Toast to Life gala helps Micki Garrison stock the Nutrition Center’s shelves
BY DANIEL KUSNER
Tucked behind Crossroads Market, Bookstore and Cafe is the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it entrance for the Nutrition Center, the Resource Center of Dallas’ food-assistance program for people living with HIV.
The Nutrition Center’s supervisor is Micki Garrison, one Dallas’ most devoted transgender activists.
While the Center’s doorway is strategically bland (they can only provide groceries to those who qualify), Garrison is tall, outgoing and her personality sparkles.
At the Nutrition Center (which used to be call the AIDS Food Pantry) about 1,000 clients stock up on groceries each week. That’s at least 1,000 loaves of bread, 1,000 gallons of milk, thousands of apples, peppers, bags of organic lettuce … It’s a lot of food.
To qualify, clients living with HIV have to earn roughly under $25,000 annually. And when they’re trying to keep up with medical expenses, insurance deductibles and sometimes
hospitals bills, every bit helps.
Garrison’s background is extensive and fabulous: architecture, the U.S. military, sound engineering, construction management and parenthood.
Helping clients stock up on food is only one of her duties. She’s more focused on grant writing, negotiating with suppliers and making sure the center is meeting compliance standards — skills she developed while running a lightning protection business that mostly contracted with military bases.
But as HIV medications have greatly improved, AIDS is appearing more and more like a treatable disease — like diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
“Ryan White Funding is being slashed, which is why the Waxahachie food pantry has closed and why the Fort Worth pantry recently lost a large portion of their funding,” Garrison says.
On Saturday, the eighth annual Toast to Life gala will be held at Neiman Marcus. The shindig is a food-lover’s feast, and there’s a silent auction.
Garrison’s says approximately 20 percent of the Nutrition Center’s annual budget comes directly from money raised at Toast to Life.
While food donations are always welcomed at the Nutrition Center, Garrison says her negotiation skills can stretch money much further than the average grocery shopper’s buying