Even though they’re no longer filming their hit show Fixer Upper, Chip and Joanna Gaines continue to prove that they are the real deal—celebrities who give back. Latest philanthropic move may surprise some, but I have to admit that when I heard it, it made perfect sense to me. The Waco Tribune recently reported that the Gaines’ business, housed at Waco’s Magnolia Silos, will be the new host for Church Under the Bridge, a church for homeless and marginalized people that normally meets under a highway overpass every Sunday.
“The Gaineses invited the church to call the Silos home on Sundays during the three-to-five-year effort to widen Interstate 35, a project that will displace the church when it starts in March,” the Tribune reports. The article further added that the church will be displaced for 3 to 5 years.
The invitation from Chip and Joanna Gaines comes right at the time of the church’s 26th anniversary.“It was clearly a surprise. I didn’t see it coming at all,” said pastor Jimmy Dorrell. He then added that the Gaines have been longtime supporters of the church. Way back, before she was a star on TV, Joanna Gaines would model in our style show, which was a fundraiser,” he said.
He also noted that the Gaines had donated $51,000 to another charity he runs, Mission Waco’s nonprofit grocery store, Jubilee Market, through an auction of items from the former Elite Cafe, which is now called “Magnolia Table.”
When asked how he reached the decision to invite a church full of homeless people to find their home at the Magnolia silos, Chip Gaines said, “I admired Jimmy (Dorrell) from afar. I read about his plans for the grocery store, and wondered if we could parlay the auction into something that would benefit the cause. Then about a month ago, I read about how the I-35 project would impact his church. I was sitting in my office one day, day-dreaming, thinking about making a commitment, and we reached out to Jimmy. He came over to the Silos, and we agreed it would make a great fit geographically. We said, ‘Let’s do it,’ and shook hands on it.”
Gaines also said that while he realizes that there are risks to inviting hundreds of strangers to his business site every week, he knows it’s the right thing to do.
“But if Jimmy Dorrell is involved, I have no reservations whatsoever,” he said. “I trust him because he does what he says he’s going to do.”
Megan Henderson, executive director of City Center Waco, is pleased with the news, and says she is surprised but not shocked.
“It’s both surprising and not surprising at the same time,” she said. “It may not be what anyone was anticipating, but it is consistent with the Gaineses’ ethic of sincere hospitality. I have been in situations when either Chip or Joanna has quietly expressed interest in being helpful, sometimes in small, out-of-the-way ways. I think they have a desire to share their talent for hospitality with Church Under the Bridge, and it’s a great gift.”
Pastor Dorrell says that while he knows that the church’s new location may attract a lot of new attendees, their focus will remain on those who feel like they don’t have a place to belong in this world.
“If we have extra people show up, for whatever reason, that will be a byproduct we love,” Dorrell said. “But we’re there for the people who don’t feel welcome. Another 20 to 25 percent attend because there is something there for them. Some are just not in church. We hope these groups continue to attend. But if the poor aren’t there, we would have made a bad mistake.”
I absolutely love that Chip and Joanna Gaines are opening their property to people who want to worship God, no matter their circumstances in life. I know that their involvement in this ministry will bless people and I cannot wait to see what God does with their willingness to give.