At earlier Founders Day events, Don Maison with a picture of Mike Merdian and Daryl Moore

Supper clubs continue to be the backbone of ASD volunteer support

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
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IDS Services of Dallas celebrates Founders Day today (Friday, May 3) with a cookout and awards presentations in the courtyard of Revlon Apartments. The event honors the memory of Daryl Moore and Michael Merdian, the two AIDS activists who in 1987 founded what was then known as the PWA Coalition of Dallas, and Phil Morrow, ASD’s second board president. Merdian was the original board chair from the time he helped form the organization until his AIDS-related death in 1990. Moore passed away in 1988.

Acting Executive Director, Traswell Livingston

Top Chefs Supper Club will receive the Daryl Moore Memorial Award. Originally formed in 1989, Top Chefs has provided meals for ASD residents once a month for the past 30 years.

Texas Capital Bank – Richardson will receive the Phil Morrow Memorial Award for 30 years of support during the Christmas and Easter seasons.

The Michael R. Merdian Memorial Award will go to an ASD resident in recognition of service to the community during the last year.

Moore and Merdian began their involvement in housing for people living with AIDS after Oak Lawn Community Services leased two houses on Nash Street. That was a small, residential dead-end street off Inwood Road that’s now an entrance to the Cathedral of Hope campus.

The housing was meant for the rapidly-increasing number of gay men who lost their jobs and then their homes because of illness and discrimination. In 1987, OLCS lost its lease on the Nash Street houses, and the residents were again facing homelessness.

Moore and Merdian purchased a three-story apartment building in North Oak Cliff with the help of Evelyn Petty, an Oak Cliff investor. They named the house A Place for Us, and the residents of the Nash Street houses had a place to live.

A Place for Us is now known as Ewing House, the centerpiece of an expansive housing program for people impacted by HIV.

When the property first opened, protesters picketed with signs reading “No AIDS colonies” and “Keep Oak Cliff Clean and Healthy.” Ironically, ASD’s renovation of Ewing along with Hillcrest House and Revlon is now credited with raising property values throughout the North Oak Cliff neighborhood where they are located.

In 1989, the PWA Coalition began doing business as AIDS Services of Dallas and hired Don Maison as its first executive director. Maison was a civil rights attorney who was best known at the time for defending a group of men who had been arrested at Village Station for dancing.

Maison got the charges dropped when, at trial, the police officers incorrectly described the line of sight from the entrance where they claimed they had seen the men dancing. Presenting floor plans provided by Caven, Maison proved that the dance floor was not visible from the door and that the officers were lying.

When Maison retired earlier this year, he was the longest-serving CEO of an HIV/AIDS organization in the U.S.

Currently, AIDS Services of Dallas is renovating another property to provide transitional housing as residents return to work and move out of care. Development director Chris Turman said plans are being drawn up, and ground should be broken by the end of the summer. Plans are to turn the property into 16 apartments, he said.

The Supper Clubs
Top Chef Supper Club has been providing meals for ASD residents for 30 years. Turman said it is one of more than 60 clubs that regularly bring dinner for the residents, either monthly or quarterly.

ASD, he noted “only provides breakfast and lunch [for residents] five days a week.” So residents rely on supper clubs for their dinners and weekend meals.

Jimmy Bartlett belongs to two supper clubs, and he has been helping prepare meals for the past eight years. His suggestion to anyone forming a supper club is to get together a group of at least five — although eight is better.

That way, if something comes up one month for one or two members, there are others to bring the meals.

Bartlett said there are months his supper clubs are providing meals for as many as 30 people, but normally they serve between 16 and 20 people.

“Everybody brings a different portion of the meal,” he said. That includes a main course, side dishes, bread, dessert and drinks. Leftovers are wrapped and refrigerated for residents to have over the weekend, he noted, so they always bring a generous amount of food.

“It’s a nice, community thing to do,” Bartlett said. “I enjoy doing it. It’s fulfilling.”

Turman said church groups, fraternities, sororities, clubs and just groups of friends form supper clubs, and ASD is always looking for more groups to form supper clubs and participate in the program.

Anyone interested in forming or joining a supper club can contact volunteer coordinator Alex Sanchez at 214-941-0523 ext. 5010.