Rambler Newspapers

Serving Irving, Coppell and Grand Prairie

Photo by Stacey Doud

Irving—Irving Cares celebrated its impact on the community during its Gala with a fun Boots and Bling theme, presented at the Irving Convention Center on Sept. 17.

The Gala offered a dinner, both silent and live auctions, live music by Country Grooves, and opportunities to meet with friends.

This year, the focus was on the “Invest in Yourself” program offered by Irving Cares, through which clients access education and skills to acquire jobs, housing, childcare, and other things needed to keep a family safe and secure. Once the client achieves what they need to accomplish, they are “graduated” from Irving Cares, though the organization is still offers support and guidance. The program empowers clients who were in crisis to take control of their situation. There are no hand-outs; clients work to get through the program.

“I’m a client of the Irving Cares Invest in Yourself program,” Sandra Davis said.“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.

“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 position in manufacturing. But it’s awesome how it correlates over into small business ownership.

“I also have a candle company,” Davis said. “I’ve learned amazing information that has transferred into being a small business owner. I absolutely love my job, and all the people I work with. I don’t necessarily love working, but who does? But I love everyone I work with.

“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. It’s a great position, and I love my employers. They care about every employee.

“When I started coming to 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. They helped me to empower myself,” she said.

Many clients are women who have escaped an abusive relationship with no support for their children.

“I was definitely one of those women, and I can’t say entirely that I still don’t struggle with some dark thoughts,” Davis said.“But because of the women at Irving Cares, I know 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 have a beautiful home we are proud of. Prior to coming to Irving Cares, we didn’t have 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,” Irving Mayor Rick Stopfer said. “We’ve always been really intrigued with what they do. They encourage people to move on and get things under their feet to be able to make their life go forward, and that really makes a difference.

“There are so many other people who are challenged with the fact they don’t have any real assistance. They need utility assistance, and they need job training. There are a tremendous amount of people who are still challenged as far as education, reading, writing, and doing basic things, because they’ve been spending time raising family, or they’ve gotten into an abusive relationship.It’s very challenging to rebuild that esteem and to make sure they know their worth, and their ability to continue to be a producing member of society. They deserve a quality of life.”

“I’m volunteering for Irving Cares,” Dean Panjwani said.“We were part of a team that organized the silent auction and set it up, helped the bidders to get their items, and then wrapped it up at the end.

“There were tons of great items. There was some jewelry.There was some cooking stuff, pottery, wine, and the restaurant gift cards. [The price] depends on the item. The whole purpose of organizing this event is to raise funds for Irving Cares, and they do a great job in the community here.

“They actually help individuals and families who are struggling financially. There is a food pantry Irving Cares runs to help people to get food. They also do a lot of skill training for people who don’t have employment. They do babysitting for single moms who are just starting a career. They don’t do it forever, but for a few weeks.They can actually support some of the families with their rent, things like that,” Panjwani said.

“I was actually one of the guest speakers on the [testimonial] video,” Gekevia White said. “I told my story about how much they’ve been here to help me in the past. I think it’s been almost a year.

“At the very beginning, I had just moved out of my mom’s house for the second time. I had gotten an apartment with a roommate, and we forgot to pay rent. The apartment complex told us about Irving Cares, and that’s where it started.

“I learned how to budget my finances. They certainly worked with me to get my credit up. They also helped me with employment when I wanted to get extra money.

“I worked in Amazon for a couple of months. I think I’m still in that program called, ‘Invest in Me,’ 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.”