By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Caught up in the vision: I'm writing as someone who worked with Del Hendrixson ("Jesus in a Mullet," by Rick Kennedy, September 22) for more than a year--from late 2002 through February 2003. I initially happened upon Del when my wife was working with one of Del's clients. Long story short, we got to talking, and she shared her vision with me: Helping people, not by asking for handouts but by running a business that could be used to re-educate and change lives, with the profits of the business being plowed right back in to support the nonprofit part of the business.
I was completely sold.
As time wore on and we had meeting after meeting, discussion after discussion, what I eventually became was simply an employee of the shop.
After a couple of months of getting to know each other, Del advised me that she had finally found a mental partner in me. But I have become convinced that what this really meant is that Del found my services usable and wanted to make sure I stayed around to help.
Don't get me wrong--in many ways, I like Del very much. It's very hard not to like her.
But as I talked with her over the course of that year, I started to hear and see things that worried me. I'm sorry to say that I didn't really see anybody being helped while I was there. Now, maybe my timing was off, as she'd lost the prison outreach program, and I saw maybe 15 community service folks during my entire time there.
I grew more and more concerned in the last few months I was there. She began to share visions of building a big facility for youth, where parents could drop off their troubled kids, and we would lock them in a room and force them to watch a video--starting them out with just a chair. Monitor them, and as they paid attention, reward them with a bed, blankets; if they didn't pay attention, feed them bread and water until they did.
This is a recurring theme with Del: She talks of investing in people and rewarding people then assigns myriad castes to people she comes in contact with.
People she deems to be of a low caste (which is not based on cultural, economical, religious or sexual preference standards, but on what kind of use she can extract from them) will be used without a second thought; people she deems to be of a high caste will be coddled.
I watched this...When I first started, for some reason, I triggered the latter--I recognize the speeches and concepts that were given to me. These are the same visions and words that she gave in interviews for the article. I recognize the same level of rhetoric there. And I know the stories--most of them are pretty consistent, but it seems some of them change over time to meet her current needs for a good story.
One of the disturbing trends I noticed was that anyone who became frustrated with Del and quit working with her--because it's either her way or not at all, and she will throw temper tantrums to make certain this is so--becomes dead to her.
I kept hearing things like:
"People seem to come and go..."
"Nobody sticks with us for the long haul..."
Del, simply put, works through people. We get caught up in the visions--which are brilliant--but eventually figure out it's mostly a sham.
She talks a really big talk. She tried to get a board of directors together but doesn't want any oversight--it's just another tactic to get support and try to appear legit. She doesn't want the actual oversight, which is the most important thing I wish she would have, and the reason I'm writing this.
I really hope someone will take a look at her in depth, and figure out how to get Del some oversight. She has some great qualities that would be helpful in changing people's lives, but that's being wasted in her need to simply survive.
She needs strong oversight so that she can become truly legit. Most important, so she can accomplish the mission she's set out to do instead of squandering year after year, working her way through people, gaining more and more dissatisfied voices like mine, who wish that Del could live up to her potential.
Panama City, Florida
Observed, finally: Better late than never. The Dallas Observer has passed on Del's story for years. Your publication even trashed them as the printer of the now infamous and highly collectible "Dallas Un-Observer" shirts.
Not so scary: Well, I certainly have to hand it to you. Even little children are calling to say thanks to the Observer, maybe now they can leave gangs and have a future. And for many of the thousands of lives who have managed to find themselves in my grasp while on probation, they are also saying thanks, and their lives are still straight on track and doing great. As for the probation department being the lone "suspicioners," believe me, they will be turned over to our "complaint department," since they have never returned my calls, never met with me and never issued me any reason. We are genuinely blessed that you were able to print what you did. Hopefully someone will see it who will help us. We are now beginning to plan a global gang conference here in Dallas that will, of course, have Marasalvatrucha and other gang members as presenters! Why not? They are like Bajito Onda--they, too, have voices, and they will remain violent as long as they are excluded from society.
P.S.: For a woman, I may look scary, but I have a fair and protective heart for all lives who have lost love and hope.
Founder, Bajito Onda