DTC donates nearly $60K to NTFB

ACC NTFB Check Presentation - Kris Martin, Kieran Connolly - by Dana Driensky

Former Dallas Voice staffer Kris Martin, as representative for the NTFB, collects a check from Scrooge (actor Kieran Connolly) at the final performance of ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the Wyly Theatre. Additional donations at that performance raised the total donation to nearly $58,000.

For six Christmases, the Dallas Theater Center has collected canned food and cash from patrons at its annual production of A Christmas Carol, and this year was an especially good one. For its first time since returning to the Arts District — and its first time in the Wyly Theatre — the DTC managed 934 pounds of nonperishable goods (nearly twice the amount taken in last year at the Kalita Humphreys) and raised $57,993.81 in cash donations (above the average for prior years). That brings the total monetary donations — donated to the North Texas Food Bank — to $297,912.16 since 2008. Each dollar accounts for about three meals donated to the hungry across the Metroplex.

We’re big fans of the NTFB here at the Voice — I decorate a cake every year for charity, and the NTFB is a feeder donator the Resource Center’s food pantry — so we’re happy to see how generous people are. But the need continues beyond Christmas; you can donate time, food or money here.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Let ‘em eat cake

My award-losing cake, complete with monetary bribes for the judges

My award-losing cake, complete with monetary bribes for the judges

For the second year in a row, I participated in the Kroger Cake-Off, where local journalists (including me, the only guy) compete in a 30-minute cake decorating competition to have a check in the amount of $1,000 donated in our names to the North Texas Food Bank and the Tarrant Area Food Bank, which serve 13 counties each across the Metroplex and beyond.

And for the second year in a row, I lost — despite my awesome design, above.

It’s not a big deal, actually — even Nerissa Knight, the Eye Opener morning show host whose decorated yellow cake won the prize, was gracious, telling me my design “was the most fun.” And the point, really, is to raise awareness of the need for donations to the area food banks (one in six North Texas residents goes with any meal every night, often children, the elderly and the disabled) and Kroger’s efforts in combatting that through Bringing Hope to the Table, a promotion through May 14 where customers can buy specially-marked items to benefit NTFB and TAFB.

Nerissa's winning designNerissa Knight and the donation check

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Food Pantry needs help as demand soars

Resource Center service for people with HIV gets most of its stock from NTFB, but even NTFB doesn’t have some of the items they need

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Food pantry volunteers restock items
STOCKING UP | Food pantry volunteers restock items in the refrigerator as the pantry gets ready to open on Wednesday, Nov. 17. Food pantry manager Micki Garrison said budget cutbacks have made the pantry even more dependent on volunteers. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

What’s on your menu for Thanksgiving? Probably a turkey. Or maybe a ham, or a pot roast. You will most likely have some stuffing or dressing, and plenty of vegetables. Add to that a slice of pie or cake for dessert, and your stomach will be plenty full when you move to the living room to settle in front of the TV to watch football.

If so, then you are one of the lucky one. There are plenty of people out there who would be thankful to have a can of soup as their Thanksgiving meal.
“According to a report just released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Texas is the second-hungriest state in the country,” said Micki Garrison, manager of Resource Center Dallas’ food pantry for people with HIV/AIDS. “The number of people going hungry in Texas is over 17 percent. That’s higher than the national average, which is 14 percent.”

And Garrison had some more sobering statistics to offer up. She noted that the food pantry is “closely tied” to the North Texas Food Bank, getting most of its stock there, and that with the recession lingering on, NTFB has itself been struggling to keep up with demand.

“Demand on the North Texas Food Bank is up 20 percent and donations are down 12 percent,” Garrison said.

Although Texas hasn’t been hit as hard as some states during the economic crisis, those on the lower end of the income scale — food banks’ usual clients who already had to stretch to try and make ends meet — have definitely felt the impact. Those who were scraping by before now have to ask for help, and those who already needed help now need even more.

And with the holiday season upon us, the situation will likely get worse.

“We usually serve between 600 and 800 clients a week. During the holidays, that will go up to 1,000 to 1,200 a week,” Garrison said. “We go through five to 10 tons a food each week. It’s a massive undertaking.”

Daniel Sanchez, nutrition center coordinator, said, “Just yesterday, we had 125 people through here in the first hour we were open.”

One thing the food pantry won’t be able to do this year, though, is provide its clients with turkeys for their holiday meals.

“In the past, we have been able to give each client a turkey for the holidays. But we just can’t do that this year,” Garrison said. “We just can’t afford it.”

While all food banks are struggling to keep up, Garrison and Sanchez said that their food pantry faces special battles because their clients all have HIV/AIDS.

“If you are HIV-positive and unable to work, you are probably already dealing with Social Security or disability, and you are probably facing tremendous medical expenses,” Garrison said. “A lot of our clients are struggling every day to make some really touch choices, like choices between buying food or buying their medications, between buying food or paying the rent and the bills.

“A lot of people have to make those choices, yes. But what makes it even more difficult is that for people with HIV, food is medicine. You just can’t take that regimen of medications that HIV-positive people have to take if you don’t have any food in your stomach,” she said. “It’s our mission to do as much as we can for them so they don’t have to make those choices. We can’t meet all their needs, but we do our best to meet as many as possible.”

There is another problem, too: the kinds of foods available at the pantry.

“We have a lot of clients who are feeling bad a lot of the time, and they just aren’t up to cooking a big meal for themselves,” Garrison said. “They just want to be able to open a can of soup and heat that up. Something easy.

“And a lot of our clients experience homelessness. If they come here and we give them a bag of dried beans and some raw chicken, they have no way to cook that. It doesn’t do them any good,” she said.

That’s why, Sanchez said, donations from the community are particularly helpful for the pantry, especially when those donations come in the form of easy-to-prepare items. Canned meats — like tuna, chicken, chili or Spam — are especially welcome, along with canned soups and ramen noodles, canned fruits and vegetables, boxed cereals, dry staples like rice, beans and pasta, juices and condiments.

“Things like that that are really helpful for our clients are the kinds of things we can’t get a lot of from the food bank,” Garrison said. “Getting cash donations is great. I mean, if someone goes to the grocery store and spends a dollar on a can of corn to donate, it’s great. But for that same dollar, I can get five cans of corn.

“Still, I can’t get those other things — the soups and stuff — from the food bank. So we need those donations from the community. We need all the donations, all kinds of donations,” she said.

Sanchez added that the food pantry also needs donations of time. Budget cutbacks have impacted staffing capabilities, which means there is a lot of work available for volunteers.

“We especially need volunteers during the holiday season,” Sanchez said.

Garrison added, “We need people to get the things we can get from the food bank. We need people to donate money. We need people to donate their time. We just ask that people find out how they can best fit into that structure.

“This food pantry is all about the community and how the community can show its love,” she said. “All we are is a vessel for the love of the community.”

Resource Center Dallas Food Pantry is located at 5450 Denton Drive Cutoff in Dallas. The pantry is open noon to 7 p.m. on Mondays, and noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays. The pantry is closed Fridays through Sundays. Donation drop-off hours are 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Mondays, and 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays. For information, call 214-521-3390.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 19, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Resounding success

For the third year, Tim Seelig’s choral group sings to feed a real need

Resounding Harmony
SUPPER CLUB | Tim Seelig, center, with members of Resounding Harmony, wants his concert to feed North Texans.

RESOUNDING HARMONY
Meyerson Symphony Center, 2301 Flora St.
Nov. 10. 8 p.m. $30–$50.
ResoundingHarmony.org.

…………………………………..

Timothy Seelig gets angry when he considers that during the season of Thanksgiving, there are still thousands of North Texans who go hungry. Which is why, for the third year in a row, the new season of his Resounding Harmony choral group begins with a fundraiser for the North Texas Food Bank.

“Resounding Harmony is an amazing blend of men [and] women, ages 13 to 77, from absolutely every walk of life, brought together by the music and the larger mission of making a difference in our community,” explains Seelig, the founding artistic director for the chorus.

Now more than 200 voices strong, Resounding Harmony had its genesis in a smaller mixed choral group Seelig helped put together for the March 2008 Voices of Peace celebration to honor Maya Angelou. That group caught the eye of Gregg Smith, a pastor at the Oak Lawn United Methodist Church, who approached Seelig and Hope for Peace & Justice about creating another chorus to help raise money and collect food for the needy. Not long afterwards, Resounding Harmony and its “musical philanthropic mission” were born.

“The North Texas Food Bank shared with us that they had just launched a three-year initiative and we immediately signed on to partner with them,” Seelig says.

The first year, Resounding Harmony raised enough to provide the NTFB with the means to offer 65,000 meals to North Texans unable to feed themselves. Last year, the chorus took an even more ambitious aim: to help provide 100,000 meals — a goal it surpassed by 10,000 meals. This year, Seelig once again wants to exceed the 100,000 mark. The concert takes place Nov. 10 at the Meyerson Symphony Center

“We are working very hard to add to the concert proceeds, income from the virtual food drive, actual food drives, Dinner in Destin Raffle, the Recyclable Grocery Bags and the Fabulous Table Auction,” Seelig says.

While the concert is intended to call attention to the reality of hunger in North Texas, Seelig promises that the show itself will be “[a] perfect balance of humor and seriousness.”

Some songs on the program, like “Lime Jello Marshmallow Cottage Cheese Surprise” and “Jalapeno Chorus”(a distinctly Southwestern play on Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus”) are laugh-out-loud funny. Others, like the poignant “Famine Song” and the rousing “Love Can Build a Bridge,” are intended to stir emotions.

Additional concert highlights include Russ Rieger playing the Lay Family Concert Organ and pianist Antoine Spencer performing a medley of Leonard Bernstein pieces.

“Every person attending will enter these holidays with beautiful music in their ears and in their hearts,” Seelig says.

In the three years of its existence, Resounding Harmony has also sung on behalf of other organizations, such as the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts, Lowe Elementary and The Samaritan Inn. With its June 2010 Carnegie Hall “Sing for Cure” performance for the Susan G. Komen Foundation, it has also quickly established itself as a distinguished member of the Dallas arts community

“The philosophy is to use our music as a philanthropic vehicle to raise money and awareness,” explains Seelig. “It is truly an effort to use music as a means to a greater end, rather than an end in and of itself.”

— M.M. Adjarian

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 5, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens