Gateway To Opportunity Luncheon Celebrated The Close Of Family Gateway’s 30th Anniversary Year With Laura Bush Recalling A Little Boy Left Behind

Family Gateway’s CEO Ellen Magnis had a real challenge on her hands. Last year’s Gateway To Opportunity kicking off the 30th anniversary of the organization had really been a hit with Jenna Bush Hager on stage in a chat with WFAA’s Ron Corning in the Trinity Ballroom. The blonde former first twin had also scored points at the meet-and-greet in the Fair Park Room, where she even offered to do selfies with VIPs.

Betty Schultz, Laura Bush and Paula Miltenberger

But this year’s luncheon was to be the grand finale for  the 30th anniversary year of the organization for homeless families established by the late, former Mayor Annette Strauss. Ellen with Co-Chairs Paula Miltenberger and Betty Schultz came up with quite a recipe for success. The speaker would be former first lady Laura Bush and the honorary co-chairs would be Annette’s daughters, Nancy Halbreich and Janie McGarr. Was it a success? Evidently so, judging by the turnout that doubled the crowd from the last year and necessitating the move from the 15,418-square-foot Trinity Ballroom to the 31,733-square-foot Dallas Ballroom.

Janie McGarr, Nancy Halbreich, Penny Tower Cook, Laura Bush, Jeanne Tower Cox, Jeanne Whitman Bobbitt and Christine Schuepbach

All was set for the Thursday, September 7th luncheon with a couple of unforeseen oop’s. But what’s an event without a little challenge. For the meet-and-greet, the floorplan diagram had been created like an architectural work of art. No detail had been left out. Only problem arose when the organizers arrived to find that the Omni crew had done their own interpretation that was nowhere near the diagram. After requests to follow the original POA, Omni managers sheepishly arrived to say they didn’t have enough poles and curtains to satisfy the requirements. Seems there were two other events going on and they just ran out. Quickly, the Gateway team and the Bush folks redesigned the plan to achieve their goal with the limited resources.

Rachael Dedman and Vicki Chapman

Lee Ann White, Michael Faircloth and Gene Jones

Despite starting a few minutes later that planned, the meet-and-greet went so smoothly that it finished on time with all being photographed with Laura including Jeanne Cox, Rachael Dedman, Michael Faircloth, Gina Betts, Alison Malone, Tracy Lange, the Tower sisters (Jeanne Tower Cox and Penny Tower Cook), Jeanne Whitman Bobbitt, Christine Schuepbach, Lynn McBee, Becky Bowen and Underwriting Co-Chairs Lisa Cooley and daughter Ciara Cooley. The only one who wasn’t photographed with the former first lady was Ellen. Seems that she was in the lobby helping the check-in staff that had been flooded by the number of guests like Gail and Gerald Turner, Vicki Chapman, Gunnar Rawlings, Lee Ann White and Gene Jones checking in. But that situation was resolved, too.

Gerald and Gail Turner, Alison Malone, Ciara Cooley, Lisa Cooley and Becky Bowen

Promptly at noon, following KDFW’s Clarice Tinsley‘s welcome and Highland Park United Methodist Church Rev. Paul Rasmussem’s invocation, Ellen briefly told of Gateway’s partnering with Matthews Southwest in the creation of a complex in Hutchins with 336 units for families seeking affordable housing. When a client first works with Gateway, their case manager’s first goal is get them in housing and then to work with them on education completion, job training, financial literacy, parenting education and self-care. But she added that part of their mission was to learn and apply new strategies.

Following a video, Paula told how she had gotten involved with Gateway. It was three years ago and her plan had been to keep her boys occupied. Instead she learned the need for solutions. The boys, on the other hand, suggested that they just have the homeless move in with them.

Robert Munoz and Deanna Reyna Munoz

Deanna Reyna Munoz then provided a testimonial, telling how her mother was 16 when Deanna was born. Her father was incarcerated. That’s when they found Family Gateway and for the first time she had her own room, bed and closet. The Gateway staff then helped her mother change into a responsible person resulting in her having her own home. Deanna became the first in her family to attend and graduate from college. She got a job at the Dallas Cowboys and “bought her own home with a pool and married her boyfriend (Robert Munoz) of 10 years. My success stems from the tools provided by Family Gateway.”

That powerful presentation was followed by auctioneer Wendy Lambert’s shout out for funds with a goal to match $225,000. This awkward segment tends to cast an aura of guilt in the room among those who don’t rise to occasion. In this case, the results hauled in $154,000. Or so folks thought as they finished up their meal. But post-event checks and online donations, the challenge was met!

It was now time for the main act with Presenting Sponsor MetroPCS District Manager Brad Pott’s introducing Laura.

  • She started off by thanking all for supporting Family Gateway and provided an update on the Bushes. When Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coat, Barbara and George H.W. Bush were safe and sound in Maine, where Barb is no longer walking the shores with her dogs. Instead she’s rolling around in a golf cart with the pooches following.
  • George W. Bush’s painting has resulted in 98 wounded warriors being subjects, a book “Portraits in Courage” and displayed at the Bush Center.
  • Laura and George W.’s names as grandparents — “It’s like choosing a name for a cat.” George suggested that his grandchild just call him, “Sir.”
  • Laura Bush bobble head doll — A friend gave it to her and reported that “It was on the clearance shelf.”
  • Tabloids — “My daughters were getting engaged to persons I had never heard of.”
  • 9/11 — She was sitting in Ted Kennedy’s office.

Then she tied her talk back to the subject of the day — early childhood care can change the cycle of poverty. Among the 400 families served by Family Gateway last year, there were 900 children.

Laura recalled that long before her husband was governor of Texas or president, she had worked at an inner-city school in Houston and discovered a remarkable level of poverty. Such conditions result in one in three young people dropping out of high school each year, with single-parent families becoming the norm and one or both parents in jail.

When she had completed her work at the school, she decided to take some of her students to AstroWorld. In picking them up, she arrived at one house where the student came to the door in his underwear. His mother never came to the door to provide permission for him to join the group. Before Laura left, she gave the tyke a long hug.

As Laura concluded her talk at 1:04 p.m., she admitted that she often wondered what happened to the youngster. Was he still alive? Did he have a family? What had happened to him over the past decades? She said the challenge is not to forget that little boy or any of the children in need of compassion and assistance.  

Hurricane Harvey’s Devastating Gulf Coast Was A Chief Topic At Gateway To Opportunity Luncheon Patron Party

As the sky was cloudless and the temperatures were unusually cooler for August, the talk at the Gateway for Opportunity Luncheon patron party on Tuesday, August 29, at Lisa and Clay Cooley’s estate was southward. Despite the overwhelming ticket sales for the annual fundraising luncheon with former First Lady Laura Bush, the past days of Hurricane Harvey devastating the Gulf Coast was a concern for both supporters and staff about the evacuees leaving their homes and arriving in Dallas.

Lisa Cooley, Nic Turpin, Tracy Lange and Paula Miltenberger

Family Gateway CEO Ellen Magnis reported how they had received calls from the media on how many evacuees had sought their help. Ellen explained that the immediate assistance was being handled by the Red Cross, The Salvation Army DFW and city and county of Dallas organizations and programs.

But once the initial shock settles in, families opting to settle in Dallas would seek the services and assistance of Family Gateway.

Louise Eiseman and Richard and Betsy Eiseman

Lynn McBee, Brad Cheves and Nancy Halbreich

As the 70+ guests including Event Co-Chair Paula Miltenberger, Brad Cheves, the Eisemans (mama Louise, son Richard and his wife Betsy), Tracy Lange, Michael Faircloth, Lynn McBee, Debbie Francis and Nic Turpin arrived via cart, Honorary Co-Chair Nancy Halbreich recalled her mother/Family Gateway Founder Annette Strauss’ commitment to help homeless families and children by establishing the organization in 1986.  

David Davis and Michael Faircloth

Debbie Francis and Russ

Family Gateway’s Raffle Offers Courtside Seats, Movie Audience VIP Status And Fashionable Designs And Pampering

Talk about variety! That’s exactly what the Gateway to Opportunity raffle line up offers to benefit Family Gateway. There are just five items, but run the gamut from sports to self-indulgence. Here is the lineup:

Abraham Salum (File photo)

Michael Flores (File photo)

Michael Faircloth (File photo)

  • Start off the evening with Abraham Salum’s team preparing dinner for four of you at Salum’s. But make it early because you’ll want to get to the Mavericks game at American Airlines Center early to watch the teams warm up from your two courtside seats and two additional nearby seats. Thank heaven, you’ll have limousine transportation, so you can wear yourself out urging on Dirk and waving on the Mavs Fancam.
  • Who needs a media room when you have a Studio Movie Grill Black Card for two for a year? Just imagine, you’ll be able to skip the hassles of buying tickets and settle back to watch the latest movies. Let’s see. If you and a bud go every day for a year, that would run you between $4,380 and $7,665. Pass the popcorn, but don’t pass up this opportunity.
  • Your fav follicle engineer at Truvy’s Beauty Shop is gonna be heartbroken if you win this item — $1,000 gift certificate for services at the Michael Flores Salon at Neiman Marcus Downtown. Ah, the stories you’ll be able to tell your pals about being glamorized by Michael Flores and his team. Think of it a little like dining from soup to nuts. Instead it will be a feast from roots to pedicure.
  • What’s better than a nip and tuck? Jewelry. It lasts forever, don’t you know. And this 18k rose-gold amethyst pendant necklace with diamond accents designed by Lisa Nik for Bachendorf’s will simply dazzle your neckline. And to show off this dazzler valued at $3,360, what better place than Javier’s, where you’ll have a $200 gift certificate for top-shelf margaritas with Grand Marnier, Fajitas De Cabrito and Flan Al Kahlúa.
  • Is there anything more embarrassing that showing up at a black-tie gala only to see you gown on someone else? Ah, but this item can prevent that from happening thanks to Dallas’ one and only designer extraordinaire Michael Faircloth. The man with notches on his belt for dressing some of the best dressed and a former first lady will create a suit or dress valued at $4,000. And if you’ve ever experienced a Faircloth creation, then you just know Cinderella would have replaced her fairy godmother with Michael.

Going for $50 a ticket, Luncheon Co-Chairs Paula Miltenberger and Betty Schultz have arranged an extra incentive. If you buy five tickets, they’ll throw in an additional one gratis. And if you’re gonna be out of town and unable to attend the luncheon featuring Laura Bush at the Omni Dallas Hotel on Thursday, September 7, not to worry. Paula and Betty will let you know which package you won.

MySweetCharity Opportunity: Gateway To Opportunity Luncheon

According to Gateway To Opportunity Luncheon Co-Chairs Paula Miltenberger and Betty Schultz,

Paula Miltenberger (File photo)

Laura Bush (File photo)

Here is your opportunity to help Family Gateway provide stability and life-changing supportive services to children and families affected by homelessness.  The Gateway To Opportunity Luncheon, presented by MetroPCS, will feature keynote speaker Laura W. Bush on Thursday, September 7, at the Omni Dallas Hotel.  We are thrilled to have civic leaders Nancy Halbreich and Janie McGarr, daughters of Family Gateway founder Annette Strauss, serving as honorary co-chairs of the event.

Laura Bush, First Lady of the United States (2001-2009) is a leading voice for spreading freedom and promoting human rights across the globe.  She advocated the importance of literacy and education to advance opportunity for America’s young people and to foster healthy families and communities.  Today, Mrs. Bush pursues her work on global healthcare innovations and empowering women in emerging democracies through the George W. Bush Institute.  We are honored to have her join us at this important fund-raising event for Family Gateway.

By supporting the Gateway To Opportunity Luncheon you will enable Family Gateway to address the devastating effects of homelessness in our community. Visit for sponsorship opportunities and ticket information.

JUST IN: Top-Tier Moms And Daughters Are Coming Together For Family Gateway To End Homelessness For Children And Their Families

This year’s Family Gateway’s Gateway To Opportunity Luncheon on Thursday, September 7, at the Omni Dallas is simply brimming with all types of mother-daughter relationships. To begin with, the organization was founded by the late Mayor Annette Strauss 31 years ago to “create sufficient stable housing and to expand availability and access to life-changing services to that every homeless child and their family has a path out of poverty to a brighter future.” With Annette’s inspiration in mind, Luncheon Co-Chairs Paula Miltenberger and Betty Schultz have arranged to have Annette’s daughters Nancy Halbreich and Janie McGarr to serve as honorary co-chairs.

Laura Bush, Jenna Bush Hager, Nancy Halbreich and Janie McGarr (File photo)

But wait! There’s more.

The keynote speaker will be former first lady Laura Bush, whose daughter Jenna Bush Hager addressed the group last year with mom in the audience.

According to Family Gateway CEO Ellen Magnis, “We are honored to have Mrs. Bush’s involvement in our Gateway to Opportunity Luncheon and to have her support of our agency. As an advocate for education and the empowerment of women and girls, Mrs. Bush understands how critical early childhood education is to breaking the cycle of homelessness. Education is an important part of our program at Family Gateway, and we are grateful for Mrs. Bush’s efforts to raise awareness.”  

With MetroPCS as the presenting sponsor, underwriting co-chairs will be another mom-dotter team —Lisa Cooley and her daughter Ciara Cooley.

Tickets and sponsorship opportunities are available now. How about getting that Mother’s Day gift locked down now?

Former First Twin/Author/”Today” Show Jenna Bush Hager Brought The Importance Of Family To Gateway To Opportunity Luncheon

Despite a presidential debate taking place the night before, former First Twin Jenna Bush Hager had nary a question about politics at the meet-and-greet for Family Gateway’s “Gateway to Opportunity” on Tuesday, September 27, at the Omni Dallas Hotel.

One guest at the meet-and-greet in Fair Park II Suite brought a a copy of Jenna’s “Our Great Big Backyard” that she had co-authored with her mom/former First Lady Laura Bush. Another guest also brought her daughter….well, sorta. Seems her daughter wanted to attend but couldn’t. So mom had a head cutout on a stick made of her daughter and held it proudly when she  had their picture taken with Jenna.

As folks lined up to be photographer with the “Today” contributing correspondent, someone noticed that co-author Laura Bush had arrived. Still Jenna was the Bush of the hour.

One event planner admitted amazement how accommodating Jenna was posing for cellphone selfies and flashing a homecoming queen smile for each shot.

Paula Miltenberger, Jenna Bush Hager and Bay Miltenberger

Paula Miltenberger, Jenna Bush Hager and Bay Miltenberger

And since Family Gateway is dedicated to help families, it was a family driven event. Co-Chair Paula Miltenberger managed to get shots of her boys (Bo Miltenberger and Brady Miltenberger), her mom (Dianne Bosler) and hubby (Bay Miltenberger) with Jenna. Co-Chair Tracy Lange also had photos taken of husband (Ben Lange), daughter (Livia Lange) and son (Luke Lange) with Jenna.

Jenna Bush Hager, Livia Lange and Tracy Lange

Jenna Bush Hager, Livia Lange and Tracy Lange

Luke Lange and Jenna Bush Hager

Luke Lange and Jenna Bush Hager

Ben Lange and Jenna Bush Hager

Ben Lange and Jenna Bush Hager

It was touching to have sisters Nancy Halbreich and Janie McGarr at the luncheon. Their mother, the late Dallas Mayor Annette Strauss, founded Family Gateway to provide “supportive housing, access to early childhood development, after-school tutoring and mentoring” 30 years ago.

Ruth Altshuler, Laura Bush, Jenna Bush Hager, Nancy Halbreich and Janie McGarr

Ruth Altshuler, Laura Bush, Jenna Bush Hager, Nancy Halbreich and Janie McGarr

No sooner was there a last call for a photo with Jenna made, then she left to join the crowd in the Trinity Ballroom. As the guests began to leave the room, some mighty big and fine checks showed up from Matthews Southwest and Sammons Enterprises much to the delight of Family Gateway Executive Director Ellen Magnis.

Lisa Troutt and Michael Faircloth

Lisa Troutt and Michael Faircloth

Tracy and Kent Rathbun

Tracy and Kent Rathbun

Inside the Dallas Ballroom, the guests (Honorary Co-Chairs Tracy and Kent Rathbun, Underwriting Co-Chairs Ciara Cooley and Lisa Cooley, Bela Piertrovic, Bianco Filio, Anne Davidson, Ana Carty, Ruth Altshuler, Lisa Troutt, Michael Faircloth, D’Andra Simmons, Gene Jones, Angie Kadesky, Missy Falchi, Jeanne Cox, Christie Carter, Claire Emanuelson, Jack Matthews, Scott Galbraith and Gina Betts with her longtime associate Joan Rose, who is retiring) were taking their places.

Emcee/WFAA co-anchor Ron Corning welcomed the crowd and had Highland Park United Methodist Church Rev. Susan Robb provide the invocation.

Anne Johnson

Anne Johnson

Following lunch, Ron introduce Family Gateway Chairman of the Board Anne Johnson, who told of a client, who was juggling a job, running a household and raising children. When Anne asked her how she was handling it all, the woman responded, “I’m doing great. I have a plan. At Family Gateway they treat me like an adult with respect. My kids see that and I feel for the first time that like I can do this.”

Ellen told how during the first 25 years, Family Gateway served approximately 55 families annually. Last year, it provided safe housing and services to almost 500 families. Of the families help, most are single mom situations. One of the differences of Family Gateway is that they have all types of families. Some have grandparents, single fathers with children and married couples with children. It will also accept boys of a certain age that most shelters will not take in resulting in the youths to be sent to a men’s shelter.

Ellen admitted that one of the frustrations facing Family Gateway is affordable housing for clients. However, she was pleased…no, more than pleased to announce a partnership with Matthews Southwest to develop such housing providing 336 units near the International Inland Port of Dallas in Hutchins.

Shanjula Harris

Shanjula Harris

As proof of their efforts, Tracy and Paula introduced former client/mother of three Shanjula Harris, who told how she rose from the darkest depths of her life as a mother unable to provide for her children thanks to the volunteers and staff at Family Gateway. She admitted that the hardest part was being scared alone. Thanks to Family Gateway, she was freed of that fear and was no longer alone. Today she has a place for her family, a job that she looks forward to and wants to make a difference in the world. “I hope I am living proof that you have made a difference. For those of you who have been a member of Family Gateway family, thank you for believing in me.”

Following a call to offer financial assistance, MetroPCS Director Ethan Stubbs reported that in addition to be the 2016 presenting sponsor, it had signed up for 2017. In addition to financial support for Family Gateway, they were also rolling up their sleeves to provide hands-on involvement on events throughout the year. He then introduced Jenna and went off script saying that he had put her most recent book — “Our Great Big Backyard” — to the test with his six children ranging from 18 months to 13 years. “We read the book and they stayed engaged the entire time which is not an easy thing to do.”

From the left: (seated) Peter Slater, Ethan Stubbs, Barry Carlson, Steve Seay and Luis Reynoso; (standing) Suzy Kelley, Mike Loverde and Christy Harris

From the left: (seated) Peter Slater, Ethan Stubbs, Barry Carlson, Steve Seay and Luis Reynoso; (standing) Suzy Kelley, Mike Loverde and Christy Harris

Before starting Jenna admitted that she cries at the drop of a hat. Throughout her talk, she teared up whether it was talking about her children, recognizing Shanjula for her testimonial, acknowledging Annette for creating Family Gateway and thanking those who have followed her lead.

But her message was one of how important the family was and the lessons that are handed down from generation to generation. Just as her grandfather, former President George “Gampy” H.W. Bush had learned about giving back from his mother. “He wrote about it in a letter in 1997, “Early on my mom gave us profound advice. It sounds simple now, but when I became President I knew just how sound it was — “Be honest; tell the truth; be kind.”

This message of compassion and giving back had really hit home with her since the birth of her two daughters — Mila Hager and Poppy Hager. As she recalled how fortunate her own daughters were to have been born with a home, loving parents and grandparents, with warm water for baths and rooms full of books, her voice choked. Her hope was that she could “teach them the luck that they were born, so they can spread luck to other kids who live in the same circumstances.”

At this point, she decided some comic relief was needed and brought the group up to date on her family.

  • “My mom is now commanding the ex-commander-in-chief to pick up his dirty towels and underwear.”
  • “My grandparents — Gampy and Gammy — are doing very well. You may have heard that my grandfather was sick several years ago and was hospitalized. It was actually Christmas Eve and we were in Richmond, Virginia, where my husband’s family lived. If you think this has been interrupted by emotion, you should have seen that meal when my parents called” to get to Houston “to say good-bye.” In the ride to the hospital, they all agreed they were not going to cry. They were going to upbeat. But Jenna, who was six months pregnant, Gampy touched her stomach and whispered, “The circle of life. I can’t wait to meet this baby.” The entire room broke down crying. While the rest of the family was prepared for the worst, Bush matriarch Barbara Bush knew he would pull through. “She’s known as the enforcer in our family. And when she speaks, we listen. She told him about all the things he had to look forward to — two great grandchildren being born, my dad’s library opening here in Dallas — and he had no choice but to live.”
  • Her dad (former President George W. Bush) has been working on his golf game and his art. “I just can’t believe he’s an artist.” According to Jenna, there was a period when he “would only communicate through his art.” He would send a sketch of an airplane saying “Flying to Arizona.” With a twinkle in her eye, she said that “Barbara (Jenna’s twin sister) and I were actually secretly worried about him.” When they would ask what time he would be landing, he would respond with the drawing of a clock. Jenna described that time, “We were playing Pictionary every day.” His art has moved from portraits to pets to landscapes and “now world leaders. If you haven’t seen his Putin, you really should.”
  • Describing her mom, who was seated nearby, she asked if anyone else in the audience had had a librarian for a mother. When one person responded, Jenna said to the woman, “So you know what I’m talking about. Sometimes it seems like the fun would just never end.” In working with her mom on a new book about the national parks, Jenna described Laura as “a tedious editor. I don’t recommend you ever sending anything to her unless the grammar is absolutely perfect.”

Getting back to the day’s mission, she recalled how despite having earned her teaching certification, she still wasn’t prepared for 24-nine-year-olds or the poverty in inner city D.C. and west Baltimore… “No class could have taught me what to say to a child who had witnessed a stabbing on the way to school or comfort a young man who learned his father was going to jail. My kids were/are brilliant, but the odds are stacked against them like many of the kids from Family Gateway. They were hungry. Their parents were working multiple jobs to support them. And society in many ways dictates that they won’t be successful and they won’t graduate. I will say, though, that my sixth grade class from the school in Maryland not only all graduated from high school a couple of years ago, but they all 100% got into a college.”

Jenna Bush Hager and Ron Corning

Jenna Bush Hager and Ron Corning

In the fall of 2006 Jenna moved to Latin America and met Ana, a 17-year-old single mother with HIV AIDs. She, like Shanjula, talked about being alone and how supportive programs helped her. At the women’s conference, where Jenna met Ana, the young mother grabbed the microphone and said, “I want everyone to know that we are living with HIV. We are no longer dying from it. So, let’s make our lives matter. Let’s live to make a difference. Let’s make our lives count.” As a result, they met throughout Jenna’s nine months in Latin America resulting in the book, “Ana’s Story: A Journey of Hope” and her job with NBC’s “Today” show.

Ron returned to chat with Jenna and opened with, “So who do you think won last night’s debate?” (Laughter) Jenna responded, “I don’t think my mic is working.”

Jenna Bush Hager with "the boys"

Jenna Bush Hager with “the boys”

  • Young volunteers — When asked what got her into this service mode, she responded that it was by her parents’ example. Jenna then pointed out impressed she was by the “little boys,” who had been helping at the luncheon.
  • Teachers — She stressed the importance of today’s teachers and how they do much, much more than fulfill the requirements. “Show the teachers in your community that their job isn’t necessarily ‘cute,’ but it’s hard and it’s really, really important.”
  • Her job on “Today” — She was originally to cover education seven years ago, but it’s evolved to all subject matters. “Tomorrow I’m interviewing Reese Witherspoon.”
  • Cellphones — “It’s not just our kids looking down. Parents need to put their phones down and listen to their kids.”

For more photos, check out MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.

MySweetCharity Photo Gallery Alert: Gateway To Opportunity Luncheon

Blonde Jenna Bush Hager may seem to be living a dream life. Having had a grandpappy and daddy as U.S. Presidents meant home was more than a big, old “white house.” Her post-White House days have been pretty ideal, too, including marriage, motherhood and being an author and correspondent for the “Today” show.

Paula Miltenberger, Jenna Bush Hager and Tracy Lange

Paula Miltenberger, Jenna Bush Hager and Tracy Lange

But guests at Family Gateway’s Gateway To Opportunity Luncheon on Tuesday, September 27, at the Omni Dallas Hotel, learned that her life has also involved a world of children, who haven’t had the “luck” of a home, a family and security.

Ruth Altshuler, Janie McGarr, Anne Johnson and Nancy Halbreich

Ruth Altshuler, Janie McGarr, Anne Johnson and Nancy Halbreich

While the length post is being prepped, get a gander of the folks who got to meet Jenna and learned about life outside of the White House at MySweetCharity Photo Gallery.

Former Fort Worthian Grandparents Dianne And Jim Bosler Hosted Gateway To Opportunity Patrons At Their Dallas Home

Paula Miltenberger’s folks Dianne and Jim Bosler were talked into moving from their Fort Worth acreage to cozier territory in Preston Hollow. Well, that’s if you can call an estate “cozy.” The draw was Paula and husband Bay Miltenberger’s adorable, red-haired boys. What grandparent wouldn’t want to be within walking distance of their grandkids, especially during the pre-high school years?

Tracy Lange, Dianne Bosler, Paula Miltenberger and Lisa Cooley

Tracy Lange, Dianne Bosler, Paula Miltenberger and Lisa Cooley

But on Tuesday, September 20, the grandkids stayed at the Miltenberger home and the grandparents opened their house for the Family Gateway’s Gateway to Opportunity Luncheon patrons. One reason for the hosting was Paula was co-chairing the fundraiser with Tracy Lange.

Alas, because of the sweaty, three-digit temperatures, the Boslers’ palatial grounds were just for a looky-look from behind the windows and glass doors. But no tears were shed, since the mansion’s interior was just made for entertaining.

As one couple held a “charged-up conversation” in the dining room, Tracy and Paula were in the family room surrounded by Gina Betts, Cindy Stager, Luncheon Underwriting Co-Chair Lisa Cooley, Family Gateway Executive Director Ellen Magnis and Ben Lange. Of course, the co-chairs’ conversation turned to the Tuesday, September 27th luncheon featuring Jenna Bush Hager at the Omni Dallas Hotel.

Jim Bosler, Gina Betts, Cindy Stage and Ben Lange

Jim Bosler, Gina Betts, Cindy Stager and Ben Lange

When someone asked if Jenna would talk about the upcoming presidential election, that idea was nipped in the bud. A passerby sniffled, “Oh, please, this is fundraising, not fuss making!”

Oops Alert: Family Gateway’s “Gateway To Opportunity” Luncheon Is Tuesday, Not Wednesday

It’s Monday. It’s wet. It’s cool-ish. It has all the elements for an oopsie taking place. And that’s what happened. Normally, most “oopsies” at other media outlets would just be dismissed as, “So who cares?” But this one has organizers a wee bit concerned, so we’re setting the record straight.

Jenna Bush Hager*

Jenna Bush Hager*

Ron Corning (File photo)

Ron Corning (File photo)

It seems that a daily newspaper column on philanthropy reported bright and early this morning that the Family Gateway’s “Gateway To Opportunity” featuring Jenna Bush Hager at the Omni Dallas Hotel was taking place on Wednesday. So, what’s so earth-shattering about that? Jenna will indeed be at the Omni and she’ll have a chat with WFAA’s Ron Corning. And it will benefit Family Gateway for homeless families with children.

The problem is that it’s taking place tomorrow, like Tuesday, instead of Wednesday.

As of 9:30 a.m. today, the website still had the incorrect date, so please think Tuesday. Because if you show up Wednesday, you’re gonna miss out on Jenna, Ron and a whole lot of your friends.

BTW, some tickets are still available here.

* Photo provided by Family Gateway

MSC Opportunity: Gateway TO Opportunity Luncheon

According to Gateway To Opportunity Luncheon Co-Chairs Tracy Lange and Paula Miltenberger,

Paula Miltenberger (File photo)

Paula Miltenberger (File photo)

Tracy Lange (File photo)

Tracy Lange (File photo)

“Sadly, more than 5,000 children in the Dallas area do not have a place to call home. These children rely on friends, relatives and the generosity of strangers to help make a difference for their world.  Unfortunately the numbers are growing at a record pace of children and families that do not have home.

Family Gateway opened in October of 1986 when Mayor-Pro Tem Annette G. Strauss saw families living on the streets of Dallas and envisioned a facility where homeless families could stay together as a family unit in a safe place. Today, Family Gateway is the largest provider of supportive housing for homeless families in North Texas. We believe that a family that stays together provides the most stability and long term success for children. Our mission is to end child homelessness in our area and with your help we can do it.

“Our annual luncheon, ‘Gateway to Opportunity,’ will be Tuesday, September 27th at the Omni Hotel. We are honored and excited that Jenna Bush Hager will be our guest speaker. She has been an ongoing advocate for children and ensuring that we all do our part to help the generations to come. Honorary event co-chairs are Tracy and Kent Rathbun. Special Advisors are fundraising experts Gina Betts and D’Andra Simmons.

Kent and Tracy Rathbun (File photo)

Kent and Tracy Rathbun (File photo)

Gina Betts (File photo)

Gina Betts (File photo)

D'Andra Simmons (File photo)

D’Andra Simmons (File photo)

“We ask that you partner with us to end child homelessness by purchasing a sponsorship or table, or underwriting necessary funds need to make sure this event is a success. Metro PCS is our Presenting Sponsor. Please visit for volunteer and luncheon sponsorship opportunities.

“On behalf of the homeless children and their families, we say thank you for your support and look forward to seeing you on Tuesday, September 27, at the Omni.”

Former First Twin Jenna Bush Hager To Be Keynote Speaker For Family Gateway’s Gateway To Opportunity Luncheon

North Texas was starting to take on the profile of Seattle South thanks to the deluge of May rain. It would have been a perfect format for bumbershoot jokes, except the loss of life and property weren’t the least bit humorous.

But thanks to a break in the rain on Wednesday, June 1, the skies cleared for the Family Gateway Kick-Off Party at Lisa and Clay Cooley’s home.

Christie Carter, Angie Kadesky, Lisa Cooley and Anne Davidson

Christie Carter, Angie Kadesky, Lisa Cooley and Anne Davidson

Chef Kent Rathbun told Christie Carter that the rain had indeed filled his towering cisterns. He added that the gallons could easily be drained in a week to water his acreage. What Kent wasn’t talking about was the behind-the-scenes issues that were developing in his relationship with his majority partner Bill Hyde. But who wanted to chat up business entanglements; Kent and wife Tracy Rathbun were focused on their duties as honorary co-chairs for the Family Gateway’s Gateway to Opportunity Luncheon on Tuesday, September 27, at the Omni Dallas Hotel with former first twin Jenna Bush Hager as the guest speaker.

Speaking of acreage, another fellow looking at the Cooley grounds wondered aloud if Clay ever tossed a line for fishing from the bridge over the property’s creek. The answer? According to Clay, he doesn’t fish the property. He feeds the finny residents. Only problem? The koi on the upper pond keep tumbling down to the lower pond. Plans are underway to resolve the southward swim.

Marissa Castro Mikoy, Ben and Tracy Lange

Marissa Castro Mikoy, Ben and Tracy Lange

Others in the crowd were Ben Lange, who will chair the After-School All-Stars, AFAS Executive Director Marissa Castro Mikoy, Britton Lynn, Angie Kadesky and Anne Davidson.

Paula Miltenberger

Paula Miltenberger

Ciara Cooley and Clay Cooley

Ciara Cooley and Clay Cooley

The guests moved into the den to learn more about Family Gateway and plans for the upcoming Gateway To Opportunities that will be co-chaired by Tracy Lange and Paula Miltenberger. Underwriting will be handled by Lisa and daughter Ciara Cooley, who is the youngest member of Family Gateway’s board.

Sponsorships start at $7,500 and tickets can be snapped up for $

JUST IN: Ellen Magnis Named Executive Director For Family Gateway

Family Gateway is gonna start the month of July with new leadership. Word has just arrived that after months of vetting, they’ve managed to get Ellen Magnis to return to Big Old D from the Big Apple as their executive director.

Ellen Magnis*

Ellen Magnis*

According to Family Gateway’s Board of Directors Chair Anne Johnson, “We could not be more thrilled to welcome Ellen to Family Gateway. Not only is Ellen a respected, accomplished and innovative leader, her passion for helping children in need makes her a perfect fit for Family Gateway. Addressing the rising homeless population in Dallas will require strong leadership from both the public and the private sector. We are extremely fortunate to have someone with Ellen’s extraordinary track record leading Family Gateway in the fight to end child homelessness in Dallas.”

If her name sounds familiar, it should be. For ages she was Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center’s Chief of External Affairs, where she was responsible for “fundraising, education, legislative affairs and public relations. She launched and scaled the agency’s education program and led the dramatic growth of national corporate partnerships and federal agency relationships for an internationally attended annual conference for more than 3,900 professionals. During her tenure, she also supported a capital campaign and launched a major gifts strategy while aligning fundraising events to the organization’s mission. Known within the agency as a mentoring supervisor, she also spearheaded cross-agency improvements in performance management and led the development and execution of an aggressive strategic plan.”

Before that she held various vice president positions with the American Heart Association for nearly seven years, including VP of the American Stroke Association.

Most recently Ellen was in New York City serving as executive director of Minds Matter, “a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to transform the lives of accomplished high school students from low-income families by broadening their dreams and preparing them for college success.”

According to Ellen, ““I am so excited to help take Family Gateway to its next level of success. I am very drawn to the ‘Housing First’ philosophy of Family Gateway and look forward to finding ways to ensure that families stay together during the unimaginable challenges of homelessness. I am very honored to work in partnership with the staff, Board, elected officials and leaders from sister agencies to address this complex issue for our community. Every child should have a home; that’s something on which we can all agree.”

One of the first things on Ellen’s agenda, besides moving into her office, will be Family Gateway’s Gateway To Opportunity Luncheon featuring Jenna Bush Hager on Tuesday, September 27, at the Omni Dallas Hotel. It’s being chaired by Tracy Lange and Paula Miltenberger.

* Photo provided by Family Gateway

Outstanding Non-Profits Have Posted “Help Wanted” Signs

The Dallas non-profits are looking for a few good folks to head up their organizations. In recent weeks the following nonnies have put out the “Help Wanted” signs for leadership of their organizations:

  • Baylor Scott And White Health
  • Dallas Historical Society
  • Dallas Museum of Art
  • Dallas Summer Musicals
  • Family Gateway
  • LaunchAbility
  • Perot Museum of Nature and Science

While many are preparing for the summer sojourn, search committees are in overdrive to have new leaders in place, hopefully by the fall fundraising season.

The good thing is that these organization will not make their decisions based on a “OMG, we’ve gotta fill this position ASAP.” Rather they put the priority on finding the right person for the right position even if the clock is ticking.

Can’t wait to report about the new leaders-on-the-block!

The Family Gateway Changes Fundraising Efforts To Focus On Its Mission With Gateway To Opportunity Luncheon

The Family Gateway has gone through changes in the past year. Founded in 1986 as the brainchild of the late Annette Strauss, its purpose was to help homeless families with children. Over the years it continued according to its mission like a homing pigeon.

Then as the staff and volunteers helped homeless families achieve hope, the fundraising efforts moved to the 21st century. One of those efforts was the Celebrity Waiter Luncheon that kicked off in 2010 at the Ritz Carlton. That first lunch featured former Dallas TV personality Kim Fischer doing “Baby Bump” with other gal waiters and polo loving Vaughn Miller riding TV newsman Brendan Higgins to raise funds.

The years that followed became the talk of fall fundraising circles. While youthful and far from a Dallas Women’s Club tea, it pushed the envelope until it pushed too far. The 2013 luncheon proved to be too much for the powers that be. Despite restaurateur Lisa Garza’s heart-wrenching recounting of her being hopeless and homeless, the sight of guests and celebrities twerking on stage was the death knell for the annual luncheon.

Cathy Packard

Cathy Packard

Quick to regroup, Gateway Executive Director Cathy Packard and the organization’s supporters decided to get back to the basics of promoting Gateway’s mission in a less frivolous manner. The solution was to hold a luncheon — “Gateway To Opportunity Luncheon” — saluting people and organizations that have been instrumental in helping those in need. Within a matter of weeks, Beth and Ron Hall signed up to be the luncheon co-chairs along with Honorary Co-Chairs Ana and Don Carty. The keynote speaker would be ex-con Andre Norman.

Don and Ana Carty, Shane Allen and Ron Corning

Don and Ana Carty, Shane Allen and Ron Corning

On Friday, November 7, the luncheon took place the Ritz Carlton. As the VIP reception filled the Oak Room, one man moved throughout the crowd like an old friend. He shook hands, kept direct eye contact and told people how pleased he was that they had come for the lunch. Was he a board member? Was he an awardee? No, he was Andre Norman, the former convict, who had grown up with “an abusive father, an alcoholic mother and sisters involved in prostitution.” But he did feel like just another Family Gateway supporter. After all, he had stopped in Dallas Tuesday to visit and get to know the program before heading to Cleveland and returning to Dallas. He admitted that he couldn’t advocate something that he didn’t believe in wholeheartedly.

Andre Norman

Andre Norman

Around the room were pieces of art created by the children of Family Gateway available for purchase.

Art by Family Gateway Children

Art by Family Gateway Children

Holly Forsythe and Michael Cain

Holly Forsythe and Michael Cain

 Jack Mathews

Jack Mathews

By 11:30, Andre and the rest of the VIP’s (Angie Kadesky, Stephanie Rosuck, Faye Briggs and Kay Hammond to mention a few) had joined other guests (Jack Mathews, Holly Forsythe, Michael Cain, Cathy Vieth and Brian Glenn) in the ballroom for the lunch (wild mushroom soup en croute, apricot-glazed chicken with herb spaetzle, root vegetables, goat cheese and chicken jus and a dessert of dark chocolate mousse, vanilla crème brulee, praline crisp and chocolate biscuit) and program emceed by WFAA’s Ron Corning, who was sporting Movember facial hair and a cast on a finger that he had sliced. Throughout the meal, Andre continued his meeting guests visiting table after table.

Ron Hall

Ron Hall

Just as guests were finishing lunch, Co-Chair Ron Hall spoke of his years of working with the homeless and his friendship with Denver Moore, a homeless man whom Ron had met while volunteering at the Union Gospel Mission in 1998. That relationship was life changing for art dealer Hall, who became an author (“Same Kind of Different as Me” and “Everybody Can Help Somebody”) and advocate for the homeless. The story of the men’s relationship from start to Denver’s death in 2012 would have been enough to inspire the guests.

But Andre didn’t miss a beat. In detail he told of a childhood Boston that prepared him for failure. Like any child, he had had dreams. But his home life was far from suitable to cultivate those dreams. It was ideal for a nightmare for both Andre and the community. By the time he was in high school, he “was a rotten mess” thanks to years of neglect, anger and bad relationships. However, he was a natural-born leader. That skill resulted in his becoming a gang leader and a 100-year prison sentence. Prison wasn’t so bad. He just traded in one gang family for another. And once again his leadership skills had him heading up the prison gang and continuing his criminal activities within this new world. But this world would not tolerate Andre’s gang leadership. It resulted in solitary confinement. He thought it was a joke. But it was there that he confronted his anger at how life had treated him. It was also in insolation that he made the decision to change his life. The result? He got a plan. It required education, so he finally earned his GED thanks to a rabbi, who taught him the difference between being a man and human. Andre earned parole in 15 years.

Andre Norman

Andre Norman

Since then, he hasn’t look back. Instead he has looked ahead to motivating others to change their lives all over the world. He gave his first talk 90 minutes after he was released.

Andre told the audience there were three main things to successful mentoring:

  • Care
  • Be consistent
  • Inspire

Before the closing remarks, the following awards were presented:

  • Paula and Bay Miltenbergers

    Paula and Bay Miltenbergers

    Family Gateway Volunteer Family of the Year — The Paula and Bay Miltenberger Family

  • Family Gateway Youth Volunteer of Year —Cullen Corr*
  • Family Gateway Partner Agency of the Year — The Birthday Party Project
  • Family Gateway Congregation of the Year — St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church
  • Family Gateway Company of the Year — ORIX Corporation and ORIX Foundation

As guests waited their turn to turn in their valet tickets, Andre Norman went through the line shaking hands, looking directly into eyes and thanking them for coming.

*Last month Cullen’s Kids Helping Kids donated a 15-passenger van to Family Gateway.

Cathy Packard Named Family Gateway’s Executive Director

The Family Gateway folks have just sent word that they have an old, new executive director. And what does “old, new” mean? Well, when Executive Director Rob Alberts resigned in June, a search got underway to find his replacement.

Cathy Packard (File photo)

Cathy Packard (File photo)

It was during Rob’s tenure that Family Gateway held a dinner at the Mansion honoring the late Ted Strauss and the organization declared that it was targeting 2017 for Dallas to be homeless-free for children.

Rob also hired Cathy Packard, who had headed up LaunchAbility, as The Family Gateway’s development director.

After numerous interviews, The Family Gateway decision makers decided that they needed to look no farther for an executive director. They already had Cathy. So, The Family Gateway’s new executive director is a Family Gateway old-timer.

Ah, now it all makes sense.

BTW, one of the first “must-do’s” on Cathy’s list is the Gateway to Opportunity Luncheon on Friday, November 7, at the Ritz-Carlton featuring Andre Norman. It’s being co-chaired by Beth and Ron Hall with Ana and Don Carty serving as honorary co-chairs.

MySweetCharity Opportunity: Gateway To Opportunity Luncheon

Ron and Beth Hall*

Ron and Beth Hall*

According to the Gateway To Opportunity Luncheon Co-Chairs Beth and Ron Hall, “Family Gateway‘s inaugural Gateway to Opportunity Luncheon will be Friday, November 7, at 11:30 a.m. at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Our luncheon features speaker Andre Norman and art created by the homeless children of Family Gateway with Honorary Chairs Ana and Don Carty.

“The Gateway to Opportunity Luncheon supports Family Gateway’s mission to lead the community to End Child Homelessness in Dallas by providing innovative and comprehensive housing, social and educational services to homeless children and their families.

Don and Ana Carty*

Don and Ana Carty*

“Our speaker, Andre Norman, has a compelling story to share. So much so, that he is arriving early in Dallas to meet Family Gateway residents and tell his story of desperation resulting in a life of service.

“Andre grew up with an abusive father, an alcoholic mother and sisters involved in prostitution. Outside of his home Andre faced illiteracy and gang activity. As a young man he lacked the educational and familial foundation to succeed. After a criminal series of mistakes, he was sentenced to over 100 years in prison.

“While incarcerated Andre quickly rose to the top of the prison gang. As Andre’s notoriety grew he found himself in solitary confinement. The harrowing experience of solitary forced him to confront his future. He made the decision to turn his life around, and after 15 years he earned his parole. After he turned his life around Andre went a step further and became a dynamic agent for change who mentors, motivates and provides training for those who need it most.

“Join us in our vision to end child homelessness in Dallas. Please visit for tickets or sponsorship information.”

* Photos provided by Family Gateway

Family Gateway Campers Welcomed Home With A Coffee Can Ice Cream Party

In every life, there are hurdles to leap over. Sometimes a little assistance is all that is needed. Perhaps it’s a coach or a trainer. In too many cases it’s a group like Family Gateway that is needed for those really big leaps of life for homeless families.

For 47 kiddos, it was indeed Family Gateway. On Saturday, July 26, these children returned from a week at Kids Across America Camp in Missouri. There they got to participate “in competitive and specialty sports, rope courses and leadership training that they would not normally experience in their daily existence.”

Bo Miltenberger, Paula Miltenberger and Brady Miltenberger

Bo Miltenberger, Paula Miltenberger and Brady Miltenberger

The getaway for the youngsters was made possible thanks to the generosity of JLB Partners’ Paul and Bay Miltenberger, Compatriot Group and Sammons Enterprises.

And like most campers, they brought home dirty laundry, tales of adventures and new BFF’s.

Amber Jefferson

Amber Jefferson

But in addition to doting parents and siblings, the campers were welcomed home with an ice cream social at Family Gateway hosted by Streetspeaker Radio’s Amber Jefferson, who has first-hand appreciation for Family Gateway. It seems that Family Gateway helped Amber’s sister get back on her feet.This hearty party was Amber’s way of repaying Family Gateway and giving “the children a ‘warm’ welcome back to Dallas.”

According to Amber, “In the 1980’s President Ronald Reagan designated July as ‘National Ice Cream Month’ and we think it is appropriate since temperatures are expected to reach the 100+ mark this weekend.”

With duffel bags and stuffed animals lining the hallways, the campers in their green T-shirts partied in the dining room. With Amber leading the way, some kids rolled the cans of ice cream into perfection, while others tried shaking them. Shouts of “Shake it! Shake it!” were heard throughout the room, as the majority of the kids opted to shake instead of roll the towel-wrapped cans.

Bamaien Dozier

Bamaien Dozier

On the sidelines, parents watched in amazement at the energy level in the room. There was a hope that all this activity would result in a sound sleep that night.

Michael Angelo Maldonado

Michael Angelo Maldonado

Antoinee Perkins

Antoinee Perkins

As for little brothers like Michael Angelo Maldonado, they seemed a little baffled by all the commotion. With her beaded hair and freshly painted face, Antoinee Perkins hardly noticed the antics in the room.

Eventually ice cream was served up with Compatriot’s Paul Rowsey serving a spoonful of the icy stuff to new buddies like “Isaiah“.

Isaiah and Paul Rowsey

Isaiah and Paul Rowsey

BTW, ice cream loving and making aren’t limited to July. If you’re running out of things to do with the kids, why not try making coffee can ice cream? Interested? Follow the jump and check out the recipe. [Read more…]

Family Gateway’s Director Of Development Cathy Packard To Serve As Interim Executive Director Following Rob Alberts’ Resignation

Rob Alberts (File photo)

Rob Alberts (File photo)

Cathy Packard (File photo)

Cathy Packard (File photo)

Change is in the wind at Family Gateway. It seems that Executive Director Rob Alberts has turned in his resignation and cleaned out his desk June 30. Until a new executive director is selected, FG Director of Development Cathy Packard will fill in.

These changes do not impact the November 7thGateway To Opportunity Luncheon” that replaced the infamous Celebrity Waiter Luncheon that served its last meal in September.

And plans are still in place for FG’s announced program to end child homelessness by 2017 that was announced by Rob in April.

Family Gateway To Launch “Gateway To Opportunity Luncheon”

Family Gateway has taken on a huge challenge — eliminate child homelessness by 2017. To do this, the organization founded by the late Mayor Annette Strauss decided that it had graduated from the days of Celebrity Waiter Luncheons and needed to up the ante.

Don and Ana Carty (File photo)

Don and Ana Carty (File photo)

Indeed it has. On Friday, November 7, at The Ritz-Carlton, Co-Chairs Beth and Ron Hall along with Honorary Co-Chairs Ana and Don Carty have arranged for the “Gateway To Opportunity Luncheon” featuring Andre Norman as the keynote speaker, along with “art created by the homeless children of Family Gateway.”

While you probably know all the locals involved, Andre has a tale to tell. His father was in prison for drug dealing. His stepfather had spent time in jail for bank robbery. Instead of school, Andre preferred hanging around the streets of Boston. Eventually, he followed the path of his father and stepfather, ending up in prison for armed robbery and armed home invasion. Andre showed leadership in prison, but not the type you’d put on a resume. He became a prison gang leader resulting in his being transferred from prison to prison “because they could not handle me, and I didn’t care.”

That last stay in solitary confinement allowed him the time to realize that change was needed. He had an epiphany and decided the successful people attended college and got educated. But Andre didn’t decide on just any old school. No, he set his sights on Harvard. After all, he was from Boston and Harvard was in Boston, so . . . A first attempt at GED classes was frustrating and not-so-successful.

Then he “met a Jewish Rabbi, who became a huge mentor. “He didn’t want to reform me, he just let me sit with him while he taught, and I attended counseling to get my head straight.”

After 14 years, he had his GED and got out of prison in 1999. Eventually he attended Boston College and has “lectured at Harvard Divinity School, Northeastern University, Tufts and MIT to name some local educational institutions.”

Andre was a child who didn’t find help until it was almost too late. Family Gateway’s goal is to get to the Andres and Andreas of Dallas before they make that first wrong turn by providing them with mentors, security and hope.

JUST IN: Family Gateway To Spearhead Campaign To End Dallas Child Homelessness By 2017

This morning the leadership of  Family Gateway held a breakfast to announce a collaborative efforts by area non-profits, business and government organizations to end child homelessness in Dallas by 2017.

Rob Alberts

Rob Alberts

In the Omni Dallas Hotel’s West End Suite, Family Gateway CEO Rob Alberts said, “Family Gateway is leading the campaign for Dallas to become the first major city in the United State to end child homelessness. We have assembled a team of dedicated professionals and community leaders who believe in our mission.”

Among those leaders who were present and spoke were developer Jack Matthews, Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance CEO Mike Faenza, Dallas Housing Authority Brooke Etie, First Presbyterian Church Senior Pastor Joe Clifford, philanthropist Hunter Hunt, Director of Criminal Justice for Dallas County Ron Stretcher and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings.

Rob went on to emphasize, “Dallas has become a world-class city, yet every night, five thousand children and their families do not have a safe place to sleep.

“We are audacious enough to think that, as a community that cares about ‘the least among us’, this community of providers and funders, civic leaders and housing providers can provide for those children.”

As for how the program would work, he explained, “A plan that has broad input and buy-in has a much greater chance of success than one we might create on our own – therefore we are not rolling out a finished plan, but instead calling for collaborative planning with housing and services providers, government, business, and philanthropy over the next several months.”

Hadeshia Thompson

Hadeshia Thompson

While the various leaders reiterated the importance and support of such a goal being accomplished, many listened most closely to the story told by Hadeshia Thompson, who had firsthand knowledge of homelessness.

Her father was killed when she was three. She became a mother at the age of 14. Then a second child was born when she was 16. By 18 she was in an abusive marriage. At 21 she was homeless with two children. At that point, she considered “giving my children” away in order to survive. It was at that breaking point in her life that she realized that she didn’t have the tools to survive, much less to thrive. It was Family Gateway that not only assisted her in turning her life around, but also helped her connect with services and organizations that could help her keep her family together and advance.

Hadeshia’s talk was passionate, articulate and impactful. The reason? In a city that can raise money to build world-class institutions, have Noble prize winners and achieve greatness time and time again, it’s still amazing to think thousands of children do not have a sanctuary called home.

Within the next four years, Dallas has the opportunity to change that situation and set an example for others to follow. But it will only be achieved by a word that was repeated again and again at the breakfast — collaboration. Through the Family Gateway’s program, it is possible.

JUST IN: Crystal Charity Ball’s Horizon Project Funds To Help Launch Family Gateway’s Montessori School

Caren Kline (File photo)

Caren Kline (File photo)

Rob Alberts (File photo)

Rob Alberts (File photo)

Thank heaven, the Crystal Charity Ball ladies tend to overdo when it comes to their goals. 2013 CCB Chair Caren Kline and her team did just that. They surpassed their dream goal of $4.2M.

So, what do you do with the extra money? Well, most folks would treat the committee to a celebration. But the CCB gals don’t think like most folks. Instead they’ve created the CCB Horizon Project for an organization that deserved support but hadn’t been on the list of beneficiaries.

This year’s CCB Horizon Project is the Family Gateway’s Montessori School that will launch later this year.

According to Family Gateway Executive Director Rob Alberts, “Family Gateway Montessori is the next step in Family Gateway’s campaign to end child homelessness. Poor education is one of the major contributing factors to poverty and the generational cycle of homelessness. Our preschool will help break that cycle and provide the educational foundation necessary to brighten a child’s future.”

Oh, you’re probably wondering how much over the $4.2M was raised. How about $868,250!

Family Gateway’s 2013 Celebrity Waiter Luncheon Calms Down A Bit With Some Waiters No Showing

The late Annette Strauss was a mentor for countless people. Her days as the area’s top fundraiser were a legendary chapter in Dallas history. The reason? No, make that, reasons? She was brilliant (her Phi Beta Kappa designation proved that); she supported very worthy causes; and she knew how to create fundraising events that were like her— smart, elegant and worthy of big bucks for the right reason. One of those causes that was especially near and dear to her heart was the Family Gateway for homeless families. While Annette’s own home was always filled with family and friends (can anyone forget those dinners at round tables with white underclothes and pink overlays in the backyard with meals that Annette and “Birdie” cooked up?), she more than empathized with families who didn’t have any form of security. She used her ability and her resources to “spearhead the effort to build a refuge for an increasing number of families living on the streets, victims of the collapsed Texas economy.” It was Family Gateway.

So, what does this have to do with Friday’s Celebrity Waiter Luncheon? More about that later.

Giant "art" eyeball

Giant “art” eyeball

The crowd that partied did just that Friday, big-time, at the Family Gateway’s Celebrity Waiter Luncheon at the Joule Hotel, with the giant “art” eyeball observing from across the road. Organizers admitted that the past two years had been more than zealous, and a little toning down was needed.

This year’s adjustment was being achieved by moving the event to the Joule’s smaller ballroom, a calmed-down warm-up of the waiters, and a more organized pay-for-play unlike previous years’ free-for-all, with men stripping down and giant hangovers the next day.

As the 30 celebs crowded in a room that was the size of a country-western star’s RV, the guests registered and partied on the opposite side of the second floor with celebrity waiter songbird Aubree-Anna singing like a lone canary.

Stacy Girard and Ron Corning

Stacy Girard and Ron Corning

As Aubree-Anna crooned, the rest of the celebs prepared themselves for their duties. Tracy Rathbun warmed up upside down against a wall. She revealed that foodie partner Lynae Fearing had confided that full splits were passé. If true, what was the stretch du jour that Tracy was practicing against the wall? . . . . Celebrity waiter LeeAnne Locken’s boyfriend Rich Emberlin was in “plainclothes” this year, instead of his police uniform from last year. Ah, but he still had his yellow police tape to capture his table guests. . . While Co-Emcee Stacy Girard talked about her plans for the Christmas season, fellow Co-Emcee Ron Corning chatted it up with Tommy Habeeb of “Cheaters.” Shane Walker allowed a coveted few to check out the very special cake he had created for his VIP guest Cathy Vieth in celebration of her birthday.

2013 Celebrity Waiters

2013 Celebrity Waiters

After the traditional group photos of the celebrity waiters were taken, the ballroom doors were opened for guests to enter. Despite the crowd being smaller, Co-Chairs Lindsay Jacaman and Jamie Singer reported they planned to top past goals ($150K) thanks to corporate donations. The gals had decided to “make it more intimate” this year. Instead of 400, they opted for 300, with the 30 celebrity waiters. One waiter confided that many of the celebs weren’t showing up — Jody Dean, Matt Nordgren, Lisa Pinero, Hunter Sullivan, Amy Vanderoef and Anthony Wilkinson. Translation: Some of the celeb waiters were going to be juggling additional tables.

But things were beginning to slow down. Emcee Ron passed it off as, “We’re updating on Dallas time. So we’re a half hour behind schedule.” A Family Gateway staffer put a positive spin on the situation: “We’re just 30 minutes late, which means more drinking, hopefully, and more money.”

Finally Ron called the group to order, saying, “All right, ladies — and the two guys that are here — get in here. Stop comparing shoes — we are ready to raise money for Family Gateway!”

Once the guests were seated, Ron and Stacy told the group that 750 homeless children were helped via Family Gateway and FG has vowed to eradicate homelessness in Dallas.

Things on stage started off with the introduction of the celebrity waiters. In describing Linda Cooper, Ron joked that her new Sunday morning show on WFAA was supposed to be called, “Live, Laugh, Have A lot of Sex,” but that the title was “too racy for WFAA. . . it would be better for HBO.”

2013 Celebrity Waiters being introduced

2013 Celebrity Waiters being introduced

When Lisa Pineiro’s name was called out during the celeb introduction and no one showed, Stacy suggested, “perhaps D The Broadcast ran over.” Without missing a beat, Co-Chair Ron quipped, ”There’s breaking news at D that somebody broke a nail, and they’re gonna tell you how to fix it!”


LeeAnne Locken and Ron Corning limboing

LeeAnne Locken and Ron Corning limboing

After the introduction of the celebs ended at 12:45, the first “challenge” took place on the stage in the middle of the ballroom — the Community Trust Bank limbo with Shay Geyer underdoing it baby style. Next up was the Community Trust Bank lip-sync challenge. Despite local songbird Liz Mikel being the first one up to croon, Ron said, “Here’s what I have to say about the lip-sync challenge: It’s a good thing it’s for a good cause!”

Then “The Dougie” hip-hop dance was on the program, with Co-Chair Stacy trying her best to rise to the occasion despite a bad hip.

Pink-boa ladies

Pink-boa ladies

But all the action wasn’t on stage. The tables were rocking and rolling, with one group being decked out in pink feathered boas and masks. Across the way, one table had a guest who was into her third glass of wine.

At 1 p.m., Family Gateway Executive Director Rob Alberts told how there were 5,000 homeless children in Dallas. He recalled how Annette Strauss started this group 27 years ago and thanked all who had supported it through the years.

Lisa Garza

Lisa Garza

Then cooking princess Lisa Garza, who had been reviewing her notes backstage, took to the main stage. She read Bible verses and told how “we do not choose our circumstances. My circumstances led me to be homeless.” Growing up Baptist in an abusive Christian home, she told how her dad was bipolar, her mother detached and working all the time. As a result, Lisa took care of the other kids in the family when she was just 7. At 14, Lisa was sexually assaulted by a schoolmate; at 18 she was into drugs, alcohol and sex; at 19 she was homeless, deciding that the “unknown was better than living in an abusive hell.” It was at that point that she lived on sofas, becoming pregnant at 20 with no self-esteem. But thanks to years of therapy, she stopped being a victim, finally, and “decided to pursue my dreams.” Now a frugal businesswoman, she encouraged the audience to “invest in educating the kids, or invest in sending them to prison!” She then added that “someone said I had a 95% chance of not making it. If we can save just one kid, we’ve succeeded. I won, and I have an amazingly happy life. I ask you to dig deeper. We want to raise $100K today. I think we can do more.”

With that, the gal known for her bangs and her cooking received a standing O.

Then it was back to the celebrity shenanigans. At one point the envelope was pushed. At least two females who were old enough to be Miley Cyrus’s mamas took to the stage to “twerk,” sorta. While some thought it was uproarious, other guests blanched that the controversial style of dancing was going too far. As one person put it, “There’s a reason why ‘twerk’ rhymes with ‘jerk’.” After one table complained, the activities returned to a more PG-rated level.

All of which brings us back to Annette Strauss. What would that classy, civic-minded lady have thought of such antics?

Cuisine Cutie Lisa Garza Is Going To Serve Up A Surprise On Being Homeless For Friday’s Celebrity Waiter Luncheon

Lisa Garza (File photo)

Lisa Garza (File photo)

Word has just arrived that in addition to the Celebrity Waiter Luncheon servers (Michelle Anderson, Aubree-Anna, Nicole Barrett, Ashley Burghardt, Linda Cook, Connie Dieb, Lynae Fearing, Bernadette Fiaschetti, Julie Fine, Lea Fisher, Lisa Garza, Shay Geyer, Shona Gilbert, Deanna Johnson, Ray Johnston, Sarah Jones, Darren Kozelsky, LeeAnne Locken, Dawn Mellon, Liz Mikel, JD Miller, Matt Nordgren, Susan O’Brien, Susan Pielsticker, Lisa Pineiro, Tracy Rathbun, Hunter Sullivan, Amy Vanderoef, Shane Walker, Akron Watson and Anthony Wilkinson), organizers swear that this year’s luncheon will be a tad bit more PG-rated. The fun and antics will still be there with emcees WFAA’s Ron Corning and former Modern Luxury editor Stacy Girard, but it won’t push the Celebrities Gone Wild arrow off the meter.

In fact there’s a big old surprise planned.

Want a hint of what it is?

Of course, you do, you demanding soul. Well, Next Food Food Network Star Lisa Garza is going to share for the first time publicly “her personal experience with homeless.” As she said in a June 2008 Food Network Addict post, “I will never forget where I came from. I will never forget what it feels like to be hopeless and in need of love. I don’t throw change at the homeless, I hug them, I love them and I feed them.”

That tale alone may well be worth the price of lunch ticket that benefits Family Gateway.

BTW, for Celebrity Waiter Luncheon vets, remember to head your cars to The Joule this year. It ain’t at the Ritz.

May 15 Round Robin: Cherish The Children, Past CCB Chairs Dinner, Helping Animals And Celebrity Waiter Luncheon Kick-off

Wednesday, May 15, the nonprofits were acting like it was a Thursday with the emphasis of activity in the downtown/uptown area. From lunching in the Ritz-Carlton ballroom to checking out “thangs,” including the approaching storms in the Museum Tower and One Arts Plaza luxury residences or a Preston Hollow mansion, it was indeed busy, busy, busy.

Cherish the Children

Mark and Fran Berg

Mark and Fran Berg*

Cherish the Children at the Ritz-Carlton has earned a reputation for being more than just adorable children’s chairs being up for auction. Benefiting Dallas CASA, it’s also an opportunity to create greater awareness of the real-life issues facing children and how Dallas CASA is on the frontline for their protection.

Here is a detailed report from the field on the luncheon:

Carolee Smith, Victor Rivas Rivers and Angela Thompson

Carolee Smith, Victor Rivas Rivers and Angela Thompson*

“Keynote speaker Victor Rivas Rivers shared his powerful story of growing up in an abusive home and witnessing severe domestic violence with attendees like Caroline Rose Hunt, Charlotte and Niklas Heuveldop, Angela Thompson, Anne Crews, Hannah and Greg May, Lauren and Scott Maggard, Lucy Wrubel, Carolee Smith, Tess Kinsler, Penny Tower Cook, Fran and Mark Berg, Diane Scovell, Christie Carter, Christina Norris and Leigh Anne Haugh.

Greg and Hannah May

Greg and Hannah May

“Because of his personal experiences with domestic violence and severe abuse, Victor encouraged guests to be vigilant about standing up for abused children in our community by supporting Dallas CASA. Victor couched his entire speech with this question: “How are the children?” A traditional greeting of the Masai people in east Africa, the question reflects the truth that when a community’s children are safe, healthy and protected, so will be the community.

“At age 12, Victor went to the local police and told them all that was happening to him, his mother and siblings. Sadly, he was told that such occurrences are ‘a private family matter.’ It wasn’t until age 15 that Victor was finally able to take then-unprecedented legal action against his father, obtaining a restraining order that allowed him to unofficially enter foster care. A series of teachers, coaches and friends helped him overcome his past and have a successful future. Victor went on to become a professional football player and a veteran actor who has starred in more than two dozen films.

“Luncheon guests had the opportunity to meet Victor and purchased signed copies of his memoir, ‘A Private Family Matter.’ In addition, more than two dozen unique and whimsical children’s chairs were displayed at the sixth annual event hosted by the Dallas CASA Children’s Council.

“Including underwriting, sponsorships, ticket sales and chair sales, Dallas CASA raised $160,000 to support abused children in our community.”

Former Crystal Charity Ball Chairs Dinner

Pete and Caren Kline and Heather and Bill Esping

Pete and Caren Kline and Heather and Bill Esping**

Reunions are wonderful occasions when you get to catch up with those who shared a particular time and/or event. That was the case for the US Trust Bank of America Private Wealth Management dinner for former Crystal Charity Ball chairs at Heather and Bill Esping’s Preston Hollow residence. The timing couldn’t have been better. Just before the storm lambasted the area the group had met, eaten and departed.

Past Crystal Charity Ball chairs

Past Crystal Charity Ball chairs**

Over the past 60 years, these chairwomen and their committees have raised more than $105M for area children’s charities.

Caren Kline addressing the group

Caren Kline addressing the group**

That is why the assembled group in the Espings’ home truly appreciated the challenge facing 2013 CCB Chair Caren Kline and her committee of 100 when she announced their goal was to raise more than $5M on December 7.   

Peggy Braecklein and Dale Wigley

Peggy Braecklein and Dale Wigley**

Among them were the senior CCB chairs Dale Wigley (1955), who was CCB’s third chair, and Peggy Braecklein (1969).

In addition to Caren and US Trust Bank of America Private Wealth Management Managing Director Bryan Diers addressing the group, Ken Hughes explained the absence of wife/1991 chair Dee and emphasized how important Crystal Charity has been to them over the years.



Chocolate Fudge Cake

Chocolate Fudge Cake**

It was then time for a fabulous seated dinner (Fennel and arugula greens with apple-toasted hazelnuts and parma ham, Honey Hill Farm Honey and citrus dressing accompanied by King Estate Pinot Gris 2010; wood-grilled Bastrop Cattle Company filet mignon, chicken-friend Maine lobster tail, pommes dauphine and grilled asparagus with Béarnaise sauce accompanied by Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2010; and the Place on Perry’s chocolate fudge cake) provided by Gil’s Elegant Catering.

Bringing The Community Together To Help Animals

Chris Watts and Jody Jones

Chris Watts and Jody Jones***

The weather outside was dark and threatening on Wednesday evening May 15, and someone even said a tornado warning had been issued. But up on the 20th floor Clubhouse at One Arts Plaza, about 30 people were more interested in Jody Jones’ progress report about how the Dallas Companion Animal Project has merged with the Metroplex Animal Coalition and Dallas Animal Advocates. The aim of the merger and the new 501(c)3 group that resulted: reducing from more than 19,000 the number of dogs and cats in our community that were euthanized in FY 2011-12.

While guests sipped wine and munched on fruit, nuts and cheese, they heard from Jones, manager of Dallas Animal Services, and others about such programs as The Umbrella, which consists of a variety of pet-placement support initiatives. They learned that the Dallas Animal Services Facebook page has hit 10,000 Likes and fans, up from just 1,530 in April 2012. They mulled over the latest spay-neuter statistics, and watched slides showing the transformation of the animal shelter with new graphics and bright new paint. “Tonight is a friend-raiser,” DCAP President Chris Watts told the crowd. “Believe me, the fundraising will come.”

Rebecca Poling, Susan Gregory and Elaine Munch

Rebecca Poling, Susan Gregory and Elaine Munch***

After mini-talks by DCAP Treasurer Rebecca Poling and Susan Gregory, a DCAP director, volunteer Joe Pyland stood up and told Jones: “I spent my life managing large numbers of people, and I’ve seen many changes since you’ve been here.” Pyland’s compliment brought a burst of applause, and then talk turned to the coming storm. “This is not a good place to be if there’s a tornado,” warned Jocelyn White, chairman of the SPCA of Texas board of directors. “I’m an old weather girl.” The reception wisely broke up a little after that.

Celebrity Waiter Luncheon Has Kick-Off Party

A stone’s throw away, meanwhile, more than 100 guests who turned up for Family Gateway’s Celebrity Waiter Luncheon Kick-Off Party had an even more commanding view of the gathering storm from the 38th floor of Museum Tower. Kick-off party co-chairs were Courtney Edwards and Allison Edwards.

In one crowded room of the spectacular party condo, the nonprofit’s executive director, Rob Alberts, was waxing poetic about Family Gateway’s grand plans, from opening a Montessori school for homeless pre-schoolers to putting up 150 apartments for homeless families. The group’s audacious goal: ending child homelessness in Dallas by 2017.

The Celebrity Waiter Luncheon, scheduled for September 6 at the downtown Joule hotel, will aim to raise $150,000 toward that goal. Wednesday night partygoers paused briefly to hear from the luncheon co-chairs, Lindsay Jacaman and Jamie Singer, as well as from Family Gateway board chair Jill Herz (“it’s kind of a nasty night, but thanks for coming out!”) Then, soon enough, DJ Jason Esquire resumed spinning the tunes for guests including D’Andra Simmons, Shay Geyer, Holly Forsythe and Maggie Cooke Kipp. “Celebrity wrangler” Stacy Girard reported over the din that 40 celebrities will be needed for the luncheon—to be emceed by WFAA’s Ron Corning—and that quite a few celebs have yet to be locked in.

* Photos provided by Dallas CASA
** Photo credit: Jeanne Prejean
*** Photo credit: Glenn Hunter