The numbers Cynthia Nevels read were staggering. Nearly 4,000 homeless students in Dallas ISD.
Nevels ran across the figure in a February Dallas Morning News column. In it, Dallas ISD’s Mark Pierce said the district homeless count was probably higher — and would likely continue to grow.
“You don’t think that there’s a child that doesn’t have a place to go — a home or a family at all,” Nevels said.
“You don’t think that there’s a child that doesn’t have a place to go – a home or a family at all.”
She couldn’t shake the feeling that she needed to do something to help.
On Friday, Nevels is planning to feed 88 children at Dallas’ Promise House, which shelters at-risk, homeless, and runaway youth. By year’s end, she hopes to serve healthy meals to at least 800 homeless children in the area.
It’s part of a new initiative she’s launching through her vegetarian and vegan food truck business, Soulgood, which already gives 5 percent of its total revenue to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Fort Worth-based nonprofit, Kids Environmental Education Network Inc.
“Part of our mission and model is to give back through selling our healthy fast foods. Trying to take the bad connotation out of the “f” word,” Nevels said.
Now, once a month she’ll drive the truck to the Promise House or other locations with homeless youth to give out her plant-based foods with the help of volunteers.
“One day it just hit me, I can do something about this on a small scale and feed someone,” Nevels said. “That’s what I’m doing anyway, why not use the extra resources that I have?”
INITIATIVE HONORS HER SON, TYLER
The initiative, “Gifts to Tyler,” is named in memorial of her son, Tyler Nelson, who died in 2015 from complications of cystic fibrosis.
“Anyone that knew him or talked to him just knew that there was something very special about him,” she said.
“One day it just hit me, I can do something about this on a small scale and feed someone.”
While waiting for an organ transplant, Tyler served as an advocate and speaker for organ donation and even wrote a book on positivity for terminally ill children.
At a loss for ways to help Tyler during the challenging time, Nevels, a management consultant with no prior culinary experience, found solace in experimenting with healthy recipes.
“He was literally dying in front of me and there was nothing I could do to help him,” Nevels said. “The only thing I thought I could do, that was in my control, was to feed him healthy foods to hopefully make him feel better.”
Her plant-based concoctions would eventually lead her to start Soulgood as a pop-up kitchen in the Dallas Farmers Market in 2014. Last year, she transitioned into a mobile business with a food truck.
FEEDING HOMELESS CHILDREN’S MINDS, BODIES
On Friday, which would be Tyler’s birthday, Nevels will continue his legacy of giving by feeding homeless children during Soulgood’s inaugural “Gifts to Tyler” Giving Truck event.
Over numerous Thanksgiving holidays, Tyler insisted the family pack meals into bags to hand out to homeless people in Dallas.
“Gifts to Tyler” is a way for her son’s humble and caring spirit to live on, Nevels said.
Right now, she’s focused on serving meals to the children, but in the future Nevels wants to partner with others to add free classes on topics such as urban gardening and healthy eating.
“There’s a lot of opportunities where we could make this day really special and all about [being] ecofriendly, eating healthy, but making it fun. That’s what Soulgood is all about is that we don’t preach to you, we don’t tell you what you have to do. We just make it fun,” Nevels said.