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.

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!”

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

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.