Two ways to help with Nepal disaster relief

Shannon Haiti

Shannon Shepard, left, in Haiti in 2011 building houses with Habitat for Humanity

Over the weekend, an earthquake hit Nepal and at least 3,600 are believed dead at this time.

Here’s a way to help.

Shannon “Shep” Shepard is a Habitat for Humanity volunteer. He’s done a number of local builds in the U.S. and spent time in Haiti after their earthquake on a build with Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter. When he lived in Dallas, Shep was a member of Congregation Beth El Binah, a volunteer at Ranch Hand Rescue and a producer of Robert Camina’s film Raid of the Rainbow Lounge as well as his upcoming Upstairs Inferno.

Shep works for Microsoft and was transferred several years ago from the Irving office to Seattle. His fundraising page indicates he’s still raising the $5,000 to participate in this build. He told me this morning he’s already paid for his trip and anything raised now will go directly to Habitat for Humanity to help with immediate needs.

His trip is scheduled for Nov. 1 when there will still be a need for housing. Recovery from a devastating disaster takes years. Obviously, with the current situation, the need for housing has suddenly grown exponentially. I can think of no other organization better prepared to provide housing than Habitat for Humanity.

Shep has been working on raising money for this build for over a year. I know him personally, and I know that he funds the cost of his trips himself. His volunteer work helps give people their lives back.

By the way, he’d hate this kind of coverage, which is why I’m not telling him I’m making this appeal until after it’s out there.

Here’s another suggestion for donating to Nepal disaster relief:

An LGBT organization that will get your money directly to those doing relief work is The Rainbow Fund. Founded in 2000, Rainbow World Fund is the world’s first and only all-volunteer, LGBT-based humanitarian aid organization. All money donated to The Rainbow Fund goes directly toward relief work and no money toward administrative costs.

—  David Taffet

Two gay men among One Man Dallas semifinalists

Joseph Hernandez, left, and Steven Weir

Because women volunteer at a greater rate, group formed to encourage men to give their time

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Two gay men are among the 20 Dallas men who have been nominated for the title of One Man Dallas, presented by an organization that honors men who volunteer. Because women volunteer at a rate five times that of men, One Man was created to encourage and honor men who volunteer.

The project began in 2009 with One Man Minneapolis. Last year the group added Chicago and this year Dallas.

From hundreds of applications, the field was narrowed to 20 semifinalists. Nominees had to be men between ages 24 and 44 who are affiliated with a local charity and live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

The 20 semifinalists are competing to become One Man Dallas, which will be awarded on May 19. Among them are Joseph Hernandez who volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, and Steven Weir who is a board member of Legacy Counseling Center.

Hernandez has been a Habitat volunteer for about 11 years.

“One thing I do is serve as their banker and I work on homebuilding projects,” Hernandez said.

Each year, Habitat provides about 100 homes for low-income people in Dallas.

Habitat is celebrating its 25th anniversary in Dallas this year. Since 1986, it has helped 850 low-income families. They have invested $95 million in Dallas in more than 20 neighborhoods and have increased the tax base by $2 million annually.

When constructing new homes, Hernandez said that volunteers do everything that doesn’t require a licensed contractor. He said there’s a spot on a construction site for anyone.

“They take people based on expertise and put them in the right place,” he said. “There’s something that everybody can do.”

For the more experienced that includes nailing framework and installing sheetrock, but for less experienced volunteers there’s planting landscaping, painting and cleanup.

And as their banker, Hernandez works with each of the applicants for a Habitat home to ensure their success in the program.

Steve Weir has been the board chair for Legacy Counseling Center for several years. Legacy provides counseling services for people with HIV and a substance abuse program in Oak Lawn and operates Legacy Founders Cottage, a 24-hour supervised special care facility in Oak Cliff.

Legacy’s executive director, Melissa Grove, called Weir an amazing volunteer who works throughout the community.

In addition to his work with Legacy, Weir has done fundraising for Lambda Legal, Legal Hospice of Texas and Home for the Holidays, been a team captain for LifeWalk and collected silent auction items for Genesis Women’s Shelter.

Grove said, “I’d be tickled if a gay man won” the One Man title.

She credited the LGBT community with volunteering at a much higher rate than the general population and said that should be highlighted for the community. She was surprised more gay men weren’t among the finalists.

Voting takes place on the site. Anyone can sign in and vote once a day.

Two additional happy hours will take place before the final event. On May 4, all of the finalists will be at Board Room Salon in Highland Park Village and on May 12 at Aloft Hotel in Downtown Dallas from 6 to 8 p.m.

The final show will be on May 19 at Gables Park 17, a new high rise on McKinney Avenue at Akard Street, at 7:30 p.m. Five finalists will be announced. Those five will participate in a live competition involving fashion, pop culture trivia and interviews. Denise Lee will be among the entertainment.

The winner will split $5,000 with his charity and win a wardrobe from J Hilburn.

More information on Dallas Habitat for Humanity at, about Legacy Counseling at and on One Man Dallas at

—  John Wright

Helping build a brighter future

Members of the MCCGD celebrate their new home by helping Habitat for Humanity build a new home for a member of the congregation

LisaMarie Martinez  |  Special Contributor

A NEW BEGINNING  |  The Rev. Colleen Darraugh, right, pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas, blesses the kitchen in the new house that MCCGD members helped build for one of their own as part of a Habitat for Humanity project. (LisaMarie Martinez/Dallas Voice)
A NEW BEGINNING | The Rev. Colleen Darraugh, right, pastor of Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas, blesses the kitchen in the new house that MCCGD members helped build for one of their own as part of a Habitat for Humanity project. (LisaMarie Martinez/Dallas Voice)

There’s a popular saying that goes: “We can take a minute to know someone, an hour to like them, a day to love them, but it would take our  whole lives to forget them.”

These words ring very true for the most recent recipient of a Habitat home, whose family is a member of the Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas.

With their recent move to their new location in Carrollton, the members of MCCGD have already begun their mission to serve others within the surrounding communities by volunteering, this summer, to be a part of the North Collin County Habitat for Humanity project.

In the more than 20 years since it began, this branch of Habitat for Humanity has built 63 homes with a service area that includes Frisco, Celina, Melissa, Mckinney, Princeton and all the way to Farmersville.

A typical Habitat home is built within a 12-week span of time, depending on the amount of volunteer participation. The sponsors of this project were Stonebriar Community Church Frisco, led by Pastor Roy Williamson, and The Hartford. They funded the building of the house and supplied volunteers.

Additionally, groups, such as the information technology company IOLAP and churches, including MCCGD, got involved to provide the additional volunteers necessary to complete the project, which was ahead of schedule by four weeks. Key personnel, besides the volunteers, were house leader Russ Waite, volunteer coordinator Andrea Tabor and recipient mentor Dawn Serr.

Knowing the recipient personally and having her family as a member of their congregation, MCCGD Pastor Colleen Darraugh and her congregation said they were delighted to be a part of the project, even if in a small way.

“This project is about relationships; it’s about our mission, about serving, to move into the community and outside of our church walls,” Darraugh said. “It’s about meeting a need.”

There are many ways to support a Habitat build, the pastor stressed, regardless of one’s physical handicaps or scheduling conflicts.

“Collecting water or praying for the safety of the volunteers, the well being of the family or for a successful build, are just some of the ways anyone can support these kinds of projects,” Darraugh said.

Gene Goodwin, a friend of the recipient  and fellow MCCGD member, was part of the build since the beginning and helped to put up doors and paint baseboards.
Other MCCGD members who were unskilled in carpentry, like Milly Crawford and Mary Ann Miller, discovered that every job was important as they held the tall ladders when necessary or helped with clean up.

Darlene Hays of MCCGD worked on a Saturday when the frame was already standing, helping out by handing to those who needed them. By the end of her day on the project, the roof decking had been put in and the siding completed; save for the doors and windows.

Hayes said it was more than just her affiliation with MCCGD and the church’s involvement that made her want to participate in the Habitat for Humanity project.

“I’ve always been blessed with a safe home, and I will do anything I can for someone else to have that as well,” Hayes said.

The Habitat recipient said the experience was about more than just having a house built for her.

“Yes, this project will provide me with a home. But I’m getting more, because it’s about being with community and organizations, and being with other church members,” she said.

She thanked everyone who helped with the project, and said she would remember each one of them every time she walked into her new home.

While North Collin County Habitat for Humanity, as with other Habitat branches, relies on large donations from churches and organizations to fund the homes the agency builds, anyone can give donate to the organization and in any amount. Word of mouth and fundraisers are others ways by which NCC Habitat for Humanity has received support.

It takes about $60,000 to build a house and those dollars are harder and harder to come by in this economy. Habitat does not pay labor costs, which is why volunteers are vital to the organization.

For more information on North Collin County Habitat for Humanity, go online to

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 15, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas