by Mike Anglin
In 1988 Dallas architect Mark Shekter started a meal delivery program called MOM (an acronym for “Meals on the Move”). He had heard of such programs in San Francisco and Los Angeles and was moved by the obvious need for a similar project here in Dallas ... to provide hot, "home-cooked" meals to people struggling with AIDS, many of whom had lost their jobs, were financially strapped, and, in some instances, had become homeless as a result of the disease. His hope was that, by at least providing these individuals with "a good, hot meal prepared by a real mom," he and his team could give some comfort and support. This was the first such program in Dallas. Mark was impacted by the AIDS epidemic early on. One of his best friends, Harry, had developed symptoms of AIDS very early in the AIDS crisis. Harry knew that Mark had a brother-in-law in San Francisco who was a physician at the University of California, San Francisco Hospital … one of the first hospitals in the country engaged in experimental treatments for the disease. Harry was accepted as a patient, but the treatments of the day were unproven and largely ineffective. Harry died while in treatment.
“However small, however large,” Mark said, “men were becoming sick everywhere, and I knew I had to act. I felt everyone had a duty to do something … and preferably whatever it is that they do best. In my case, that meant food … and fund raising … and fun.”
With help in the kitchen from his two friends, Arthurene Thomas and Helen Wesson, and with a good deal of experience in catering meals in the past, the three of them began cooking healthy and exciting meals in the kitchen of St. Thomas Eposcopal Church in the neighborhood.
With the help of my many friends to help deliver and many more frends and clients who contributed money to fund the enterprise, MOM provided meals for over four years until funding ran out. Fortunately, by that time, there were other agencies that had come on the scene and were able to provide similar services as needed.
A group of “hot” men and women called "MOM's Angels," pulled together by Mark’s friend Mitch Lee, helped raise money for the MOM project at numerous fund raisers. Many people donated items for MOM’S Angels to auction off at these fundraisers. Many local entertainers also donated their time to help raise money. Local bars and genereous individuals graceously offered their facilities and homes to hold fund raising events and parties. It was a community effort, but Mark was its guiding light.
At its peak, MOM delivered over 200 meals a day to those in need, including "Bryan’s House," a home for children with AIDS and "A Place for Us," a residential facility for individuals without a place to live.
Mark tells the story of how he ended up in Dallas. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1967 with a degree in architecture. After touring many American cities in his quest to determine which city would make the best home base, he narrowed the selection down to Dallas and Houston. Dallas felt more comfortable in comparison, so it became his top choice. He joined a well-regarded architectural firm on Hall Street and moved to the nearby Oak Lawn neighborhood of Dallas.
Mark’s first extra-curricular involvement in Dallas was to become a “big brother” in the Big Brothers program. He served in that volunteer capacity for five years and had three “little brothers” during that time. His first appointment with a boy named Chris was awkward because the boy’s mom prohibited him from ever seeing his dad. Nevertheless, Mark was able to take the boy for short visits with his dad, until the mother found out and ended the relationship. Many years later, in 2000, Chris came up to Mark at the Dallas Black Tie Dinner and thanked him for all he did for him, including those visits with his dad.
After working for three architectural firms, Mark decided to open his own firm, officing on Cedar Springs Blvd. at first but then moving his office to north Dallas. He sometimes quipped that when he lived in Oak Lawn he would drive to north Dallas to date Jewish girls, and after he moved to north Dallas he drove south to date Gentile boys.
Mark Shekter served as President of the Oak Lawn Committee (5 terms), member of the Oak Lawn Forum, President of the Stonewall Professional and Business Association, a founding member of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce (which awarded Mark its Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015).