Home for the Holidays in District 8

Michael McGee | 12/24/2013, 10 a.m. | Updated on 12/26/2013, 4:14 p.m.
“Merry Christmas, everybody. God is good, and all the time.”
Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins poses with Carolyn Coleman and her granddaughter Ebony Kennedy Mike McGee

The Dallas Examiner

“Merry Christmas, everybody. God is good, and all the time.”

With that pronouncement, Mayor Mike Rawlings welcomed the citizens of District 8 to the city’s annual Home for the Holidays Celebration luncheon, held Saturday at the Singing Hills Recreation Center in Oak Cliff.

The celebration was the brainchild of Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins, District 8 councilman. Those attending the event enjoyed a hot lunch, a fashion show and a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, as well as a chance to win door prizes.

Gospel singer Angela Blair was the featured entertainment for the day. Dallas County Schools provided free transportation. And several businesses throughout the city partnered with event organizers to help make the event a success.

The day full of activities had, as Atkins pointed out, an important objective for the district.

“This right here is a day for the people in District 8 and throughout the whole city to come, to meet the mayor, the city attorney – whoever you want to meet – that you don’t get a chance to meet one-on-one,” he stated.

The councilman emphasized that even the recent icy weather wasn’t enough to ruin the Christmas spirit of the local residents.

“This particular day is a follow-up from adopt-a-family. We had to reverse this year,” Atkins said. “Normally we have the Christmas party today, and then we have adopt-a-family the following Tuesday.”

The two holiday parties were switched around on the calendar, due to the recent winter storm.

The adopt-a-family event is a gift donation program. Every Christmas, individuals, groups and businesses adopt a family in the district to help meet their needs during the holidays. Hosted by Dallas Cowboy Dez Bryant, it kicked off on Nov. 5.

Atkins said that due to the ice storm the recreation center event was delayed. Meanwhile, the adopt-a-family event – at which the donated gifts were distributed – was held Dec. 10 at the Aloft Hotel downtown. As a result, 45 families from the district were adopted.

“It’s about giving,” Atkins said. “And people who adopt families, they don’t even know who the families are when they do adopt a family, so that’s another blessing.”

Carolyn Coleman attended the lunch event with her granddaughter, Ebony Kennedy, after a friend urged her to go. Coleman was impressed with the effort the city made in undertaking the celebration.

“When I walked in, it was beautiful already; wonderful,” she said as she observed the décor and the colorful holiday outfits that many at the Singing Hills Recreation Center wore. “We thought we’d enjoy the festivities and take a picture with Santa Claus.”

That sense of community and closeness was what Atkins was striving for.

“It’s a great opportunity just to bring the city together,” he remarked about the celebration at the rec center. “This is my seventh year doing this and I think every year it gets greater.”

Coleman noted that she is involved in the local neighborhood and was pleased to see her councilman at the celebration.

“We’re always having a meeting and he’s always there, making sure we can get things going,” she said.

The mayor got into the Christmas spirit and reveled in the sense of unity.

“I just love being here at a holiday celebration. Family time, a time to get together – small families and bigger families, and extended families,” Rawlings told the assembled crowd. “Strong neighborhoods make a strong city”.

“We all work hard. We need to work hard,” he continued. “Now’s the time just to hug a neighbor. Hug a friend. Relax a little bit. Put on a couple of extra pounds – not too many, okay?” Rawlings joked.

With a full house – and full stomachs – at the rec center, Atkins felt that the day was a success.

“This is a celebration; just to meet and to greet, to enjoy. It kind of brings downtown to the community on a Christmas day,” he said. “It’s all about giving and receiving.”