By Amy Sorter
They are the backbone of nonprofit organizations throughout the Dallas area; they are, in fact, one of the reasons why many of those organizations operate efficiently. Each day, these employees’ behind-the-scenes skills, passion and dedication quietly benefit both the agencies for whom they work, as well as members of the community. Yet, because they are largely out of sight, they might not be recognized, thanked, complimented or honored.
To the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation (DJCF), these folks are “unsung heroes.” On Monday, Oct. 29, at its annual meeting, the DJCF will bring 13 of these nonprofit employees out of the shadows and honor them through the first Unsung Heroes Awards presentation.
The DJCF’s mission is to support the community by developing and maintaining resources from donors and community members. Through fund and individual directives, the DJCF distributes those resources to education, human services, arts and faith-based organizations of all sizes throughout Dallas. As such, acknowledging staff members working with nonprofit agencies was a natural fit. The awards were open to agencies with employed staff, and response to the inaugural program was overwhelmingly positive.
“For the nonprofits out there, we know there is someone in the background, who gets things done, but who never gets noticed,” said Mona Allen, the DJCF’s director of philanthropic advancement. “We wanted to acknowledge those unsung heroes, and felt it would be a great way to recognize a driving force in these organizations.”
Those “driving forces” work for large and small organizations, which run the gamut from synagogues, to educational institutions, to community agencies. The nominees’ duties also vary – they are maintenance and front-office workers, as well as leaders, educators and administrators. The one thing members of this group have in common are the accolades coming from those who nominated them. Words such as “tireless,” “dedicated,” “enthusiastic” and “compassionate” consistently pop up in the nominees’ descriptions.
The honorees will receive a special surprise at the event. Furthermore, the award will help bring these organizations into the open, and demonstrate how their actions and activities benefit not only the Jewish community of Dallas, but the Dallas metro, as a whole.
Presenting the unsung heroes to the community at the DJCF’s annual meeting made sense, Allen noted. The event’s goal is to demonstrate the good taking place throughout Dallas, and to provide a source of inspiration to attendees. The 2018 annual meeting will focus on presenting the Sylvan T. Baer Foundation’s 2018 grants, and will also officially launch DJCF’s scholarship opportunities for Jewish and non-Jewish college and university students during the 2019-2020 school year. Finally, DJCF new officers and board members will be installed during the event.
Allen explained that, at one time, the annual meetings were similar to regular meetings. The organization’s leadership would meet behind closed doors to install a new board and discuss further business. But somewhere along the way, the DJFC believed that opening board meetings to the public would “show constituencies and the rest of the community who we are and what we are doing,” Allen said. This thinking has resulted in an annual meeting that has become an important event, complete with socializing, lavish deserts and compelling and moving presentations.
The DJCF opened its annual meeting to the public in 2016 to a handful of attendees. In 2017, more than 200 attended. “These meetings are geared to become a source of inspiration for our community,” Allen said. “We try to do what we can to make you feel good about living in Dallas, and living in the Jewish community.”
This is where the Unsung Heroes program provides a good fit for the event. As these employees are honored for their dedication, loyalty and effort, “it provides recognition and a spotlight on the organizations they work for,” Allen said. “It also sends a powerful message to the community, about the good these agencies do.”
The Dallas Jewish Community Foundation’s annual meeting, which is sponsored by the Texas Jewish Post, will take place at 7 p.m., Monday, Oct. 29, at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center, 7900 Northaven Road in Dallas. The event, which will include pareve desserts catered by Taste of the World caterers, is free and open to the public. Please RSVP by logging on to www.djcf.org or calling 214-615-9351.