Friendship makes things easier for BTD co-chairs

Ron Guillard, Nan Arnold scramble to make sure everything is ready for the 29th annual fundraising dinner

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Ron Guillard and Nan Arnold
Ron Guillard and Nan Arnold

Being one of two co-chairs of the annual Black Tie Dinner is no easy job. But it is at least a little easier when your co-chair also happens to be a good friend, according to Ron Guillard and Nan Arnold, Black Tie co-chairs for 2010.

This year’s version of the annual fundraising dinner is a week away — Saturday, Nov. 6 at the Sheraton Dallas Hotel — and Guillard and Arnold were busy this past week making sure they had every little detail attended to before the big night.

“It’s a collaborative effort,” said Guillard. “We have to be able to work together and lead the board with one voice. I think we have been able to do that, and I know I have had a great time working with Nan.”

Arnold added, “We’ve been friends for a long time, which definitely helps. Ron and I first met back in the ’90s when we were both working on fundraising for Lambda Legal, back before they even opened a Lambda Legal office here in Dallas. We knew each other before then, but we got to really be friends working with Lambda Legal.”

Arnold grew up near Hope, Ark., and first came to Dallas after high school to attend college here. She ended up going back to Arkansas to finish her degree, but then moved back to Dallas.

At first, Arnold said, he involvement in the community consisted just of attending events and donating to worthy causes. Then she got involved with Lambda Legal and “I realized that fundraising was something I could do. And it just snowballed from there.

“It just sounds so trite, I guess, but I got involved because I just wanted to give back to the community,” she continued.  “Dallas has been so good to me, and I really love it. So I wanted to do something for the community. And with Black Tie, you are truly giving back to this community, because of the way we work with our beneficiary organizations.”

Arnold spent four years as chair of the Black Tie Dinner sponsorship committee, and she said working on the annual fundraiser takes up a lot of what spare time she has when she’s not busy at her job doing consulting work and construction management for land developers.

“It [Black Tie Dinner] takes up a lot of time. I am lucky my partner [attorney Linda Wiland] understands. She supports me completely.”

Arnold is completing her 7th year with Black Tie Dinner, and the first year of her two-year term as co-chair. Guillard has been on the board for four years, and is finishing his second year as co-chair.

Arnold noted that she was the one who actually recruited Guillard to the board.

Guillard grew up in Northern Michigan and transferred to Dallas in 1990 for his job.

“Where I lived before, I really hadn’t experienced being part of a real community and what all went with that,” Guillard said. “I was impressed immediately by the people I met and how involved they were in building a sense of community. That’s what led me to say yes when I was asked to get involved.”

Guillard said he wasn’t out at his job — working for a small product design firm — when he first came to Dallas. But he saw a way to bring the LGBT community and his job together when he found out about DIFFA’s annual Dallas Collection event, where jean jackets were redesigned into wearable works of art by designers and celebrities, both local and national.

“Working through our professional organization, I kind of invented a way for us to get involved,” Guillard said. “It was right after [basketball player] Magic Johnson had announced that he had AIDS, and I decided to contact his representatives and see if he would let us put his name on a jacket we designed for him.”

Johnson said yes, and the jacket was one of the top money earners that year.

Guillard said he spent about five years helping design jackets for the DIFFA auctions, and then, “in the second part of the ’90s,” he connected with Gail Richards.

“I ran the White Rock Lake Marathon with her. She was on the national board for Lambda Legal, and she got me involved with Lambda Legal here.”

Guillard noted that Radio Shack acquired the design firm he worked for in 2004, but in 2008, when the economic downtown hit, Radio Shack liquidated the business.

“So that’s when I elected to just enjoy the luxury of focusing on Black Tie Dinner for awhile,” Guillard said. “I still do minimal consulting work, but I spend most of my time on Black Tie.”

And luckily, he said, he too has an understanding partner in hospital CEO Bill Brosius.

And, both Guillard and Arnold stressed, the are lucky to have the strength of the full Black Tie Dinner board behind them.

“This is a wonderful, hardworking board,” Arnold said. “It’s not all about us. We do our best as co-chairs, but we couldn’t accomplish anything with the rest of the board.”

Guillard added, “This board is a great pipeline of future board co-chairs.”

Guillard said his strength — both in his professional life and in his volunteer work — has always been “thinking about what’s next and what’s after what’s next. I am only wired to think expansively.”

It is a trait, Arnold said, that has come in most handy for the Black Tie board.

“That has been absolutely great for Black Tie,” Arnold said. “That’s always a big question for us: ‘Where do we go from here?’”

Especially since next year will mark the event’s 30th anniversary.

“Right now, I am concentrating on this year’s dinner. But I can’t say I don’t think about next year. I mean, how do we get there from here? How will I do any of it without Ron? But I know someone will come along to be my next co-chair and they’ll be great, and we’ll get it done. Plus, Ron’s number will still be on my speed-dial!”

But at least for the next week, Guillard and Arnold are focusing on the 29th annual Black Tie Dinner, which will feature openly lesbian U.S. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin as keynote speaker and recently out country-western star Chely Wright as the Media Award winner. The Rev. Carol West will be on hand to accept the Kuchling Humanitarian Award, and dinner officials will present the Elizabeth Birth Equality Award to American Airlines. Turtle Creek Chorale and Broadway star Gavin Creel will provide entertainment.

“Plus,” Guillard said, “we have a couple of little surprises up our sleeves!”

Arnold said, “It’s just so exciting as we get closer, seeing all these pieces coming together this way. It makes my heart beat faster just thinking about it. It’s why we work all year long, because we know it all comes together for three hours on one night. That’s why we do it.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 29, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

Fighting the good fight with LifeWalk

Robert Moore and Ray Warner
RECOGNITION | Robert Moore, left, presents three-time LifeWalk co-chair Ray Warner with LifeWalk’s Volunteer of the Year Award in 2009.

This is the third in a series of columns by past co-chairs of the AIDS Arms LifeWalk that will be published in Dallas Voice leading up to the 20th anniversary of the event on Sunday, Oct. 10.

Ray Warner Special Contributor

Because of my involvement with Nelson-Tebedo Health Clinic as an HIV counselor and phlebotomist, a good friend asked me one day if I would be interested in joining the AIDS Arms LifeWalk steering committee for 2005.

“Are you crazy?!” I answered. “I don’t have time to volunteer with another agency.”

But I said I would go to the event and see what it was all about.

Somehow I found the time to volunteer at both places, manage a home and still work full time.

The steering committee was made up of both past committee members and new members, and the people I met that day were a wonderful group. So I joined, and I had a really great time planning and doing fundraisers.

When the day of the walk finally arrived, I felt like I worked my butt off. But at the end of the day, when they let us know how much unrestricted money had been raised, I suddenly did not feel so tired. In fact, I was very excited about getting started for LifeWalk 2006.

Several months before the committee was to meet, I got a call from my friend Bill telling me that AIDS Arms had a new director of development, named Margaret Byrne. I had not met her yet so Margaret, Bill and I met for lunch. And that, as they say, is how it all began.

Bill was asked to be LifeWalk chair, and he suggested me as his co-chair. I was so honored to be ask to do something with an organization that I was passionate about.

During the 2006 LifeWalk, we raised nearly $100,000 more than we had raised in 2005. The steering committee built a float for the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and won the “Carson Kressley Trophy” for best costumes.

I was co-chair again in 2007, and again we raised even more money than we had the previous year. And we won yet another trophy in the parade, this time bringing home the “Queen Latifa Trophy” for best nonprofit.

Then came 2008, and once again I was LifeWalk co-chair, the first person to be co-chair for three years in a row. That was a huge honor for me, especially being in such a great group of co-chairs, both past and present. We again exceeded our fundraising goals in 2008. And when Margaret Byrne and Robert Moore presented me with the Volunteer of the Year Award at the 2009 LifeWalk, I was surprised and honored beyond belief.

I am so honored to have held the position of LifeWalk with such a great group of family, because, believe me, it is just like a family. We argued like brothers and sisters. There were ups and downs. But just like a family, we had each others’ backs.

Bottom line, raising money to help the clients of AIDS Arms and the other LifeWalk beneficiaries is the most important task at hand.Volunteering just a little bit of your time is so important to a nonprofit agency. These agencies are very special to my heart; some of my best friends are living with HIV, and some others have already lost their battles with the virus.

I know that a cure will be found so that no one else has to lose the battle. You can help. Get out there and volunteer for LifeWalk, walk, or just tell others about this wonderful event. I hope that I see you as I walk with the Nelson-Tebedo Team on Sunday, Oct. 10.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 01, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Looking back on 20 years of LifeWalk

By Dan Gueths Special contributor

Dan Gueths and Del Shores
2008 MEMORY | Dan Gueths, left, with 2008 LifeWalk Honorary Co-Chair Del Shores.

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of four columns by past co-chairs of the AIDS Arms LifeWalk that will be published in Dallas Voice, leading up to the 20th anniversary event on Oct. 10.

What is now the start of my 16th  year of involvement with LifeWalk started with just a simple question from two friends and co-workers. In 1994, James Youngblood was LifeWalk co-chair and Leigh Ann Stockard, who went on to also serve as co-chair, approached me and asked if I would like to help with LifeWalk.

For us, as for many, the reason to get involved was very personal. The three of us had two incredibly funny, personable and dear co-workers, Todd LeBlanc and Marty Rizzo, that we lost too soon to HIV/AIDS. Leigh Ann and I went and sat many an afternoon with Marty when he was homebound. But we lost many more friends and acquaintances, too, and there were more to come, including, over the years, many of my good friends that used to play for the Hunky’s softball team.

The first year I was involved, I set out cones along the LifeWalk route. I enjoyed the experience, so I agreed to help out again the next year, and then the next, etc. For the next several years, I served on the steering committee in logistics and recruitment, eventually being the committee chair for Operations.

I am honored to have served as LifeWalk event co-chair in 2008 and 2009. I had to think long and hard about being agreeing to fill the position — the duties are not easy. But the rewards I reaped in personal satisfaction far outweighed the workload and responsibility.

Another huge reward along the journey has been working with some very dedicated people who volunteer their time and talents, people like Mary Marshall, Jay Nolen, Keith Hickman, Terry Walker, Sandra Howell, Carter Brown, the TGRA (which always responds to the call for help), just to name a very few. But the list has no end.

As LifeWalk marks its 20th year, it is for me both monumental and bittersweet. It is a great achievement that LifeWalk has grown and raised millions of dollars that has provided for so many. But it is bittersweet that it continues to be a necessary that LifeWalk has more anniversaries.

This 20th anniversary year is also a time to reflect and remember: To remember the need for the event, to remember those that we have lost, to reflect on how we can move forward and encourage and educate a new generation and populations that are still unaware of the facts about HIV. Now is the time to remember those that took the initiative and accepted the challenge and the responsibility of creating and forming a community event to answer the needs of those afflicted with HIV/AIDS.

When it first started, LifeWalk was organized under the auspices of Oak Lawn Community Services. Many people in the community received invaluable services from OLCS and many individuals that served and volunteered for that agency, among them the incredible, inspirational Martha Dealey, have established themselves as great assets to the LGBT community and continued to provide service and mentorship to countless numbers.

AIDS Arms partnered with, and eventually assumed full sponsorship of LifeWalk. AIDS Arms has guided and nurtured the event so that the awareness and monies raised have continued to assist those that are in need.

There is a treasure trove of memories I have from this time, and some that truly stand out: Lisa Loeb performing for three years; walking through Neiman Marcus as part of the route; port-a-potties being blown over into the street the years the event was held in downtown; the return to Lee Park; the year the radios were delivered with no antennas and the Dallas Amateur Radio Club pulled us through; Jason Huff singing the national anthem; the Turtle Creek Chorale and Women’s Chorus of Dallas performing; Margaret Byrne and Scott Duncan meeting in Lee Park and getting married this year; and so many more. These are memories that will last me a lifetime.

But the thing that stands out and means the most — and this happens every year — is someone coming up and saying, “Thank you for all you are doing; it means the world to me.”

I could write volumes about the commitment and dedication of those individuals that co-chaired the first LifeWalk and those that followed. One of the focuses for the 20th anniversary is the opportunity to honor these individuals, and I cannot say enough to thank them for their service, and I hope that everyone who reads this article will take the time and effort to pass along a thank you, as well.

The co-chairs that have served over the last 20 year are Fred York, Barbara O’Brien, Carolyn Roney, Bruce Russell, Roger Bolen, Sara Reidy, James Youngblood, Kathy Hewitt, Steve Habgood, Leigh Ann Stockard, Gregory Pynes, Deiadra Burns, John Woodyard, Wendi Rothschild, Jerry MacDonald, Elizabeth Brown, Bill Carter, Ray Warner, Scott Kersh and Fred Harris — and me.

This 20th anniversary LifeWalk is both call to action and a time to celebrate. There is still much work to be done.

We have a saying that we hope some year we won’t need LifeWalk  — because the work and dedication of researchers, doctors, caregivers, advocates, case workers, service agencies and volunteers will have come to fruition and we will have eliminated HIV/AIDS. What a celebration that would bring!

But for now we celebrate our small successes both past and present. I can’t say enough about the importance of everyone getting involved. The community is what its peoples contribute, and the community is you!

The 20th anniversary LifeWalk will be held Sunday, Oct. 10, at Lee Park. For more information or to register to participate, go online to AIDSLifeWalk.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Lone Star Ride in (on) the news!

Cynthia Izaguirre of Dallas’ News 8 Daybreak interviews Lone Star Ride co-chair Laura Kerr on the Katy Trail Tuesday morning.

Around 15 cyclists participating in the 10th annual Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS got up bright and early this morning to hit the Katy Trail to meet with Cynthia Izaguirre, co-host of WFAA-Channel 8′s News 8 Daybreak program. Izaguirre interviewed LSR co-chair Laura Kerr, event manager David Minehart and Pos Pedaler Jim Frederick, and the rest of us were there with our bikes and bright jerseys to ride down the trail together for the “B-roll” extra footage.

Ms. Izaguirre told us the segment should air on Tuesday, Aug. 17, between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. (unless it gets bumped by some big breaking news story. If that happens, watch for it on Thursday, Aug. 19 at the same time).

She also asked for as many LSRiders as possible — at least 50, she said — to gather in the Plaza at Victory Park about 6 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 24 — the day before Lone Star Ride — for the filming of News 8 Daybreak. So if you are a LSRider, put it on your calendar and head on day that morning in your jerseys, with your bike and all your gear. (I know, I know. That means getting up at the ass-crack of dawn, which I hate. But I can do it this one time for such a great cause, and so can you!)

Even if you’re not a rider but you are LSR supporter, come on down that morning. The more the merrier.

News 8 Daybreak’s Cynthia Izaguirre interviews LSR event manager David Mineheart, above, and Pos Pedaler Jim Frederick, below.

—  admin

Midway Hills begins capital campaign

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Roger Wedell
Roger Wedell

Midway Hills Christian Church has kicked off a capital campaign to raise $400,000 to renovate and update the facility. Spokesman Tom Peck called it an “express campaign” to raise the money in August.

Campaign co-chair Roger Wedell said the total goal was $900,000 and the improvements would help the church better serve the community.
The church has a long history of welcoming the LGBT community. In the 1970s, Midway Hills was one of only four Dallas congregations to co-host a program on churches and homosexuality.

Midway Hills was one of the original rehearsal spaces for the Turtle Creek Chorale, and fFor more than 15 years, the church hosted P-FLAG.

Early in the AIDS crisis, Midway Hills met the challenge when other churches shunned people with AIDS or ignored the problem. It was one of the first churches to form an AIDS Interfaith Network care team.

Wedell said the renovations to the building would create more flexible spaces.

“We hope to accommodate a wider variety of groups in the community,” he said. “And a wider variety of worship and contemporary expressions.”
Rather than fixed pews, the main sanctuary would have modular seating and the chancel would be moveable

“We have a long tradition of incorporating music,” said Wedell. The new configuration would make it easier to incorporate those elements, he said.

“The current entrance to the sanctuary will converted into a new chapel,” he said.

Also in the plans is reconfiguring the entrance.

“Right now, it’s difficult to know what door you should use,” Wedell said.

He said the new main entrance would be handicap accessible. The current front entrance does not meet federal standards.
That entrance will open to a large gathering space for displays, small group use and fellowship.

Wedell said the building is already booked four nights a week. He said the church hosts English as a second language classes, 12-step programs and a square dance group, among others. He said he couldn’t think of a group affiliated with the church that didn’t include LGBT members.

The church had its start in the 1950s and has always been located at its current Midway Road location just north of Royal Lane. At the time, there was lots of open space in the area and large tracts of land were just being developed for housing.

The church is a member of the Disciples of Christ denomination. Wedell explained that congregations in the denomination have a national affiliation but strong local control. He called it the oldest indigenous U.S. Protestant denomination, formed in the 1800s from a merger of several smaller movements.
“As a small denomination, we’ve been involved far beyond our numbers in ecumenical work,” he said.

The congregation has about 200 active members.

“It all goes back to the vision our original members had for the church,” Peck said, “to make an impact far beyond the walls of the church.”

When Dallas first desegregated its school, members of Midway Hills voted to bus their own children. During the Vietnam War, the church became a Shalom or “peace” Congregation, and it was involved with resettlement of Southeast Asian refugees. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Midway helped settle Afghan refugees.

“We helped them with housing and getting stabilized in the community,” Peck said.

In addition to its own congregation, a Peace Mennonite church hold services in the building early on Sunday morning and a new Latino congregation is also using the facility.

To raise the initial $400,000 and eventual $900,000 for additional renovations including resurfacing the parking lot, redesign of the peace garden, remodeling the restrooms and retrofitting the fire protection system, church leaders hope to reach out to the broader community.

“We’re contacting people and organizations we consider to be friends,” Wedell said. And over the years, the church has developed lots of friends.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens