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Author: United Way of Metropolitan Dallas

A Message from our CEO

A MESSAGE
FROM OUR CEO

Dear Change-Makers,

As we close the fiscal year at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, I extend a heartfelt thank you to every member of the LIVE UNITED movement who invested in our community, advocated for policy change or volunteered their talents over the last year. 

Thanks to supporters like you, we improved access to education, income and health for nearly 1.6 million people—more than 20% of the population in the fourth-largest metro area in the United States. That is an incredible impact we can all be proud of. Your generous support fueled highly effective programs and partnerships that address the systemic challenges that affect too many of our neighbors.

For nearly 100 years, United Way has brought together corporate partners, individuals, community-based organizations, foundations, school districts and others to address both the persistent and changing needs across our growing region.

Recent data shows that third-grade reading proficiency has jumped more than 15% in our service area, while the percentage of young adults in Dallas earning a living wage rose around 2%. Meanwhile, health insurance coverage dipped slightly, likely due to economic and population growth. With each passing year, we’re driving meaningful change and gaining momentum as we advance our Aspire United 2030 goals and move closer to our Centennial anniversary. Look for a more detailed update of our progress and impact in our 2023-2024 Impact Report, to be released in November.

We Improve Access to Education, Income and Health

Each year, thanks to dedicated supporters like you, United Way’s programs and partnerships have a measurable impact across our four-county service area in North Texas. Over our last fiscal year, we achieved:
  • 655,000 students benefited from programs that set them up for continued educational success.

  • 420,000 North Texans received assistance to improve their financial stability.

  • 498,000 neighbors gained access to the resources necessary to live longer, healthier lives.

Education Initiatives

  • Early Literacy

    We launched the Aspire United Volunteer Series, presented by Texas Instruments, with our highly anticipated Reading Day, presented by Atmos Energy. It was truly a historic day, where nearly 1,200 students, including honorary chair Mrs. Laura Bush, read to more than 20,000 local students to promote early literacy. Meanwhile, our Once Upon a Month partnership promoted the power of reading to even more families by providing free monthly children’s books to more than 11,000 students.

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  • Early Childhood Development

    United Way leads and collaborates on several parent education initiatives, including Healthy Outcomes through Prevention and Early Support (HOPES) and Texas Home Visiting Program, providing thousands of families with hands-on instruction, resources and skills that empower caregivers, encourage healthy child development and prevent child abuse.

  • Digital Bridges

    United Way distributed nearly 1,700 laptops and provided digital literacy classes to young Southern Dallas residents through this partnership with AT&T, Texas Instruments Foundation, Richard and Mary Templeton Foundation, and The Eugene McDermott Foundation. The devices enable recipients to access education, further their learning and stay connected in the classroom and beyond.

    Learn More


Income Initiatives

  • Pathways to Work

    This workforce development program trained over 20,000 workers and facilitated more than 2,900 job placements in information technology, healthcare and other fields.

    Learn More

  • Housing Stability

    As a key member of the Dallas Housing Coalition, United Way helped secure historic public funding for homelessness programs and affordable housing for generations of North Texans.
  • Dollars for College

    This program opened 166 new college savings accounts with total deposits exceeding $343,000.

    Learn More

Health Initiatives

  • Food Access

    Initiatives like Southern Dallas Thrives and the Food Access Summit, supported by Bank of America’s $1 million investment and backed by research from Boston Consulting Group, aim to improve food access for every North Texan.

    Learn More

  • Healthcare Navigators

    This initiative assisted more than 52,000 North Texans in signing up for health coverage.

    Read more

  • Doorways to Health

    Funded by the Kimberly-Clark Foundation, this partnership improves maternal health outcomes for Black women through holistic healthcare services.

    Learn More

Healthcare Coverage Press Release Header

Our Community-Wide Movement Drives Lasting Change

Healthcare Coverage Press Release Header

In the past year, we united individual change-seekers, corporate partners, community-based organizations, school districts and more, to improve access to education, income and health for every North Texan. Highlights include:

  • Social Innovation Lab

    Nineteen passionate entrepreneurs graduated and joined the ranks of our distinguished alumni, who have leveraged their experience to serve more than 345,000 North Texans.

    Learn More

  • Southern Dallas Thrives Fund

    Supported by PepsiCo Foods North America employees and alumni, this fund addresses challenges in the southern sector. We’ve set an ambitious goal of raising $20 million to fuel this work.

    Read More

  • Community Impact Partners

    We continued our three-year investment in 144 diverse partners working toward our Aspire United 2030 goals, with a recent $5 million gift from Tom and Karen Falk.

    Learn More

  • Targeted Impact Initiatives

    Generous $1 million gifts from several corporate partners, including Arcosa, Bank of America, Boston Consulting Group, Celanese, Comerica and Vistra Energy, are driving measurable impact in education, income and health.

Accelerating Strategic Impact into Our Centennial Year and Beyond

The CEO Advisory Council provides a forum for North Texas CEOs to bring new insights to our community impact work. This unique assembly of senior corporate leaders stimulates robust conversations with actionable results, guiding the entire Live United movement toward measurable, lasting change.

Meanwhile, we’re expanding our use of local data to develop collective solutions for our community. Through our partnership with the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation (PCCI) we’ve developed the Aspire United Community Vulnerability Compass (CVC), which provides hyper-local, micro-level data on education, income and health that enables us to pinpoint areas of greatest need. Utilizing the CVC, the United Way Data Capacity Building Initiative—a new partnership with PCCI—will have a multiplier effect on United Way and partner programs, driving meaningful progress toward the Aspire United 2030 goals. Join us October 2 for an exclusive preview of the Data Capacity Building Initiative.

United Way of Metropolitan Dallas CEO Advisory Council

Fueled by the passion, expertise and insights of dozens of local business leaders, the CEO Advisory Council enables United Way to tap into diverse thinking and strategic networking to guide the entire Live United movement toward our collective 10-year Aspire United 2030 goals. Thank you to our co-chairs and members.

Co-Chairs

  • Curt Farmer

    UWMD Annual Campaign Chair, 2023-2024

    Chairman, President and CEO,
    Comerica Incorporated and Comerica Bank

  • Jean Savage

    Annual Campaign Chair, 2022-2023

    Chief Executive Officer and President,
    Trinity Industries
  • Steven Williams

    UWMD Board Chair, 2022-2024

    Chief Executive Officer,
    PepsiCo Foods North America

  • Jim Burke

    President and CEO, Vistra Corp.

  • Antonio Carrillo

    President and CEO, Arcosa

  • Mike Hsu

    Chairman and CEO,​ Kimberly-Clark Corporation

  • Ken Hersh

    President & CEO, George W. Bush Presidential Center

  • Haviv Ilan

    President and CEO,​ Texas Instruments

  • Aasem Khalil

    Head of Dallas Office, Goldman Sachs

  • Chris Kleinert

    President and CEO,​ Hunt Investment Holdings, LLC​

  • Michael Levy

    Chief Executive Officer, Crow Holdings

  • Lorie Logan

    President and CEO,​ Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas​

  • Tom Luce

    Founder and Chairman Emeritus, Texas 2036

  • Fred Perpall

    Chief Executive Officer, The Beck Group

  • Troy Rudd

    Chief Executive Officer, AECOM

  • G. Brint Ryan

    Chairman and CEO​ Ryan, LLC

  • Lori Ryerkerk

    Chairman, Chief Executive​ Officer and President,​ Celanese Corporation​

  • John Stankey

    Chief Executive Officer,​ AT&T

  • Rich Templeton

    Chairman of the Board, ​ Texas Instruments

  • Brian Tyler

    Chief Executive Officer, ​ McKesson Corporation ​

  • Jim Umpleby

    Chairman and CEO, Caterpillar, Inc.

The Future is Bright For North Texas

Thank you to everyone who made this past year an undeniable success. This Live United movement has demonstrated the lasting impact we can achieve when we work together. I’m continually inspired by the extraordinary change-seekers who serve North Texas by investing their time and talent to United Way.

Special thanks to our Board Chairs, Steven Williams and Terri West, for their vision and dedication. I also extend gratitude to Curt Farmer, our 2023-2024 campaign chair, for his leadership and momentum as we head into our 100th year of service and impact.

We will formally celebrate Curt’s achievements in November, when he passes the reins to our 2024-2025 Campaign Chair, Steven Williams. As we march toward our Centennial, I’m confident that our collective excitement and impact will continue to build.

Finally, thank you to our Ruth Sharp Altshuler Tocqueville leaders for their outstanding engagement and inspiration of new Tocqueville members. Tocqueville co-chairs Erin Nealy Cox, and her husband, Trey Cox, provide extraordinary leadership and passion to all our Tocqueville volunteers.

Together, we’re transforming lives

For the past 99 years, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas has been a pillar of our community, creating access and opportunities for all North Texans to thrive.  

As the Live United movement prepares to celebrate United Way’s Centennial in 2025, we will continue to drive meaningful, measurable change that lasts for generations, positively impacting nearly 1.6 million North Texans each year.

With gratitude,

Jennifer Sampson
McDermott-Templeton President and CEO
United Way of Metropolitan Dallas

2023-2024 Leadership
  • Curt Farmer

    Annual Campaign Chair

  • Steven Williams

    Chair, Board of Directors

  • Charlene Lake

    Immediate Past Chair

  • Antonio Carrillo

    Vice Chair, Board of Directors

  • Michelle Vopni

    Treasurer, Board of Directors

  • Terri West

    Chair, United Way Foundation of Metropolitan Dallas

  • Jennifer Sampson

    McDermott-Templeton President & CEO

View full board of directors


Ruth Sharp Altshuler Tocqueville Society
  • Tocqueville Campaign Co-Chairs:

    Erin Nealy Cox
    Trey Cox

  • Tocqueville Circle Co-Chairs:

    Laura Downing
    Jason Downing

  • Women of Tocqueville Chair:

    Michelle Horton

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Year-end Message from Michelle Horton


As my year as WOT Steering Committee Chair draws to a close, I want to extend my gratitude for your commitment and support of the United Way Women of Tocqueville, and the impact you have had on our community. This mighty group has not only enriched North Texas, but it has also set a powerful example of what can be accomplished and the fun that can be had when passionate women come together.

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  • Brunch and Learn

  • SI Debut Night-20240320-DSC03074

Serving as your chair this past year has been wonderful. And, while this year-end message often signals the end of our chair’s tenure, I am thrilled to share that I will be serving alongside Mandy Austin and Michelle Thomas as co-chairs as we march into the Centennial. I am excited about the opportunities and fun that lie ahead as our combined leadership begins a new era of impact across North Texas!

I wish you all a wonderful summer and look forward to seeing you all in a few months!

Warm regards,

Michelle Horton
2023-2024 Women of Tocqueville Chair
Principal, PwC

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Q&A with March Tocqueville Fellow Graduate Grace Cook

At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, developing a pipeline of change-makers to advance our work to achieve lasting results in our community is at the heart of the March Tocqueville Fellows initiative made possible by Carol and Kevin March. 

The multi-year fellowship provides young professionals in North Texas with a unique opportunity to engage in a multi-year learning, giving and volunteering experience with the people and partners of the Live United movement. 

To give you an inside look into the fellowship, we caught up with March Fellows graduate Grace Cook to recap her time in the program: 

Describe what keeps you busy during the day/what you do for a living. 

Grace Cook: In terms of my professional involvement, I serve as a board member for many organizations across Dallas and North Texas. They include Planned Parenthood, The Lamplighter School, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Thomsen Foundation, and much of the arts located on Flora Street, including the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher, Symphony, AT&T Performing Arts Center and TACA. Additionally, I serve as an advisory board member at the Trinity River Audubon Center. 

Juggling these roles keeps me on my toes, bouncing between meetings and events. But when I need a breather, I head straight to my ranch just south of Forestburg, Texas. There, surrounded by nature and my furry friends—dogs, chickens, and cows—I soak up the tranquility away from the city buzz. It’s my little slice of heaven, where I can reconnect with the land and admire the wildlife, from annoying feral hogs to elegant deer and the occasional bobcat. 

Tell us about your decision to become a March Tocqueville Fellow through your family foundation. 

Grace Cook: When considering opportunities for community engagement, the invitation to become a March Tocqueville Fellow was one I couldn’t refuse, especially with Jennifer Sampson at the helm. But beyond that initial pull, I wanted to dig deeper into what Dallas truly needs. I thought that if I could really get into the nitty-gritty of the issues concerning education, income, and health I could figure out where I could do the most good. 

My grandma’s always been my guiding light, showing me what it means to be caring and giving. Her values have strongly influenced mine. I want to be just like her—helping out and making a real difference in people’s lives. Although I’m still learning the ropes, being part of the March Tocqueville Fellowship has been like a crash course in making an impact. 

What is your biggest highlight from the program? 

Grace Cook: What stood out most to me during my time with the March Tocqueville Fellows was a transformative experience at Bonton Farms. Amidst the festivities like the renowned Templeton Christmas party and the epic United Way 100 kick-off party at Reunion Tower, this visit struck a chord with me. As we are brunched on food from the lush garden that surrounded us, I was deeply moved by the community’s dedication to addressing food insecurity in one of South Dallas’ food deserts. 

The highlight for me (besides hanging out with the goats) was hearing about Bonton Farms’ Tiny House Village project. They provide housing for people facing tough times, and it hit me how dire affordable housing is in Dallas. Seeing the Bonton community rally like that was a real eye-opener. It just goes to show how powerful grassroots efforts can be in tackling major issues. 

Outside of being a fellow, how are you involved with UWMD? 

Grace Cook: Apart from being involved with The March Tocqueville Society, I’ve had a blast mentoring with Entryway Dallas in United Way’s Social Innovation Accelerator program. Witnessing the growth of new nonprofit groups has been truly inspiring. Every step of the way, from the initial stages to The Pitch, where the top 5 received $25,000, and more, has been incredibly fulfilling. 

Watching the dedication and hard work of these individuals as they make a real, quantitative impact in our community is truly motivating. Providing guidance and support along the journey has been an exciting and challenging experience. United Way’s Social Innovation Accelerator program emphasizes teamwork and creative thinking, and I’ve cherished being part of it. 

Tell us about the moment in life that fueled your desire to give back.  

Grace Cook: My journey toward giving back to the community started at birth, being deeply influenced by my family’s legacy of philanthropy. Growing up in a household where generosity was a fundamental value, I was inspired by the examples set by my grandma and mom. 

My grandma played a pivotal role in the development of significant institutions such as the Dallas Museum of Art and UT Southwestern Medical Center. Her background as a journalist for The Dallas Morning News equipped her with a keen ability to ask insightful questions, enabling her to get to the heart of an organization in minutes. 

My mom has continued to support Dallas, keeping the family giving spirit alive. Currently, she’s very focused on the Dallas Zoo and the DMA. Ever since I was born, I’ve seen how much she cares about making a difference in people’s lives, and I strive to do the same. 

United Way Hosts Summit to Address Food Access as Texas Is Named the Most Food-Insecure State

Access to food is essential for maintaining good health. The availability of regular, nutritious meals significantly influences our focus areas of education, income and health, enabling children to learn and develop, succeed in school, and go on to achieve a stable career.

Unfortunately, Texas is now the most food-insecure state in the country. In North Texas, one in eight people, or 640,000 of our neighbors, face hunger. That figure includes one in six children. In fact, Dallas County has the fourth-highest rate of food-insecure children in the nation.

At United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, we’re committed to improving food access to ensure that every North Texan can fully thrive. And on May 16, we united change-seekers from across the community in support of this goal, hosting a Food Access Summit that sparked insightful conversations and spurred forward momentum.

Highlights of the Food Access Summit

The event opened with an overview and insights from business and philanthropic leaders who are dedicated to improving food access and who discussed current local efforts to reach more North Texans. These speakers included:

  • Justin Lonon, chancellor of Dallas College
  • Brian Angle, market executive at Bank of America
  • Hunter Hunt, CEO and president of Hunt Consolidated Energy
  • Ashlee Kleinert, co-founder of The Good Foundation and Ruthie’s For Good
  • Megan DeFauw, managing director and partner, Boston Consulting Group

The summit also featured a keynote address from Hunter Hunt and Doug Rauch, founder and president of Daily Table and former president of Trader Joe’s, each of whom discussed their own work in the area of food access and explored the role of Conscious Capitalism in building sustainable food solutions.

The second keynote featured Melissa Buckley, director at the McKesson Foundation, who shared the organization’s commitment to food access and security through its Healthy DFW project and discussed the importance of local solutions and leaders in driving progress in this area.

Food Security in North Texas

Next, we welcomed an inspiring panel of local experts:

  • Benaye Wadkins Chambers, President and CEO, Crossroads Community Services
  • Anga Sanders, Founder and CEO, FEED Oak Cliff
  • Ashlee Kleinert, The Good Foundation and Ruthie’s fueled by Good
  • Tonya Edwards, Director SNAP and Social Services Assistance
  • Clarissa Clarke, Government Relations Officer, North Texas Food Bank

The panel was moderated by Susan Hoff, chief strategy and impact officer at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas.

Finally, the event concluded with an inspiring address from Dan Pallotta, author and filmmaker, whose documentary, “UnCharitable,” we recently screened.

Insights From Our Panel Discussion

What’s driving food insecurity?

“Yesterday, we released a report from Feeding America, revealing that Texas is now the No. 1 state in food insecurity,” Edwards said. “That’s 5 million individuals in the state of Texas facing hunger. What’s alarming about that is that one-third of those affected are children. The problems include inflation, the cost of housing, the cost of food, the food deserts, and livable wages. We are not paying enough to cover the cost of living here in our communities.”

How does ZIP code impact health?

“You can’t have a world-class city like Dallas when over half of the city by geographical land mass is a food desert, and hundreds of thousands of people don’t have access to quality food,” Sanders said. “That’s an abomination and it needs to stop. So what we are trying to do is rectify the situation. There’s no reason we can’t do this. Dallas is home to the most unhealthy ZIP codes in Texas. It has higher rates of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and cancer than any other place. And all of those can be significantly impacted by what you consume.

“Your ZIP code should not determine your life expectancy, but it does. A study Dallas County Health Needs Assessment says men who live in 75215 have a 26-year shorter life expectancy than men in 75204. 75204 is the Oak Lawn area. 75215 is a food desert in South Dallas.”

What solutions are improving food security today?

“One key aspect of our work is summer meals,” Chambers said. “However, we discovered that simply providing extra food in the summer isn’t enough. Children need nutritious, self-serve food not just during summer but also during spring break, after school, Christmas break and other times when school is closed. Many children rely on school for one or two meals a day, so when school is out, parents must find a way to provide all meals, which is particularly challenging for food-insecure families.

“We need additional solutions. When parents are healthy, their children benefit. Therefore, supporting parents with living wages, educational opportunities and mental healthcare is essential. The stress of not knowing how to feed one’s family can be overwhelming, and many people come to our facility seeking support. Our goal is to offer a place where they can find help and know they are not alone.”

What are some creative ways to improve food security?

“I started a food truck business, and the model evolved where we are a second-chance employer,” Kleinert said. “My workforce has completely changed my life and my perspective and my knowledge about our community. I’ve learned so much, and I’m up here because I don’t know the answer. I just know I have 25 employees that based on their life circumstances and some decisions that were made, the same decisions I would’ve made if I were in their circumstances, now are faced with a lack of resources of every kind and food insecurity is a huge piece of that.

“We are like a restaurant on wheels. We’re able to go out to the community and my team loves nothing more than to go serve and feed others because they know what it’s like. Some of my employees come to work hungry, so we’ve learned to provide healthy options like cereals, fruit and protein bars. Their health matters.

“One young employee once showed up with her child, who was eating Doritos for breakfast because that’s all they had. This is a real issue happening in our backyard, and my team and I experience it daily. I care deeply for them.

We have been invited to open a restaurant with St. Phillips, which is very exciting. We’ll be located on Martin Luther King Boulevard, opening in late August. We provide a living wage and wraparound services, offering support in a dignified way while listening to the community. This is our model, and we are figuring it out as we go along. We are committed to doing the work and contributing to the efforts already out there.”

Take 2 Minutes to Advocate for Expanded Food Access

United Way is committed to ensuring all North Texas children and families have access to nutritious food—and we believe our leaders should share that commitment!

Every five years, Congress has the chance to pass a strong Farm Bill that invests in critical federal programs that help individuals and families keep food on the table. That includes SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which helps ease the strain and stress of hunger in North Texas communities.

Tell your elected officials that you support protecting and strengthening SNAP. Click here to send an email to legislators. It only takes a few minutes!

Women of Tocqueville Support and Cheer On Local Entrepreneurs at Debut Night

The collective impact of the Women of Tocqueville Fund for Women and Children was on full display at last month’s Debut Night, where the latest all-women cohort of the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas Social Innovation Incubator presented their game-changing ventures to improve access to education, income and health at the Dallas College Bill J. Priest Center.

Photos: https://show.pics.io/032024-si-incubator-debut-night/search

Through the Fund for Women and Children, the Women of Tocqueville have invested generously in the Incubator. The program supports early-stage social ventures led and staffed by women and people of color who are working to implement new solutions in the areas of education, income and health.

The work of the Fund for Women and Children continues to astound us. Since its launch in 2017, the endowment fund—which is designed to provide support to North Texas women and children in perpetuity—has raised more than $16 million to deliver targeted financial and skill-based investments in the areas of education, income and health for local women and children.

We are grateful to this year’s Incubator sponsors—Comerica Bank, Charles Schwab and Target—for making bold commitments to invest in North Texas women-led nonprofits and businesses.

Our heartfelt appreciation goes to our formidable Women of Tocqueville Fund and members, including Advisory Council chair Robbi Luxbacher; Manju Menon, who served as a judge for this year’s competition; and Rachel Ybarra, Carol March, Kristy Faus, Michelle Horton, Michelle Thomas, Debbie McComas and Linda Yohe. Together, they made the evening unforgettable.

Winners of this year’s Debut Night include:

  • Jo Lam, founder of Project Beauty DFW: Audience Choice Award and Innovator of the Year
  • Laura Hayes, founder and CEO of The Learning Bridge: Most Impactful in Education Award
  • Cece Rockwell, founder of SelfSuffi: Most Impactful in Income and Best Pitch Award
  • Sydney Portilla-Diggs, founder, CEO and executive director of Any Step Community Services: Most Impactful in Health

Women of Tocqueville Celebrate and Support 100 Local Moms

The moms shared what they were most excited about, including:

  • “Reading to my new baby.”
  • “Hearing his first word.”
  • “Spending time together.”
  • “Watching her grow.”

Then, Women of Tocqueville volunteers shared tips and words of inspiration, such as:

  • “Remember you are strong and amazing!”
  • “Take care of yourself and get plenty of sleep.”
  • “Lean on your support system of family, friends, and nurses.”
  • “Be patient and ask for help.”

A parent from the Lumin Education program shared:

“The baby shower was so fun, I never experienced anything like it. I had so much fun thank you for the opportunity.”

A Community-Wide Effort

Gifts for the shower were made possible by donations from the WOT Joy! event in December and by the generous support of Classic Whimsy and Contran Corporation. These gifts impacted 100 expectant and new moms who gave birth in the last three months. Moms expressed many heartfelt thanks and gratitude for the shower, the baby items, and words of encouragement and support.

Abide Women’s Health Services, Ascend Dallas, AVANCE, Delighted to Doula, Family Care Connection, Lumin Education and Metrocare Services are important partners of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. Their early childhood services bring trained parent educators, nurses and birth workers to the homes of pregnant moms and new families to promote maternal and child health, advance school readiness, and prevent child abuse and neglect.

Advancing the Women of Tocqueville Mission

These partnerships align with the Women of Tocqueville mission to give, advocate and volunteer in support of the community through United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, and to leverage the collective power and leadership of women to produce visible impact in education, income and health in North Texas.

Thank you to everyone who generously supported the WOT Joy! event, as well as the expectant and new moms who joined our Women of Tocqueville members for this year’s baby shower.

And a special thank you to Joan Cetera, Danielle Cooper, Inia Franklin, Eva Hevron, Hayley Krahl, Dee Ricks, Katie Rose, and Ashley Sink, who make up the Women of Tocqueville Volunteerism and Engagement Subcommittee, for your leadership, service and dedication to our mission. Finally, a special thanks to Natalia Mundo, a fellow Women of Tocqueville member, for translating in Spanish throughout the event for our Spanish-speaking moms.

March Tocqueville Fellows Feature: Erika Desroches

When Erika Desroches left New York for Dallas a little over three years ago, she had a hard time meeting people who shared her values. But things changed when she became a March Tocqueville Fellow.

“Through the program,” Erika says, “I have had the privilege of engaging with a cohort that shares my desire to make a positive impact on our community.”

It was her father, Pascal Desroches, an AT&T executive and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas board member, who encouraged her to get involved in the fellowship. Pascal is a Haitian immigrant who Erika says embodies the American Dream.

He witnessed firsthand how quality education opens doors to greater opportunities, and he has used those opportunities to give back to organizations that work to improve the lives of underserved communities, like United Way. His selflessness is what got Erika to where she is today.

“I’ve been incredibly lucky with the opportunities and experiences life has offered me,” she says. “My aspiration is to pay it forward, ensuring others have access to the same opportunities I’ve enjoyed.”

One unique way she’s paying it forward is through the development of the social wellness group, The Zero Proof Social Club.

Erika says it’s aimed at combatting the growing issue of loneliness in the community, a feeling associated with an increased risked of mental health challenges like anxiety and depression — moods common among people experiencing homelessness. The social club will be an offshoot of The Zero Proof Social, a non-alcoholic events business she founded and manages.

“During a March Fellow impact discussion last October, we touched on the intricate link between homelessness and mental health struggles, recognizing how these challenges often intertwine as both cause and consequence,” Erika says. “Through my involvement with UWMD as March Fellow and United Way 100 Host Committee member, I hope to be an advocate for change in this regard.”

Together, We’re Raising Awareness of the Importance of Attainable Housing

Dallas Is Becoming Unaffordable

Dallas has a shortage of attainable homes and rental units, and this shortage is only expected to worsen as the city continues to grow.

Low wages and skyrocketing rental costs are driving the problem. Dallas’ top four most common jobs have a median wage of less than $40,500. Rent costs have increased 60% since 2015, causing almost 50% of renters in Dallas to pay more than they can afford in rent.

The dream of homeownership is even further out of reach for most North Texans. In 2023, a family would need to make a household income of around $135,000 to purchase the average home in Dallas.

Meanwhile, Dallas is facing a 33,600-unit gap in affordable rental housing, which is projected to grow to over 83,000 units by 2030 if we do not act now.

Why Attainable Housing Is Important

A lack of attainable housing doesn’t only impact our lower-income neighbors who struggle to pay their rent. This problem impacts all of us.

Ashley Brundage, executive director of housing stability and senior vice president of community impact at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, is chair of the Dallas Housing Coalition Board of Directors and acts as the group’s spokesperson. She explains that access to housing is the No. 1 reason people move—and when people are forced out of cities like Dallas because of a lack of attainable housing, our entire economy suffers.

“According to U.S. Census data, 40% of people move due to access to housing. Where people move, companies move, and that’s not good for Dallas,” she said. “When we talk about the need for attainable housing, we aren’t only talking about housing that our teachers and police officers can afford. We are also talking about housing for the folks that keep our economy running: our laborers, the barista you chat with each morning, the grocery store clerks, your office’s administrative assistant.”

Census data shows that many people from Dallas have moved to the neighboring cities, seeking more attainable housing. For example, Kaufman County had the largest population growth in Texas, at 8.9%, between 2021 and 2022, according to the March 2023 Census data.

As cities that fail to offer affordable housing solutions ultimately drive out residents, other problems follow, including worker shortages, an increase in negative health outcomes for residents and, inevitably, less growth in their local economies. A lack of affordable housing options also leads to an increase in homelessness.

“Studies have shown that homelessness is a housing issue,” Brundage explains. “There is a direct correlation between cities with high housing costs and higher rates of homelessness.”

Uniting to Take Action Against the Housing Crisis

Dallas needs 100,000 new or refurbished affordable homes by 2033 to meet our housing demand. The clock is ticking, and without community-wide support for attainable housing, this crisis will only get worse.

This urgent situation prompted the formation of the Dallas Housing Coalition, with a clear mission: to act against the growing housing crisis in Dallas.

The Dallas Housing Coalition is comprised of more than 180 corporations, developers, builders, trade associations, higher education institutions, nonprofits, faith-based organizations and residents that are urging Dallas to invest in the future of our city. United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is proud to be a member organization and on the coalition’s Steering Committee.

With a rallying cry of “Dallas is big enough for everyone,” the coalition has worked to raise awareness of our housing crisis. Over the last few years, members also advocated the City of Dallas to allocate $200 million to affordable housing in the upcoming bond election.

In the end, city leaders voted to allocate $631 million for housing.

“Although $61 million is far less than the $200 our city needs to expand housing options, this is still Dallas’ first significant investment in attainable housing and a sign that City Council heard us,” Brundage said.

The allocation of $61 million may afford just 1,150 affordable rental units—just 3% of Dallas’ current rental housing need, according to Child Poverty Action Lab.

However, even building 1,150 affordable rental units will be hugely beneficial to the families who end up in them. That’s why we’re calling on all registered voters in North Texas to vote in favor of Dallas’ bond amendments during the May 4 election.

‘Say Yes’ This May

Stable and affordable housing is a foundational factor for education, income and health, playing a crucial role in shaping the overall well-being of individuals and families.

During the May 4 election, we encourage all voters to support Dallas’ 10 bond propositions, which will address housing attainability and provide vital investments throughout the city. Learn more about the bond propositions in our recent blog.

“By uniting together, we are able to demonstrate our support for solving Dallas’ housing crisis and show our city representatives that this issue needs to be addressed,” Brundage says. “Because Dallas is big enough for everyone.”

For more information about the Dallas Housing Coalition and how you can get involved, visit www.DallasHousingCoalition.com.