We had the good fortune of connecting with Darren Tompkins and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Darren, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
When you run a nonprofit the ultimate goal is social impact. When you run with an all-volunteer staff you are increasing that impact. Here at the Houston Halloween Horde (formerly the Houston Zombie Walk, we changed the name in 2020) we support teachers with $500 Amazon school supply grants. Teachers fill out a short form on our site and our Leadership Team meets to select winners. The teachers then login to Amazon and pick out $500 worth of classroom supplies and we ship the order to their school. Previously we presented scholarships to individuals but this teacher grant allows us to impact a broader community. For us it’s all about financial availability. Since there are no grants for what we do and the public expects something in return from us, we accomplish fundraising through large public events like the Houston Halloween Festival which attracts audiences from all over the state and beyond. We always work with local nonprofits to help, most notably Pup Squad Animal Rescue, the Houston Community Toolbank, and the Houston Heights Chamber of Commerce, which has its own scholarship program.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
The story begins with my life as an Army Officer. Military Police, Civil Affairs, then Army Aviation. I was then in oil and gas for about 12 years as an IT Project Manager and rode the oil and gas financial wave. During all this time going back to 1993 I was always volunteering at animal shelters, raising money for children’s homes, and exotic animal rescue in Oklahoma. No, not for that guy you’ve been watching on Netflix cause I know you are gonna ask. 2 years ago I made the jump to full time nonprofit employment. Currently I am the Director of Development for the a large nonprofit Foundation in Houston, TX. When you balance a life of business process and creativity you turn into a great story-teller. This is a skill I believe everyone should develop. It doesn’t matter if you are presenting a project plan to a software firm or pitching a movie script if you believe in what you are saying others will latch on. This especially goes for nonprofit fundraising and marketing. Take an obscure idea like Halloween horror, add some charity elements, and get folks to rally around your flag and great things happen. It’s never easy, and you will make mistakes along the way. Adapt to changing pop culture trends and never let the haters take away your history. Oh, and document everything because that will make them go away LOL.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We live in the Heights. Its such a unique area that my father describes it like being back in Kent State University in the 60’s. All your favorite spots are a bike ride away. For us Lei Low is a vacation spot away from the house. They make the best drinks and have the best atmosphere in the city! On second thought stay away because I hate waiting in line there. Houston is a foodie city! Oishii Sushi has always been my favorite sushi destination. Before all this Coronavirus mess we ate at Handies Douzo for the best hand rolls I’ve ever eaten. Ready Room makes one Hell of an Old Fashioned as does Johnny’s Gold Brick. If you are super hungry get the short rib at Superica and if you are OK to wait a bit the burgers at Sparkle Burger in 3rd Ward are incredible. For us hanging out nowadays means walking around historic 19th St and balancing that laid back style with attending Metal shows at HOB, Warehouse Live, and Scout Bar. Also we are in a craft brewery mecca. Hang out with the cool cats at Eureka Heights Brewing Company and Brash when they are open again!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’ve described my influences on a lot of media platforms. My mother’s side of the family are all social workers and Salvation Army officers who all worked to better people. My father is an old school creature feature fan who influenced my love of horror, apocalyptic films, and sci-fi. He was also a huge wrestling fan, something his father shared with him. I was able to meld these two influences into the Houston Halloween Horde (HHH), which benefits our community but also lets me flex my creative side. My wife, Stephanie Hill is the VP of intake for Pup Squad Animal Rescue. Without her love, support, and amazing accounting skills HHH would not be in the comfortable place we are in financially. In this time where so many nonprofits and small businesses are shutting down, we will continue! Additionally we have a lot of veteran staff who have been here since the beginning when HHH was just an idea. It’s hard to believe this year marks our 10 year anniversary! Hopefully we will be able to show the world what we are cooking up for the fall.
Website: www.houstonzombiewalk.org This is in redesign at the moment.