Sharing Life Community Outreach distributed over 1 million pounds of food to help its more than 60,000 clients last year. The nonprofit, one of Mesquite’s largest, provides food, clothing and education to people living below the poverty level or those in need throughout southeastern Dallas County.
“I am shocked every day when I show up for work and there are 30 to 50 people waiting in line for us to open the doors,” said Teresa Jackson, Sharing Life Community Outreach executive director. “We have plenty of food, but they are so desperate for help they get here early and wait for us to open,”
She added that the organization never requires anyone to make appointments to get food, because it believes if people need it they should be able to come and get it.
Each year Sharing Life hosts a fundraising gala to help pay its operating expenses. The organization operates out of a 21,000-square-foot building, leased to the organization at a cost of $1.50 a year by Lake Pointe Church. Despite the low rent, the organization has numerous other expenses, such as salaries for its staff and utility bills.
“A lot of times people forget that we have operating expenses,” Jackson said. “We get a lot of donations that are given to specific programs, which is good, but we do have other things we have to pay for.”
This year’s gala is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 27 at the Mesquite Convention Center, 1750 Rodeo Drive. The event’s theme is the Sharing Life Texas Two Step, meant to draw attention to the two steps involved with helping those in poverty: recognize poverty and relieve poverty.
“This year we have a western theme for the first time. It will be all about jeans, boots and bling,” Jackson said. “We hope to raise funds but also inform and educate people about what we do.”
Sharing Life uses its resources to try and help those with low incomes or living in poverty to break the cycle and make a better life for them and their families. One way the organization helps people is through its educational programs that provide a way for its clients to get training and certifications needed for a job.
“We are doing things to impact people’s lives in the long-term. We will always provide food, but we want to help them earn money so it creates a new dynamic and allows them to show their kids the importance of an education,” Jackson said.
Sharing Life also provides financial counseling to its clients, using their real-life finances and bills to provide coaching and help them understand the basics and how to achieve their financial goals.
“We have a very solid program. We have spent a lot of time, energy and money building the program and we have made it a goal of ours to expand the program, as funds become available. Financial responsibility is one of the key changes people have to make to get out of poverty and stay out,” Jackson said.
In keeping with its educational goal, Sharing Life has booked Alfreda Norman, a senior vice president with the Federal Reserve, as its keynote speaker at this year’s gala. Norman is in charge of overseeing the Fed’s outreach programs and has spent a lot of time working in Dallas County to help low-income residents.
“I have heard her speak several times, and she is excellent,” Jackson said. “I believe people will learn a lot from what she has to say.”