by Rafael McDonnell
The year was 1983. “The Cosby Show” was on the television, “Return of the Jedi” played at the movie theaters and Michael Jackson’s album “Thriller” dominated the radio. That was also the year when the Resource Center Dallas got its start.
The Center’s parent organization – the Dallas Gay Political Caucus, later known as the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance – incorporated what was then called the Foundation for Human Understanding in June 1983. It was established with a focus on education and service, and a goal of achieving equality, recognition and equal rights for gays and lesbians in north Texas.
As HIV and AIDS arrived in North Texas, the Foundation mobilized to deal with the pandemic. In 1985, it established the AIDS Resource Center as a source for community awareness and prevention education, legal services, a food pantry, clothing, household goods and emergency funding.
Three years later in 1988, the Center established the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic for treatment, clinical drug trials and HIV testing. Today, the renamed Nelson-Tebedo Community Clinic also offers HIV dental, STD prevention and testing, medical case management, insurance assistance, prevention and transgender health services. Nutritional services are available through a food pantry on Denton Drive Cut Off as well as hot lunches at the Community Center.
After a fire damaged most of the Center’s facilities in 1989 (located where Union Jack is on Cedar Springs), the search was on to find a larger home. The Nelson-Tebedo Community Clinic and Food Pantry remained on Cedar Springs Road, while the rest of the organization moved into the former Metropolitan Community Church site on Reagan Street. It was renamed the John Thomas Gay & Lesbian Community Center after the organization’s first executive director.
To recognize the history of and the struggle for LGBT rights in Dallas, the Phil Johnson Historic Archives and Research Library was established at the Community Center in 1994. The Library also operates a 24-hour recorded information helpline, which first started in 1985.
In 1998, the Foundation for Human Understanding changed its name to Resource Center of Dallas, and in 2009 became Resource Center Dallas. It operates the John Thomas Gay & Lesbian Community Center, named after the founding executive director, and the Nelson-Tebedo Community Clinic. Through its health and medical services, the Center is a leader in HIV/AIDS education, prevention and services, and provides a full spectrum of STD prevention education, screenings and treatments.
From its earliest days, under the brilliant leadership of John Thomas, the first Executive Director of Resource Center Dallas, this organization has been a beacon of light to so many people who are hungry, who are sick, and who are in need of care and protection. More than 1,100 volunteers and a paid staff of 50 make Resource Center Dallas one of the largest centers of its kind in the United States. More than 50,000 people each year use the Center through its programs and services.
From its roots as an advocacy group for civil rights regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, the Center continues its mission: to develop programs and offer services for the LGBT community, as well as individuals and families affected by HIV and AIDS.
The Dallas Way would like to thank the Resource Center Dallas for this story. If you’d like to learn more about their programs and services, click here.