Neeley seniors leave legacy by redecorating family’s home

The Holden family woke up last Sunday morning and was treated to breakfast and a movie. Later that afternoon, the family returned to its apartment to find it completely transformed, courtesy of four students from the Neeley School of Business.

Seniors Joe Askew, Will Bancroft, Erin Humphries and Kate O’Carroll redecorated the Holdens’ home as part of their Senior Legacy Project for the BNSF Next Generation Program.

Director of the BNSF Next Generation Leadership Program Dede Williams wrote in an email that the program is a two-year academic program in leadership development within the Neeley School of Business.

“Each year, 30 students from a variety of business majors are selected to participate in a cohort in the program during their junior and senior years,” Williams wrote. “The capstone class of the Next Generation program is the Leadership Challenge course. Students are tasked with the challenge of leading an initiative of change in the community, whatever they deem their community to be – TCU, Fort Worth or beyond.”

Askew, a finance major, pitched the idea of a home makeover for a less fortunate family. He said he was inspired by the idea because of similar community service projects he had been involved with in high school.

It was during these projects when he first met the Rev. Johnny Flowers. For his Senior Legacy Project, Askew said he approached Flowers for help in finding a deserving family.

Flowers knew the Holdens from his church, Wynnewood Fellowship Church, and suggested the family for the project.

The Holden family lives in Dallas and is comprised of Alvin Holden, his wife and three children. Holden is employed, but his lack of higher education led to financial hardships for him and his family, Askew said.

Despite his struggles, Askew said Holden was known in his community for being a great father and was held in high regard.

“He is the only dad in the entire complex who walks his kids to the bus and picks his kids up from the bus,” Askew said. “He is always helping out in the community, so they are definitely a well-deserving family.”

After hearing Askew’s idea in class, Bancroft, a marketing major, said he knew he wanted to be a part of the project.

Bancroft described the Holdens as a shy and humble family. Once the redecorated apartment was unveiled, Bancroft said their silence spoke volumes.

“Seeing them when they walked in, they didn’t say much, but you could just tell from their silence that they were in complete shock from what we had done,” he said. “I think my favorite part was when they saw the pantry and saw that we stacked it with tons and tons of food, I think with about $500 worth of food.”

Giving a family the ability to sleep soundly and not have to worry about when they would have their next meal might have been the most rewarding part of the entire experience, Bancroft said.

“We heard, in the past, [Holden] really struggled mustering up the funds to feed his family,” Bancroft said. “The dad would have to go around and do whatever jobs, just to get 10 bucks to feed his family.”

During the nearly month-long planning process, the four students collected food, blankets, furniture, cooking utensils, silverware and purchased other housing items for the family, Askew said.

Askew, Bancroft, Humphries and O’Carroll’s Senior Legacy Project was funded by Neeley & Associates Consulting, who contributed $1000 toward the project, and student service organization SOAP (Student Outreach Against Poverty), which donated $1500, Bancroft said.

Humphries, a supply and value chain management major, said the reactions from the Holden family made the hard work worthwhile.

“To see the look on the family’s faces when they saw the change in their home is really heart-warming and rewarding,” Humphries said.

Flowers said the family was thankful because no one had ever helped them out that way.

“They were giving them a hand-up, not a hand-down. Giving them an opportunity to help themselves,” Flowers  said.