Category Archives: Service Organizations

Guide dog puppies begin basic training in Texas

Amy Smith was both nervous and excited as she walked in front of a crowd of well wishers and veteran guide dogs to accept Tomei, an 8-week old yellow Labrador puppy, as part of the Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB) puppy delivery event at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on Thursday, Jan. 12.

Amy is one of six members of the Lone Star Guide Dog Raisers, the most recently established of GDB’s five puppy clubs in DFW. Members from all of the Dallas clubs and their guide dogs welcomed the new puppies, which were flown in from a GDB campus on the West Coast, to be raised for 15 to 17 months before being flown back for further training.

“We’re flying in puppies about every month, and we’re flying out dogs,” said Sandi Alsworth, a Community Field Representative for Texas. “We actually have two dogs leaving to go to formal training on the 21st. They’re both flying to our Oregon campus.”


Guide Dogs for the Blind serves blind or low vision individuals throughout the United States and Canada. The organization, now the second largest school in the world of its kind, has been raising dogs since 1942 and has two main campuses, one in San Rafael, Calif. and a second in Boring, Ore.

Alsworth, who has been volunteering with the program for 15 years, takes on a number of responsibilities for the non-profit including looking after the group leaders and trainers, evaluating the dogs three to four times a year, and being on call for any type of emergency.

“I’m making sure that [the puppies] are attaining levels we need them to attain while they’re here and making sure they’re viable animals for our program,” Alsworth said. “If they’re having difficulties or if they’re having challenges, I give them special protocols to work with.”

Preparations for the raisers began months before the puppies were flown in and included a combination of classes, events, and hands-on dog-sitting.

“We’ve had a lot of different meetings that we’ve gone to,” Smith said, a former zookeeper at the Dallas zoo. “We had a three hour class for Puppy 101 where we got to learn a lot of the basic care and training. Since our club is new, groups like the Fort Worth group and Dallas group lent us some of their dogs that were in training, so we could practice with them. We’ve also puppy sat for some other dogs that are currently in training. There are lots of different ways of getting experience.”

After the initial classes and application, a home study took place to make sure the puppy’s new home was a suitable environment. If someone is not in a position to raise a puppy, GDB accepts volunteers for a number of other roles.

“We have a lot of people that can’t raise a puppy on their own and they’ve become puppy sitters for us,” Alsworth said. “We train everybody from the get go. We have local leaders and the guide dogs have staff support who are evaluating the dogs and assisting in the training.”

GDB functions entirely through volunteers and donations. The program does not charge blind or visually impaired individuals for their newly trained dog upon completion of the formal program.

“I liked that there’s no charge for the person that [the dog goes] to work with,” Smith said. “For a lot of companies or different groups, it can be upwards of $4,500 to get a fully trained service dog, but Guide Dogs for the Blind does not charge at all.”

GDB has been breeding dogs for over 75 years. Dogs are evaluated primarily on temperament and confidence. GDB uses only Labradors, Golden Retrievers, and a mix of both breeds know as Golden Labradors.

“We’re trying to breed for a calm, relaxed temperament, but a dog that’s confident enough to do the work,” Alsworth said. “They are going to be managed by a blind person, so this is a dog that’s not resistant to people handling them or touching them or manipulating them.”

Golden Retrievers are generally trained differently than their Labrador counterparts.

“It’s been cool to watch how different Goldens and Labs are,” Sophie Herran, a Golden Retriever raiser said. “[Golden Retrievers] are much more of a challenge. They’re more distracted, more sensitive, but they’re also very socially aware.”


Becky Clark, a former professional dog trainer, is the leader of the Fort Worth group, a club that has eight dogs currently being trained.

Clark’s dog Sinead is on breeder watch, where she will be evaluated as a potential guide dog breeder. If chosen, she will move into a custodian home near one of the two main campuses. If not, she will be spayed and placed into formal training college, the period after the initial 15 to 17 months of basic training. Formal training generally lasts 12 to 16 weeks. Dogs that do not make it through this final stage are sent into another service such as working as medical alert dogs. Raisers generally receive another puppy only weeks after their last dog is sent into formal training.

“The hardest part is giving him back,” Clark said. “A piece of your heart goes with him. But then when they become a guide or a medical alert dog or whatever it is that they’ll be, it makes your heart swell even more because you’re so proud of them.”

The Salvation Army to begin collecting gifts for more than 50,000 children, special needs adults

DALLAS – On Friday, Nov. 4, The Salvation Army will begin collecting nearly 300,000 donated Christmas gifts for more than 50,000 children and special needs adults in the DFW area. The gifts will be collected at 11 local shopping malls: NorthPark Center, Collin Creek Mall, Galleria Dallas, Ridgmar Mall, Town East Mall, The Shops at Willow Bend, North East Mall, Grapevine Mills Mall, Hulen Mall, Golden Triangle Mall, and Parks at Arlington.

Compassionate citizens wishing to help a child this Christmas can stop by a Salvation Army Angel Tree at any of the 11 malls and select an Angel tag from the tree. Each tag lists a child’s first name, age, gender, clothing sizes, wish item, and need item. Special code numbers ensure the gifts go to the families who asked for them.

Donated gifts will also be collected at approximately 400 companies and churches as employers host collection efforts on site to allow their employees a convenient way to give, and churches host the same for members of their congregations.

The gifts will be distributed in Dallas, Tarrant, Collin, Denton, and Ellis counties beginning on Dec. 15. Families that qualified for assistance have been given appointments to pick up their gifts at one of 13 locations between Dec. 15 and 20.

Parents began interviewing for Christmas assistance at Salvation Army community centers on Sept. 26. To qualify, they meet with a Salvation Army worker who reviews income and expense information to make sure the family is in need. During the interview, the worker collects information about the children which is printed on the Angel tags.

Donations will be accepted from Friday, Nov. 4 through Thursday, Dec. 8.

SOURCE The Salvation Army

Ambucs swear in officers, donate two AmTrykes

Photo: Helping yet another person with limited mobility, Jack Spurlock (left) and Bob Silver (center) present Zabi (right) with an AmTryke from Irving Ambucs. / Photo by John Starkey 

In addition to providing AmTyrkes for 10-year-old Saaketh and 22-year-old Zabi, the Irving Ambucs members swore in their newly elected officers.

2016-2017 officers: President: Dennis King, Vice President: Leo Hull, President Elect: Graham Crump, Secretary: Diane Mannon, Treasurer: Rick Fengler, Sgt. at Arms: Barbara Harper.

Red Cross has emergency need for blood donations  

DALLAS — The American Red Cross has an emergency need for blood donors. Severe winter weather since Jan. 1 has forced the cancellation of more than 300 blood drives across 20 states, resulting in more than 9,500 donations uncollected, further depleting an already low winter supply. Blood donation appointments can be quickly and easily scheduled by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

“Blood products are being delivered to hospitals as quickly as donations are coming in,” said Jan Hale, interim communications manager of the Southwest Blood Services Region. “Eligible donors are urged to make an appointment to give blood now and help ensure blood products are available for patients locally, and across the country, including areas severely impacted by winter weather.”

Because of generous donors, the Red Cross is able to provide blood products to patients like 2-year-old Charlie Stephens. Charlie has received both blood and platelets during treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Her mother, Michelle Stephens, donates blood regularly.

“I want to help supply blood for someone else, because others have provided for my family,” she said.

The Red Cross must collect approximately 14,000 blood donations every day for the patients at about 2,600 hospitals and transfusion centers nationwide. Blood is needed to respond to patient emergencies, including accident and burn victims, heart surgery and organ transplant patients, and those receiving treatment for leukemia, cancer or sickle cell disease.

A blood donor card or driver’s license or two other forms of identification are required at check-in. Individuals who are 17 years of age (16 with parental consent in some states), weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health may be eligible to donate blood. High school students and other donors 18 years of age and younger also have to meet certain height and weight requirements.


SOURCE American Red Cross

Irving ISD celebrates 30 years of partnerships

Photo: Dr. Jose Parra shares his thanks for the many contributions made by IISD Partners in Education. /Photo by Courtney Ouellette

An evening of praise and appreciation was hosted by Irving ISD’s Partners in Education in honor of the program’s 30th year on Tuesday, Jan. 19. Presented in the Irving ISD Administration Building’s atrium, the reception and ceremony recognized local businesses that dedicate time and money to Irving schools.

“We are just so honored to be here tonight, but even more, so grateful for all of the ways that you partner with our schools,” Leslie Weaver, Irving ISD director of communications said.

“We know that your partnership helps bring activities to our students, to make sure that they’re achieving at their maximum potential. You provide wonderful incentives for our teachers. You come together with our schools to make Irving a great community,” she said.

Weaver also recognized the contributions of students to the evening’s atmosphere, including the Nimitz High School culinary students who provided anniversary cupcakes for the event, art students whose work was displayed around the atrium, and the Nimitz students responsible for creating the floral arrangements.

In addition to thanking the current ISD partners, Randy Randle, president of the board of trustees, recognized his fellow board members for their dedication to the schools.

“It’s really an honor to represent our school board,” Randle said. “We have a fantastic board of trustees that is focused on students, parents and teachers. It’s really a team effort. As a volunteer board member, we contribute our time, not for recognition or credit. Like you, our partners in education, we get involved because we care about student achievement; we care about our kids living a productive life after they leave our campuses. That drives us to serve, and I know that drives you to volunteer your time and resources, and we greatly appreciate it.”

Randle takes his dedication to the district one step further.

“In addition to serving on the board, my family is also involved with Bowie Middle School. We’ve been doing stuff with Bowie for a while and officially became a partner last week,” Randle said.

“We provide cutting boards that administrators use to give out to teachers for gifts as door prizes, incentives, whatever. We also help contribute to a rolling cart of snacks that are for teachers’ rooms, just for a nice little break for them during the day.

“It’s a very small way that we can give back. But from what I understand, the teachers really appreciate it. We’re going to continue to grow that partnership, and we’re looking forward to it,” he said.

The Irving ISD’s Partners in Education program began in 1986 and has grown and evolved over the decades. It currently boasts over 220 partners.

“Participation of the business community in our schools is welcome and necessary for healthy school climate. As a result, this program provides students the opportunity to benefit from the knowledge and expertise of key people in the community,” said a note written by former superintendent Jack Singley.

The district’s current superintendent, Dr. Joes Parra, outlined some of the measurable impact the 200 plus partners made last year.

“Businesses large and small, faith based groups, community organizations working hand in hand with us at Irving ISD to offer students the best education possible,” Parra said.

“Irving ISD is fortunate to be part of a city that is dynamic and has a heart for service. Partners contribute more than 8,000 volunteer hours at our schools annually. The impact our partners make in our district equates to more than $210,000. It’s phenomenal,” he said.

Looking forward to future growth and success, Thelma Cantu, the partnerships in education coordinator, summed up the district’s appreciation.

“Thirty years of partnerships, isn’t that incredible? The partnership program began with a handful of partners in 1986 and has grown significantly over the last three decades,” Cantu said. “We appreciate the decades of service that your companies and groups have given tirelessly to our students, our teachers and our schools, and look forward to many more years of productive collaboration to come.”

Mayor Van Duyne lends a hand

Mayor Beth Van Duyne lends a hand at Many Helping hands Thurs. Dec. 3 at First United Methodist Church, 211 W. Third Street.

Many Helping Hands offers Thursday night dinner, clothing and supplies to many of Irving’s homeless population.  To volunteer or donate food or items, please contact First United Methodist Church, 972-253-3531.


Source: First United Methodist Church

Many Helping Hands raises money for families in need

Photo: Many Helping Hands’ annual soup fundraiser brings people together in an effort to ease poverty. /Photo by Adam Stephens

Many Helping Hands held their second annual soup fundraiser featuring a soup tasting, door prizes, and a silent auction at CHRIST Church. The proceeds from the Oct. 10 event, more than $5,600, will help provide for families in need.

An Irving-based ministry, Many Helping Hands, was founded by Lana Hansen, who has experienced homelessness. The organization consists of ten churches of various denominations that work to help families in need by providing them with clothing, hot meals, and guidance in order to help them eventually support themselves.

“This is a cause very near and dear to me,” Hansen said. “I love that God is touching the hearts of people in Irving. All the denominations are working as a team for a common goal. It brings to mind a quote from the Bible, ‘Whatever you’ve done for the least of these, you’ve done for me.’”

Participants sampled each soup and voted for which one they felt was best. The winner was a taco soup made by Mindy from Northgate United Methodist. Afterwards, soup was served to all the attendees.

“I am extremely grateful to be participating in the second annual soup fundraiser for Many Helping Hands,” alternate secretary Stephanie Copeland said. “This event is a family friendly way to have a great time with our neighbors in Irving while supporting a great cause. Everyone I have talked to enjoyed the silent auction and the soup competition. This year’s event looks to be even bigger and better than last year’s.”

“It’s just amazing,” co-coordinator Sheila Slade said. “Jesus broke bread to bring people together, and that’s what’s happening here. God has showed up and showed out. There are more auction prizes this year than before, and it shows that more people are helping out other people. It’s just awesome.”

Many Helping Hands provides a variety of services for families in need in Irving. In addition to holding a dinner every Thursday for an average of 45 people, they keep track of a list of things that individual people and families need, such as clothes, shoes, working materials, tents, and hygiene products. They have a long-term goal of establishing a day resource center in Irving that would allow those without homes to shower, do their laundry, receive mail and receive assistance in developing skills to become working members of society.

Joint effort creates ramp for disabled veteran

Submitted by Jan Killen

Two organizations, Great Days of Service (GDS) and Dallas Ramps, teamed together at the mobile home of Gary and Pat Hawley on Saturday, Sept. 12. Following a foot amputation, Gary is in rehab. He will need the ramp and additional assistance upon returning home in several weeks.

GDS worked with project coordinator, Gary Stopani, and fellow ramp builders with Dallas Ramps, a division of The Texas Ramps Projects. Volunteers included four SMU engineering students, two of them women, and several friends and family members of the recipient. Using a framework pre-fabricated in a north Dallas warehouse, the 53’ ramp was completed in about 7.5 hours.

One frequent Dallas Ramps volunteer said the interaction with the home owner made this the most satisfying build she had ever done.

GDS chairman, Andy Schellenberg, and Jan & Byron Killen, Advisory Board, worked as part of Plymouth Park UMC’s host church

More information may be found at and at .Both organizations depend upon donations to serve others, as well as volunteers. Dallas Ramp Project celebrates 30 years of service at a reception on Sunday, Oct 18 at King of Glory Lutheran Church in Dallas.

The Grainger Foundation supports Irving Cares, Inc.

The Grainger Foundation, an independent, private foundation based in Lake Forest, Ill., has donated $25,000 to Irving Cares, Inc., in support of the food pantry to provide Irving residents with temporary assistance.

“This grant will allow us to offer nutritious groceries and assistance to our neighbors in need,” said Teddie Story, CEO, Irving Cares. “We strive to ensure families have healthy meals even in times of crisis. We are grateful to The Grainger Foundation for its generosity.”

Irving Cares’ programs help serve nearly 900 families a month with groceries including fresh milk and eggs.

This donation was recommended by the following Market Managers of W.W. Grainger, Inc’s Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas locations: Terri Butler, Sean Gardner, Jesus Palomino, and Jody Stroup, all of whom have volunteered in the Irving Cares food pantry. Grainger has been a part of the Irving business community for approximately 50 years as the leading broad line supplier of maintenance, repair, and operating products.

“We are proud to recommend the programs offered by Irving Cares,” Stroup said. “We understand the need for these types of programs that identify and provide services for Irving families in need.”

SOURCE Irving Cares

Local ministries and congregations extend hand to reduce homelessness

A ribbon was cut and the doors opened as the Family Promise of Irving open house celebration allowed the public to view their latest project on April 22: a house for families with children experiencing homelessness.

Family Promise of Irving, (FPI) is a non-profit affiliate of Family Promise, which is headquartered in Summit, NJ. It works with a plethora of over 500 trained volunteers as a faith based social service agency. Support is given to the families through a network of local faith based communities who use their churches to provide safe overnight shelter for 3-5 families, one week at a time, 4-5 times a year on a rotating basis.

“We make sure that there is a want to find jobs, and that’s their responsibility while they are staying with us,” said Barbara Davis, a volunteer for FPI. “They’re on the computers a good bit of the day, and some of them already have jobs while the children are at school. At night they stay at the churches, and we have about 10 churches who work with us in keeping these families housed while promoting self-sufficiency.”

The two story house has a wraparound porch, a very cozy living room and kitchen as well as a foyer and plenty of play space. Upstairs there is a room for those who are fallen ill, a room for interviews and another living space. Christ Church, First Christian Church, First Church of Nazarene, First United Methodist Church, Hackberry Creek Presbyterian, Holy Family of Nazareth Catholic Church, Irving Bible Church, Oak Haven United Methodist, West Irving Church of God in Christ and Woodhaven Presbyterian are all serving as host congregations for the organization.

Families are referred to the program by local social service agencies, churches and schools. They are first extensively interviewed and must undergo drug screening and background checks. A history of violent criminal behavior and/or drug use would cause a family to be eliminated from the program’s eligibility. With detail oriented screening of applicants, the national success rate for the FPI program is 80 percent.

During the ribbon ceremony, different members of the Irving Chamber of Commerce were recognized and Executive Director Teri Petty was given multiple awards for her work on this project.

“The ribbon cutting event was inspiring for Family Promise of Irving because it demonstrated the compassion of all segments of our community for children and families,” Petty said. “We loved seeing faces from the faith-based community, the school district, the city of Irving, the business community and other nonprofits serving families in Irving. Family Promise is about building community, strengthening lives.

“This nonprofit is important, because it allows me and our volunteers to demonstrate our faith through our actions. The families that come to Family Promise of Irving are just normal everyday families that have fallen on hard times. So many families today live check-to-check. One or two bumps in the road, such as a health issue or needed car repair can cause a financial domino effect putting families at risk of not being able to pay for housing. It is important also because our focus is on children and their families.

“Long term goals for Family Promise of Irving include the continued support for families with children as they return to self-sufficiency. We look forward as we build partnerships with every facet of our community to raise awareness of the challenges facing families today. We will continue to strive to help network our families with resources that will provide financial literacy, living wage employment, and affordable housing. And our ultimate goal will always be to be the practical expression of God in our community,” Petty said.