National Volunteer Month: Dala Does Good

 The Dala Communications team volunteers at On The Road Lending's Road Trip! fundraiser

The Dala Communications team volunteers at On The Road Lending's Road Trip! fundraiser

Volunteering is a big part of Dala’s culture. Once every quarter, one of our team members chooses a nonprofit to partner with and we take a half-day to serve the community. We’ve done everything from deliver lunch for Meals on Wheels to assist with a swim class for adults with special needs. Throughout the year, we also find ways to give back. In fact, for the past school year, our team has been mentoring, Leslie, a high school senior from Uplift Luna, who wants to major in PR. We developed a “PR curriculum” to review with Leslie during the times she has spent shadowing everyone in the office to learn more about the world of public relations. Our passion for giving back also goes beyond “Dala” and in honor of National Volunteer Month, we want to give you an inside scoop on what causes are closest to our hearts.

Big Brothers Big Sisters (Mentorship)

  Dala President Leah Williams (right) attends the high school graduation of her “Little Sis” Yardley

Dala President Leah Williams (right) attends the high school graduation of her “Little Sis” Yardley

Leah has enjoyed giving back her time at Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of Greater Dallas since 2005, where she has spent hundreds of hours in various volunteer and leadership roles, mentoring and nurturing the next generation of young leaders. She was elected to the 2009 inaugural Dallas BBBS junior board and served as chairman in 2013 where she helped lead the board to raise more than $50,000, exceeding the board’s goal by 100 percent. She served on the board for seven years total, raising thousands of dollars and recruiting additional mentors and volunteers for the organization.

She also served as a Big Sister in the community-based mentoring program for eight years where she met with X’Eryus every two to three weeks. Leah spent hundreds of hours watching him grow and progress through school from eight to 18 years old. In 2013, Leah became involved in BBBS’ e-mentoring program, Mentor 2.0. She was matched with Yardley, a freshman at North Dallas High School. Yardley graduated last year and was the first in her family to graduate from high school. She has since enrolled in cosmetology school and is thriving.

Leah continues her involvement in BBBS today, providing pro-bono PR services to this cause near and dear to her heart. One of her most memorable initiatives was devising and executing a media strategy to announce the national “Bigs in Blue” initiative in North Texas in 2017 as well as BBBS' partnership with Dallas ISD police.

  Dala’s Elizabeth LaMonte (left) on her graduation day at the University of Texas at Arlington

Dala’s Elizabeth LaMonte (left) on her graduation day at the University of Texas at Arlington

Elizabeth and her brother were both first-generation college students, so she had little guidance and few answers to the many questions she had about applying to college. Choosing a four-year university to attend seemed quite daunting, but she made it to the other side with a degree in public relations (lucky for Dala!). The experience sparked her passion for mentoring and helping guide high school students in the right direction for college.

She joined BBBS Lone Star in 2017, where she volunteers with Mentor 2.0. As a Big Sister, Elizabeth meets every four to six weeks with her Little Sister, Destiny, a freshman at the Collegiate Academy in North Richland Hills. She also helps her mentee with online homework throughout the school year. Elizabeth has eagerly committed herself to the program for at least four years to not only foster a relationship with her Little Sister, but also to help Destiny grow in her academics to prepare for college in the future.

Dallas Pets Alive! (Animal Rescue)

  Dala’s Krystal Morris, above in blue, attends Dallas Pets Alive! inaugural Town Hall event

Dala’s Krystal Morris, above in blue, attends Dallas Pets Alive! inaugural Town Hall event

To say Krystal loves dogs, is an understatement. So, when her good friend mentioned that she fostered dogs with Dallas Pets Alive!, a volunteer-driven, nonprofit rescue group dedicated to promoting and providing resources, education and programs to eliminate the killing of companion animals, Krystal wanted to help. She looked into ways to put her communication skills to use for Dallas Pets Alive! and signed on to volunteer as a media manager in Jan. 2017. Krystal loves being able to share the great work the volunteers and fosters do at Dallas Pets Alive! without working directly with the animals, since she knew she would be tempted to adopt another dog (she already has two mutts!).

A few of the media hits Krystal has been able to garner for Dallas Pets Alive! include a charity dog wash, the TNR (Trap Neuter Release) program, Dallas Pets Alive! transporting animals impacted by Hurricane Harvey to Canada to find homes and the group’s “Spoty Play” campaign that gives their adoptable animals playlists on Spotify that match their personalities. After helping to develop and execute the group’s ongoing #RescueRusty campaign, Krystal was promoted into a leadership role as director of public relations for Dallas Pets Alive! in Dec. 2017.

Krystal continues to lead PR efforts for the nonprofit and manages strategic media relations outreach and crisis communications, while working with the marketing team to ensure streamlined communications on external PR activities via internal messaging to the group’s more than 300 volunteers and on social media. She even recently stepped in front of the camera to promote adoptable dogs for the organization’s weekly “Ruff Life” segment on CW 33.

RECLAIMED (Anti-Trafficking)

  Dala’s Katie Venhaus, above in pink, helps recruit RECLAIMED volunteers at a ministry fair

Dala’s Katie Venhaus, above in pink, helps recruit RECLAIMED volunteers at a ministry fair

When people hear about human trafficking, the movie “Taken” often comes to mind. They imagine a girl in a foreign country getting snatched. While that certainly can happen, many people don’t realize human trafficking happens right here in Dallas and it can take place a number of different ways. In fact, The Dallas Morning News comes out with articles almost weekly on different busts. Our team member, Katie Venhaus, learned all of this in college through a semester-long research project, and when she moved to Dallas in 2013, she wanted to get involved in putting an end to it by fighting the roots of the issue, not just the symptoms.

Katie jumped in with some incredible leaders to help start RECLAIMED, a volunteer-led organization that exists to empower and mobilize God’s church to redefine a hyper-sexualized culture, restore men and women victimized by the sex industry and reach a world hurt by the abuse of sex all through the power of Jesus Christ. She used her gift of writing to draft a curriculum to educate people on human trafficking and how they can be part of the solution, and now that five-week curriculum study is offered quarterly. Katie helps teach and facilitate these studies, and at the end of the study, connects volunteers with RECLAIMED’s nonprofit partners in the community. She also helps train and equip volunteers at quarterly meetings and leads an events team to provide ongoing training and opportunities for volunteers throughout the year.

Lastly, Katie has the privilege of volunteering at Restored Hope Ministries where she connects with and encourages the women in the year-long program to rehabilitation. She said, “It’s one of my greatest joys to see women come in broken and in desperate need, find healing and peace.”

Leah EkmarkComment