YFT plans fundraiser to kick off Pride celebrations

Posted on 26 Aug 2010 at 9:02pm

Event intended to help make up shortfall in youth group’s budget caused by economic downturn

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

Sam Wilkes
Sam Wilkes

Youth First Texas kicks off Pride with a fundraising party at the home of Jo Bess Jackson and Joanne Martin on Sept. 11.

“It’s a great way for those in our community who want to celebrate Pride and support a great organization,” said Youth First Texas Director of Development and Administration Sam Wilkes.

Advisory board member Renee Baker put out a call to members of the Women’s Business Network to help raise money for the center after it moved to its new location. Jackson and Martin responded.

While no admission to the party will be charged, Wilkes said they will showcase the services the organization offers and hope the community will be generous with its financial support.

“We’ll probably have a short presentation. A youth or two will make an appeal,” said board member Chris Hendrix.

He said the group was looking for monthly donors who will make a multi-year commitment and challenge appeals.

Wilkes said that their Collin County group recently lost its space and is currently meeting at an office owned by Big Brothers/Big Sisters. The group is looking for a space of its own.

“We need a smaller, more secure spot,” he said. “YFT Collin County is a more intimate group. We have a couple of things in the works and are looking for what will be the best fit.”

The main Dallas center moved earlier this year to a new location on Harry Hines Boulevard.

Baker said the old space on Maple Avenue leaked, had air conditioning problems, was located near a meth clinic and had homeless people hanging out on the property. The new, more modern facility is safer and has attracted more youth.

“As of last month, we served 1,300 individuals so far this year,” Baker said.

That’s about a 25 percent increase in the number accessing services, and with the safer location some attend more often.

YFT is gearing up for another increase later this year when DART’s Green Line opens in December.

Market Center Station is across the street from their new building, making the facility even more accessible.

Jackson said she and her partner were delighted to open their house to help the organization continue to offer a variety of services.

“I’m a cheerleader for them,” Jackson said. “What they do is not duplicated by anyone else.”

She was referring to the way YFT integrates social activities with group and individual counseling.

“We offer community dinners to develop peer groups not based on drugs and alcohol,” Wilkes said.

Baker said she’s participated in movie nights, arts and crafts activities and cooking classes.

Twice a month, a gender identity group helps transgender youth gain self-acceptance. Lawyers work with the group pro bono to explain the steps needed to change legal papers, and counselors help them with a variety of questions and help them deal with pent up anxiety.

A six-week coming out series helps youth cope with family, friends and school.

YFT provides additional, unlimited free individual counseling as well. They partner with AIDS Arms and Resource Center Dallas to provide free HIV testing.

Wilkes said the agency works with a number of youth who are living on their own and struggling.

“Our food pantry is cleaned out and restocked each week,” he said.

Jackson and Martin have opened their North Dallas home to other groups many times, Jackson said. She is an estate-planning attorney who works with a number of transitioning people and with same-sex couples and single gays and lesbians.

“We have to protect ourselves even when the law doesn’t,” Jackson said. “We have to be creative.”

She said that’s exactly what YFT does that for LGBT youth and hoped the community would offer its support.

Sept. 11. 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at a private residence in North Dallas. To RSVP and attend the Youth First Texas party, e-mail Sam Wilkes at samw@youthfirsttexas.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 27, 2010

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