For 14 years, Don Jenkins has used his royal alter ego to bring together ‘Friends Helping Friends’ to benefit ASD

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Don “Donna Dumae” Jenkins
Don “Donna Dumae” Jenkins

Donna Dumae  — aka Don Jenkins — will present her 14th annual “Friends Helping Friends” benefit for AIDS Services Dallas on Sept. 4 at Dallas Eagle.

Don Jenkins has performed as Donna for 27 years. But his alter ego Donna wasn’t something he had been rehearsing at home that was just waiting for a chance to burst out.

“I was out at one of the clubs in Fort Worth and someone dared me to do it,” he said. “At first I said no. Then I asked, ‘What’ll you give me?’”

His friends offered him $100 to enter a contest and win. He competed in the Closet Ball and lost but was asked to come back the next night and perform again.

“I never got the $100,” he said.

But he found that he enjoyed performing, so he joined some of the cast shows.

“And they’d pay me!” he said.

Jenkins joined the Imperial Court in Fort Worth and became Empress XI.

After he moved to Dallas, he became Empress XXIII of the Dallas court and currently serves as board president.

The courts are very involved in fundraising for the community.

“Fort Worth is a smaller city and there was a lot I could do there,” he said. “When I moved to Dallas, there was so much going on, so many groups. It was almost overwhelming.”

When he was about to run for empress in Dallas, Jenkins asked himself where he could make the most difference. Then he visited AIDS Services of Dallas.

“I really liked what they did,” he said.

That’s when Jenkins began his annual “Friends Helping Friends” show.

Over the years, Jenkins has raised money for many organizations in Dallas, but ASD remains special to him. He estimates he’s raised more than $20,000 for the PWA housing agency just from his annual show.

Jenkins said that Chicago Empress D’Vitta Deville is coming to town special guest in this year’s “Friends Helping Friends” show.

Don Maison, president and CEO of ASD, said the effort of the Court was exceptional.

“These are people who raise their money $1 at a time,” Maison said. “Don’s a true example of dedication. What augments that is their hands-on activity.”

He said that Jenkins came to ASD, took the tour and has been a reliable volunteer ever since.

“The Court does Easter baskets and Christmas presents for the kids,” Maison said. “Over the years, they even helped us lay sod. It was muddy and nasty and they weren’t afraid to get their fingernails dirty. They just rolled up their sleeves and jumped in.”

ASD’s Development Associate and Volunteer Services Manager Mary Beth O’Connor speaks fondly about Dumae’s help during the holidays.

“She is always in charge of the Easter Cookout, with Easter baskets for every ASD child and the Christmas Brunch with stockings for every child,” said O’Connor. “It is a big deal and they go to a lot of trouble to make the gifts nice for our kids.”

She said Jenkins makes a wonderful Mrs. Claus as well.

Jenkins’s partner, John Terrill, has been an emperor of the Court and is involved in much of the fundraising work. The couple have been together for 15 years.

Recently, Jenkins celebrated his 20th anniversary with AT&T where he is a communications consultant. He said most of the people he works with know about Donna.

“Some even come out and support me,” he said.

He’s hoping a number of those people are at the Dallas Eagle on Sept. 4 to raise a record amount for ASD.

Friends Helping Friends, Dallas Eagle, 5740 Maple Ave. Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. Entertainers who would like to perform line up at 5:30 p.m.

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