Movement Strategy Center Shares the Sandbranch Revitalization Fund’s Progress

Sandbranch’s relationship with water paints a poignant narrative of resilience. The absence of safe, clean water reverberates throughout the entire fabric of the community, touching upon every aspect of life — people, productivity, and the natural world alike.

Yet, amid these formidable challenges, uplifting successes have blossomed. The small yet mighty community of Sandbranch, TX — just 20 minutes from Dallas — has successfully completed the first phase of its revitalization efforts. They’ve brought clean, running water to 21 single family homes and mobile homes. At the heart of these efforts are Tonette Byrd from the Until Justice Corporation, Jacqui Patterson of the Chisholm Legacy Project (and MSC board member), and the people of Sandbranch, who have long advocated within the Sandbranch Planning Committee. Together, they guide the Sandbranch Revitalization Fund, a special interest fund of MSC, bridging the collective efforts for the community’s resurgence. Byrd amplified her commitment at a town hall meeting, stating, “this community deserves better, and what I see happening in this community should not happen anywhere in the United States.” These words echo through every effort to elevate the community and its residents. 

Sandbranch residents and Johnny Chambers speaking with NBC-DFW.

Every resident of Sandbranch who requested a Hydropanel through SOURCE Global got one. That was a huge vote of confidence for the community, which had grown skeptical of outsider support. In an interview with NBC-DFW, resident Johnny Chambers, who has been living in Sandbranch since 1988, said, “there’s been so many times, everybody is coming here talking, talking, nothing was ever done.” 

As the Sandbranch Planning Committee transitions into its second phase, the community prepares for a community food garden. Food scarcity sits at the crux of their mission and a forthcoming community garden project will include additional Hydropanels to irrigate raised bed gardens to support fresh produce. The hope is that this garden will nourish families and cultivate the foundations of sustainable living in Sandbranch.

The city of Dallas is finally taking notice of Sandbranch and the community’s strides. U.S. Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Dallas, District 30) and Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins visited Sandbranch with the regional Environmental Protection Agency administrator to draft a plan for necessary funding and solutions. In the same interview with NBC-DFW, the judge mentioned the “renewed interest in getting something done and getting it done quickly.” He assured the reporter, “we’re all working together to see what those next steps are.” We share their optimism in securing the required funds from diverse sources. The community-initiated Sandbranch Revitalization Fund is moving money more quickly and more deeply into the community, and is doing so with little overhead. And community foundations like the Dallas Foundation are stepping up even if government agencies are not.

Marcus Cunningham, MSC’s Director of Institutional Giving, has worked closely with Bryd. He notes the vision is for each community member to feel intricately woven into this project. Cunningham, trained and deeply rooted in community-centric fundraising, shared his strategy for engaging donors and communities like Sandbranch in these particular instances where utilities like water and sewage seem like they should be a basic municipal service.

A new era is dawning in Sandbranch, marked by the arrival of Hydropanels! The promise of clean drinking water is no longer a distant dream but a tangible reality.

Ariadna Reyes-Sanchez, Josh Newton, and Amruta Salkalker, of the University of Texas at Arlington, released their award-winning academic case study of Sandbranch in 2022, and Reyes-Sanchez shared the study with Cunningham. The pair — joined by other donors and representatives like Anthony N. Llano, Vice President, Development and Strategy at Social Venture Partners Dallas — visited Sandbranch that fall and again in spring 2023. The team spent time listening to residents to understand their needs. And, after the visit, community partners implemented mobile health services in Sandbranch, indicating effective, concrete responses born out of sincere engagement.

After the visit, Cunningham emphasized this type of engagement moves donors from “fundraisers to organizers.” He noticed a visible “shift in demeanor” with donors when explaining how their dollars contribute to the community and how they can increase impact. “Your contribution [to this community] is important, and you need to talk to your folks about bringing in more money.” He continued, “money is neutral. It can be medicine to remedy, but it is no more good or bad than the person. Money is a tool in the tool box.”

Hydropanels installed on the lawn of a Sandbranch home.

Though the community food garden is an essential part of phase two, the overarching goal for the Sandbranch community extends beyond that — it is policy change. The community seeks fair representation in policy-making to ensure their taxes are put to good use. Crockett hinted at potential funding opportunities through the USDA, stating, “if it’s something that somebody can lay out in a very clear plan then it’s my job to look at it.”

As we look towards the future, it’s clear that the strength and resilience of the Sandbranch community is driving real change. But this transformative journey is not over. The Sandbranch Revitalization Fund continues to seek support in reshaping and revitalizing this vibrant community. Your contribution can bring about meaningful, lasting change. By donating, you’re not just offering monetary assistance — you’re becoming a part of this vital movement. Join us as we continue to transform lives, build sustainable practices, and secure a thriving future for the residents of Sandbranch. Donate here.

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