Pollo Corral: Love in Motion
Upstairs in an old brick building in the Deep Ellum neighborhood of Dallas is expressing love in a unique way. Nearly 100 people of all ages and backgrounds gathered at Love in Motion during the kick off for North Texas Giving Day. The volunteers assembled small gift bags for first responders, including a handwritten note of thanks for the tireless service of police officers, firefighters, and emergency response teams. Pollo Corral, founder of Love in Motion, busily bounced from one side of the room to another, answering questions, and passing out heartfelt encouragement to every volunteer.
When Pollo initially had the idea for Love in Motion, he wasn’t sure what it would look like, but he knew there was an expression of love that the city had not yet seen. “First we asked, ‘What would happen if our family moved out of the suburbs and into the city?’” Pollo shared. “We knew we wanted to teach our kids to give back to the community, so we moved to Dallas and started brainstorming.”
Pollo’s mother is a retired educator, so there was firsthand insight on how difficult it is to thrive as a teacher in America. The Corral family soon began having honest conversations with teachers. “We asked them, ‘If we could do anything for educators in the city, what should we do?’ All of them answered in a similar way. They said, ‘It would be beautiful to know that we aren’t alone in what we do,’” Pollo recounted. His heart was stirred to recognize and show appreciation for teachers, so his family gathered their new neighbors, wrote thank you notes, and attached them to chocolate bars.
But passing out the small tokens of appreciation wasn’t as easy as anticipated. “When I approached the principal at Sam Houston Elementary, he hesitated at first,” Pollo admitted. “I visited several times before he received the gifts we had prepared. He was protective of his staff and had never, in his many years as an administrator, seen someone who wanted to help with no strings attached. Eventually, he told us that he would distribute the appreciation gifts to his staff, but we would not have any face time with the teachers and that we could not include any sort of propaganda.” At this time, Pollo had to truly consider the motives for giving.
“Would we still be cool with it if no one knew it was us? If there was no pat on the back or high five for this investment?” Pollo asked himself. Ultimately he handed over the box of candy bars and notes, thankful that teachers and school staff would soon receive the tokens of appreciation.
The next week Pollo received several notes back from teachers.
“I don’t know who you are, but never has there been someone from the public who thanked me with a handwritten note for what I do.”
“Maybe we aren’t alone in this.”
Then a call from the principal came — “When are you guys coming back?”
Teacher morale was rising, and Pollo kept sharing with his neighbors about the unique way he was giving back to the city he loves. The idea grew and small gifts continued to impact the school. Later that year, an administrator from the Dallas school district called Pollo and asked if Love in Motion would take on another school — a school known for its high attrition, low morale, and low job satisfaction. The team agreed and began sharing a little bit of love through notes and small gifts. Pollo felt he was making a difference, but the idea of measuring happiness to prove the model was more difficult.
When Pollo heard about DISD’s Culture and Climate Survey, he thought it might hold some answers about whether these gifts from the community were making a difference that went beyond heartfelt emotions. “The first year we didn’t see any change. But the second year we noticed a small but important upswing at the schools that Love in Motion had adopted,” Pollo shared. Now, almost six years from our first appreciation effort, we have continued to follow a positive trend which shows that teachers are feeling more appreciated and satisfied in their jobs. Studies show that retaining employees in any field is important, and some would argue that the stakes are even higher when it comes to the field of education. Pollo and his team believe that when teachers are made aware that there are many in the community who highly value and appreciate them, they are more likely to stay at their position hence the school districts win, the students and their families win, the entire community wins. All made possible by the power of love and appreciation.
After three years of serving schools, the Dallas Police Department reached out and asked if Love in Motion would be willing to encourage their officers in the same way Pollo had thought to encourage teachers. “Chief Brown heard about the change in teacher morale and so we decided to bring a dozen volunteers to serve breakfast at the DPD headquarters. We passed out 450 breakfast burritos, fruit, snacks for later, and a handwritten thank you note to each officer.”
Then, in July of 2016, five officers were killed and nine were injured in a downtown Dallas shooting. The city responded with many gestures of love and support during that difficult time, but the team at Love in Motion heard the same sentiment from officer after officer: “We are impressed by the support from the city, but we know we had your support before the tragedy.” Pollo set out from the start to give without agenda, knowing truly unconditional love had made an impact not only with teachers, but now with first responders as well.
Pollo shares about the concept of living love by connecting it to his marriage. “If I celebrated my wife on our anniversary and told her that I loved her on that day, it would be amazing, but she needs to hear it every day. I need to hear it every day. Otherwise we’re missing out on all that love and good that comes with it,” Pollo said.
Love in Motion, with their entirely volunteer team, now serves 1,000 educators at 15 Dallas schools, along with breakfast for the Dallas Police and Dallas Fire and Rescue. Pollo is quick to thank all of the people who make it possible. With donors who give funds to purchase gifts, corporate sponsors like High Brew Coffee, Kind Snacks, and Sparkling Ice who provide products, and the volunteers who write notes and assemble packages, the community is truly coming together to put Love in Motion.
Pollo opened a new headquarters in Deep Ellum in January of this year, giving Love in Motion more room to bring in more volunteers. Now Love in Motion is connected with the Deep Ellum Foundation, which has enabled for the fostering of new relationships with restaurants, bars and their patrons who are invited to take a moment to write a thank you note for a teacher or first responder at a Love in Motion station within the establishment. This had led to building new bridges with the community who is learning who Love in Motion is and what they stand for. “What if Deep Ellum is known for the way we love and appreciate?” asked Micah Bires, Marketing Coordinator at Deep Ellum Foundation.
That question is what drives Pollo and the Love in Motion Team. "What if our entire city was known for the way the community loves? We are better together and we are wanting to create a culture where this is the norm,” Pollo declares.
If you would like to experience what it feels like to make the city a lovelier place through preparing and packaging appreciation gifts, people of any age are welcome to volunteer. Love in Motion’s hosts Live Love Projects on the fourth Saturday of every month from 10:00 am to noon. You can also participate by setting up a tax deductible recurring donation to support the ongoing efforts of appreciation for educators and first responders across Dallas.
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Story and photos by Mary Martin.