Men of Essence toy drive benefits Jonathan’s Place

Posted on 26 Oct 2008 at 7:45pm
By Praveen Sathianathan Staff Writer

Christmas is a time for giving, and in keeping with that tradition, the Men of Essence is hosting a special night to benefit underprivileged children in North Texas.

Men of Essence, an organization focused on gay men of color, presents "Snowflakes of Serenity: Honoring Your Inner Child Through Toy Donations" on Dec. 7 at the DoubleTree Hotel-Campbell Centre, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are $25, but with a toy donation, admission is $15.

Daymond Lavine, president of Men of Essence, said the event will be a catered cocktail affair with soulful music. There will also be a silent auction, where patrons can bid on items from a variety of businesses including The Stoneleigh Hotel and Spa, Kirby’s Steakhouse and Mary Kay.

Proceeds from the night benefit Jonathan’s Place, an emergency shelter for children who’ve been abandoned, abused or neglected.

"We have partnered with Jonathan’s Place before, and we believe in what they are trying to accomplish," Lavine said. "These kids come from homes where they were either neglected or abused. They don’t have parents in the traditional sense. Just to get a toy, for them, is a big thing. The toys we collect will put a smile on someone’s face."

According to the Web site for Jonathan’s Place, the children range in age from infants to 17, and the shelter is the only one in the area that provides services to children under 10.

Lavine said the happiness such an event brings is "what we need to think about in this type of economy. … This year has been rough on everyone, but there are always people worse off than someone else, and this is an opportunity to help them."

Lavine suggested donating toys such as dolls, action figures, crayons and coloring books, as well as sports-related toys such as basketballs, footballs and soccer balls.

According to Lavine the organization had an event last Christmas that was just for the members. This time, though, they wanted to open the event to the entire community.

"We continue to work to improve the image of black men in our community. We are not always the negative images you see in the media," he said. "By focusing on the children, we are allowing the youngest members of our community time to formulate their own opinions of black men."

Earlier this year, Men of Essence held a backpack drive benefiting four local organizations: Great Plains Restoration Council, Jonathan’s Place, South of Dallas Cultural Center and 2,000 Roses Foundation. Through the drive, Men of Essence was able to donate 165 backpacks.

Although this may not sound like much to some, for the seven-member organization the amount is profound, Lavine said.

"We were officially formed in 2007, and operate quite effectively for a small organization," Lavine said. "Small organizations work very effectively at the grassroots level. We all start in the community to raise and build awareness for our causes," he said. "I wish we would all band together for the greater good of the community."

E-mail Praveen@dallasvoice.com

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 28, 2008.

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