United States

Meet RSM Pursue Your Passion Winner: Barbara Adler


Tax Manager | Dallas, TX

The John Mellencamp song “Small Town” fits perfectly with how my sister and I feel about the community in which we grew up and live. “All my friends are so small town” and in small towns we help each other: a friend who helps a friend, a neighbor who reaches out to a neighbor in a time of need. This is exactly what we want to do at Manna From Above Community Food Pantry.

Dawson, a small Central Texas town of less than 900 people, is 20 miles from the county seat and is the furthest community from a town with any type of commerce. There is no mass transit; therefore, to be employed, everyone must have vehicles. Once a thriving farm/ranching community, Dawson is now the lowest socio-economic community in the county of 48,701. Until the 1950’s, the Dawson area had almost 300 businesses. When I was growing up, we had three grocery stores, one with a fresh butcher shop.  We had dress stores, a hardware store, a soda shop, three or four thriving churches and several busy full-service gas stations with mechanics. The small community and surrounding rural area has been crippled with the loss of businesses, an aging population and serious unemployment. Many people can’t work because they can’t afford vehicles to drive to work. Even more troublesome, there isn’t a grocery store within six miles of Dawson.

My sister started working for the Dawson Housing Authority, a low income public housing facility with about 40 duplex units (1-3 bedrooms), where she has first-hand knowledge of the area poverty: families with children who sometimes get one or two meals a day, at best, and handicapped seniors who can’t drive themselves to the store or live on less than $500 a month. These are the realities in our small town, which led to the development of Manna from Above Community Food Pantry. Even though it’s not an “official” organization yet, for more than a year, we’ve been gathering food from area groups, businesses and individuals and having fundraisers to raise money to buy food for a once-a-month pantry.

The food pantry has reached out to the community to let our friends and neighbors know that Manna from Above exists and needs help. The passion my sister and I have for this project is beginning to spread through our small community. We reached out to the local elementary school and, through their Ambassador Program, they selflessly donated non-perishable food items to help Manna from Above reach as many people as possible this past Thanksgiving season. The local bank also graciously donated enough money for ten Thanksgiving dinners.

We decided that we wanted to take this passion further. We’re working to solidify this charity as a legitimate 501c3 organization. The charity incorporation paperwork is in process and a permanent location has been donated by another local resident. As part of the passion for our community, we will add a farmer’s market to the covered area outside of the new building. Since many of our community residents raise huge gardens during the spring and fall, this will allow a constant location where they can sell their overflow. As for the payment for using the farmer’s market area, we will require a donation of fruits and vegetables for those in need.  This is a win-win in our minds. We’re going to ask the Dawson High School Senior Future Farmers of America (FFA) to build the produce stands as their senior project. We believe this will be a great way for them to give back to their community. My sister and I have always wanted a place in our community where these gardeners can sell their excess fresh fruits and vegetables. Plus, so many people make homemade salsa, jams, and jellies…what a great place to sell these homemade treats!

If we are awarded these funds for our passion, we would use it to do some renovations on the permanent location to provide shelving, office equipment, refrigeration and freezers. We would also like to build some farmer’s market tables for the markets to take place during the spring/fall.  If there are additional funds left from this, we would like to travel to some of the successful food pantries in Texas to ensure we develop this into a lasting blessing to our small town.

“No, I cannot forget where it is that I come from; I cannot forget the people who love me; Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town; And people let me be just what I want to be”

I am passionate about helping my community because I see its potential as a great, loving, caring and wonderful place to live.