Rambler Newspapers

Serving Irving, Coppell and Grand Prairie

Irving—Irving Cares held its first New Year’s Eve Party inthe Irving Convention Center on Friday, Dec. 31.

“Several of us who went to MacArthur [High School] were sitting around, and for the last couple of years, have been talking about how there’s not a citywide New Year’s Eve party in Irving for the public,” Irving Cares CEO Kyle Taylor said. “We have the facilities [at the convention center]. Somebody suggested we do it with a charity and see how this works out.”

Irving Cares’ first year-end shindig featured live music from Irving native Ricki Derek and his 16-piece band, which delivered timeless classics like Dean Martin’s “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” and Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind”during their two-hour set.The tunes roused attendees from their chairs and onto the dance floor.

Ample food and drink offerings were also available at any of several bars. Guests could also purchasea Bottomless Champagne glass for $100 with proceeds going to Irving Cares.

Local DJ Melody Gualtiere provided tunes after Derek and his band completed their set.

“I’m actually from Irving,” Gualtiere said. “This is where I grew up. I live in Dallas now, but am able to come back and give back to the community.

“I’ve been doing this about 25 years. I thank all my drama teachers in junior high and high school around [Irving]. I went to MacArthur. Now that I’m affiliated with Irving Cares, I feel like I’ve come full circle.”

Taylor said proceeds from the evening were going to Irving Cares’ Invest in Yourself Program, which assists area residents with employment, education, and child care while using a bundled, holistic approach designed to help people move out of poverty.

The Westin Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas offered Irving Cares a block of rooms for the event, packages included a New Year’s Day brunch and those rooms sold out.

Taylor was pleased with how everything came together.

“It’s fallen into place. We don’t know what to expect,” Taylor said. “Feedback has been really positive. We haven’t had a lot of cancellations. When you do an event for the first time, you bump your head a little bit. There are some things that I and our event team are learning as we go. Doing events like this is trial and error.”

Taylor added that besides the event being well attended by locals, attendees also included a healthy contingent ofguests from Alabamain town for the Alabama/Cincinnati college football playoff game at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium earlier that day and several others from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Year-end events are staples for most non-profit organizations as they give supporters one last chance to make a tax-deductible donation which will appear on that year’s taxes and organizations one final opportunity to receive some last-minute donations.

This event gave Irving Cares a great opportunity to conclude 2021 on a positive note, andprovided the organization with a chance to look ahead into 2022.

“We’ve been working really hard, looking at how we can begin to pivot and work with low-income families to help them get out of poverty,” Taylor said. “Before COVID, we had set a goal for our Invest in Yourself Program of helping to lift 50 families out of poverty. We were in the 30s but then COVID hit and we had to shut down.

“We’re looking at how we can get our programs out of our building and closer to our participants. We can do this through partnerships and working with the city of Irving through rec centers, libraries, apartment associations.”

Irving Cares also continues working closely with Dallas College to ensure its constituents have sufficient opportunities to obtain the skills necessary to thrive in an ever-changing workforce.

“We’re figuring out what we need to do to make our programs more efficient and effective to increase the impact. [We want to]become much more relational as we work with the folks in our program and less transactional,” Taylor said.

Another goal for Irving Cares in 2022 is to continue evolving technologically as an organization to make it easier for those who need assistance to communicate those needs, which allows the organization to provide quicker and more efficient assistance.