From angel trees to toy drives to Christmas stocking auctions, gay organizations in N. Texas are again opening their hearts and wallets


BARS GIVE BACK | Dallas Tavern Guild members prepare gift bags for people with HIV on Thursday, Dec. 13 at S4. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

The Dallas LGBT community has its share of holiday traditions — from the 1,000 holiday bags the Dallas Tavern Guild puts together for clients of HIV/AIDS agencies, to Caven Enterprises’ gift project for the Sam Houston School and the Angel Tree at the Dallas Eagle.

But every year also seems to bring a few new projects. Among them this year is a holiday wreath auction at Alexandre’s benefiting the new Buddy Shanahan Music Fund, set up in honor of the well-known gay pianist who died this year.

According to Mary Beth O’Connor, development and volunteer services manager at AIDS Services of Dallas, the real tradition in the LGBT community is the spirit of generosity and caring.

“I think we’re blessed here in Dallas,” O’Connor said.

When she thinks about why the community has been so generous to the residents of Hillcrest House and the other ASD residences, O’Connor said, “Because our friends have lived and died here.”

O’Connor said it’s easy to find church groups to fill the Christmas wishes of children who live at ASD’s four properties, but harder to find donors for the adults’ wants and needs. That’s where projects like the Angel Tree at the Eagle come in.

Each resident lists a few items they’d like to have.

O’Connor said she couldn’t go to a church group that was buying toys for kids and ask them for the pink boa that one resident requested. But Leather Knights, who spearheads the Angel Tree, fulfilled that wish.

Gay insurance agent Steven Graves bought a half dozen DVD players that were among the Angel Tree requests. Graves said what struck him was the number of people who wanted basics — pillows, blankets, socks and underwear.

The Leather Knights’ Adam Lynn said the community is successful because different groups work together.

Lynn calls himself a transplant who’s been in Dallas since 2006. He said he hasn’t seen the same thing happen in other places.

“Dallas is such an amazing city,” he said. “There are few places that give so generously.”

This year, the DFW Sisters joined the Leather Knights for the Angel Tree project.

Lawna Jocqui, a member of the DFW Sisters, put together “Sleigh Ride in Leather,” on Dec. 15 with Mr. Texas Leather 2013 Bobby Thurman on hand as Naughty Santa for photos. A show and auction will bring in cash to buy any items still left on the tree after Sunday.

Lynn said because the DFW Sisters came to the Leather Knights and offered to help with the Angel Tree, they were able to take on an additional 30 angels.

O’Connor said one of the nicest gifts many residents can get are gift cards.

“It’s really nice for a woman to buy her own bra,” she said. “To shop for themselves is a luxury.”

On Thursday, Dec. 13, members of the Dallas Tavern Guild assembled and distributed 1,000 gift baskets that will go to clients of AIDS Interfaith Network, AIDS Services Dallas, Parkland hospital and other agencies.

Caven event manager Chris Bengston said each basket has two pieces of fruit, juice, cookies or candy, a letter and a teddy bear. Ron Adams of Metro Games donates the teddy bears and each Tavern Guild member contributes $100.

She said that project has gone on for years. A couple of other projects have also become staples in the community.

The Sam Houston Elementary School project, started more than 20 years ago by Alan Ross and Ed Oakley, has grown into year-round support from Caven Enterprises and its patrons.


ROPING IN DONATIONS  | Mr. TGRA 2013 Lee Rodger holds up a request from the Angel Tree during the group’s Hard Candy Christmas fundraiser at the Dallas Eagle on Dec. 8. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

“The kids got to write a letter to Santa Claus and pick three items from a catalog,” Bengston said.

On Dec. 20, after the children leave school, Caven’s elves will put the children’s presents and a goody bag on their desks. On Dec. 21, the elves return with Santa Claus who will visit each class to sing songs with the students.

Bengston said anyone who still wants to participate can pick up a Christmas wish letter from any bartender at JR.’s.

She said the project has grown into a community effort with employees of Andrews Distributing who donated toys at their Christmas party and Ben E. Keith, Pepsi and a number of churches contributing to the gift effort. The project gets so much support that the overflow goes to the Medrano School on Lucas Drive.

The Round-Up Saloon presents its annual Christmas Stocking Auction on Dec. 16 benefiting Legacy Counseling Center and Founders Cottage.

Baskets are on display for preview the night before.

Legacy Executive Director Melissa Grove said the money raised will help offset expenses caused by a 25 percent increase in patient load this year.

“After a decade of being stable, we’re really having a rough year,” she said.

Taking care of animals is also a priority in the community.

Anton Shaw uses her annual Christmas show at Sue Ellen’s to help the Cathedral of Hope Music Ministry, as well as the Irving City Animal Shelter.

And Bob Williams, whose Ranch Hand Rescue in Argyle takes in and nurses back to health abused farm animals, holds Honky Tonk for Horses featuring live entertainment at The Mule Barn, a bar in Justin, on Dec. 20.

For the seventh year, Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas is collecting warm clothing for the homeless. Donations of coats, hoodies, sweatshirts, hats, gloves, mittens, scarves and socks are welcome at the church’s Carrollton home. Church members will deliver the items to people on the street.

Among the fundraisers helping the Resource Center Dallas food pantry is the United Court of the Lone Star Empire’s Jingle Ball. The Texas Gay Rodeo Association staged its annual Hard Candy Christmas to help its beneficiaries including RCD’s nutrition programs.

RCD’s Rafael McDonnell said: “Traditionally, in November and December we see higher need but also higher giving. I’m always amazed at the generosity of this community.”

He said the food pantry moves seven tons of food a week. But despite what seems like an overwhelming volume of food, he said bringing in just one bag of groceries does make a difference.

“Everything gets used and folks are glad to have it,” he said. “The stuff doesn’t sit on the shelves. In a matter of days, it’ll be on someone’s table.”

And the holiday fundraising continues into the new year. Leslie Jordan returns to Dallas for the fourth time for a show at the Weisfeld Center downtown to benefit Legacy Counseling Center.

“Leslie always lifts people’s spirits after the New Year,” Grove said.

“It’s a way to kick off the new year right. Sister Helen Holy and Leslie Jordan remind us to keep humor in our lives, which is so important to good mental health.”


Upcoming holiday benefits
• Wreath Auction benefits Buddy Shanahan Music Fund, Alexandre’s, 4026 Cedar Springs Road, Dec. 15 at 6:30 p.m.

• Sleigh Ride in Leather benefits Angel Tree, Dallas Eagle 5740 Maple Ave., Dec. 15 at 7–10 p.m.

• Toy Drive benefiting the Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center, The Tan Bar, 3818 Cedar Springs Rd, Suite 106, through Dec. 21

• Angel Tree benefits ASD Dallas Eagle, 5740 Maple Ave. through Dec. 16

• Stocking Auction benefits Legacy Counseling Center, Round-Up Saloon, 3912 Cedar Springs Road, Dec. 16 at 7–11 p.m.

• Anton Shaw’s 10th Christmas Extravaganza benefits the music ministry at Cathedral of Hope and the Irving City Animal Shelter, Sue Ellen’s, 3014 Throckmorton St., Dec. 16 at 7–10 p.m.

• Honky Tonk for Horses benefits Ranch Hand Rescue, The Mule Barn, 218 Hwy 156, Justin, Dec. 20, 8 p.m.–midnight

• Leslie Jordan, benefits Legacy Counseling Center, Weisfeld Center, 1508 Cadiz St., Jan. 4 at 6 p.m.


This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 14, 2012.