Doing Better Where You Are

16 Dallas Organizations That Will Help You Give Back

From culinary training to horse conference calls, there are plenty of ways to support Dallas now.

Resource Center

Helping others is one of life’s most rewarding experiences and in Dallas there’s no shortage of ways to pitch in. With the city continuing to require residents to wear masks in public and practice social distancing, many charity groups have cut back on in-person opportunities. But at the same time, donation opportunities, virtual assistance programs, and safety-first on-site volunteering are on the rise. So whether it’s feeding the hungry, placing animals in loving homes, or contributing to the enrichment of people through education, these organizations are on the front lines every day and your involvement -- masked, socially distant, or virtually -- will do a world of good.

North Texas Food Bank

For the foodie

It’s a difficult adjustment to go from eating in restaurants to scooping food out of a takeout box. But it’s a small sacrifice compared to the thousands of local families struggling to get any meal on the table, let alone something from a celebrity chef. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to help the hardest-hit among us.

Over at Austin Street Center, Dallas’ largest low-barrier shelter, volunteers are needed to cook meals at home to be dropped off for distribution to its clients. The center’s also looking for volunteers to drop off masks, put together backpacks of hygiene products & snacks for clients, and volunteer to do landscaping.

Aunt Bette's Community Pantry at St. Philip’s School and Community Center in south Dallas has modified their operations to only Monday and Wednesday hours with a low-touch, socially distant system in place for unpacking boxes, assembling groceries, and distributing them to clients. Volunteers are needed to work both inside the food pantry as well as outside to load pre-packaged grocery boxes into clients’ cars. Donations can also be made to fund the food pantry specifically.

Resource Center provides numerous services to the LGBTQ community and to all people living with HIV, including health-insurance assistance, support groups, and a food pantry that serves more than 800 people per week. The food pantry currently needs volunteers (masks required) to assist in restocking shelves and packing groceries for clients. Donations of canned proteins, dried beans, rice, pasta, and more can also be dropped off to help stock the pantry.

All in-person volunteering at North Texas Food Bank has transitioned to paid positions performed by people who were laid off as a result of COVID-19, funded through grant programs. But one way people can still volunteer their time is by organizing a food drive with a focus on the most in-demand items, such as canned tuna and chicken, canned fruit, peanut butter, and cereal bars. The food bank is also looking for virtual volunteers to become social media ambassadors by spreading the word about NTFB and its current needs.

Of course, not all food assistance comes from food pantries. Nonprofit restaurant Café Momentum serves as a hands-on culinary-training facility for at-risk youth to learn life and job skills while earning a fair wage. Interns rotate between all restaurant jobs, from waiting and bussing tables to actually preparing meals in the kitchen alongside top chefs. During the pandemic, the restaurant has halted service to diners, but kept the interns employed serving more than 350,000 meals in the form of grocery kits to the community -- primarily food-insecure families with school-age children. While the restaurant team determines next steps toward reopening the restaurant for dinner service, donations can be made to keep the program running.

Dallas Animal Services

For the animal lover

With in-person volunteering being canceled pretty much across the board at all local animal shelters and rescue groups, one of the biggest current needs is households to foster dogs, cats, and other pets. Dallas Animal Services, Dallas Pets Alive, and SPCA of Texas all need fosters to take in pets at this time. DFW Rescue Me also has dogs in need of fostering, or support their work by ordering a custom drawing of your own pet created by a volunteer artist for a minimum $15 donation. Ranch Hands Rescue has suspended its in-person volunteer operations, but it is offering to spice up your next Zoom meeting or virtual gathering with a cameo from one of its superstar residents, including horses, donkeys, and goats, for a minimum $100 donation.



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Marsha Evans | Senior Source

For the humanitarian

Families of children in need of medical care continue to rely on services and accommodations, both overnight and extended stays, from the Ronald McDonald House Dallas. The organization has ceased volunteering opportunities temporarily, but there are still several ways you can help via monetary donations. Some specific options include covering the room and board for a family for one night, and while in-person volunteers who would normally cook for families are on hold, you can pitch in on catering for all residents to make sure mealtimes are covered. The House has also put together an Amazon wish list for essential items.

Supporting Healthcare Heroes can scratch the itch to be creative. Record a 30-second video of gratitude, whether it’s for a specific healthcare worker or for all of those on the front lines of pandemic patient care, and Energy Transfer will donate $50 (up to $100,000 total) to Parkland Hospital’s Public Health Emergency Fund. Camera-shy folks may also donate directly to the fund.

The elderly are particularly vulnerable during this time. Through nonprofit The Senior Source, you can become a virtual visitor to an older adult while in-person visitation is paused. To do this, create video messages or send greeting cards, letters, and drawings to seniors. Donations of playing cards, board games, coloring books, and pre-packaged snacks are also in high demand during isolation.

The Family Place, the largest service provider to victims of family violence in north Texas, operates three emergency shelters providing 177 beds nightly, including the state’s only shelter for men and children. Currently, the organization is specifically seeking donations of gently used items for their resale shop (a full list of what they can and cannot accept can be found here). Or you can organize a donation drive for everything from starter kits (which include items to set up a household) to pantry items and toiletries. Monetary donations and Amazon wish list purchases are always in demand, too.

Folds of Honor

For the education advocate

Ask any parent (and probably a lot of students, too) and you’ll hear that virtual at-home learning wasn’t very comprehensive for a lot of kids. The United Way of Metropolitan Dallas has created several programs to enhance the education experience for Dallas’ children, even during the summer. You can join other volunteers in creating videos for distance learning, including reading children’s books, showing off athletic skills, sharing music and art, and demonstrating fun science experiments. You can also take part in a virtual career day and inspire students by showcasing your day-to-day job duties.

Last year, Folds of Honor North Texas kicked off a program called “Operation 118,” which provided 118 college scholarships to spouses and children of America’s fallen and wounded service members in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. This year’s $590,000 fundraising goal will ensure that they are able to provide these same 118 “legacy recipients” an additional $5,000 in scholarship money to continue their education in the next school year. Suggested donations start at $118, but you can choose to donate any amount, greater or smaller, to fit your budget.

No matter your interests, you can help make a positive impact on Dallas in so many ways. Whether you choose an opportunity from the organizations on this list or find a completely different way to help out your fellow human (or four-legged friend), you’ll soon experience the incomparable joy of doing good.