Sunday, May 19, 2024

Spreading Their Wings: Sparrow empowers women with purpose

Ask Sparrow founder and director Rachel Joy what her first clue was that she was onto something, and she might have difficulty narrowing her answer to one thing. Honestly, she could point to several key moments over the past 12 years — like when the number of women who found restoration and purpose soared into the thousands or the day they began partnering with and receiving referrals from other local non-profits. Better yet, it could be the day Sparrow moved into its building in Old Town Lewisville.

Those certainly stand out as defining moments for the organization’s success. But the first real clue was more modest. It was the night in 2011 when Joy hosted what was supposed to be a small dinner and Bible study for a handful of women at her home.

“I invited five women, and 25 showed up,” Joy said with a laugh. “Women are natural gatherers, so I shouldn’t have been surprised.”

At the time, Joy planned to host gatherings once a week. And the goal was simple: invite women from all walks of life who were experiencing difficulties and in need of restoration to talk about God’s word, help them understand their identity and purpose, and give them opportunities to connect to meaningful work in their community. The difficulties these women faced were all over the map — and they were right there in Joy’s living room.

Clearly, the potential for Sparrow to be so much more was obvious — and it wasted little time spreading its wings. By 2012, her gatherings led to a yearly conference called Sparrow Conference that unified and mobilized 7,000 women nationwide over several years. Today, Sparrow has transitioned into an all-day, every day non-profit in the heart of Lewisville comprised of a unique three-entity model of Sparrow Collective, Sparrow & Co., and Sparrow on Main.

All three initiatives are in the same 1920s-restored Huffines building on Main Street, known as the Sparrow Building. And combined, those initiatives have empowered thousands of women and the community as a whole to live, shop, and celebrate with purpose.

“People ask me all the time how I do all of this, and the answer is that I have a wonderfully talented team around me,” Joy said. “We grew fast, and I genuinely felt convicted that there were underserved needs right here in our community. I couldn’t stop thinking about what forming a safe haven for these women would look like. We really do welcome anyone who is in a difficult situation. Some women are below the poverty line, but not everyone is — and their difficulties are vastly different. We have a Veteran right now who is trying to acclimate back into the community. Others are teen moms who aged out of other programs and are participating in our restorative programs.

“You go into something like this trying to help as many people as possible change and grow, and then you realize you’re growing, too. I’ve always believed we could link arms and do something special like this. It’s going to take all of us.”

Joy isn’t wrong that affecting real change takes everyone. Many people don’t realize that 3,347,000 people in Texas alone are suffering from mental illness, and 58% of Americans experience extreme loneliness and report that no one in their lives knows them well. Lewisville ISD has reported that 38.4% of its students are economically disadvantaged, and six of seven non-profits in Denton County reported that because of the volume of physical concerns (rent assistance, food, and clothing needs), they cannot provide relational, spiritual, or mental care to their clients. Those same organizations have said they need training for their volunteers.

On a global scale, women make up 70% of the current population living in poverty and make less than $1 a day, and one in three women and girls will experience violence in their lifetime.

With three entities working as one to come alongside women in need to serve, support, empower, and share the love of Christ, Sparrow’s local and global approach to restoration is far from one-dimensional.

With Sparrow Collective, which includes their Sparrow Restore and Restore 2.0 programs, they create content, workshops, and various restorative programs specifically designed for women. Many of the women taking part include refugees without a true home and calling, women who needed support after exiting the adult entertainment industry, and those trying to escape abusive situations. Some struggle to find consistent work and care for their families, and others battle loneliness and crave meaningful connections. What they receive through Sparrow Collective is identity courses and coaching, Bible study, counseling, arts and crafts, and other resources that create intentionality and a positive turning point for what’s next in their life. Women who express interest in discipleship, job training, Bible literacy, computer skills and/or need ongoing care from professionals in finance, counseling, and more can receive financial assistance to participate in the Restore 2.0 program.

Meanwhile, Sparrow and Co. is an on-site retail store that encourages women to shop with purpose. The store features a curated collection of local and global goods — including Sparrow’s own locally produced upscale pillow line — that empower women and communities here and around the world.

According to Joy, 100% of net proceeds from Sparrow & Co. are recirculated into the Sparrow Collective non-profit to serve more women.

Lastly, the move to their building in 2020 allowed Sparrow to open a dedicated community event venue called Sparrow on Main. The modern venue is set in the historic Huffines building, the site of Denton County’s first automobile and tire shop. More than 100 years later, it is a beautiful indoor-outdoor space for weddings, anniversaries, corporate gatherings, community events, and more. The striking, exposed white brick walls and large windows create a wonderful backdrop to highlight each host’s unique style and personality while never losing sight of the constant theme of transformation and restoration throughout the building.

As guests celebrate, 100% of net proceeds from each booking go back to Sparrow Collective to support community programs.

Joy said it’s amazing to see how far her modest gatherings and Bible study concept has come in 12 short years. Despite all that change, restoration remains the heartbeat of everything they do now and will take on in the future.

“It’s exciting to think about where we’ve been and where we are now,” Joy said. “I grew up serving and going on various mission trips to places like Mexico and Guatemala, and when you come face to face with so much poverty and difficulties, you naturally want to do something about it. I was convinced there are people at home in my community — right here and right now — whose needs aren’t being met in one way or another. This is our way of helping. We want people to connect through serving, but they can also have an event here and shop here. People can gather and celebrate here knowing that they are giving back to a worthy cause, and the items here tell a story of the people behind the product. It’s exciting to see so much passion.”

She added, “Everything we do here has a reason behind it. We have so many people in our community who are unsure of their talents and gifts. We help them understand who they were meant to be so they can effectively serve the community.”

To learn more about Sparrow, including its charitable initiatives, shopping opportunities, upcoming event opportunities, and how to get involved with a worthy cause, visit www.sparrowonmain.com, www.sparrowcollective.org, and sparrowandco.com.

Mark Smith
Mark Smith
Mark Smith is the Digital Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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