They invited us to the foundation banquet and we were able to go to that and had a table and met Mr. Cuban and some of the Mavs, and just to experience that whole thing was real nice.”
Prior to the Mavs providing the computer lab and computers, the Conners recall the frustrations of trying to do what many others would consider as a simple communication process.
“We just used our phones, and there were some things that we weren’t able to get to because you needed more data,” Becca Conner said. “So it was really hard to rely on the cell phone for the things that you needed to print out or e-mail.”
In essence, the computers the Mavs donated have helped the Conners get their business affairs in order.
“I want to make sure I’m taking care of business on that part, so I’ll come down here and use the computer when I want something through and direct, and something I can show a financial advisor,” Michael Conner said. “And it’s kind of like an escape, too.
“If you just want to come down here and listen to music — or just forget that you’re here for 30 minutes to an hour — it’s cool.”
Shisler is flabbergasted that the Mavs Foundation was able to accommodate his organization’s dire needs.
“A part of our program that’s so crucial to one’s well-being. These days, part of that is being able to use a computer and the Mavs Foundation gave us the best,” Shisler said. “Cuban is one of those guys who, if he does something he tries to do the very best. And that’s what we’ve got.”
“We’ve got large touch screen computers and its open for them to use for jobs, emails, research. Whatever their needs are they’re available for them to use in a nice building.”
A man with a strong faith, Shisler usually refrains from describing the Union Gospel Mission as a place for the homeless.
“It’s what I call low income,” he said. “I don’t really use the term homeless that much. I always say it’s for our brothers and sisters that have needs.”
And a few of those needs for the “brothers and sisters” of Union Gospel Mission – that of a computer lab and 10 accompanying computers – were compassionately met by the Mavs Foundation.
“We appreciate it because without it we would probably be delayed in some of our processing with getting housing, because one of those things we needed to use was a computer lab,” Becca Conner said. “There are always people in here, so it’s really beneficial to have it here for everybody to use instead of having to go into someone’s office and use their computer and working around someone else’s schedule.
“It’s very humbling and we’re very grateful for it. Just keep on donating and helping out the less fortunate. It’s a blessing, even though they may not see the benefits from it personally.”
A huge Mavs fan, Michael Conner became somewhat emotional when expressing what the computers and computer lab means to him, to his family and to others in the East Fort Worth shelter. He also took time to offer some words of encouragement to the Mavs.
“I just want to thank Mark Cuban and the whole Dallas Mavericks’ organization just for blessing this property with something like this, because a lot of people aren’t techy,” Michael Conner said. “And the people here become friends and bond, and people help you with stuff like this.
“So I want to say to the Mavericks, ‘Good luck next year. And make the playoffs!'”