STORY BY KACIE FREDERICK AND JENNIE TREJO. PHOTOS PROVIDED BY CANDACE WICKS.
Candace Wicks, proud born and raised Dallasite, has devoted her life to serving the Dallas community. She has never let anything– not even multiple limb amputations in the midst of the pandemic– hinder her from staying true to her faith and inspiring those around her.
“If God brings you to it, he can bring you through it,” Candace says. Those words kept her positive when she awoke in 2020 to the news that a ruptured cyst caused her body to become 100 percent septic. In response, doctors placed her in a medically-induced coma. A last-resort drug known to constrict blood flow to extremities managed to save her life, but she lost her legs and six fingers in the process.
“Waking up and seeing that your feet are gone– let’s just say I know what it’s like to feel depressed,” Candace shares. Growing up, she took ballet, tap, jazz, and modern dance classes. She used to play piano for her church. “I know how it is to have been able to do something, and now you can’t. You have to fight for your mental health and stability.”
Despite dealing with this tremendous adversity, Candace has not let it define her or the impact that she makes on her neighbors. She has been and continues to be a driving force in the Dallas community. This upcoming April, Candace will receive The Margret Gilbert Volunteer Service Award from the South Dallas Business and Professional Women’s Club, Inc.
When Candace was young, she was adopted into the loving family of Lila and Samuel Wicks. Her mother, a Sunday school teacher, and her father, a deacon, instilled values that prioritized giving back. From age 5, Candace was volunteering with her mother for Jack and Jill of America, as well as giving time to organizations such as GoodWill, the Salvation Army, and Red Cross.
“Both my mother and father were activists,” shares Candace. “I am the luckiest woman in the world to have been adopted by such loving and caring parents. They taught me the importance of giving back to the community, so that’s all I’m doing.”
Candace’s passion for service grew in college. She graduated from Huston-Tillotson University with degrees in Sociology and Government. While at university, Candace served in many leadership positions with Delta Sigma Theta, INC sorority, and volunteered for various city election campaigns.
After returning to Dallas, Candace followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a teacher in Dallas Independent School District. Her career spanned 30 years, and she was appointed Teacher of the Year during the 2007-2008 school year.
Alongside her distinguished career in education, Candace has dedicated her time to an impressive group of organizations committed to preserving the history of and empowering the people of Dallas. Candace, alongside her late father, volunteered for Remembering Black Dallas for over a decade. She also serves as a deaconess and a youth Sunday school leader at New Hope Baptist Church in South Dallas, the oldest African American church in the city.
Beyond that, she is a charter member of Our Values, Our Voice, Our Vote, an initiative that aims to expand Black voter outreach, a position Candace is proud to hold because of her passion for ensuring every voice is heard. She also volunteers at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Oak Cliff.
Candace has managed to turn a traumatic, life-altering experience into a tale of service and accomplishment– and she has not skipped a beat. She continues to serve in all the ways she has before, and has even added to her list.
Cheryl Smith, the publisher at Texas Metro News and one of Candace’s sorority sisters, says her story is one of triumph.
“Candace is up and taking care of business,” Cheryl says. “She could be bedridden or wallowing in self-pity, sitting home waiting for those who visit the sick and shut-in, but that is not Candace. I’m amazed she’s alive. I’m amazed at how good she looks, and the role she takes in our community.”
One of Candace’s new roles since her surgery includes being appointed to the Paratransit Accessibility Advisory Group for DART. As a firm believer in equality, Candace is advocating for other handicapped individuals– whether their disability is mental or physical– to be provided transportation by city employees who will protect and service them with patience and understanding.
She has also won various awards for her outstanding work in leadership and service. In 2020, Candace received the Woman of the Year award from the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and the Ruth Jones McClendon Social Activism Award.
Cheryl believes that we need more women like Candace in our community.
“She made me have a stronger outlook on life in a lot of ways. She’s helping me think about others and complain less. I don’t even complain about my feet hurting anymore. At least we still get to wear those cute shoes. It’s all about perspective.”
Candace says her priority has been to continue doing volunteer work. She has turned a traumatic, life-altering experience into a tale of service and accomplishment– and she has not skipped a beat.
“I’ve had to pray about making an impact, but in a different way. You know what I mean? I can’t physically lift the boxes for people, but I can get the word out.”