5 questions with Melvin Smith
Melvin Smith is a board member and director of volunteer services for Men of Essence. On Sunday, the group kicks off its backpack drive to provide school supplies for children at Jonathan’s Place, a shelter for abused and neglected children through age 17. Additional proceeds benefit the group’s scholarship fund and the South Dallas Cultural Center Soul Children’s Theater.
How did giving become such an important part of your life?
My great-grandmother was always giving. In my hometown, if you needed a place to stay, you could stay with her until you got on your feet. And we hated it! But we saw how much she got back from always giving. When you have a loving mother and grandmother, you know how to give.
How did you become involved with Men of Essence?
I was involved with Delta Sigma Theta, Wisconsin Sleepers and CHAIN â€“ Community Helping Another In Need. I love going to nursing homes. I want to give while I have the strength. What if I were in need? I always thought we should be doing these things in the gay community — and then I found Men of Essence.
Why is Jonathan’s Place, one of the beneficiaries of this weekend’s gala, so important to you?
I was in that position because I was molested, and because kids are our future and giving is a gift.
What are some of the groupÂ¹s other events?
Snowflakes Of Serenity (S.O.S.) is our Christmas toy drive for kids. We got lots of toys for younger kids at Jonathan’s Place and a beneficiary in Fort Worth. We collected plenty of toys for the younger kids but spent an additional $500 to buy CD players and watches for the older kids and to get makeup for the girls. Also, we do meal prep at AIDS Services of Dallas. We’ve worked with other groups to do condom distributions.
Is your professional work in any way connected to the charitable work you do?
I work for a bank. I have a B.S. in criminal justice and I’m a credit card fraud investigator and I’m completely out at work. I participated in the Miss PSSA pageant as a backup dancer, and I’ll be a backup dancer in the upcoming Miss Lifewalk Pageant because I’m part of a Lifewalk team. I e-mail everyone at the bank and let them know what I’m doing, with the backpack drive and the pageants, and ask them for $5, $10, whatever they can give.
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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 12, 2009.