At Christmas, one tradition can wondrously inspire a new tradition. The Dallas Theater Center has been producing “A Christmas Carol” for thirty years, offering a timeless message of redemption and generosity for all ages. That core message inspired a partnership with North Texas Food Bank, adding importance to the holiday institution.
“Dickens wrote with the specific aim of opening the hearts and minds of Victorians to the problems of those less fortunate,” Kevin Moriarty, Dallas Theater Center’s artistic director, said. “We wanted to put those thoughts into action.”
This year marks the eleventh anniversary of the partnership and to date, this collaboration has raised more than 1.5 million meals.
“It is humbling to know that this show is the only DTC production that features a solicitation for a nonprofit, and our mission ties in so perfectly with the premise of ‘A Christmas Carol’. While hunger is a year-round issue, it is certainly top of mind this season. This partnership is a critical component of the NTFB’s fundraising efforts which are in full force during the holidays,” Sarah Elias, North Texas Food Bank’s senior marketing manager, said. “This support helps us ensure that we are able to meet our mission in November and December, as well as year-round.”
Patrons can drop off canned goods at a donation point in the lobby of the Wyly Theatre. The most needed items are low-sodium canned goods, canned protein such as tuna, peanut butter and canned or dried beans or other legumes.
At the end of each performance, half a dozen cast members solicit cash donations from the audience. A $1 donation provides access to three nutritious meals. Alex Organ, a member of the theater’s Diane and Hal Brierley Resident Acting Company, has been one of those performers requesting cash donations for North Texas Food Bank. “We’re simply a smiling face holding a basket,” he said.
He first performed in the show in 2010 and this year, he is playing Ebenezer Scrooge for the first time. He values the direct engagement. “It provides an extra layer of significance to the work we’re doing,” Organ said. “This is the one thing we do a year that has an immediate and practical impact on the community.”
Moriarty explains the cash donations act as a barometer of how much the cast is connecting to the audience. “I say to the cast every year that there is an immediate test to see how well they’re doing their job and that is how much money is raised after the performance,” he said. The amount of money raised is tracked and a chart compares those results with donation amounts from previous years.
The cast and the theater’s staff volunteer for a day at North Texas Food Bank, boxing up canned goods. It is an opportunity for everyone involved in the show to comprehend the need in North Texas. “That’s a very palpable way to get an idea of how much food the Food Bank processes,” Moriarty said. “Every time you touch a can, that represents a person in need.”
The day at North Texas Food Bank brings the message of “A Christmas Carol” into clear focus and provides philanthropic motivation for the entire run of the show. “It centers us and puts us in the right mind frame for the next two months,” Organ said.
Through volunteering, the face of hunger in the 13 North Texas counties the Food Bank serves becomes evident. “Across our service area, there are more than 800,000 people who are food insecure. That means they don’t always know where their next healthy meal will come from. These are children, families and seniors who need our help. These are people with jobs, many more than one who are struggling to make ends meet,” Elias said.
Once the show ends, Elias hopes patrons won’t forget the hungry. “Hunger is a year-round issue – though school breaks certainly stretch limited budgets, and the cold weather makes for increased cost for heating or health issues. The Food Bank serves as a way to help people access food to help them avoid making tough choices such as paying for medication or paying for food,” she said.
Every North Texan help at any time of the year by donating food and funds. The North Texas Food Bank welcomes volunteers during every season and they encourage people to remind elected officials hunger matters. “The need is so great,” Moriarty said. “I think people would agree nobody should go to bed hungry.”