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Mansfield Magazine

Hope Sustains - Meet a Local Family with a Community Spirit

May 21, 2014 03:21PM ● By Lisa Drake

Gary and Amy Zelder are one of the most charming couples you’ll ever meet. Their gentleness and kindness is contagious and their hearts are filled with a generous spirit. Together the two have formed a blended family with 6 children and they are passionate about life. Just a couple of years ago, Gary was toiling away in his career in the waste management business and Amy was working as an artist and interior decorator and raising their kids. They lived in a large home in a nice neighborhood in Mansfield but something seemed to be missing.

“We’re Christians and I felt like we were being called to do something that serves our community,” says the 42-year-old Gary. “God’s grace in our own lives drives us to give to others.” Within days he noticed a small house and property for sale in the 1700 block of N. Day Miar Rd, just near the Mansfield/Grand Prairie border. “I wasn’t sure but I felt like this property was meant for us. The previous owner could have sold to others lined up to buy but he chose us.”

Fast forward to today. The Zelders purchased the property, “downsized” their lives through a very difficult transition, and they have a plan for what they hope to see happen in their part of the community. We went out one day last spring to see the property and visit with the couple, where we met three of their children and were greeted by their dogs, who obviously love company. Here’s what we found out about the Zelders and their dreams.


Q: Tell us about the property and what you’ve been up to?

A: We moved here last year and have been fixing up the old home, which was in need of much repair and TLC. We’ve also been clearing away the overgrown brush on the two acres of land.


Q: What have been some of the challenges you have faced?

A: It was difficult moving from a 4,000 square foot home into this 1,100 square foot house that was in serious disrepair. The land was all overgrown with scrub trees and here we are moving in with our children. But we persevered, we took things one day at a time and we’re now seeing it all take shape.


Q: What has been your plan for how the property can serve the community?

A: Well, we have already had groups from our church and our neighborhood for campfires and get-togethers. We hosted a fall party out here with hay rides, children’s games, chili cookoff, s'mores by the campfire and a rock and brick fort building contest for the kids. It's been great so far but we want to do even more.


Q: So what is the bigger plan for down the road?

A: One of our friends is a professor at a local college. His students are learning about sustainability and its benefits to the world. So he approached me a few months back and asked if the students could come practice these principles on our property. So we’ve already constructed a chicken coop and now the students who have begun coming out this semester are building a garden in a purely sustainable way. Not only do we rely on the chickens for their eggs, but also to fertilize the plants. And there are other things like collecting rain water in large barrels to help grow the plants. The garden will ultimately have tomatoes, squash, pumpkins, herbs and more. The fruit of the labor is to be for families in the community to enjoy. This, of course, has its limits.


Q: Are you thinking beyond the sustainability project?

A: Yes. We attend Community of Hope United Methodist Church - Mansfield, TX. I would like to be able to open this property up for even more local church activities. I’m not sure exactly what that would look like, but we would love for this to kind of be a retreat where folks could come and reflect, think and pray. I’d even like to build and erect birdhouses, add some windmills and water towers, plant grapes to create a vineyard or bring in some orchard bees that are so important in the ecosystem.


Q: Are there limitations here?

A: Absolutely, and I realize that. After all, me and my family live here so we can’t just have it open to everybody all the time. We also thought about having more animals here but there are certain city codes and I fully understand that. I realize some ideas may not succeed but that’s OK.


Q: Are you looking for other volunteers and how can people contact you about getting involved?

A: Absolutely. This is a work in progress and we are totally open to all kinds of ideas and would love for people to come out and see what we’ve got going on and if there’s a way they can be involved. Contact me at


Do you or someone you know have an interesting story to share? Perhaps a unique talent, accomplishment or hobby? Share it with us below or contact us here and you might be featured in an upcoming Your Neighbor profile series. 


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