JUST IN: Wanda Gierhart And Dean Fearing To Co-Chair TACA 50th Anniversary Gala

Dean Fearing and Wanda Gierhart (File photo)

Former Neiman Marcus exec Wanda Gierhart and her fiancé/chef extraordinaire “Dean of Food” Fearing are quite a twosome. Back in 2014, their official joint-project debut was the TACA Custom Auction and what a night it was. The front row was filled with art-loving, philanthropists names like Carlson, Hobson and Brierley.

So, when Wanda, who is chairing TACA’s 50th anniversary year celebration, decided that she would roll up her silk sleeves and chair the black-tie TACA 50th Anniversary Gala on Friday, September 8, at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, she sorta got nostalgic and brilliant. She drafted Dean to co-chair it with her.

As for the auction itself, don’t expect a dozens of items up for bid. Word has it that it’s going to a very limited number and they’ll be very special.

BTW, the years that Wanda was in charge of curating the auction items, they were the types that brought some very platinum paddles competing for the final bid. Twas great sightseeing!

TACA Lexus Party On The Green Felt Right At Home In Its New Sammons Park Setting With Performers, Ice Carvings And Chefs Galore

Like a family realizing that perhaps they need to expand their residence, TACA organizers had determined that, as part of its year-long, 50th anniversary celebration, the annual  TACA Lexus Party On The Green needed a change. So, after years at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, they moved the outdoor fundraiser to Sammons Park in the AT&T Performing Arts District on Friday, May 12. It was nothing against the Mansion. After all, they were going to have the 50th Anniversary Gala at the Mansion on Friday, September 8.

With both the Artscape Award and Auction Dinner at the Arboretum and the Party On The Green taking place outdoors on the same night, Mother Nature was in a kindly state of mind and provided spectacular weather.

Tia Wynne, Dean Fearing and Wanda Gierhart

Katherine Wynne

POG Co-Chairs Katherine Wynne and Tia Wynne had orchestrated a beautiful setting with a backdrop of the very green grass shaded by grown-up trees. Giant lit white balloons hovered over each of the tented chef’s stations. Tabletops were gowned in TACA green and chairs wrapped with pashminas (some salmon-colored, others turquoise, still others emerald-green). An artist with a power saw sprayed ice chips as he carved “50” into two massive blocks of ice on a mini-stage. A ginormous lit balloon with Lexus TACA Party On the Green floated on the reflecting pool. Adirondack chairs were perfectly positioned on the lawn, with flawless views of the action in the pool.  

2017 Lexus TACA Party On the Green

Ice carver

Dawn Spalding

Dancers in reflecting pool

Of course, like any move to new surroundings, there were the expected “oops.” For instance, the PA seemed at times loud enough to be heard in Deep Ellum. Pleasant conversations required ramping up the vocal chords to compete with the myriad of announcements and actors and musicians.

At times, there seemed to be an overly aggressive push for the performing arts. While the dance in the pond was indeed captivating, the theatrical production on stage with Booker T. Washington as a backdrop was a smash … for those within eyesight. For those grazing near the Meyerson, it was a jumble of verbal clutter, just as it was at the last Silver Cup Luncheon.

Michael and Amy Meadows and Charmaine and George Tang

Hal and Diane Brierley

Chris Heinbaugh and Nannette and Tracy Fitz

Alex Laurenzi and Elizabeth Tripplehorn-Laurenzi, David Tripplehorn-Cash and Merrick and Stuart Huckin

Even those little snafus couldn’t hold back the 700 or so art-loving guests, like Amy and Michael Meadows, Charmaine and George Tang, TACA President/Executive Director Wolford McCue with wife Cheryl McCue, Diane and Hal Brierley, Ron Corning, Chris Heinbaugh, Nannette and Tracy Fitz, Simona Beal with her posse (Ed and Henny Wright, Bob Gibbs and Matthew Wilson), WaterTower’s Greg Patterson and Joanie Schultz, Lisa and Bill Ogle, Doris and Jack Jacobs, Dawn Spalding, Dean Driver, Holly Reed, Susan Arledge, Marsha Getto-Aikens, Rachel and John Michell, Elizabeth Tripplehorn-Laurenzi and Alex Laurenzi, David Tripplehorn-Cash, Merrick and Stuart Huckin, Paige McDaniel with Joe B Clark and Leslie Crozier

Ed and Henny Wright, Bob Gibbs, Simona Beal and Matthew Wilson

Greg Patterson and Joanie Schultz

Paige McDaniel and Joe B Clark

Lisa and Bill Ogle

Susan Arledge and Marsha Getto-Aikens

Snapshots of the scene included Mark Edgar giving a thumb’s-up for Chelsea Corner Chef Sara Griffin’s Road House Burger with truffle fries, which was getting a major top rating from many. Sara’s secret? She uses three types of meat… Rosewood Mansion’s Chef Nicolas Blouin‘s chocolate bar was a confectionary feast for the eyes and taste buds. Earlier in the day, Nicolas had been the one bright spot in a not-so-favorable review of the Mansion by the Dallas Morning News foodie Leslie Brenner…. Parigi Chef Janice Provost on her first outing at the POG decked out her tent with roses and cups set in faux grass filled with savory basil panna cotta with baby tomatoes and pesto… Sissy’s Chef Lisa Garza-Selcer was a bit frazzled during the VIP party, due to her late arrival. When asked how her baby was doing, the brunette replied, “I don’t know.” … Salum Chef Sader Matheis was subbing in for Chef Abraham Salum, who was in Lebanon with his father… Knife Chef John Tesar was all smiles over the sales of his new book, “Knife: Texas Steakhouse Meals at Home.” A recent signing at the Highland Dallas Hotel had drawn 200, John explained, and he was excited about expanding his Knife empire to Plano, San Francisco, and Denver…. Equally happy was Chef Dean Fearing with fiancée Wanda Gierhart, who is chairing TACA’s 50th anniversary, year-long celebration…  Laura Elcock reported that, earlier in the day, she’d had lunch with an old artist friend, who presented her with a portrait of Laura’s and husband Walter’s daughter… Michelle de Metz turned heads as she strolled past the tents with her leashed pooch.  

Nicolas Blouin

Nicolas Blouin dish

Lisa Garza-Selcer

John Tesar

Janice Provost

Janice Provost dish

Laura and Walter Elcock

Michelle de Metz

For more photos of the faces and food, check out MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.

MySweetCharity Photo Gallery Alert: Lexus TACA Party On The Green

Tia Wynne, Dean Fearing and Wanda Gierhardt

Katherine Wynne

Michael and Amy Meadows and Charmaine and George Tang

In celebrating its 50 years of supporting the performing arts, TACA has been undergoing some changes like expanding its fundraising efforts to include the visual arts. Another big change was its annual Lexus TACA Party On The Green that for ages has taken place at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek.

Lisa Garza-Selcer

John Tesar

Janice Provost

Nicolas Blouin

But on Friday, May 12, the whole kit and caboodle was relocated to Sammons Park in the Arts District. Made perfect sense and resulted in success, with loads of the pretty peeps grazing from food station to food station and dancers, singers, actors and musicians performing throughout the night.

Dancers

While the post is being written, the photos are ready for you to check out at MySweetCharity Photo Gallery now!

Black-Tie Types Celebrate Craig Hall’s Receiving Artscape’s “Great Contributor To Art” Award At Dallas Arboretum

While the casual chic set partied at Lexus TACA Party On The Green over at Sammons Park, the black-tie folks were toasting and bidding at the inaugural “Great Contributor to Art Award” dinner and auction at the Dallas Arboretum on Friday, May 12. It was the final piece of the Artscape Reimagined pie that had been cooked up by fundraiser Kaki Hopkins. Being toasted was the “great contributor of art,” Craig Hall. Thank heaven, Mother Nature cooperated, gifting guests with a perfect evening. Here’s a report from the field:

On the heels of a successful Artscape Reimagined at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, Artscape Chairwoman Kaki Hopkins, along with her stellar committee, hosted the “Great Contributor to Art Award” and Invitational Fine Art Auction on Friday, May 12. The black tie event began with a cocktail reception and hors d’oeuvres, giving attendees like Patricia Meadows, Donna Guerra, Cynthia Salzman Mondell, Tammy and Martin Cohen, Michelle O’Michael, Carolyn Brown, Steve Daly, Patricia Crocker, James Surls, Nancy Dedman, Brad Kelly, Barbara and Bob Sypult, Betty and Steve Suellentrop, Donna and Herb Weitzman, Myrna and Bob Schlegel, Margo Keyes, Marnie Wildenthal and Lucy and Henry Billingsley time to peruse the live and silent auction items, which were generously donated by dozens of acclaimed artists and local Dallas notables, such as Mayor Mike Rawlings, Dr. Kern Wildenthal and Jim Keyes.  The springtime weather served as the perfect backdrop for the first time event.

Kern and Marnie Wildenthal and Tammy and Martin Cohen*

Mark Wolf, Dallas Arboretum chairman of the board, welcomed guests. After dinner, he called up Artscape Award Chair Gloria Snead to join him. Wolf said, “It is my pleasure to introduce the ‘Great Contributor to Art Award.’ This aptly named prize was designed and contributed by Gary Lee Price, whose Great Contributors exhibition at the Arboretum in 2016 was the inspiration for the award’s name. Receiving this inaugural award tonight is someone we know and admire deeply, Craig Hall. Craig, who is an entrepreneur, businessman, New York Times bestselling author and philanthropist, is also a lifelong art collector. He believes that art nourishes the human spirit and can make a profound difference in people’s lives. His company, Hall Group, displays an extensive contemporary art collection at their properties. Craig truly embodies this award, so we are pleased to welcome and honor Craig Hall tonight as the inaugural awardee of the ‘Great Contributor to Art Award.’”

David and Beth Dike and Gloria Snead*

“It is an honor to receive the Artscape Great Contributor to Public Art award, and being able to share our art collection with the public has been a great joy of mine,” said Craig. “However, tonight’s award is really a tribute to the talented artists who make all of this possible. It is because of their hard work and creativity that we are able to contribute art for our communities to enjoy.”

Mark Wolf, Kaki Hopkins and Craig Hall*

Hopkins added, “It was a great pleasure to have Craig Hall as our inaugural awardee. He has done so much to make art available for the public to enjoy by investing in many artists’ works and displaying them so they can be seen by all. He is a terrific citizen of our city, and we are fortunate that he calls the Dallas Arts District his home.”

The live auction generated plenty of spirited bidding, especially Pamela Nelson’s “Mother Plant,” which graced the invitation cover, program cover and notecards given to patrons. Hopkins added, “I was overwhelmed by the artists’ and galleries’ generosity and pleased that our audience showed them the appreciation we all felt by participating in a spirited and fun auction.”

The Artscape Selection Committee and Heritage Auctions chose the following for the live auction, with the criteria to create a group diverse in style. Each artist graciously donated his/her piece to benefit the Dallas Arboretum, with many nature-inspired:

Arienne Lepretre, Mary Vernon, Donna Guerra and Cynthia Salzman Mondell*

Steve Daly, Patricia Crocker, James Surls and George Tobolowsky*

  • Carly Allen-Martin – “Exhale Doubt 2/50”
  • Carolyn Brown – “White Rose” and “Orange Ruffled Rose”
  • Marianne Gargour – “Visions Revisited”
  • Beth Hickman – “Moonlight Gardening”
  • Arienne Lepretre – “Arboretum Day”
  • Christopher H. Martin – “Cassini Disc II”
  • Pamela Nelson – “Mother Plant”
  • Brad Oldham – “Traveling Man”
  • Jessie Palmer (Am. 1882-1956) – “Still Life with Roses”
  • Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir – “Source II”
  • George Tobolowsky – “Looking for Light”
  • Mary Tomás – “Bloom”
  • Mary Vernon – “Raccoon”

* Photo credit: Steve Foxall

JUST IN: First-Day Sales Of Dallas Symphony Orchestra Gala Single Ticket Sales Astounded Even DSO President/CEO Jonathan Martin

Jonathan Martin (File photo)

Despite Dallas Symphony Orchestra President/CEO Jonathan Martin disappointing many with his recent announcement of leaving North Texas for Cincinnati, he also shared some good news about the upcoming DSO Gala. It seems that the day that the single tickets for the DSO Gala went on sale, they really blew the DSO circuits.

When asked the cause for this DSO history-making situation, Jonathan said that it was three-fold: the amazing leadership (Co-Chairs Lisa and Clay Cooley and Honorary Chair Margaret McDermott), featured cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the final gala concert under the direction of DSO Music Director Jaap van Zweden.

Make sure that your reservation is in for the Saturday, September 16, black tie fundraiser at the Meyerson.

Genesis Annual Luncheon VIP Sponsors Celebrated The Jane Doe And HeRO Awards At Amanda And Brint Ryan’s Home-Sweet-Home

Amanda and Brint Ryan

When Amanda and Brint Ryan waved goodbye to the last of the 75 guests at the Genesis Annual Luncheon VIP Sponsors Party on Thursday, May 11, hopefully they checked all the nooks and crannies of their palatial digs. The reason? The main house and grounds were so absolutely perfect, it was good money that someone would hide out just to spend the night.

Ryan main house

Ryan doghouse

Even the Ryan’s doghouse was a mini-version of the main house. The two Ryan pooches had to watch the festivities from their fenced-in mini-estate, while the party was going on.

But the night wasn’t just for critters and palace gazing. It was to thank the Genesis major donors and to present some awards in advance of the annual luncheon on May 15.

Gerald Turner

Chuck Thoele and David Miller

When a classical string group stopped playing and the pool’s fountains closed down, it signaled that the evening’s program was getting under way, with guests in attendance like Nancy Best, Gail and Gerald Turner, Carolyn and David Miller, Beth and Chuck Thoele, Bob Mong and Steve Langbein.

First to speak was Genesis Annual Luncheon Co-Chair Nikki Webb, who thanked the Ryans for their hospitality. “I find your house so incredibly warm, and I’m sure it’s a reflection of y’all,” she said. Then, Nikki revealed for the first time that a fella that she’d dated in college had proved to be a very wrong person for a relationship. She admitted that while she feared him, her friends claimed that he was really a great guy. Luckily, Nikki rose above and out of that situation and eventually married her husband/Genesis Annual Luncheon Co-Chair Crayton Webb.  

Crayton and Nikki Webb

Next Crayton took the mic and announced that this year’s HeRO Award, which honors men who take a public stand against domestic violence, would be going to former Dallas Police Chief David Brown. The ex-chief, Crayton said, “was involved in preventing domestic violence long before” the tragic police shootings on July 7, 2016. Brown would accept the award, it was explained, at the May 15 luncheon at the Hilton Anatole.

With that, Genesis Women’s Shelter CEO Jan Langbein took over, explaining that the 2017 Jane Doe Award—which honors groups or individuals who stand strongly in support of domestic-abuse victims—would be going to the Junior League of Dallas. Jan, who was initially exposed to Genesis as a JLD volunteer and later won its highest honor, the Mary Harriman Community Leadership Award, explained that Genesis currently enjoys the services “of the most JLD volunteers of any nonprofit in Dallas.”

Nancy Best and Jan Langbein

Bonner Allen

Accepting the Jane Doe award was Bonner Allen, the league’s 2016-2017 president. While 2017-2018 President Jennifer Tobin looked on, Bonner proudly said, “I can’t tell you how much this award means to us. I couldn’t think of a better partner [for the league] than Genesis.”  

JUST IN: JPMorgan Chase Exec Michelle Thomas To Chair TACA Board Starting January 1, 2018

It’s just been announced that JPMorgan Chase VP of Corporate Responsibility and Community Relations Michelle Thomas will become TACA’s board chair. She will succeed current chair Donna Wilhelm on January 1, 2018, and will hold the position until December 31, 2019.

Michelle Thomas*

According to Donna, “We are thrilled that Michelle will chair the board of directors, and I know TACA will be in excellent hands with her at the helm. Michelle has a rare combination of leadership abilities, strategic insight and skills that will help elevate TACA and its mission of providing financial support and resources to the arts.”

Michelle is well-acquainted with both TACA and the importance of North Texas fundraising, having been “responsible for managing a multi-million dollar corporate giving budget for the Dallas-Fort Worth and Oklahoma regions. She is also responsible for implementing the firm’s strategic approach to philanthropy, which is multifaceted and aims to address community needs in the local market.”

Having served on TACA’s board, Michelle has chaired the TACA Silver Cup Luncheon.

Michelle commented, “I am honored to lead TACA, which has focused on transforming lives through the arts for 50 years. With TACA expanding its grants to include the visual arts, as well as creating a social impact fund, it’s an exciting time to work with the other board members to help lead the organization to even greater heights.”

Her volunteer efforts have included serving on the Advisory Board of the Center for Nonprofit Management, Junior League of Dallas and the Kipp DFW Council, Board of Directors for the Methodist Health Foundation and the UT Southwestern Medical Foundation. 

The Dallas native’s collection of accolades include 2014 Minority Business Leader in the Dallas Business Journal and being the recipient of the 2015 Business and Civic Leader award from the Dallas Black Dance Theater, the 2015 Income Award from United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and the 2017 Heritage Award from the African American Museum.  Under her leadership, JPMorgan Chase was named Outstanding Corporation of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2015.

* Photo credit: James Edward

Five Outstanding Women Are Honored At The Dallas Women’s Foundation’s Leadership Forum And Awards Dinner

The Dallas Women’s Foundation really knows how to throw a VIP reception. Consider the one held before the group’s May 9 Leadership Forum and Awards Dinner, which was intended to honor the recipients of the foundation’s 2017 Maura Women Helping Women and Young Leader Awards.

Inside the packed VIP reception room at the Omni Dallas Hotel were not just one or two, but all five of the women who were the very first recipients of the Women Helping Women awards back in 1978 and 1979. Mixing with the guests were Maura McNeil, for whom the Maura Awards are named; Vivian Castleberry; Ginny Whitehill; the Hon. Eddie Bernice Johnson; and the Hon. Adlene Harrison.

Maura McNiel*

Adlene Harrison and Susie Marshall*

Francis Griffin Brown and Ginny Whitehill*

Vivian Castleberry and Hind El Saadi El Jarrah*

Outside the VIP tete-a-tete, meantime, many of the evening’s 850 guests were preparing to sweep into the Dallas Ballroom for the program and a wonderful dinner (saffron poached pear salad, grilled petite filet and breast of chicken, assorted vegetables, and two types of tarts). The event’s co-chairs, Cheryl Alston and Laura V. Estrada, got things under way by thanking the presenting sponsor, AT&T, before giving way to Roslyn Dawson Thompson, the Dallas Women’s Foundation’s president and chief executive officer.

Laura V. Estrada, Brenda L. Jackson, Roslyn Dawson Thompson and Cheryl Alston*

Ros thanked everyone and pointed out that, since 1985, the foundation has invested more than $32 million in “advancing positive social and economic change for women and girls in our community.” Then Brenda Jackson, the foundation’s selection committee co-chair, presented the honorees for the 2017 Maura Awards, which recognize exceptional leaders who have pioneered the way in improving lives for women and children.

Elba Garcia, Lupe Valdez and Madeline McClure*

Amy Ooi, Tonya Parker and Wei Wei Jeang*

Ellenore Knight Baker and Cynthia Nwuabani*

This year’s Maura winners were: Dr. Hind Jarrah, Ph.D., executive director of the Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation; Madeline McClure, founding CEO of TexProtects, the Texas Association for the Protection of Children; the Hon. Tonya Parker, judge of the 116th Civil District Court in Dallas County ; and Sheriff Lupe Valdez, the highest-ranking law enforcement officer in Dallas County. The 2017 Young Leader Award also was presented by Ellenore Knight Baker and Zeenat Sidi to Cynthia Nwaubani, CPA. 

In a series of videos about the honorees, Jarrah urged women to “look at leadership as an ability to serve.” Parker said that while there are “lots of women lawyers,” they need to take more prominent roles in the legal system: “We’re not getting speaking roles at the courthouse. Come argue the brief—don’t just write them!” Added Valdez: “Do what you need to do to step up and grow a little bit.”

Following a plea for donations—”Text Maura to 41444 to donate. Don’t hesitate; do it now!”—AT&T’s Jennifer Biry introduced the evening’s keynote speaker: Carla Harris, who is vice chairman, global wealth management, managing director, and senior client advisor at Morgan Stanley.

Harris, who was appointed by President Barack Obama to chair the National Women’s Business Council in 2013, told the attendees that “you take your life from success to significance when you do things for other people.” And doing for others through leadership, she said, is “all about the letters in the word ‘leader.’ ” Then she proceeded to tick off the word’s six letters, attaching a nugget of wisdom to each one.

Carla Harris*

“L is for ‘leverage,’ ” Harris began. “You need to encourage out-of-the-box thinking, and leverage other people’s ideas. E is for ’empower.’ A leader must define what success looks like for [her people], even when you’re operating in an obscure environment. A is for ‘authentic.’ Authenticity is at the heart of your power, and at the heart of powerful leadership. If you’re authentic, people will trust you, and it will motivate and inspire others to be authentic, too.

“D is for ‘decisive’ and ‘diversity,’” Harris continued, first explaining the decisive part. “Meg Whitman, when she was at eBay, said, ‘The price of inaction is greater than the price of making a mistake.’ Make people know that you are decisive!” As for diversity, Harris said, “We are all competing around innovation. To be innovative, you need a lot of different ideas in the room. You need a lot of perspectives. You need a lot of experience. So, you need a lot of different people. There’s the business argument for diversity!

“E is for ‘engage,’” Harris went on. “You must engage your people. You can’t motivate by fear. This is especially true for women and millennials. What motivates them? You need to ask them, ‘What’s your experience? What’s the stretch experience you’re looking for?’”

Finally, Harris said, “R is for ‘risk.’ You must be comfortable taking risks. The way to differentiate yourself is to show that you’re comfortable taking risks. Why don’t we take more risks? Because we’re scared. Fear. And fear has no place in your success equation. If you’re not sure about trying something, always default to the try.”

Harris’ message was especially apropos because, when it comes to women and girls in North Texas, no group “defaults to the try” like the Dallas Women’s Foundation. As it proved, once again, with this dinner.

* Photo credit: Kristina Bowman

Under Perfect Skies Artscape Reimagined Patrons Toured The Remarkable Art Collection At Hall Arts

The weather couldn’t have been more perfect for an outdoor affair. While the Dallas Women’s Foundation was over at the Omni on Tuesday, May 9, the art loving/environmental fans were sipping wine and taking tours of Kathryn and Craig Hall’s art at Hall Arts.

Patricia Meadows, Jane and Chick Pierce and Kaki Hopkins

Charles and Cindy Feld

Sarah Hoffman and Kymberley Scalia

The occasion was the Dallas Arboretum’s Artscape Reimagined patron party. While Artscape Honoree Craig Hall was juggling appearances with another Hall-sponsored event upstairs, Artscape Chair Kaki Hopkins was charmingly advising people like Cindy and Charles Feld, Jane and Chick Pierce, Sarah Hoffman, Kymberley Scalia, George Tobolowsky and Shelton Hopkins to follow petite art curator Patricia Meadows on a tour of the property art collection.

Hall Arts

Donna Arp Weitzman and Herb Weitzman

Donna Arp Weitzman revealed that a script was being prepared based on her book “Cinderella Has Cellulite: And Other Musings From A Last Wife.” Her two caveats:

  1. It can’t be based on a dumb woman.
  2. And it can’t be a Dallas woman.

As one guest eyed the naked men assembled on the exterior of the elevator, he pointed to the nameplate and admitted, “I thought it was a piece of art, too.”

Steinynn Thorarinsdottir’s “Paths”

The event was all in preparation for the formal presentation of the Artscape Award and auction dinner at the Dallas Arboretum on Friday, May 12.

Fifth Annual Can Do! Luncheon Brought Out Stories From All Walks Of Life For The Wilkinson Center Fundraiser

The Fifth Annual Can Do! Luncheon not only ran on time, it sliced off ten minutes with guests scurrying on their way to the valet ten minutes earlier than planned at the Dallas County Club on Tuesday, May 9.

It was a sell-out crowd for The Wilkinson Center fundraiser and it was a heady crowd, thanks to Co-Honorees Ashlee and Chris Kleinert, The Real Estate Council and Wilkinson Center supporters.

Regina Montoya

Craig Innes

Sara Martineau and Nelda Cain Pickens

In the crowd filling the DCC ballroom were Nancy Ann Hunt, Carolyn and David Miller, Ros Dawson Thompson, Gail and Gerald Turner, Angie Kadesky, Marsha and Craig Innes, Kristi Francis, Ellen McStay, Pam Perella, Tucker Enthoven, Stacey Walker, Cheryl Joyner, Suzy Gekiere, Leslie Diers and Sara Albert with their mom Cynthia Melnick, Jan Langbein, Sara Martineau, Nelda Cain Pickens, Regina Montoya, Jeanne Marie Clossey and Jennifer Swift.

Ros Dawson Thompson and Nancy Ann Hunt

Jennifer Swift

Marsha Innes

In keeping with other fundraisers, there was emphasis placed on text messaging donations. Whether it was Event Chair Beth Thoele or stand-up signage on tables, the message was strong to text. The problem with the text donating is that while the younger members of the audience know how to donate via their cellphones, the older crowd and the ones with the most ka-ching shied away from the idea.

Luckily, the Wilkinson message was delivered thanks to The Wilkinson Center Executive Director Anne Reeder with testimony from Bank of America’s Maria Padilla, who told of her coming to the U.S. when she was 9 years old with her mother and siblings. The purpose was to get an education. She recalled the days when she had to translate for her mother and go to McDonald’s and eat while her mother didn’t, because there just wasn’t enough money. Today her brother is an architect, her sister is a teacher and Maria has not only graduated from college but has earned a saster’s degree from SMU.

Robin Minick and Kelcey Hamilton

Following a video, the first award of the day was presented to The Real Estate Council. In accepted the award, TREC VP and Foundation Director Robin Minick spoke briefly about the similarities between The Wilkinson Center and TREC, which share a mission “to improve the lives of the people of Dallas.”

Next up were the Kleinerts. Chris started off admitting that he had been impressed by the Can Do containers with flowers on the table near the stage and had told their son to grab one after the lunch, so they could give it to Ashlee for upcoming Mother’s Day. Oops! He hadn’t realized that the containers were the awards.

Then he pointed out that the spirit of the Can Do Luncheon is about encouraging entrepreneurship and used as an example a recent news story about a youngster in Rockwall. It seems 7-year-old Kaden Newton had recognized the fact that many food pantries were in short supply when it came to healthy and kid-friendly food. So he created a program for Mac and Cheese and Pancakes to meet that need. Within the first two weeks, he had raised more than 10,000 items.

Ashlee and Chris Kleinert, Beth Thoele, Anne Reeder and Monique Weber

The Wilkinson Center’s Monique Weber also received a standing ovation for her story of surviving heart-rending challenges. She told how she had lost her son to a murder in Chicago and moved to Dallas, only to find herself homeless. She turned to Wilkinson Center’s Food Pantry, where she found a family of support in its staff. They not only provided food but also helped her earn her diploma and receive a scholarship to attend a community college, where she is training to become a surgical technician.