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Chari-tees

From Unlock Hope to Common People for the Common Good, Dallas Harris inspires others to make a difference — one person at a time.

Article
G.K. Hizer
Photos
Marc Rains
Posted
January 28, 2020

Over the past few years, a small organization based out of Broken Arrow has been growing and making waves while helping others. Yes, the local following has grown, but with the help of social media, networking, and word-of-mouth, Unlock Hope has been reaching a national audience while making an impact internationally. Now, the man behind Unlock Hope, Dallas Harris, has his sights set on inspiring others to create change.

At first glance, Unlock Hope might seem like another internet-driven T-shirt company promoting a positive message. Underneath the surface, though, there has always been a reason behind the marketing. Unlock Hope sponsored a full class of girls in Uganda throughout their high school education and, in 2019, transitioned to supporting other causes.

“It started in 2006,” says Harris. “I got hold of a DVD that summer called Invisible Children, about child soldiers in Uganda. I found it shocking, and it opened up my eyes to things going on around the world.

“It was really interesting to me that all of these crazy things were going on around the world, and I immediately wanted to do something to help others. I started to research how I could get involved, but everything was so expensive, especially as a college student going to school and working in retail. Then I read a quote from Mother Teresa: ‘If you can’t feed 100 people, then feed just one.’ That inspired me, and I started looking for ways to feed people. I found a group that had developed this food that was cheap to produce and was packed with vitamins and nutrients. I got in touch with them and discovered you could pay for a serving for only $.04 cents. I had been involved with bands and had experience with merchandise, so I made a shirt that read, ‘Feed Just One’ and sold it at shows. Each shirt sold paid for a hundred meals.”

From there, Harris got involved with the organization Think Humanity, at first paying for all the meals for a school of female refugees in Uganda that had been separated from their parents. As shirt sales went up, however, he was able to do more: first paying for their school tuition, then paying for the entire hostel, and even all living expenses.

In 2019, the focus of Unlock Hope shifted as the group of girls Harris had been sponsoring graduated. “I didn’t want to start over with another group of girls, because that would be another six- to eight-year commitment,” he says.

Having done one-time charity specific shirts for other causes in the past, Unlock Hope transitioned to a broader focus, supporting several charities and organizations in 2019. During the year, Unlock Hope donated over $141,000 to American Civil Liberties Union, Community Solidarity, DonorsChoose, Everytown, Miry’s List, Planting Peace, RAICES Texas, and Think Humanity.

In January, he rolled out of a podcast, Common People for the Common Good, which focuses on different topics each month, digging deeper, discussing root causes, and looking to find solutions for broader issues.

“I funded the podcast project through Kiva, and the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation matched all of the loans,” Harris says. “I’ll be doing some similar stuff to what we did with Unlock Hope, and I’ll still do shirts for different causes, but the plan is to focus on the podcast to get more in-depth on issues and get several different viewpoints. When looking at homelessness, I plan on talking to someone who runs a homeless shelter, maybe someone in a government office who deals with it, and someone who’s experienced homelessness, to help understand the issue better and find a real solution.”

With a plan to focus on a different subject every month, Harris hopes to give others not only a better understanding of the issues but to inspire more people to get involved.

“Sure, we can all buy something or give our money and feel better about ourselves for a little bit, but I feel like it does more good to find something you’re passionate about and get more actively involved, then get others more involved,” Harris says.