Around the State

Around the State
Around the State – Graphic by Robyn H. Jimenez/The Dallas Examiner


Special to The Dallas Examiner



Mayor Eric Johnson has appointed City Council member Paula Blackmon and former state Rep. Helen Giddings to the board of VisitDallas.

The new board members will replace Mayor Pro Tem Adam Medrano and Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates, who were holdovers from the previous administration.

Giddings has a long history of civic engagement  and is the founder and president of Multiplex Inc., represented part of Southern Dallas in the Texas House of Representatives from 1993-2019 and previously served as co-chair of the Dallas Area Legislative Delegation. She has also served as vice president of leadership development at the Greater Dallas Chamber of Commerce (now the Dallas Regional Chamber) and as an executive at Sears.

Blackmon, a longtime East Dallas resident and political strategist, has represented City Council District 9 since June 2019. She previously served in leadership roles under Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles and Mayors Mike Rawlings and Tom Leppert.

In addition, as director of public affairs with The Real Estate Council, Blackmon helped secure funding for what is now Klyde Warren Park, one of the city’s most popular attractions.

Blackmon and Giddings will serve two-year terms through Nov. 30, 2021, on the board for the convention and visitors bureau, which has a total of 21 voting members.



Once a year, organized annually by the Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance in late January, communities across the country count individuals and families experiencing homelessness. This count, a requirement under Federal Law, helps communities understand the extent of homelessness, changing trends, and the measure of their success in making homelessness rare, brief and nonrecurring. This year, the count in Dallas and Collin Counties will take place on Jan. 23 from 7 p.m. to midnight. Volunteer for this effort.

“We need about 1,500 people to get the job done,” said Shavon Moore, vice president of programs at MDHA, who is coordinating the count. “By volunteering for the homeless count, you too can show that you believe that in Dallas, everybody counts,”

This will be the fourth year that MDHA will be using the Counting Us app from Simtech Solutions to conduct the count. Using the app, volunteers fan out throughout Dallas and Collin Counties, and conduct short survey interviews with persons experiencing homelessness. The app uploads each survey immediately and records the exact location of each survey interaction. MDHA is able to monitor this activity in real time from a virtual command center.

This year, MDHA will use the app to recruit and register volunteers, as well as assign teams specific census tracts to count in, and display the maps of those census tracts within the app.

Use of the app gives MDHA one more advantage. By automatically recording the exact latitude and longitude of each interaction during the count, MDHA is able to direct system outreach teams, the very next morning, to assist individuals who may qualify for specific programs, including youth, veterans and persons with specific medical diagnoses.

MDHA’s president and CEO, Carl Falconer, will report the results of the count, as well as the Dallas community’s progress in the battle to end homelessness, during MDHA’s annual signature event, the State of Homelessness Address, on March 19 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Goodwill Industries of Dallas.

To register as a volunteer, visit To learn more about the homeless count, visit homeless-pit-count.



DataReady will host its annual Data Day Camps, designed to expose students to data science at the early stages. The camps will begin March 16 and June 1. The programs are one of the organization’s remarkable endeavors to enrich the DFW community. During each camp, the organization’s aim is to encourage kindergarten through sixth grade students to join in a hands-on S.T.E.A.M based data literacy training. Students will engage in activities that will help them develop skills and knowledge.

DataReady is still seeking contributions from individuals and local businesses for the work they will perform. Please join donors and sponsors to ensure equipment and material is available for all attendees.

Registration is now open. Early bird special and discounts for households with multiple children enrollment will be applied to applications that are submitted before deadlines. To register or find out more information, visit or Anyone interested in becoming a sponsor can send an email of interest to or call Dr. Angel Durr at 401-594-0785.


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