While You’ve Been Away

For those who have been away on vacation, you may be wondering if Dallas is still functioning. Since 8:58 p.m. on Thursday, July 7, most locals have continued to show up for work. The shelves at grocery stores are still fully stocked. There has been no shortage of gasoline. Electricity continues to provide air conditioning. ATMs are still blowing out cash. Yes, life has gone on, but not as usual.

Television soap operas and game shows have been replaced with televised memorial services of fallen officers. Drivers have patiently accepted the traffic jams created by the mile-long funeral professions. People who haven’t been to church in years have found themselves there with bowed heads. There has been an influx of uniformed people from around the country. The sound of bagpipes has become all too familiar.

When you return, you’ll see the buildings, parks and neighborhoods are where you left them. But there is an air of change. Like a community swept by a tornado, we are looking at the devastation created by a horrific event. Yes, we are grieving, starting to heal, taking care of the victims and making plans to regroup to prevent such an occurrence from taking place again. But that can only happen if we are willing to come together armed with respect, compassion and courage.

There will be those who scoff that this pie-in-the-sky goal is impossible. They will say that the age-old wall of differences will always stand in the way. But that way of thinking has to be the first barrier to overcome. Dallas has the opportunity to become a role model for other cities in working together and standing united.

We look forward to your coming home and joining a remarkable mission to overcome the differences that have become a disease in this day and time.

A Behind-The-Scenes Peak at Corporate Philanthropy In Times Of Disaster

Since Thursday night’s tragedy, Dallas’ fortitude has amazed people throughout the world. From the city leadership to the memorial building at Dallas Police Headquarters, the shooting has only brought the community closer together to heal. One group that deserves a pat on the back includes the various companies that have immediately stepped in to help the victims and support first responders, especially the Dallas Police Department. Reports have been flying into MySweetCharity about restaurants offering free meals for police, Uber providing free rides to people who were stranded in downtown Dallas Thursday night, and offices making space for workers who were unable to get to their own offices located within the crime-scene zone.

Those in the philanthropic sector have not only been finding ways to provide funding, but have joined in lockstep to find the best ways to help. Thanks to their mutual interest in supporting North Texas, many already had a network in place to help each other immediately. One example is the note sent by Neiman Marcus Director of Charitable Giving Kevin Hurst. It provides a behind-the-scenes look at the philanthropic process undertaken by many corporation and reveals why North Texas is a standout when it comes to pitching in. For your consideration, here is Kevin’s note:

Kevin Hurst (File photo)

Kevin Hurst (File photo)

“It is certainly crazy times…not just in Dallas, but across the land.

I saw your story on Topgolf this morning.  Having been through my first major crisis in Dallas, I was amazed at how the community came together so quickly to support those in need.  In fact, I thought you might appreciate a behind the scenes look on the corporate philanthropy side.

“Like everyone on Thursday evening, I watched the late breaking news to see how things unfolded.  When I finally turned off the television, the devastation was not at its worst. When I awoke Friday morning at 4:30, I immediately checked the news.  That is when reality set in. That is when I went into ‘philanthropy’ mode. As the Director of Charitable Giving at Neiman Marcus, among other things, I oversee the Disaster Relief fund. Although we are a National Disaster Relief Partner with the American Red Cross, there are some crises that need different attention. It should be noted that the Neiman Marcus Disaster Relief fund is entirely funded by the generosity of associates during the annual giving campaign.

“The first step to determining support is to understand the need and identify the appropriate partner(s). In the case of the Dallas attack (and even the recent massacre in Orlando), it is about victim support. This is where the research and due diligence begins. For me, Assist the Officer Foundation (ATO) immediately rose to the top. What most of Dallas may not realize is that there is a network of philanthropy professionals from Dallas companies both large and small. I immediately reached out to my peers at the Dallas Corporate Citizens Network. Although we meet in person on a regular basis, we often email and talk to share best practices and collaborate. Friday, July 8, was one of those days that the spirit of teamwork excelled. We immediately started sharing ideas and names of organizations that we were each considering. As we learned of new initiatives and funds being established during the day (United Way, Dallas Foundation, and Communities Foundation of Texas…to name a few), we shared. In the end, we were all able to make informed decisions about what we deemed best for the community and our respective companies. It was truly remarkable to see how expeditiously and efficiently decisions were made and instituted.

“Throughout the corporate offices of Neiman Marcus, a similar decision-making process began in the wee hours. Decisions and recommendations included staff from the executive offices, human resources, security, marketing, public relations, internal communications, corporate visual, social media, and philanthropy. In the end, the corporate offices and Downtown store remained closed on Friday (safety concerns for associates and greater community), internal messages from the CEO were sent to associates, a corporate message was posted to our clients through social media, memorial windows were designed and installed in the two Dallas stores, and charitable partners were identified. The store memorial window was installed on Friday at NorthPark and on Saturday at Downtown once the store was re-opened. The Neiman Marcus family is always extraordinary; however, there was something about the day and the efforts that made Friday uber-extraordinary.

Neiman Marcus window at NorthPark*

Neiman Marcus window at NorthPark*

“The Neiman Marcus story is certainly not unique. I think there is an opportunity to highlight the amazing efforts of the corporations that react and support the community on a regular basis…more than the usual gala and event support…the quiet support that happens behind the scenes. I personally collaborated with American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Texas Instruments, JPMorgan Chase, Deloitte, WFAA, Fossil, and of course, our valued partner, Communities Foundation of Texas.

“I personally hope that we never have to go through this process again in Dallas…or anywhere…but the reality is that we are in different times.  It is comforting to know that we have the compassion, professionalism, and ability to collaborate for the good of the greater community.”

* Photo provided by Kevin Hurst

UPDATE: Companies Are Already Taking Up Topgolf’s Invitation To Donate To Assist The Officer Foundation

It seems that Topgolf scored a hole-in-one with its being one of the first to donate $10,000 to Assist The Officer Foundation (ATO) and inviting other businesses to join in. It was just reported that the invitation was taken up by PlainsCapital, which donated $25,000 to ATO. In addition, RBC Wealth Management-U.S. is donating $10,000.

The airlines also got on board. Not only are they offering to help fly in families affected by the tragedy, American Airlines is donating $50,000 to ATO and Southwest Airlines is kicking in $75,000.

These contributions are truly amazing when you realize that there was probably nothing budgeted for such a situation. Yet these companies and countless others found the funds to help the victims and their families.

It simply amazes one to think the challenges that this area has faced — a Presidential assassination, a Delta Airline crash, a Super (Ice) Bowl, the Ebola Virus, killer storms and now Thursday night. And yet, the people and companies meet the challenges each time by coming together with resilience, compassion and grace.

Topgolf Initiates Healing Process To Financially Help Dallas Shooting Victims And Their Families

Despite the shock of last night’s shootings, area companies and people are already stepping up to help the victims. The folks at Topgolf have undertaken a “grassroots effort of Dallas businesses supporting local law enforcement after last night’s tragic events downtown.”

According to Topgolf’s Amanda Hill, the Dallas-based company is “pledging $10,000 to the Assist The Officer Foundation, an organization dedicate to making a difference in the lives of families of fallen officers… We’re asking other Dallas-based businesses to join us in donating to the Assist the Officer Foundation.”

There are 12 families, whose lives have been shaken to the core within the last 18 hours. While the emotional loss is daunting, the financial impact is something that the community can assist by donating here.

The foundation provides such services and programs as confidential counseling program, finance assistance (injury/illness), Dallas officer/reserve death benefits (on or off-duty) and line-of-duty benefits.

And this opportunity to help is not limited to companies. Individuals are more than welcome to donate.

Thank you, Topgolf, for providing the input of information and seed money. It is an important step in the healing process.

A Morning Of Mourning

For baby boomers and other old-timers, the news of the sniper(s) in downtown Dallas killing people knee-jerked them back to the nightmare of November 22, 1963. They remembered the days and years of Dallas being damned as a “city of hate.” This time it was a victim of hatred.

It was hard to imagine that the spot where 800 had peacefully marched to protest shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge had become a war zone with police as the key targets. Despite the resulting chaos of civilians running for cover and an unknown number of assailants, city leaders immediately came together to resolve the situation.

For Mayor Mike Rawlings, it had been a rough week already. In addition to the torrential flooding that resulted in the loss of an off-duty officer on Tuesday, his mother-in-law, Willine Gunderson, who had lived with the Rawlings family, had died Monday. She had been more than an in-law for the mayor. At night after putting in a long day of running the city, he would go to her room and talk with her before joining the rest of the family. Just hours before the downtown ambush, he had attended her funeral in Canton. Now, just past midnight, he was mourning the loss of officers and consoling his city.

But he was also letting the world know that Dallas would not tolerate the assassinations. Backing him up was Dallas Police Chief David Brown, who was commandeering the fluid developments. Not only was the city under siege, the situation also provided a ripe opportunity for widespread vandalism. Luckily, the latter was stopped before it could take hold.

But even at this time when Dallas city and county leadership was rising to the occasion, there were some who evidently didn’t realize the gravity of the situation.

In the days ahead, there will be funerals and healing. In the weeks and months ahead, there will be revelations. In the years ahead, this nightmare will require patience, understanding and grit for Dallas and the rest of the country.

JUST IN: Developments In The Aftermath Of Dallas Shootings

Due to last night shootings and the follow-up investigations, the following will take place today:

  • Dallas City Municipal Court, George L. Allen Sr. Civil Courts, Dallas County Administration and Dallas County Records buildings and the Old Red Museum will be closed today and will reopen Monday.
  • The area bordered by Ross Avenue, Houston Street, Jackson and Griffin will be blocked off.

    Downtown Dallas traffic plan for Friday, July 8, 2016*

    Downtown Dallas traffic plan for Friday, July 8, 2016*

  • Among the businesses closed today are Neiman Marcus Downtown and the Neiman’s corporate offices. If you have plans for a meeting or attending a retail establishment in the Central Business District, call ahead and make sure that it’s open.
  • The West End Station and the CBD West Transfer Center will be closed until further notice.
  • For downtown workers, it is suggested to either work from home or get an early start due to parking will be congested due to the cordoned off area.
  • If you have time, consider donating blood for those trying to recover from their injuries.
  • At noon today, there will be an interfaith gathering at Thanks-Giving Square “to heal wounds.”

For further updates throughout the day, check Dallas City News.

* Graphic courtesy of Dallas City News.