Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Last Friday evening, July 18, 2008, Mayor Tom Leppert joined a group of volunteers and Stewpot staff to serve dinner to over 700 homeless people at the Bridge, Dallas’ new homeless assistance center. Typical of the mayor, he was ‘hands on’ with his service, working behind the line filling plates, then moving out into the dining room to work in other positions.
Standing in front of the cafeteria-style serving line, Mr. Leppert handed plates of food to homeless individuals coming through the line, greeting and shaking hands with each personally. One of my daughters, who was working near him, was touched by his manner with these often-overlooked Dallas citizens, saying, “He looked each person in the eyes, giving them his full attention. He is such an humble man, so kind and caring.” Having spent two evenings with Mr. Leppert and the homeless in the past, beginning with a visit he made to the Day Resource Center during the mayoral election, I definitely agree.
After working at the front of the serving line for some time, the mayor moved out into the dining room. There he went from table to table among homeless citizens, patting them on the back and talking to them for as long as they wished. He asked them how they were doing and listened to their struggles, their concerns and their successes.
Several times during the evening, I said to one or the other of my homeless friends, “Come on over here and meet the mayor.” A number of them said, “I know him already!” and one, Chris, said, “Oh, I’ve met him before. He’s with us!” I wonder how many prominent public officials would have the homeless population of their city speak of them in this way. I said to him during the evening: “Pretty impressive. A public official who shows up both before AND after the election!”
I have to praise the mayor for his kindness and caring of this often-maligned and very vulnerable population. Although many homeless people vote, there is not tremendous political capital in meeting with them in this manner. My experience of Tom Leppert is that he genuinely wants to be the mayor for every one in Dallas. He could easily show up for a photo-op (no press were present at this event), he could stay behind the glass counter, he could come and go quickly and say he’d made ‘a stop.’ He doesn’t. For the third time since I’ve known him, he’s come out among the homeless, touched them, talked to them at length one to one, spent time with them as though he did not have pressing time concerns. (After he left us at 7:45 PM, he donned a business suit and went on to another event.)
Special thanks to Stewpot staff Edward St. John (Director of Operations), Reggie Crawford (Dining Room Coordinator), Brenda Roberts (Food Services Director), Jean Jones (Volunteer Coordinator) and Bruce Buchanan (Executive Director) for graciously hosting the mayor and his staff. As it always is at the Bridge when I’ve been there, dinner service served by the Stewpot staff and volunteers was virtually flawless: very efficient, immaculately clean, delicious and nutritious.
And very special thanks to Renee and Paula in the mayor’s office at city hall for making this visit happen. It was a real treat for all concerned.
Wednesday, July 23, 3008 ADDITIONAL NOTE:
I received this in an email today from Edward St. John, Director of Operations for Meal Services at the Bridge through the Stewpot, and I want to share it with readers:
“The Dallas Police provided a lot of support that Friday night without any fanfare or pressure on me or my staff… They deserve a ‘stroke’ for being a positive influence without negating the good stuff that the Downtown Dallas Safety Patrol earns every minute of every day at the Bridge. The Dallas Police Department presence ‘guaranteed’ a quiet evening, but for the most part, the Meal Service and DDSP have built that environment day by day, meal by meal, since May 20th. We are proud of that….”
I couldn’t agree more. Thank you, Edward, for calling attention to the DPD’s important role that evening.
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