1-year-old chapter for people under 40 appears here to stay this time
When Travis Gasper helped create Dallas Stonewall Young Democrats last year, he knew previous attempts at similar organizations had failed.
Then, just months after becoming the first president of the latest incarnation, Gasper moved back to his home state of Colorado.
In the past, Gasper’s departure may have been a recipe for DSYD’s demise, but this time the group has continued to fluorish.
"Travis had a vision for a more sustainable group. He built an organization, not a club," said Erin Moore, president of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, DSYD’s parent organization.
Moore added that previous attempts at Young Stonewall chapters in Dallas died when a particular political race was over or when an organizer graduated and moved away.
This time, vice president Matt Burckhalter took over as acting president, and on March 23, the group elected new officers.
Burckhalter, an Oklahoma native, was elected to a full term as president. Pennington Ingley was elected vice president, Jared Pearce was elected secretary, and J.T. Williams was elected treasurer.
The group also added two executive positions. Jennifer Allen moves from secretary to political director, and Edgar Negron will be community events director.
Community events have been one of the cornerstones of DSYD’s success. Burckhalter said the group participates in three or four volunteer projects each month.
In fact, DYSD started after a group of friends spent a day planting a garden at Legacy Founder’s Cottage in Oak Cliff. To commemorate that beginning, they replanted the garden this spring.
The group’s LifeWalk team was one of the top five fundraisers last year. Burckhalter said they sold 400 wristbands in one night to raise money for the event.
In addition to their community involvement, he cited other reasons for DYSD’s success, including "being an organization that makes a difference."
"We work with politicians who work with us," Burckhalter said. "And people in the group are very social."
DSYD and Stonewall "Classic," as both Burckhalter and Moore called the parent group, maintain an affiliation.
Membership in DSYD is up to age 40, but most in the Dallas group are in their mid-20s to early 30s.
Although DSYD is its own political action committee, the group didn’t make separate candidate endorsements this election cycle. Rather, DSYD members participated in the parent organization’s endorsement process.
Burckhalter said it would be confusing to send out two different lists of endorsements from two groups named Stonewall, especially had some of the endorsements differed.
Moore said the two groups do a lot together, such as phone banking and voter registration, sharing their energy and experience.
DSYD has rapidly become a force in state and national Democratic groups. Burckhalter is treasurer of Texas Young Democrats. That group, founded in 1932, has a history of getting its members and former members elected. Its alumni included Texas Gov. Ann Richards.
Last summer, the DSYD sent five delegates to the national Young Democrats convention. Their delegation was one of the largest attending the August meeting in Chicago.
DSYD meets monthly at Ojeda’s on Maple Avenue. Burckhalter said they chose a restaurant, rather than a bar, for their meetings to allow people under 21 to attend.
For more info, go to DallasStonewallYD.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 2, 2010.
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