Attorney fondly recalls his time running shelter
By Praveen Sathianathan | Special Contributor
Scottie Ashley still remembers the day in 1994 when he walked out of the downtown offices of the Dallas Life Foundation.
Ashley was the part-time executive director of the foundation — then the city’s largest homeless shelter — while also running a successful law practice. But on that day 17 years ago, he was being replaced.
“It was sad leaving, but the board of trustees of First Baptist Church had decided to hire a full-time director,” he said.
In a story published Nov. 15, 1990, the Highland Park resident told Park Cities People that he cut back his law practice to run the shelter after he was approached by his church’s pastor, the Rev. W.A. Criswell.
The church had taken over the nonproft, and Criswell wanted Ashley to run it. Ashley, now 78, says he hesitated at first.
“Well, I can’t do that, Dr. Criswell. I have a full-time law practice,” Ashley told the pastor. “He said, ‘You can do both,’ and I said, ‘Yes, I will do both.’ ”
Running Dallas Life was not Ashley’s first exposure to the homeless. Soon after moving to Dallas, he joined First Baptist and was a volunteer with the street ministry at the Inner City Mission on Ross Avenue.
“We would go hand out sandwiches to homeless people, witness to them, and teach them about Jesus Christ,” he said. “If they wanted to join, we would take them back to our storefront operation, baptize them, give them a Bible, and try to enroll them in a Bible study class and help them become grounded in the word of God.”
During his four years running Dallas Life, Ashley said, he set up two libraries, a computer lab, and also a volunteer program.
He said the city of Dallas also became more involved by offering classes that taught the homeless how to sew and crochet. Parkland would also send volunteer nurses and equipment to help service the needs of the shelter.
“We hired some of the homeless to work the 24-hour watch service and others to do the in-take work they had to fill out once they got there,” he said.
Although balancing two jobs and raising a family may sound taxing, it wasn’t for Ashley. He credits his wife, Janie, for making it work.
“My wife is a wonderful manager,” he said. “She took our daughters to school and picked them up. Although I would go to PTA meetings and other school events, she would do most of the things.”
Besides helping him with the children, Janie taught Sunday school at Dallas Life.
“I remember asking them questions such as ‘What is your goal in life?’ and they would say professional jobs like architect, businessman,” she said. “So I would tell them, ‘For that you have to get a scholarship,’ and so we would discuss that.”
Now that he is just practicing law, Ashley said, he has a lot more time for his family, especially for his wife of 57 years, whom he met in elementary school. He said he also gets in the occasional round of golf and spends time with his four grandchildren.
Ashley said the experience at Dallas Life shaped him and made him a better person.
“I never thought I would do anything like that,” he said. “But I am glad I did, because I received a great blessing out of it.”
Praveen Sathianathan is a People Newspapers intern and a journalism student at SMU.
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