Citizens, businesses, philanthropists, and the City of Irving officials came together at the Irving/Las Colinas Convention Center on September 17 to raise money for "Irving Cares," which is a program that helps bring people from crisis to thriving. Their clientele is mostly women, and most have escaped an abusive relationship. This special gala, called, "Boots and Bling," celebrated Irving Cares and its impact on the community.
Some of the night's offerings included a specially themed dinner, both silent and live auctions, as well as a raffle. Attendees were entertained by live music by Country Grooves and got to boogie on the dance floor. There were plenty of opportunities for networking as well, as some "old" friends came together and many "new" friends were made.
Irving Cares' program, called, "Invest in Yourself," was the main focus of this year's gala, which has been a yearly staple in Irving since 2000. The program provides clients access to education and skills to acquire jobs, housing, childcare, and other things needed to keep a family safe and secure. The main goal of this program is to empower clients who were in crisis to gain control of their situation. There are no hand-outs, and clients work hard to get through the program.
“I'm a client of the Irving Cares Invest in Yourself Program,” said Sandra Davis. “I've been going to them for about a year. Irving Cares has helped me out in so many different facets. They've helped me to secure great childcare for my children. And also, they've helped me to land an amazing job that I really love. I've been there for almost a year. It's my first ever position in manufacturing. But it's just awesome how it correlates over into small business ownership, which is great because I have a Candle Company. And I just absolutely love my job and all the people I work with. I don't necessarily love working, you know, but who does? But I love everyone I work with," Davis said.
“It doesn't feel like you work a day in your life when you're doing something you love. I'm the Executive Secretary for Primark and I absolutely just love it. It's a great, great position. And I love my employers. They're so caring, they care about every employee. They remember children's soccer games; they remember just about everything. It's more of a family than it is an employer. I'm so thankful,” Davis said.
“When I started coming with Irving Cares, I was basically a single mom, but I didn't want to accept it. [Irving Cares has] helped me come out of a dark place and embrace where I was in life. And they helped me to empower myself. And that is so important,” said Davis.
As for escaping an abusive relationship, Davis said, “I was definitely one of those women. And I can't say entirely that I still don't struggle with some dark thoughts. But because of the women at Irving Cares, I know that I can do this, and I can do better for myself and for my children. My kids have so much peace nowadays. They are happy, we are healthy. We have a beautiful home that we are proud of. And prior to coming to Irving Cares, we didn't have that.”
Rick Stopfer, who is the mayor of Irving remarked that, “Irving Cares is one of the first charities that [my wife] Melanie and I got involved with when I moved here many years ago. We've always been really intrigued with what they do. And the fact that they encourage people to help people, not just for one time, but to move on and get things under their feet to be able to make their lives go forward really makes a difference. But there are so many other people that are challenged with the fact that they don't have any real assistance. They need utility assistance, and they need job training. There's a tremendous amount of people that are still challenged as far as education, reading, writing, and doing the basic things, because they've been spending time raising family, or they've got into an abusive relationship, and it's very challenging. And so, to rebuild that esteem and to make sure that [clients] know their worth, and their ability to continue to be a producing member of society and enjoy life is priceless. They deserve a quality of life,” Stopfer said.
Another Irving Cares success story is Gekevia White, who was one of the clients featured on the video presentation during the gala.
“I actually got invited by Miss Beverly Wellborn at Irving Cares,” said White. “I was 23 at the time, and I'm 31 now. At the very beginning, I had just moved out of my mom's house for the second time. And I had gotten an apartment with a roommate. And we actually forgot to pay rent. So, the apartment complex told us about Irving Cares, and that's where it started. They helped us pay rent through what looked like a finance class,” White said.
“I learned how to, of course, budget with my finances. They certainly worked with me on my training on how to get my credit up. They also helped me with employment when I wanted to get extra money. So, I worked for Amazon for a couple of months," said White. "I've done the Invest in Me program, which is something that will help you get credit. It also helps with the next step, as far as looking forward, or my biggest goal, which is to get a house. So right now, that's another project that I'm working on.
“Miss Beverly has helped me get food. She's also helped me pay rent. And recently, she helped me pay for electricity. So, the last time I met with her was two weeks ago., and she said she had something for [my 3-year-old son], but she never told me what it was. So, when I got there, she had a bunch of books for him. They just really go above and beyond," White said.
“The last time [Beverly] asked me, ‘Hey, did you pay your rent this month?’ And I was proud to say, ‘I've already paid it!’ That shows how I know they’ll get with me next month, and they will help me with my rent [if needed]. It keeps me accountable. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, but it's always been really hard for me. Usually, I'll wait till the last minute. But now I know that she'll be checking on me weekly to make sure that I'm in a good place,” White explained.
“I'm volunteering for Irving Cares,” said volunteer Dean Panjwani. “We were part of a team that organized the silent auction and setting it up helping the bidders to get their items, and then wrapping it up at the end and taking the remainder of the items back to the RV campers.”
“There were tons of great items. Of course, there was some jewelry, there was some cooking stuff, some beautiful rocks, pottery, and handmade stuff, wine, restaurant gift cards, and vacations, such as a trip to Las Vegas and stuff like that. [The price] depends on the item. Some items that would go for $30 would go for more than $1000 or $2,000 because people want to help Irving Cares," said Panjwani.
To learn more about Irving Cares, visit https://irvingcares.org/.
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