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Members of the Altrusa International Club of Downtown Dallas exchanged their business suits for ugly Christmas sweaters in celebration of a successful year of serving others in the Dallas community. Prizes for the Ugly Sweaters included categories such as Most Creative Attire, Most Tacky Sweater, and an over-all Winner which was awarded to Marsha Reynolds, retired Commercial Real Estate Agent and a Board member and elected officer of the club. The club members meet at the City Club on the 69th floor of the Bank of the America building downtown twice a month to plan future service projects.

Altrusa Club of Downtown Dallas Donates to Families HRI

The Altrusa International Club of Downtown Dallas members traded in their business suits and celebrated the end of the year with an Ugly Sweater Luncheon on Tuesday, December 15, 2015.

The members of the club adopted over 20 families—85 individuals—this holiday season, purchasing gifts for each and wrapping and delivering them to the Human Rights Initiative Office for distribution to the family members. The Human Rights Initiative is a Dallas-based non-profit assisting survivors of violence from all over the world.

Bikes were assembled, out-of-season school backpacks were searched for and household appliances were purchased all in an effort to complete the wish lists of the families who are being helped by the non-profit.

Last year the Altrusa Club of Downtown Dallas built book shelves and donated hundreds of children’s books for the waiting area in the HRI headquarters.

The service club supports women and children in crisis with an emphasis on literacy. Members have been volunteering with HRI for the past three years. In addition to HRI the club provides annual scholarships to graduates of Irma L Rangel Young Women’s Leadership; Meals on Wheels; Dallas CASA and a number of after school programs in the downtown Dallas area.

Service projects are designed to fulfill the club’s mission of “Educating Families for a Better Future.” The club is affiliated with Altrusa International, Inc. an international organization with over 300 clubs worldwide with a strong history of literacy education.

Since the club’s founding in 1982, members have raised more than $1,000,000 for community grants disbursed through our Downtown Dallas Foundation and have contributed over 90,000 hours of service for the benefit of the Dallas community.

Bishop Dunne Catholic School sponsored an HRI panel in November. A typical HRI story was told by one of the panelists, whom HRI has helped.

Human Rights Highlighted at First Geo Tech Speaker Series Panel

Katya was 15 when she finished high school in her country, and her plan to come to the US for college looked good. But then her father died, and with little money, her mother suggested she marry well. An older uncle offered to take her as his third wife. Katya begged her mother to send her to America instead, and once here, the uncle insisted she return to be his youngest wife.

With little money, she moved in with an acquaintance. But soon she learned the woman she was living with made her money by selling her body, and expected her to do so, too. Katya’s mom begged her to come home and marry her old uncle because he was rich and could take care of her, but she said she would find a way to stay in America.

At the grocery store, Katya met another woman from West Africa, who offered her a place to stay, if she would help with her two children and clean her house. Katya agreed, but soon became a full time nanny to the woman, which meant missing her classes or being late to school. Then the woman asked to use her passport to bring a cousin into the country illegally. Katya refused. Soon after, the woman stole her passport. It took Katya six months and a trip to Washington, D.C. to get it replaced. She knew then she needed to get away from her situation and she googled “help for international students.”

Her internet search led her to the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, where she met lawyer Marcela Evans who told her that yes, she could help.

The Human Right Initiative office is located in Dallas, and helps immigrants like Katya every day. 48% of the children coming from Central America asking for help are victims of violence or have seen violent crimes happen to a family member. Although Katya was from the Ivory Coast located in West Africa, she was also in danger: her 71 year old Uncle, the man who wanted to make her his third wife, vowed to have his youngest wife buried with him when he died. Katya would have been dead by now, had she returned to her country.

The Human Rights Initiative works with children and adults who seek a safe place to live and work in America. Ms. Evans said she never wanted to be an immigration lawyer, but now loves her job and can’t see doing anything else. The hundreds of children coming from Central America last year were helped by her and her legion of volunteers from the legal community.

Sarah Crow of the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, LLP rounded out the HRI panel and talked about her work as a volunteer with HRI and that her firm supported her for the three months as she worked helping children from Central America get the legal right to stay in the US.

For more information on HRIwww.hrionline.org, or call 214-855-0520.

This panel was the first of Bishop Dunne Catholic School’s 2015-2016 GeoTech Speaker Series. For more information see: www.bdcs.org

To attend a future Altrusa meeting see: www.altrusadtd.org   Members meet in the City Club located on the 69th floor of the Bank of America building downtown at noon on the first and 3rd Tuesdays each month to plan service projects.

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