Rambler Newspapers

Serving Irving, Coppell and Grand Prairie

Irving—The Irving Community Action Network (ICAN) hosted its first Community Resource Fair on the grounds of Kirkwood Community Church on Saturday, Oct. 9. The event featured more than 30 area non-profit organizations, which offer different kinds of assistance, such as education, work readiness, employment services, mortgage and rental assistance, and medical services to those in need in the Irving area.

The fair provided slides and bounce houses for the kids, free ice cream, street tacos, hamburgers and hot dogs, as well as raffles, and swag for attendees.

“This is a Community Resource Fair,” Steve Allen, president of ICAN, said. “Our ICAN nonprofits,of which we have 45 members, were all saying they’ve got more resources now through federal grants and so forth than they’ve ever had before. A lot of that’s because of COVID. However, with all those resources, they’re having a hard time getting [information] to the people. We thought,‘What if we were to do an event that would allow for us to get these resources directly to the people?’

“Some of these organizations, like Irving Cares, are in downtown Irving. Urban Crisis Ministries is in downtown Irving.Community Council of Greater Dallas is on Mockingbird and 35. For the average person, it takes so much time to get connected with all these places.

“This event covers the 75060 neighborhood, which was our target ZIP code. We sent out 5,000 postcards. We’ve been advertising this week on the radio on 660 AM and 102.5, which is a Spanish speaking Christian radio station. We’ve been putting fliers everywhere and trying to get the word out to people to come here.

“We told our nonprofits, ‘Don’t just go with business cards; come with your laptops, your case managers, and hot spots, and get people signed up on the spot. That way, there are no more bridges to cross to get signed up or get information,’” he said.“Every person who comes through hopefully will be able to be helped in some way.

“If people didn’t make it here today, one of the best places for resources to get in touch with all these organizations is at ICANIrving.org. There’s a resource page we keep updated, so the information is going to be current.”

“I am what they call a prevention specialist,” Alonza Winston with Youth 180 said. “We go into [Dallas County] schools, and we teach young people how to make positive decisions, steering them away from drugs and alcohol. We do a program called Positive Action. That program is all about teaching them to be confident in themselves, teaching them how to navigate friendships, and how to focus on making the best decisions that are going to support their futures.

“There are three different areas. There’s a universal area where we talk to everybody. There’s a selected area where kids may be leaning toward getting in trouble, and then there are those who have been identified who have actually gotten into trouble.

“It’s a great company to work for the great services they provide. We have families that have gotten involved with substance use issues. We have a counseling department geared toward counseling from a trauma perspective, because we deal with the root of the problem. If we don’t deal with the root of the problem, we’re going to continue to have the symptoms.”

Irving Police Athletic League (IPAL) coordinator, Officer Ashlie Christensen, described their program.

“IPAL is an after-school program for kids ages eight to 18,” Christensen said. “I run it along with Officer Rosario Solis. Right now, our main offering is our fitness class, and we also have a boxing program.In order to get into boxing, you have to progress from the fitness [program.]They have to work hard and show up on time.It is a competition team, so it’s not like you come in and learn how to box for fun.These kids train daily for a goal.

“The main point of our fitness program is to combat childhood obesity. We’re possibly going to look into tailoring a fitness class [that is geared toward] the obese side of things, because our fitness program is very tough. It’s an hour and a half workout, and it’s very disciplined.

“If we have kids that come in and struggle, then we tailor it [for their fitness level] and put them on a treadmill or something similar. It gives them a modified workout to get them used to their body working that way, so it isn’t a complete shock when they move up.Our fitness class is like body weight stuff consisting of things like push-ups, jump rope, running,and other calisthenics.”

The IPAL program is held at their facility on Rock Island Blvd, though they are hoping to acquire a new building soon.

“We could have up to 80 kids in the facility at once sometimes,” Christensen said. “It’s not a big building. Some days are less active than the others, like Fridays.We maybe had 20 kids show up this Friday. Then on Monday and Tuesday, we had 50 kids, so you never know.The only kids who come pretty much every time are the boxers.

“We also have an archery class twice a week.It runs through most of the year between Daylight Saving Time.They learn how to shoot, and the kids who want to do bow hunting progress from archery, but they have to be consistent. We take the kids once a year to do a bow hunt. Our instructors are avid hunters, and they only take kids that are highly trained.If they [shoot] a deer, we teach them how to dress it, and they get to keep the meat for their family.”

The Psychology Honor Society from Dallas College-Northlake, Psi Beta, had several members volunteer at the event.

“I am on the psychology faculty at Dallas College-Northlake Campus,” Enrique Otoro, LPC, said. “I’ve been there for almost 20 years, but I also sponsor the Psychology National Honor Society. “One of our students, Rory, told us about this opportunity. We’re always looking for philanthropic projects and volunteering opportunities.”