The Wilkinson Center Is Dealing With The Loss Of Volunteer Vickie Thompson And The Need For The Can Do! Lunch To Change

Vickie Thompson (File photo)

The Wilkinson Center’s Anne Reeder admitted that the past week has been tough. Longtime Wilkinson volunteer and “Lakewood Mom” Vickie Thompson suddenly died of a heart attack following the Lakewood 4th of July parade. It was just a year or so ago that Vickie had been named Wilkinson’s volunteer of the year. Whether it was pitching in to help the community or rallying others to the need of an individual, she exemplified the very word “volunteer.”

For those who knew Vickie, it’s hard to imagine the Lakewood neighborhood and the Center being without the blonde powerhouse leading the charge.

Anne had hardly adjusted to that news when she learned that the Sixth Annual Can Do! Luncheon was going to have to change. No, not the event itself, but rather the traditional date and possibly the location. Since its inception, the fundraising luncheon spotlighting entrepreneurship had been held at the Dallas County Club on the second Tuesday of May.

But it seems the Club had recently notified event planners and members that a new policy limited events with more than 100 guests to Mondays, Saturdays and Sundays only.

Anne Reeder (File photo)

Emilynn Wilson (File photo)

What’s a girl to do?

Luckily, Anne had already arranged for fundraising force-of-nature Emilynn Wilson to chair the 2018 luncheon. It was Emilynn who hauled in a whopping $283,435 for the Callier Cares Luncheon this past April at the DCC.

Comparing notes the ladies bit the bullet and booked Monday, May 7, at the DCC.

So, white out May 8 and ink in the new date for the 2018 Can Do! Luncheon. This one is going to be tough without Vickie, but one can’t help but suspect that her spirit will fill the room.

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.

Kathy And Larry Helms Opened Their Highland Park Home For The 2017 Can Do Luncheon Underwriters

Unfortunately due to the trendy head cold making the rounds, Can Do! Luncheon Co-Honoree Ashlee Kleinert was a no-show at Kathy and Larry Helms’ Highland Park palazzo for The Wilkinson Center’s fundraiser underwriters on Thursday, April 20.

Chris Kleinert, Anne Reeder, Beth Thoele, Kristi Francis and David Miller

Luckily, healthy husband/fellow honoree Chris Kleinert represented the duo, who would be recognized along with The Real Estate Council at the May 9th lunch at the Dallas Country Club.

Larry and Kathy Helms and Marsha and Craig Innes

Wilkinson Center Executive Director Anne Reeder was bracing herself for a busy Friday. In addition to attending her Hockaday reunion luncheon, she was also slated to be part of the Earth Day festivities that her daughter Laura Reeder was involved in.

Meredith Diers and Leslie Diers

Nancy Bierman and Carolyn Miller

In the crowd were Marsha and Craig Innes, Luncheon Chair Beth Thoele (husband Chuck Thoele arrived a half hour into the event admitting that he was late), Underwriting Chair Kristi Francis, Carolyn and David Miller, Leslie Diers with daughter Meredith Diers and Nancy Bierman.

Can Do Luncheon Patron Party Brought Out Guests In Spring Colors And Honorees Ashlee And Chris Kleinert And Texas Real Estate Council

With winds blowing skirts and leaves every which way as a norther trumpeted it the weekend nearing on Thursday, March 23, The Wilkinson Center’s Can Do Luncheon Patron Party wasn’t ruffled at all at Tootsies.

Chris and Ashlee Kleinert and Helen Hunt and Harville Hendrix

As Luncheon honorees Ashlee and Chris Kleinert received a bouquet of flowers from Ashlee’s aunt Helen Hunt and her husband Harville Hendrix, other family get-togethers were taking place.

Kristi Francis, Chris and Ashlee, Beth, Kelcey Hamilton and Anne Reeder

In another part of Tootsies, Kelcey Hamilton, who was repping honoree the The Real Estate Council, was being congratulated by Can Do Underwriting Chair Kristi Francis.

Chuck and Beth Thoele

Luncheon Chair Beth Thoele greeted husband Chuck Thoele and admitted that she was torn between going bright or black. Evidently bright won out, since she was wearing a turquoise jacket.

The Wilkinson Center Executive Director Anne Reeder’s daughter Laura Reeder reported that the EarthxGlobal Gala had had a change of plans. Originally, organizers had scheduled the gala for Saturday, April 22 at the Women’s Center at Fair Park. Then they discovered that the Art Ball was taking place on that Saturday. So, they moved both the date and the location to Friday April 21, to the Texas Discovery Garden.

Laura Reeder and Dana Fay

But on this evening the Kleinerts were receiving congrats from Chela Moros, Dana Fry, Missy Quintana, Linda Secrest, Heidi Meier, Annie Wang, Kay Weil, Meridith Myers, Angela Jones, Ann Francis, Chrystie Trimmell, Melanie Myers, Darlene Ellison, Tucker Enthoven, Bianca Sterling and Dorothy Amin Modabberi.

Tickets for the luncheon honoring the “can-do” spirit on Tuesday, May 9, at the Dallas Country Club can be gotten here. This event is one that runs right on schedule and leaves guests smiling about the accomplishments of both friends and strangers who have experienced the Wilkinson Center program.

JUST IN: Wilkinson Center’s 2017 Can Do! Luncheon Chair Beth Thoele Reveals Plans Including Awardees

Can Do! Luncheon (File photo)

Can Do! Luncheon (File photo)

One of those luncheons that always makes people feel good about their neighbors and their community is the Wilkinson Center’s Can Do! Luncheon. While only five years old, it has already gained a reputation for highlighting the accomplishments of the well-known and should-be-known types.

Beth Thoele, who will also be chairing the Equest Women’s Auxiliary’s fall luncheon, is heading up the Can Do! Luncheon on Tuesday, May 9, at the Dallas Country Club.

Beth Thoele (File photo)

Beth Thoele (File photo)

Ashlee and Chris Kleinert (File photo)

Ashlee and Chris Kleinert (File photo)

As for the awardees, who represent the entrepreneurship in philanthropy, they will include the Texas Real Estate Council, Ashlee and Chris Kleinert and “a Wilkinson Center client.”

Sold-Out 2016 Can Do! Luncheon Celebrated Food For Thought And Stories Of Success By Wilkinson Center Clients

Can Do! Luncheon

Can Do! Luncheon

Those Melnick sisters must have a great relationship with Mother Nature. Last year Leslie (Melnick) Diers chaired The Wilkinson Center’s Can Do! Luncheon under clear skies. This was a first for the annual Wilkinson Center fundraiser that had previously had all types of thunder-bumper creating issues. This year Leslie’s sister Sara (Melnick) Albert chaired the 2016 Can Do! Luncheon and despite endless days of rain and storms, Tuesday, May 10, was clear, at least at noontime at the Dallas Country Club.

Sara Melnick Albert

Sara Melnick Albert

And the crowd of nearly 250 validated the theory that good weather turns out loads of folks. Luckily, the Wilkinson team was prepared with a game plan that was designed to run like an atomic clock. It was to officially start at 11 .m. and close at 1 p.m. That’s one of the perks of the Can Do! Luncheon. It appreciates guests and their time commitments.

Cynthia Melnick

Cynthia Melnick

Ellen McStay and Craig Innes

Ellen McStay and Craig Innes

Even before the official registration table was to open, guests were already in the club’s reception area “registering and mingling.” Within a half hour, the place was jammed with the likes of Melnick parents (Cynthia and Lester), Ellen and John McStay, Linda Perryman Evans, Nancy Gopez, Marsha and Craig Innes, Brett Gray, Kristina Whitcomb, Christi Carter, Jill Smith, Helen LaKelly Hunt and Harville Hendrix, Susan Farris, Tori Mannes, Laura Reeder, Katherine Coker and Tucker Enthoven, who had hosted the patron party.

Regina Montoya and Brett Gray

Regina Montoya and Brett Gray

Linda Perryman Evans

Linda Perryman Evans

As if the guests knew the schedule, they took their places at tables in the ballroom. While officially a sell-out, the tables weren’t jammed together in the ballroom due to the fact that a couple of table sponsors donated their tables at the last minute.

Joe Acosta

Joe Acosta

Wilkinson Center Board of Directors President Joe Acosta welcomed the group and thanked Sara and the committee and introduced Hannah Buchanan, who provided the invocation. There was then a 20-minute break for lunch (cucumber soup, pan seared herb chicken with roasted fingerling mashed potatoes, baby carrots, broccolini and asparagus and apple pecan gastrique followed by salted caramel cheesecake topped with fudge sauce and whipped cream) to be served.

At noon Sara was at the podium thanking her committee, showing the inaugural issue of the Wilkinson newsletter and reminding folks that the centerpieces could be had for $20. She then turned to a key subject of the day — the Center’s food pantry. If everyone in the room texted “Pathways” to 24700 with a $75 donation, it would stock the Wilkinson’s pantry for the summer. Cellphones were seen being put to use.

Anne Reeder

Anne Reeder

Following a video on the Wilkinson Center, the Center’s Executive Director Anne Reeder introduced another video about the clients who are served by the Center that started off in 1983  as a neighborhood resource for food and clothing. Today it has expanded to include programs for family enhancement and work education like its newly established GED testing center.

Christina Parks

Christina Parks

Seamlessly, the first two awards of the day were presented to Wilkinson Center clients. First was Christina Parks, who had emerged from a childhood of neglect and abuse. Despite her rough start, she married “Joe,” had a daughter, Alexis, and “settled down to being a new life as a family.” But Christina, Joe and Alexis were “in a horrible accident,” resulting in the death of Alexis. Life became a “day by day” process. with no plans for the future. Years passed and eventually Christina and Joe had other children, and that’s what made her want to change her life. It was in September 2010 that Christina turned to the Wilkinson Center’s Food Pantry to help her feed her family. But she found more than food. Thanks to Wilkinson Center caseworker Sonja Wright, Christina learned about the possibility of earning her GED. The only problem was childcare. But thanks to the Center’s working with Workforce Solutions, “she was eligible for supportive services including childcare.” The results? Not only was she able to enroll in GED classes in September 2015, she moved quickly to the advance program.

It was noted that Wilkinson had 15 of its clients earn their GED this past December. This Saturday Christina would be one of 50 to earn their GED.

Next up was Marilu Rodriquez, who came with her parents from Chihuahua, Mexico, to the States in 1998 looking for a better life. But that also meant challenges, like learning English, earning her GED and becoming a citizen. Due to complications, she found herself being the sole support of her family. In tackling the language barrier, she was advised to go to the Wilkinson Center to learn interviewing skills. It was here that she met Wilkinson Center’s Veronica Tobias, who through the Career Works program, helped Marilu in taking the steps to reach her career path. Yes, her language skills were challenging, but Marilu saw it as an opportunity to improve. As for her advancing from working in a restaurant, she started volunteering at Children’s Health. “In less than a year she was able to turn that volunteer position into a full-time job with benefit as a Patient Care Technician” at Children’s.

Marilu Rodriguez and Veronica Tobias

Marilu Rodriguez and Veronica Tobias

The Wilkinson Center Food Pantry Manager Steve Thompson told how the North Texas Food Bank and the Center had worked side-by-side for more than 30 years. During that time he estimated that the NTFB has distributed more than 1,250 tons of food through the pantry in the past ten years. In addition to providing food, NTFB has also taught clients how to cook and prepare healthy meals for the Center’s clients.

Katherine Perot Reeves

Katherine Perot Reeves

Following a video, Anne told how the first person who took her to lunch when she became the Center’s executive director was NTFB’s Jan Pruitt. Representing Jan in accepting the Can Do! Award was NTFB Board Member Katherine Perot Reeves, who told how last year NTFB provided 63M meals. Yup, that’s right 63,000,000 meals! The plan calls for that number to rise to 92M by 2025.

Sara then introduced a video featuring County Commissioner Elba Garcia, Dallas City Manager A.C. Gonzalez, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Dallas City Councilman Mark Clayton on the day’s final recipient Regina Montoya, who besides her many accomplishments is chairing the Mayor’s committee on Task Force on Poverty.

Regina Montoya

Regina Montoya

Upon accepting the award, she thanked a number of people and organizations. Then Regina told of a play she had seen that made quite an impression on her — “All The Way” — about LBJ. Early in his career he had been a schoolteacher in one of the poorest parts of Texas, where a lot of the students’ parents were migrant workers. During his presidency, he recalled that “he could see these kids coming to his classroom at the very beginning of the school year. But slowly, slowly, he would see the fire that had been in their eyes extinguish as the school year went on because of the struggle that they had to go through realizing that their parents were working as hard as they could to try to put food on their table.” That served as the impetus for Johnson to start the war on poverty.

Regina then told that in today’s Dallas,

  • 38% of kids live in poverty,
  • 90% of children are eligible for free lunches,
  • 70% of those that are poor are working and
  • 41% of the very poor have jobs.

She pointed out Carlin Morris, who was last year’s Can Do! recipient, had started the Center’s shoe drive.

In conclusion, Regina pointed out that her grandparents had come to this country with their children, who” probably had some of those days when they weren’t sure where the next meal was going to come from.” On this day Regina’s 92-year-old father and 85-year-old mother were seated at the front row table watching their Harvard Law School graduate daughter being recognized for their—and her—“can do” spirit.

For more photos from the Can Do! Luncheon, check out MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.

 

MySweetCharity Photo Gallery: 2016 Can Do! Luncheon

Can Do! Luncheon

Can Do! Luncheon

As the spring season of luncheon fundraisers was starting to calm down, one of the annual favorites took place on Tuesday, May 10, at the Dallas Country Club — Can Do! Luncheon. Is it because it is timed down to the second, so guests don’t feel like they should have brought their jammies? Is it because it recognizes people and organizations that have a “can-do” spirit? Is it because it benefits The Wilkinson Center and its “little-train-that-could” attitude? Is it because the food’s pretty darn good?

Cynthia Melnick

Cynthia Melnick

Regina Montoya and Brett Gray

Regina Montoya and Brett Gray

Perhaps it’s all those reasons why this relatively new event was once again a sell-out with multi-generations in attendance. While the post is being prepped, there are pics at MySweetCharity Photo Gallery with some familiar and new faces.

Can Do Luncheon Patrons Enjoyed A Beautiful Evening At Tucker and Rich Enthoven’s Preston Hollow Estate

The skies were clear, but the local eyes weren’t so lucky. With all types of pollen filling the air, eyes were bloodshot, noses were runny and achoos were the song of the day. Welcome to North Texas. As one doctor once claimed, “If I were starting out, I would have been an allergist in North Texas.” Then doc admitted that the only busier practitioner would have been an allergy specialist in Houston — “Boy have they got their work cut out!”

But on Wednesday, April 27, there was not a cloud in the flawless blue sky. OK, there was a Southwest jet crossing the sky, but still.

Tucker and Rich Enthoven's backyard

Tucker and Rich Enthoven’s backyard

Just the night before the area community had been on standby for all types of scary weather stuff. But on this evening, Tucker and Rich Enthoven’s home-sweet-home and its fabulous grounds could not have been more spectacularly perfect with the tennis court, the pool and elevated terraces.

Sara Melnick Albert, Tucker Enthoven, Regina Montoya and Anne Reeder

Sara Melnick Albert, Tucker Enthoven, Regina Montoya and Anne Reeder

Anne Conner and Susan Phillips

Anne Conner and Susan Phillips

The gathering, which included Anne Conner, Debbie Oates, Linda Perryman Evans and Sara Martineau, was for The Wilkinson Center’s “Can Do Luncheon” patron party. Leslie Diers was doing front door greeting of guests as her mom Cynthia Melnick chatted with guests in the mansion and Leslie’s sister/Luncheon Chair Sara Melnick Alberts was on the terrace talking with Can Do award recipient Regina Montoya and her husband Paul Coggins… Wilkinson Center Executive Director Anne Reeder was chatting with Susan Phillips about her Shih Tzu’s reactions to the previous night’s thunder and lightning.

But the real subject of the night was the luncheon on Tuesday, May 10, at the Dallas Country Club that will recognize Regina and the North Texas Food Bank that has been such a vital part of The Wilkinson Center’s efforts to help families in need. This luncheon will be the fourth year that The Wilkinson Center has recognized those with the “can-do” spirit.

Sold-Out Alert!: The Wilkinson Center’s Can Do! Luncheon

Can Do Luncheon*

Can Do Luncheon*

It’s too late. Those Wilkinson Center folks just gobbled up the tickets for Tuesday’s Can Do! Luncheon at the Dallas Country Club. Now, it’s in a sold-out state of mind.

But never fear. You know the drill. Perhaps a nice donation could open up a seat or two or three.

Insider tip: The registration is closed, but try contacting The Wilkinson Center Director of Development Dana Fay at 972.284.0389. You’ll have to scurry hurry, though.

* Graphic courtesy of The Wilkinson Center

Grovel Alert: 4th Annual Can Do Luncheon

With the 4th Annual Can Do Luncheon just days away, Event Chair Sara Melnick Albert is reporting that there are just a few seats left to make it a sell-out. This year’s fundraiser for The Wilkinson Center at the Dallas Country Club on Tuesday, May 10, is honoring North Texas Food Bank, Regina Montoya, Chair of the Mayor’s Task Force on Poverty, Marilu Rodriquez and Christina Park.

Sara Melnick Albert (File photo)

Sara Melnick Albert (File photo)

Regina Montoya (File photo)

Regina Montoya (File photo)

Anne Reeder (File photo)

Anne Reeder (File photo)

The luncheon is a marvelous introduction for folks to learn about one of East Dallas’ little-known organizations that successfully supports people and families in becoming healthier, smarter and more productive.

Thanks to Wilkinson Center Executive Director Anne Reeder, this luncheon runs on schedule, so guests aren’t late to their next appointments. But they do leave with better knowledge how they can contribute to their neighbors thanks to the services (adult education, family enhancement and food and emergency services) provided by the Center.

Tickets are still available to help Sara cross the finish line of a sellout.

The Wilkinson Center’s Can Do! Luncheon Kicks Off At Kendra Scott

There are problems when your fav nonprofit hosts an event. But then there are perks.

Anne Reeder

Anne Reeder

The latter was the case for The Wilkinson Center Executive Director Anne Reeder at the Thursday, February 25, kick-off for The Wilkinson Center’s 4th Annual Can Do! Luncheon. Sure, Anne was surrounded with all types of Kendra Scott goodies, but there was a certain necklace that caught her eye. Perhaps it was its versatility. It could go casual or spiffy uptown classy. Or, perhaps the cast of colors that just mesmerized and seemed to go with everything in her wardrobe? And it certainly didn’t hurt that a portion of the evening’s purchases benefited The Wilkinson Center.

Whatever, Anne was pretty well hooked. But when Marketing/Events Manager Vodi Cook whispered a reminder that a percentage of the evening’s sales went to the Center, the deal was pretty much sealed.

Meredith Zidell, Sloan Looney Dix, Stephanie Taylor and Amy Parker

Meredith Zidell, Sloan Looney Dix, Stephanie Taylor and Amy Parker

Others checking out the goodies were Cynthia Melnick, Meredith Zidell, Sloan Looney Dix, Stephanie Taylor, Amy Parker and Anne Conner, who was helping husband Terry Conner transition into retirement.

The annual Wilkinson Center’s fundraising luncheon on Tuesday, May 10, at the Dallas Country Club is being chaired by Sara Melnick Albert. This year’s awards will be presented to Regina Montoya and North Texas Food Bank.

Regina Montoya, Cynthia Melnick and Sara Melnick Albert

Regina Montoya, Cynthia Melnick and Sara Melnick Albert

Wonder if Anne will be wearing a new necklace from Kendra Scott?

A Simple “Thank You” Exemplifies Can Do! Lunch When It Comes To A Positive Spirit

While the Cattle Baron’s Ball gals in their stiletto heels and puffy skirts were checking out the Koch fashions at Korshak, the rest of nonprofits types were filling the Dallas Country Club ballroom for the Can Do! Luncheon. Much to Luncheon Chair Leslie Diers‘ relief, no tornadoes were on alert. Why, the only hitch was a three-minute shower that took place during the luncheon with nary a guest aware.

Can Do! Luncheon sell-out crowd

Can Do! Luncheon sell-out crowd

Bryan and Leslie Diers

Bryan and Leslie Diers

Inside it was a sell-out and a positive one at that. Instead of your typical luncheon, where guests see sad faces on a video and have guilt served with their coffee, this one was served up with an extra helping of feel-good.

Craig and Marsha Innes and Lauren Innes Jackson

Craig and Marsha Innes and Lauren Innes Jackson

In the crowd were Wilkinson Center Board President Melanie Myers, Board Member Craig Innes with his wife Marsha Innes and daughter Lauren Innes Jackson, John McStay, Jan Pruitt, Paige McDaniel, Sara Martineau, Frank Risch, Joyce Lacerte, Jennifer and Joe Clifford, Sarah Nelson, Bryon Sanders, Joan Eleazer, Mary Jalonick and Leslie’s husband Bryan Diers and her mom Cynthia Melnick.

Joe and Jennifer Clifford

Joe and Jennifer Clifford

Joan Eleazer

Joan Eleazer

Benefiting Wilkinson Center, the luncheon’s videos focused on what had been achieved through education and championing clients to get on their feet.

Tying into its East Dallas roots, Leslie and Wilkinson Center Executive Director Anne Reeder arranged to have the blessing provided by Rev. Heather Mustain of Wilshire Baptist Church. That church gained recognition nationally by rallying to support one of its congregation — Louise Troh, whose fiancée died from Ebola last year. Organizers even arranged to have the closing songs performed by the members of the church’s choir.

Wilshire Baptist singers

Wilshire Baptist singers

In addition to videos explain Wilkinson Center’s accomplishments and mission and a talk by board member Bruce Ware, awards were presented for outstanding “Can Do!” examples within the community.

Carlin Morris

Carlin Morris

Carlin Morris, who has championed Wilkinson Center’s shoe drive for children, knew she was going to get the award. What she didn’t know was they were also renaming it The Wilkinson Center Carlin Morris Shoe Drive. Her acceptance speech reflected the thoughtfulness and dedication that runs throughout Wilkinson Center. Since she started volunteering at the center and spearheaded the drive in 1986, more than 36,000 children have received shoes and socks in time for the school year. She told of a Payless manager who approached Carlin and told how, years ago, when she was just 11, she had received her first pair of new shoes thanks to the drive.

Anne Reeder and Brent Christopher

Anne Reeder and Brent Christopher

Communities Foundation of Texas President/CEO Brent Christopher gave an intelligent and articulate talk on Dallas’ position in the philanthropy world. He dropped figures to back his comments like Dallas being in the top 10 cities in regards to philanthropy and its being the largest metropolitan area to rank that high.

Tonya Howard

Tonya Howard

The final recipient was Wilkinson Center client Tonya Howard, whose video showcased a personality with determination and spirit. Before becoming a Wilkinson client, she had worked in a warehouse and was starting a new job at Walmart during the Christmas holiday 2013. But she encounter financial problems and sought rental assistance at the Center. Instead of a temporary fix, she ended up working with her counselor, Myra Collins, who didn’t let up on her to achieve her “field of fascination.” After much work and effort, she achieved her Commercial Driver License. It was a year later, on December 17, 2014, when Tonya made her monthly visit to Wilkinson Center’s pantry that she pulled out her DART badge, having just passed her driver’s test. Seated at the front table, Tonya approached the podium to accept her award with a beautiful smile and still clutching her napkin. Looking at the room filled with people, she seemed a little overwhelmed by the support and applause. Her acceptance speech was to the point and said it all: “Thank you.”

Can Do Patron Party Guests Dined On Central Market Feast At Joyce And Larry Lacertes’ Home Sweetest Home

Tornadoes were tipping through Oklahoma. Once again North Texas lucked out and avoided the hit while the folks north of the Red River took it. But nonprofit fundraising continued in North Texas with The Wilkinson Center’s Can Do! Luncheon taking place at Joyce and Larry Lacerte’s home that blends eye-popping splendor with family comfort including the children’s dining room table and the outdoor furniture. As Joyce put it, she wanted a home that grand kiddos would seek.

Hunter Sullivan, Roxann Vyazmensky and Alice Wright

Hunter Sullivan, Roxann Vyazmensky and Alice Wright

Keeping such a household ready for any occasion, the Lacertes have a brain trust for a house manager — Roxann Vyazmensky. In addition to exemplifying the Lacertes’ hospitality and being an Energizer Bunny Rabbit in making things happen, she’s Joyce’s sister.

The Lacerte library/family room

The Lacerte library/family room

Needless to say, the Can Do patrons were like kids discovering the two-story library/family room highlighted by a mammoth portrait of the Lacerte family over the fireplace across the way from the covered terrace overlooking Prather Park. For the keen of eye, there was even a huge chandelier in the entry hall with the names of the Lacerte children’s names.

Larry Lacerte

Larry Lacerte

Debbie Oates

Debbie Oates

Joyce Lacerte, Carol Seay and Ann Dyer

As Hunter Sullivan crooned on the terrace before ducking out for a gig at the Dallas County Club, and guests like Pam and Vin Perella, Christie Carter, Carol Seay, Ann and Bob Dyer, Sara Martineau, Steve Saxon, Jane Murray, Jennifer Chandler, Sara Albert, Debbie Oates, Nancy Bierman, Linda Secrest and Alice Wright discovered a Central Market feast. In the dining room, the table was filled with charred baby lamb chops, fennel-citrus grilled prawns, baby spinach and strawberry salad tossed in citrus-herb vinaigrette, grilled verlasso salmon and assorted mini pastries, cookies and tarts. In the family room there was a table filled with assorted breads, crackers a chutney to complement the fruit and cheese with assorted dips and spreads.

Dining room table

Dining room table

Even the most dedicated dieters put swimsuit plans on a backburner as they filled plates.

Sara Martineau, Cynthia Melnick and Leslie Diers

Sara Martineau, Cynthia Melnick and Leslie Diers

Just before 7 p.m., Luncheon Chair Leslie Diers welcomed the guests including her mom Cynthia Melnick and her husband Bryan Diers and daughters Meredith Diers and Tracy Diers and recognized luncheon honorees — Communities Foundation of Texas, Carlin Morris and Tonya Howard, who wasn’t able to attend. Leslie also told of the support that U.S. Trust had provided as the presenting sponsor for the May 12th luncheon at the Dallas Country Club.

Carlin Morris, Anne Reeder and Brent Christopher

Carlin Morris, Anne Reeder and Brent Christopher

In addition to the seated luncheon, the Wilkinson Center will also be holding The White Party on Saturday, June 13, at Saint Ann. Each year this party provides that there are plenty of folks in town who want to fundraise and raise fun. According to Wilkinson Center Executive Director Anne Reeder*  this year’s White Party kickoff at Hotel Zaza had around 1,000 and was spectacular.

* Editor's note: Anne's birthday is today - June 1!

Grovel Alert: Can Do! Luncheon

Meredith Diers, Leslie Diers and Tracy Diers

Meredith Diers, Leslie Diers and Tracy Diers

Can Do! Luncheon Chair Leslie Diers failed to mention one thing last night at the  patron party in Joyce and Larry Lacerte‘s library — there just aren’t that many tickets left.

The goal was 300 for the  Wilkinson Center fundraiser on Tuesday, May 12, at the Dallas Country Club and they’re just 18 tickets away.

This year the luncheon will honor Communities Foundation of Texas and Carlin Morris.

BTW, it’s definitely a feel-good event, so if you are little weary of the weather and feeling guilty because you haven’t done enough, grab a ticket now. You’ll be glad you did.

Round Robin March 24: Can Do Luncheon Kick-Off Reception And Friends Of The Arboretum

As weather guessers predicted that all types of scary storms were headed to the North Texas area, the nonprofits hustled up and held their scheduled event on Tuesday, March 24. Over at the Winspear, the Dallas Opera key supporters enjoyed a cocktail reception followed by a dinner onstage. Elsewhere the following events were taking place as the skies above remained true-blue with nary a cloud in sight:

Can Do! Luncheon Kick-Off Reception

Craig Innes and Anne Reeder

Craig Innes and Anne Reeder

Is there any better four-letter word than “Sale”? OK, yeah, the word “Free” may trump “Sale,” but hardly. At Tootsie’s the Wilkinson Center fans were checking out the racks of adorables for the kick-off of the Can Do! Luncheon. Wilkinson Center Executive Director Anne Reeder was looking rather surprised at the news that The White Party Kick-Off Party at Hotel ZaZa on Thursday, April 30, already had 1,300 RSVP’s.

Don’t tell Anne, but according to Wilkinson Center Marketing Director Vodi Cook, the number is actually up to 1,500.

But the evening at Tootsie’s wasn’t just cute gals sipping white wine and champagne and eyeballing the clothes, especially since a portion of the sales benefited The Wilkinson Center. Board Member Craig Innes seemed to know everyone. Rumor has it that Craig has never gotten off a place without a fistful of business cards.

Tiffany Divis, Linda Secrest, Beth Thoele and Christie Carter

Tiffany Divis, Linda Secrest, Beth Thoele and Christie Carter

Christie Carter left early with purchases, as Pam Busbee headed upstairs to try on some possible future residents of her closet.

Leslie and Bryan Diers

Leslie and Bryan Diers

Linda Secrest told Tiffany Divis and Beth Thoele that she was undergoing the preventive skin cancer program. Surprise: Her skin looked flawless. The program must be working beautifully.

Can Do! Luncheon Chair Leslie Diers revealed the luncheon will be held at the Dallas Country Club on Tuesday, May 12, honoring Carlin Morris and the Communities Foundation of Texas with the Can Do! Award.

Friends Of Dallas Arboretum

Timing is everything, and the friends of the Dallas Arboretum couldn’t have had better timing. Less than 24 hours before all types of storms hit the area, the “friends” partied at tables covered with white tablecloths and chairs with white padding on the grounds aside the DeGolyer mansion.

Partying on grounds adjacent the DeGolyer House

Partying on grounds adjacent to the DeGolyer House

The Dallas Blooms: Deep in the Hearts of Texans’ array of tulips, cherry blossoms, azaleas and the rest of the pristine acreage overlooking White Rock were picture perfect even if Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings couldn’t make the event. He was in Washington, D.C., but provided an audio apology.

Dallas Blooms

Dallas Blooms

But the folks who were there included Gillian Breidenbach, Joan and Alan Walne (her foot was still enclosed in a temporary cast), Ban Bywaters and Dallas Arboretum President/CEO Mary Brinegar.

2nd Annual Can Do! Luncheon Raised Funds And Awareness About The Wilkinson Center — “The Very Best Charity In Our Community”

Last year Wilkinson Center Executive Director Anne Reeder faced a tornado warning the morning of the Center’s inaugural Can Do! Luncheon. She was fearful that the threatening weather would dissuade folks from attending the fundraiser at the Dallas Country Club. No such luck!

Can Do! Luncheon

Can Do! Luncheon

On Tuesday, May 13, she looked relieved that the torrential rains that hit the North Texas area had taken place 24 hours beforehand.

It was a tight timeline that Event Chair Christie Carter had planned. Starting at 11:30 a.m. with “greeting and blessing,” she promised to have the closing would take place at 12:50 p.m. Not 1 p.m., not 1:30 p.m., but 12:50 p.m. Did she pull it off? Stay tuned.

Rachel Michell

Rachel Michell

The DCC ballroom was filled to the max for the sold-out event. They couldn’t have even fit a card table in. Anne confessed that club staffers had recommended a couple of “dummy tables,” but the rec was blown away as seats filled with the likes of last year’s Can Do! Recipients Ellen and John McStay, Rachel Michell, Lisa Longino, Lydia Novakov, Caren Kline, Tiffany Divis, Paige McDaniel, Carol Seay, Leslie and Bryan Diers, Katherine Coker, Linda Secrest, Lynn McBee, Nancy Bierman, Can Do! Patron party hosts Milagros and Horacio Moros and Wilkinson Center Board of Directors Melanie Myers.

Melanie Myers

Melanie Myers

Diane McNulty was still receiving congrats about the recent Artistic Impressions of Management showcasing the relationship between art and business to benefit the Naveen Jindal School of Management at the University of Texas at Dallas. The one-night gala transformed the school’s first floor into an art gallery. One of the highlights of the show was “The Glamour Age of Flights” focusing on “a look back at iconic Braniff International Airlines photographs and posters.”

The accessory du jour was the shawl. After all the temps were in the 60’s outside providing just enough chill that those spring silk and cotton outfits needed a little shoulder warmth.

Despite a couple of minor lighting challenges in the ballroom, the event went off without a hitch. It’s hard to imagine that it ran as tightly as a Swiss clock but this one did.

Anne gave a brief welcome recalling her recent hip surgery and the cards received from Wilkinson Center kiddos. One of the children sent a note — Hip, Hip Hurray. Another said she hoped Anne survived her surgery because she deserved to enjoy a happy life.

Anne Reeder

Anne Reeder

That last mention created a rallying point for Anne as she described people with whom the Wilkinson Center encounters who do not have happy lives — a hungry three-year, who started shivering and crying when he saw the shelves of food at the center; the woman who just needed a pair of shoes, an ID and a bus pass for her first day as a McDonald’s employee; the 12-year-employee who was let go because her employer discovered she was illiterate; or a little girl who is too tired in school, because her parents’ fighting every night keeps her awake.

As Anne summed it up, “These are the people that we meet every day at Wilkinson Center. And these are the stories we hear. Our job and our mission is to transform the lives of these families and to create pathways for them to self-sufficiency always with dignity and respect. Our job is to create a situation, so they can have happy lives themselves. But we need your help and by being here today, you are helping us.”

Anne and Terry Conner and Christie Carter

Anne and Terry Conner and Christie Carter

Moving along efficiently without losing the impact, the program then presented the first Can Do! Award to Anne and Terry Conner following a video.

Terry took the opportunity to emphasize that “breaking the cycle of poverty begins with education.” He pointed out that before DISD expanded its free-lunch program last year, it was based on household income and low-household income was required to qualify for subsidized lunches. “Last year about 89% of DISD kids qualified. . . . only about 8%, excluding magnet school graduates, of the kids graduate ready for college in DISD.” He encouraged the participation in the after-school and summer programs.

Anne, who has been associated with Wilkinson for 15 years, said that the “Wilkinson Center represents the very best of charity in our community. Helping those who need help the most day in, day out and fulfilling its mission with commitment and compassion.”

Next up was the Women of St. Michael’s Exchange that has contributed $7.8M to the community since its founding in 1958. As Robbie Briggs sat smiling proudly, the video told of how the Exchange in Highland Park Village had originally been operated by the Junior League of Dallas. About 55 years ago, the Women of St. Michael bought the shop from the JLD. There was a big discussion about the purchase and it was put up for a vote. The results were 50-for and 50-against. The president had to cast the deciding vote to take on the Exchange. That president was Robbie’s mom Rosemary Briggs.

Jan Baldwin

Jan Baldwin

Women of St. Michael President Jan Baldwin was joined on stage by Sylvia Hood and Kathy Kelley in accepting the award. Then St. Michael and All Angels Rev. Dr. Bob Dannals hopped up on stage and told how proud he was to be associated with such a fine group of women.

Rev. Dr. Robert Dannals

Rev. Dr. Robert Dannals

Alphonso Brooks

Alphonso Brooks

The final award was presented to Alphonso Brooks, who was in a tomato-red T-shirt and slacks. The military vet, who was in his first year of college, apologized for his appearance, but explained that he had pulled an all-nighter in preparation for his finals. No apologies needed. His story with the Wilkinson Center was a great closer. Thanks to the Center, he had not only been able to achieve his GED, he had was now attending Cedar Valley College full time. But his studies hadn’t kept him from repaying Wilkinson. He still “visits Wilkinson Center one to two times per month to thank staff for the services and assistance he has received.” According to Alphonso, “I couldn’t have done this without Wilkinson Center. The help they provided allowed me to attend college. They have done more for me than any other agency or organization.”

To end the event, St. Michael choir members Kristen and Alex Bumpas sang the benediction.

And the lunch ended at 12:48 p.m.

Round Robin May 7: Can Do! Patron Reception, Genesis Luncheon Patron Dinner And Cattle Baron’s Trailblazer Party

Just before thunder, lighting and buckets of rain hit Dallas on Wednesday, May 7, the non-profit swell-egants were in high spirits.

Can Do! Luncheon Patron Party

The Wilkinson Center’s Anne Reeder was thrilled. Her Can Do! Luncheon had its inaugural year in 2013 and had been such a hit that the upcoming May 13th event was within two tables of being sold out. Last year’s luncheon really tested guests with tornado warnings in the area, but still they came, they saw and they had such a great time, they signed up for this year’s event.

Anne and Terry Conners

Anne and Terry Conner

The secret to this year’s near sell-out success? Perhaps it was due to the fact the “unsung heroes” like Anne and Terry Conner and the Women of St. Michael were this year’s honorees. Like last year’s awardees — Ellen and John McStay and Highland Park United Methodist Church — this year’s group are well-known for amazing deeds but especially known for flying under the radar. And doesn’t everyone love to celebrate hardworkers, who rarely get appreciated?

Bryan Diers, Susan Hardie and Missy Huber

Bryan Diers, Susan Hardie and Missy Huber

And since it was such a beautiful evening, Milagros and Horacio Moros opened the backyard terrace and yard of their Preston Hollow home for Leslie and Bryan Diers, Susan Hardie, Missy Huber, Luncheon Chair Christie Carter and Tiffany and Paul Divis to party with Hunter Sullivan crooning away with his musicians.

Genesis Luncheon Patron Party

Jan Hegi, Pat Conroy and Ellen McStay

Jan Hegi, Pat Conroy and Ellen McStay

Just blocks away on the other side of the Tollway, Nancy and Randy Best hosted a seated dinner for 73 patrons of the 21st Annual Genesis Luncheon. (BTW, Nancy is president of the Genesis Women’s Shelter Board of Trustees.)

Parties at the Best estate are the best, don’t you know! The cocktail reception took place in the entry hall spilling into the living and dining rooms. At one point, a blonde gent appeared at the front door. He was none-other than the guest of honor/luncheon speaker Pat Conroy. Looking more like your best buddy from high school, he quickly was surrounded by new BFF’s and eased into conversation.

Leslie McCabe, Jan Langbein and Barbara Walker

Leslie McCabe, Jan Langbein and Barbara Walker

Jennifer Staubach Gates and John Gates

Jennifer Staubach Gates and John Gates

But soon it was time for supper. But before settling back in the fabulous dining room with its stage and grand piano, a little exercise was in order. So, guests like Ruth and Ken Altshuler, Marianne and Roger Staubach, Jennifer Staubach Gates and John Gates, Jan and Fred Hegi, Ellen and John McStay, Jan Langbein, Susan Wells Jenevein, Barbara Walker, Leslie McCabe, Sidney Powell, Victor Sperandeo and Di Johnston took the stairs leading to the “best” collection of antiquities. And we’re not talking Marie Antoinette chairs. Each time one gets to visit the upstairs museum, it’s like discovering new OMG treasures that date back to prehistoric man.

Ruth and Ken Altshuler, Sidney Powell and Victor Sperandeo

Ruth and Ken Altshuler, Sidney Powell and Victor Sperandeo

Cattle Baron’s Ball Trailblazer Party

Max Stallings band

Max Stallings band

Before the sun even tried to set, The Rustic was maxed out with all types of Cattle Baron’s Ball sponsors for the Trailblazer to hearty party.

Isabell Novakov

Isabell Novakov

Sponsored by PlainsCapital, the venue could handle the overflow crowd of 400 thanks to the outdoor picnic tables and party grounds with a wall of lanterns and a stage for Max Stallings and his band.

CBB-er Lisa Ogle admitted their timing was perfect realizing that the next 24 hours of storming weather would have created an entirely different scenario.

Gibbs Henderson and Marjon Zabihi Henderson

Gibbs Henderson and Marjon Zabihi Henderson

As Max sang on stage and soft drinks cozied up to Miller Lites in a canoe filled to the brim with ice, the crowd included Isabell Novakov, Janie and David Condon, Nancy Gopez, Anne and Steve Stodghill, Katherine LaLonde, D’Andra Simmons and Jeremy Lock, Marjon Zabihi Henderson and Gibbs Henderson, Elizabeth and Alex Laurenzi, Joanna Clarke, Lauren Chapman, Kristi Hoyl and Dee Simmons looking forward to picking up her new puppy, Maddie, on Saturday.

You Still Can Do The Can Do! Luncheon

Anne and Terry Conner (File photo)

Anne and Terry Conner (File photo)

We’re in countdown mode for the Can Do! Luncheon Tuesday. Last year’s good-feeling fundraising luncheon was faced with the threat of tornadoes, but still the guests filled the Dallas Country Club ballroom to support the Wilkinson Center.

This year’s luncheon honors Anne and Terry Conner and the Women of Saint Michael.

Only a few tickets left, so if you want to feel good, have a great lunch and support an incredible program that is “a leading poverty rescue and prevention agency for the working poor, serving over 14,000 annually, mainly in east and southeast Dallas.”

Wilkinson Center’s Can Do! Luncheon Kick-Off Celebrates At Tootsies With Fashion, Friends And Cork-Popping Talk

Tootsies mannequins

Tootsies mannequins

The fundraising season must be truly underway because Tootsies has once again become the go-to-place for non-profits to launch, toast and celebrate. But there was something different on the eve of spring, otherwise known as Wednesday March 19th. Instead of arriving at the Preston Road front door, guests-in-the-know arrived at the back door. So much easier than fighting traffic jammed with drivers headed to their Preston Hollow homes and elsewhere.

Susan Hardie, Leslie Diers and Anne Conner

Susan Hardie, Leslie Diers and Anne Conner

With the sunlight streaming through the windows, guests like Angie Kadesky, Cynthia Beaird, Leslie Diers, Susan Hardie and Jan Baldwin seemed to glisten for the Wilkinson Center’s May 13th Can Do! Luncheon at the Dallas Country Club.

Christy Carter, Tiffany Divis and Angie Kadesky

Christy Carter, Tiffany Divis and Angie Kadesky

For the event the Friends of Wilkinson Center were showing off the Tootsies fashions. But a true standout was Can Do! Luncheon Chair Christie Carter. If ever a misty pink blouse and gray jacket ever hit the spot, they certainly were in the same universe on Christie.

Across the way, Tiffany Divis was realizing her agenda of the three days included the Can Do! Event, Thursday’s Zoo-To-Do at Lela Rose and Spirit of Uganda at Dallas City Performance Hall, and Friday at the Dallas Country Club for Fashion Stars for a Cause. Hopefully, Saturday was slated for a day of rest.

Paul Divis and Mike Lessel

Paul Divis and Mike Lessel

On the other hand, her husband Paul didn’t give a darn. Among all the gals jabbing, he was with his old West Point classmate/cadet Mike Lessel.

Anne Reeder

Anne Reeder

Wilkinson Center Executive Director Anne Reeder was glowing. The Wilkinson Center’s Can Do! Fundraiser was right on target. Perhaps it was because last year’s was such a hit despite tornado warnings in the area. For a first-time event, it really hit the spot with great food, an incredible gathering of supporters and just enough message that everyone walked away feeling dang good.

This year’s event will honor Anne and Terry Conner and the Women of Saint Michael.

But back to the gab. Unless you’re not interested. Then you can move on to the next item on your agenda. Lynn McBee was telling Lisa Longino about the McBees’ wine fav “Gundlach Bundschu” from Sonoma. After a couple of tries and spelling of the winery’s name, Lynn just said, “Think Gun Bun.” To accessorize that vino train of thought, Lisa revealed that after many tries, her favorite wine cork puller was Legacy’s Cork Pops.

Lisa, who orchestrated last year’s Crystal Charity Ball bus tour, missed it this year. But she had a good reason. She had been on the East Coast, where he got to spend time with her three very young grand kiddos. Like most munchkins, they gave their granny something to take home with her — a head cold.

Anne And Terry Conner And Women Of Saint Michael To Be Honored At 2014 Can Do! Luncheon For Their Entrepreneurial Spirit

2014 Can Do! Luncheon*

2014 Can Do! Luncheon*

Love the entrepreneurial spirit. It seems like Dallas is just bulging with the attitude that anything is possible with a little elbow grease, teamwork and dedication. Perhaps that’s why the launch of the Can Do! Luncheon “celebrating entrepreneurship in philanthropy” was such a home run. Yup, despite threats of tornadoes in the area, the Dallas Country Club’s ballroom was filled to the max with folks for the Wilkinson Center fundraiser.

Christie Carter (File photo)

Christie Carter (File photo)

This year’s Can Do! Luncheon Chair Christie Carter has just revealed the honorees for the Tuesday, May 13, luncheon at the DCC.

Terry and Anne Conner*

Terry and Anne Conner*

Taking place at the Dallas Country Club on Tuesday, May 13, the Wilkinson Center fundraiser will honor philanthropists Anne and Terry Conner and the Women of Saint Michael, who run the “highly successful” St. Michael Woman’s Exchange in Highland Park Village.

What makes this event especially gratifying is that the honorees tend to people and organizations that quietly work for the betterment of the community. In some cases, this tribute is the first time that they have been publicly recognized for their efforts.

You may think that May is a lifetime away, but it’s just around the corner along with spring flowers. So, be smart and line up those reservations now.

* Graphic and photo provided by Can Do! Luncheon