19th Annual Christmas in the Park Happens on Saturday, December 16
S.M. Wright Foundation Helps Make Holidays Merry and Bright for Less Fortunate Families at Dallas’ Largest Holiday Charity Event Serving over 44,000 in 2016
Your contributions make a difference!
Slated for Saturday, December 16th, thousands of southern Dallas families will gather at the Fair Park Automobile Building for the 19th Annual Christmas in the Park, which helps meet great needs where thousands of families struggle every day to provide basic necessities. Over 44,000 people were served in 2016 with basic necessities like clothes, coats and food while others found toys, bikes and more to help make a child’s Christmas wish come true.
For some, the holiday season is not a time to rejoice, but a period met with hardship, heartache and disappointment. Sponsors, underwriters, volunteers and supporters of Christmas in the Park work every year to make Christmas dreams come true for these families. Everyone is welcome to join in!
Organized by the S.M. Wright Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization providing support and stability to inner-city underprivileged children and less fortunate families in the South Dallas/Fair Park community, Christmas in the Park is perhaps Dallas’ largest holiday charity event, which has grown from serving less than 200 underprivileged kids in 1998 to over 44,000 residents in 2016.
Joining host team S. M. Wright II, co-founder, President and CEO of the S. M. Wright Foundation will be his mother, co-founder Debra D. Wright, his brother, co-founder The Reverend Calvin Wright, Ray Washburne, President and Managing Director, Highland Park Village and co-founder of MCrowd Restaurant Group, and his wife, Heather, Honorary Chairs; Nita and Cullum Clark, Chairman of the Board at the S.M. Wright Foundation and their children, co-chairs, along with many of Dallas’ business and community leaders.
One of the highlights is Coats for Kids, which is a program created by Maddy McGuire, a Highland Park High School (HPHS) student. She has been participating with her parents, Natalie and Mike, along with her sister Sophie in Christmas in the Park since she was three years old, making 2017 her 14th year to volunteer. She also founded the S. M. Wright Club at HPHS and along with approximately 50 volunteers, seeks donations of new warm coats all year long to give hope and happiness to kids in desperate need. Funds raised by the club purchase new Coats for Kids through Burlington Coat Factory’s community program and HPHS awards service hours for students. Since Maddy graduated last spring, her sister, Sophie, has taken on the leadership of the SM Wright Club at HPHS.
2017 co-chairs are Allie Beth and Pierce Allman, Gina and Ken Betts, Julie and Darren Blanton, Deni and Kevin Bryant, Doug Deason, Ola and Randall Fojtasek, Suzanne Bock Grishman and Michael Grishman, Tavia and Clark Hunt, Brooke and Jeff Jackson, Natalie and Mike McGuire, Chris and Joe Popolo, Lisa and Jeff Rachor, Pat and Emmitt Smith, Michael Watson, Jimmy Westcott, Carrie and John Willding.
All of these supporters and their families have long-time traditions of volunteering to disburse toys, food, other necessities and help with managing the event. Over 1,800 volunteers will join to share the holiday season with their families.
The foundation also provides hunger relief, educational support, health, social service assistance and economic empowerment. The foundation’s goals are to move these families from a position of dependency to self-sufficiency and to restore stability to families and the community.
For more information on Christmas in the Park and the S. M. Wright Foundation and how you, your corporation and business can become involved, visit the website at http://www.christmasatfairpark.com/
Pierce Allman, a co-chair with his wife, Allie Beth, described how they first got involved:
It started back in the ‘90s. Allie Beth and S.M. [Wright] met and part of the conversation was about meeting basic needs. We helped organize a program with support from friends and fed families at Thanksgiving. Then with their continued support and volunteers at Christmas, we all served about 300 to 400 people. After that we used the house across the street as a clothing center. One thing led to another as everyone thought about meeting basic needs of the neighborhood. You see, many folks are in dire straits and truly want to be self-sufficient and self-reliant. They have a strong desire to learn and get back on their feet. We want to help.
Meeting the families and talking with them gives a fresh perspective on the true meaning of Christmas. It is so personal when you guide a child or a family through Christmas in the Park and they get to pick something, a jacket, bike, toys, something to eat and in their eyes, you realize, as one child said to me as he just grinned, "I've got Christmas like everybody else."
The first few times we were at the church in the old kitchen and activity rooms. Then we realized we had to take over the sanctuary and turn it into a toy land. Then we started looking at other locations and the Automobile Building at Fair Park was mentioned. At first, intimidating because it is so cavernous, but it is perfect.
The beautiful part is it's a faith-based enterprise. All of the money goes to Christmas in the Park or one of the other programs, which are all successfully run - putting beds in rooms, giving families furniture, meeting people’s needs. And the church attendance has grown. People are supporting his [S.M. Wright’s] mission.
This seems to have a synergistic effect where people understand you can support this because it works.
From Darren Blanton, Treasurer on the Foundation’s Board of Directors and a co-chair of Christmas in the Park with his wife, Julie:
Julie and I met S.M. in 2001 a few years after his father, Dr. S.M. Wright Sr. had passed away and he had taken over the church. I joined the board of the Foundation shortly after that. We were really impressed with S.M.’s heart and his desire to help the people in the Fair Park and South Dallas areas. We were also impressed how he mobilized people to not only give money but to come down and serve these people with their whole family.
The S.M. Wright Foundation is a great example of how Christianity and Christian Service is supposed to work. Through their programs, people and their families are enabled to give money, time, and love to less fortunate people in our community. We as the givers are in turn blessed more than the recipients.
As an investor, philanthropist and Christian father, I encourage everyone to explore the ways to get involved with one of the programs at the S.M. Wright Foundation. The Foundation is a prime example of why Christian organizations are so much more effective than wasteful government agencies.
Photos by Dana Driensky.