Hoda And Hegi Girls Netted $217,800 For Interfaith Family Services

Amy Hegi, Hoda Kotb and Libby Hegi (File photo)

Amy Hegi, Hoda Kotb and Libby Hegi (File photo)

The Hegi gals (Amy and Libby) are high-fiving about the results from the first Interfaith Auxiliary Luncheon that was such a gangbuster in April with Hoda Kotb as the headliner at the Dallas Country Club. The ladies netted a sweet $217,800 for Interfaith Family Services (formerly known as Interfaith Housing Coalition), which “empowers families in crisis to break the cycle of poverty through comprehensive programming that builds stability, self-worth and skills.”

In the middle of a $7M capital campaign, “the Dallas nonprofit organization provides transitional housing, counseling, training, job search support, financial coaching and childcare to help parents and their children create a strong foundation for self-sufficiency.”

2015 Crystal Charity Ball Committee Distributed Record-Breaking $6.5M To 11 Dallas Children’s Non-Profits

There are hundreds of children…no, make that thousands of children…who went to sleep on Tuesday, April 12, never having heard of a gal from Andrews, Texas, by the name of Michal Powell or an organization called Crystal Charity Ball.

That’s just peachy keen for the 2015 CCB Chair Michal and her gall-gal committee of 99. For a little over a year, they made calls, hand delivered contracts and championed the cases for Dallas children to net a record-breaking $6.5M.

Some of that money would go to healthcare, ranging from sexual abuse to hearing and sight challenges. Other funds would assist homeless and hungry kids and those working through the challenges of autism.

Pat McEvoy, Tucker Enthoven, Vinnie Reuben, Gregg Ballew, Michal Powell, Leslie Diers, Susan Farris and Mary Clare Finney

Pat McEvoy, Tucker Enthoven, Vinnie Reuben, Gregg Ballew, Michal Powell, Leslie Diers, Susan Farris and Mary Clare Finney

But on this evening, it was Christmas with Michal and her team including Underwriting chair Tucker Enthoven presenting the real-thing checks to the 11 recipients thanks to host Westwood Trust Senior VP Gregg Ballew. Among the crowd of more-than-smiley recipients and guests were Dave Woodyard, Ola Fojtasek, Robyn Flatt, Cara French, Sandra Session-Robertson, Bob Sweeney, Elizabeth Gambrell, Tom Turnage, Pam Busbee, Ona Foster, Daffan Nettle, Dr. Tom Campbell, Beth Thoele, Michael Craven, Margaret Hancock, Kimberly Williams, Anne Reeder, Doug Adkins, Tricia George, Tom Black, Mary Martha Pickens, Jan McAuley, Fredye Factor, Pat McEvoy, Vinnie Reuben, Leslie Diers, Mary Clare Finney, Susan Farris, Barbara Stuart and 2016 CCB Chair Christie Carter.

Here is a breakdown of how the checks were distributed:

  • Catholic Charities of Dallas — $575,000 for the School Readiness Program
  • Dallas Children’s Theater — $564,400 for Sensory-Friendly Performances and Classes
  • Dallas Life — $546,919 for the Kids Life Program
  • Dallas Services — $646,064 for the Vision for Children Program
  • Family Compass — $600,000 for the Healthy Families Program
  • Foundation for the Callier Center for Communication Disorders — $630,000 for The Pediatric Hearing Aid Project
  • H.I.S. BridgeBuilders — $539,450 for the Crossover Athletics Program
  • Interfaith Housing Coalition — $500,000 for the Childcare and Youth Services Center
  • Mary Crowley Cancer Research Centers —$500,000 for Ewing’s Sarcoma Pediatric Cancer Research Program
  • North Texas Food Bank — $750,000 for the Food 4 Kids Backpack Program
  • Texas Health Resources Foundation — $459,124 for the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program

Wanna bet what the first thing the 11 recipients did the next morning? Deliver the checks to their banks, of course. The second thing was to put that money to work.

NBC Today’s Hoda Kotb Became Everyone’s Ultimate BFF At The First Interfaith Auxiliary Luncheon

Let’s be brutally honest. The very sound of Interfaith Auxiliary Luncheon creates images of sitting up straight and being rather solemn. Start to rethink that idea. On Tuesday, April 1, Interfaith Housing Coalition somehow managed to launch its first ever Interfaith Auxiliary Luncheon fundraiser without a hint of huffiness or starch. The result was standing ovations (no surprise) and a vast majority of LWL (Ladies Who Lunch) critiquing the event as, “This was the best one ever!”

Darn it. They may have been right.

However, it didn’t exactly appear to be any different than most lunches initially. The reception started with a chill in the air because of the late season drop in temps and the energetic A/C in the Dallas Country Club lobby and ballroom. For once, the lobby fireplace looked like mittens on a snow day.

Kevin and Marybeth Conlon, Robyn and Don Conlon, Megan and Keith Conlon and Jennifer and Joe Clifford

Kevin and Marybeth Conlon, Robyn and Don Conlon, Megan and Keith Conlon and Jennifer and Joe Clifford

And some folks admitted that they didn’t spot many of the usuals. But that changed with the arrival of Honorary Chair Robyn Conlon and her clan (husband Don Conlon, son Keith Conlon and his bride Megan Conlon and son Kevin Conlon and his wife Marybeth Conlon) and Co-Chairs Amy Hegi and Libby Hegi and their crew (parent-in-laws Jan and Fred Hegi and Amy’s husband/Interfaith Board Member Peter Hegi and Libby’s husband/Interfaith Board of Directors Chair Brian Hegi).

Sure, in the crowded lobby, the predictable “oops” of trays of wineglasses on the floor created a cozier condition, but that was relieved by the ballroom doors opening for the sold-out event.

Beth Thoele and Caren Kline

Beth Thoele and Caren Kline

Cara French

Cara French

Still it took time to settle the guests like Nancy Carter, Linda Secrest, Claire Manigold, Beth Thoele, Caren Kline, Cara French, Connie O’Neill, Jennifer and Joe Clifford, Patti Flowers, Libby Hunt, Louise Backa, Alicia Wood and Tiffany Divis in their seats, and there was “no Hoda” in sight. The “Hoda” was Emmy-award-winning NBC Today’s Co-Host Hoda Kotb, who was to be the keynote speaker. Gee, did she miss her flight that morning from NYC to DFW? Nope! She finally appeared all in white and briefly took her place next to KXAS’s Meredith Land, who was the day’s emcee.

Kimberly Williams, Jan and Fred Hegi and Louise Backa

Kimberly Williams, Jan and Fred Hegi and Louise Backa

Hoda had hardly put her napkin in her lap than she was working the room like a presidential candidate while others ate. It was easy to note her latest table visit by the whoops and hollers arising around the room. As if the stop-and-chat wasn’t enough, she earned major points by posing for group photos at the tables. Even the most proper types dropped their forks, jumped up from their chairs and gathered around the Hoda for a group photo.

One of the chaps in the crowd looked mystified by this excitement. But he also admitted that he usually was at the office when Hoda and her co-host Kathie Lee Gifford were exchanging news of the day. But he soon learned the reason for this gal-pal rally.

Meredith Land

Meredith Land

Even when Meredith came to the podium to get things goings, Hoda continued her “table service.” As Meredith introduced the Hegi co-chairs, a cheer erupted from the back of the room as Hoda hit another table.

Amy and Libby thanked all for attending and pointed to Robyn especially for her support. Then Amy told of her first encounter with Interfaith and homelessness. It was Christmas when she was a youngster and her mom bundled the kids up and delivered a Christmas tree to help settle a family in their new home. When Amy asked why the family hadn’t brought their own tree from their old home, her mother explained there had been no old home.

Interfaith CEO Kimberly Williams explained the mission and announced that they had tweaked the organization’s name just slightly. From this day on, it would be known as Interfaith Family Services. But its mission to “empower families in crisis to break the cycle of poverty” would remain the same.

Shemika Hopson

Shemika Hopson

To provide a firsthand report on how Interfaith had made a life-changing difference, Kimberly had Shemika Hopson come to the podium and tell her story.  The diminutive mother perfectly blended humor, confidence, gratitude and a don’t-say-no spirit that hadn’t been heard in a while. She had been living in a car with her two kids, but thanks to the guidance and support by Interfaith, she had grown emotionally and financially resulting in her buying her own home and landing a job and promotions.

In addition to a standing O, Shemika hardly returned to her chair before Hoda was there with her arms around the young mother. Her talk could have easily ended the program and it would have been the kiss of success for the first-time fundraiser.

Hoda was up next and admitted that it was gonna be tough to follow Shemika, but she shouldn’t have been concerned. If anything, Shemika and Hoda were the perfect pairing.

Hoda Kotb

Hoda Kotb

Immediately Hoda took a panoramic photo of the sold-out crowd. Then she explained that Kathie Lee had been on vacation for the past week. Hoda then recorded the guests saying with big smiles, “Welcome back, Kathie Lee.”

After putting her smartphone down, Hoda told how she got her start as a TV reporter. Blending a perfect balance of self-deprecating humor and stellar storytelling, she took the audience through her countless rejections, embarrassments and OMG success of her life. In landing her first job, she borrowed her mother’s car and told how she was going to Richmond, Virginia, for a job interview knowing that it was hers. When she arrived at the station, she looked around and decided where she would sit and which fella she would date. The news director looked at her tape for less than a couple of minutes and told her that she wasn’t ready for his station, but he did know a news director in Roanoke who might have an opening. A bit surprised but determined, she set off to Roanoke to meet the news director with the same results — not quite ready. Her thought was “Who in the hell is not ready for Roanoke?” But he told her about still another news director in Memphis who might hire her, but he was flying out the next day, so she had to hurry over to Memphis to catch him. Same thing happened there. This happened more than 22 times as she drove from station to station and city to city feeling more defeated each time. Somehow, the way Hoda told the story, everyone in the audience identified with the feeling of rejection but laughed with her in recalling the journey.

Really discouraged and tired after ten days of rejection, she found herself lost in Mississippi and spied a sign promoting the local CBS station — “Greenville, our eye is on you.” She took it as a sign, walked into the station and presented her muchly rejected tape to WXVT TV News Director Stan Sandroni, who admitted that just the day before he had been the sports director. He told “Hilda” to come on in. As he watched the tape, Hoda was shocked to see him “watch the whole, terrible, horrible tape to the end.” He told her, “Hilda, I like what I see.” She was shocked and said, “You do?” He hired her, giving her the first chance in her TV reporting career. “This guy, Stan Sandroni, changed the course of my life.”

Hoda Kotb

Hoda Kotb

Later in her days at the station, Stan came into the newsroom and asked, “Who has a blazer?” Hoda volunteered that she did. He said, “Oh, good, you need to anchor the news because Anne [the female anchor] was sick.” She had never anchored, but she knew there was a teleprompter and it was a one-anchor newscast. She looked at the teleprompter that read, “Good evening, I’m Hoda Kotb. Anne Martin is out sick.” The red light went on. The guy cued her. She said, “Good evening, I’m Anne Martin.” The rest of the show was downhill — “When I mess up, I keep on messing up. I can’t stop it. It was like I was riding the toboggan down the mountain screaming.”

She knew she was going to be fired the next day, so she headed to the grocery in search of comfort food. Instead in the ice cream aisle, “A woman comes over and she looks crazy. Her hair was all crazy and she had one or two teeth and she goes ‘Oh, my God, I just seen you TV and I am so sorry for you.’”

The next day Stan said he had seen what she did and it was pretty horrible, but “Anne’s sick again,” so he gave a second chance.

Years later after winning awards and climbing the TV news ladder, the folks at 30 Rock asked the on-air talent to bring someone to Studio One A who changed the course of their lives. Hoda’s pick was Stan. He walked in and said, “Oh, my God, Al Roker! Matt Lauer!”

Hoda’s message to the audience: It only takes one person to change your life.

Editor’s note: What Hoda didn’t tell the audience was Stan died less than 18 months ago at the age of 64 from a heart attack.

She then told of a state trooper who dropped everything during the Katrina evacuation to locate a child who had been placed on a bus without his mother. They were reunited in Houston.

It was also during Katrina that she was in a car sweating through her clothes and her producer told her to change her shirt to do a stand up. She took her shirt off and “was sitting there in her soaking wet bra talking to myself, talking to God. And just at that exact same moment, a bus pulls up right next to me. I looked up and there are these guys on the bus and they started banging on the windows and saying, ‘Hey, news lady, we see your titties.’ I so needed that.”

And then there was the meeting with the intern when a phone call came in from her doctor telling her that she had breast cancer. It was obvious the news was not good. Not knowing what the doctor had told Hoda, the intern asked if she wanted to be alone. Hoda said yes. But before the intern left, she asked for a favor. Hoda agreed, thinking it was to exchange numbers or take a picture. The intern asked if she could hug Hoda. “I remember looking at this kid, who knew nothing about me. But that was exactly what I needed right there and right then. This kid just wrapped her arms around me and I was like crying into this intern’s arms and she left probably wondering, ‘Who’s the crazy?’”

Following her breast surgery, Matt Lauer called her with an assignment to go to Ireland. It was pretty soon after the surgery, but her doctor gave her permission. She admitted that she felt very vulnerable and on the way home she wasn’t feeling very well and was having second thoughts on whether it had been a good idea to have taken the trip. Next to her on the plane was a man, who asked, “How are you doing?” Despite Hoda’s obviously wanting to left alone, he continued trying to strike up a conversation with her. Eventually he got his way and they started talking. He asked, “What is that on your arm?” She explained that it was compression sleeve due to a procedure. He persisted asking her what kind of procedure. She finally fessed up that she’d had breast cancer and hoped that he wouldn’t get off of the plane telling people that he’d sat next to a girl who had had breast cancer. To that he asked, “What is wrong with you? Breast cancer is just a part of you. It is like going to college, getting married or working at NBC. Let me give you some advice and you can go to sleep.” He then gave her some advice “that I never forgot, ever. He said, ‘Don’t hog your journey. It’s not just for you.’ Right, Shemika?”

Linda Secrest and Claire Manigold

Linda Secrest and Claire Manigold

All eyes in the ballroom went straight to Shemika.

“He said, “Think how many people you can help right now. His name is Ken Duane.” That conversation put her on the road to promoting breast cancer awareness and taught her three things:

  1. Life has margins. There is a beginning and end, so she stopped wasting time. “I hold so tightly to the things I love and got rid of the things that I didn’t love. So, now I’m divorced.”
  2. If you survive anything big and you’re still standing at the end, then you get four words: “You can’t scare me.”
  3. The way you spend your days is the way you spend your life.

In closing, Hoda told of a random act of kindness. She got in the elevator at her apartment building and there was “this girl who looks kind of weird with an Oscar the Grouch hat pulled down.” She also had a box of cupcakes that Hoda asked about. The girl told her they were salted caramel. Hoda remarked that they smelled great and the girl told her that they had come from the bakery in Brooklyn, “30 or 40 minutes away.” The girl departed and that was it, or so Hoda thought. The next day the door man handed over a box that someone had left with a note that read, “Hi, I was the girl wearing the Oscar the Grouch hat and I met you in the elevator. You were admiring my cupcakes, but they were both spoken for. I had a little extra time, so I went to Brooklyn and got you two more.”

Hoda said, “Can you believe she did that? That’s a random act of kindness that can change your life. Now, that girl in the Oscar the Grouch hat doesn’t know that I told her story at a great speech in Dallas.”

Despite the clock in the ballroom ticking, no one wanted her to stop. Hoda was their new, absolutely BFF. And what does an audience give their BFF speaker? A standing O.

Amy Hegi, Hoda Kotb and Libby Hegi

Amy Hegi, Hoda Kotb and Libby Hegi

Later at a meet-and-greet that took place just before 2 p.m. in the Founders’ Room, Hoda hadn’t changed one iota. When she spotted the Louboutin fringed stilettos on Megan Conlon, she couldn’t contain herself. It was discovered that the shoes had been a V-day gift to Megan from her husband Keith. Upon seeing the national TV celebrity’s excitement about the footwear, Conlon brother Kevin told Keith that he was getting the other Conlon men in trouble — “I just got Marybeth flowers.”

Hoda Kotb, Don Conlon and Megan Conlon

Hoda Kotb, Don Conlon and Megan Conlon

PS — Hoda was schedule to be the commencement speaker at Tulane University Saturday, May 14, but some students circulated a petition saying, “Given the amount of money, work and passion we have poured into our educational careers at Tulane, we think we deserve better than this. Hoda Kotb is hardly an inspirational figure, and despite the fact that she has had a successful career in journalism, we feel that we deserve a more recognizable and more prominent figure than her.”

Days later the petition was replaced by one supporting the choice. So, Hoda is still on for the event and who knows? Perhaps if those naysayers open their ears and minds they just might discover that Hoda is that person of change in their lives.

Two Great Fundraisers Were Victims Of A Head-On Collision

An unfortunate situation took place Friday, April 1. It wasn’t an April Fool’s joke. It was the taking place of two fundraising luncheons that divided the efforts for those in need. At the Hilton Anatole, Community Partners of DallasChick Lit Luncheon was celebrating its 10the anniversary with 1,100 and Tim Gunn on stage.

Tim Gunn

Tim Gunn

Hoda Kotb

Hoda Kotb

Over at the Dallas Country Club, Today Co-Host Hoda Kotb was the featured speaker for more than 350 at the Interfaith Dallas – Family Services‘ (formerly known as Interfaith Housing Coalition) Interfaith Auxiliary Luncheon.

Both speakers were beyond remarkable, with guests from each event swearing theirs was the best in ages. But one has to wonder, “What if….?”

What’s that? “What if….what?” It’s, “What if they had been held 24 hours apart?” The guests probably could have squeezed enough money out of their budgets and time to attend both, thereby supporting CPD as well as Interfaith. In turn, they would have been the recipients of two memory-making programs.

Sure, organizers are at the mercy of speakers’ and entertainers’ schedules, but if such a collision of fundraising can be prevented, it really benefits all.

One way to avoid similar situations is to check the MySweetCharity Calendar. If a fundraiser is already on a particular date, then it might be wise to pick another date. Basic MSC Calendar listings are absolutely free to provide the information for one and all. Bells and whistles can be added for a minimal cost.

Interfaith Auxiliary Luncheon Ain’t Fooling Around With April 1st Fundraiser Featuring Hoda Kotb As Keynote Speaker

Friday, April 1, is gonna be ground zero for luncheon fundraisers in North Texas. As has already been posted, Community Partners of Dallas’ Chick Lit 10th Annual Luncheon at the Hilton Anatole will have natty Tim Gunn.

While some may have thought this event would suck all the air out of the lunch rooms, it was revealed that the Interfaith Auxiliary Luncheon is providing an alternative with award-winning journalist Hoda Kotb as the keynote speaker at the Dallas Country Club. Hoda, who was born up the road in Norman, Oklahoma, has gained fame in recent years as being Kathie Lee Gifford’s co-host on NBC’s “Today Show”’s fourth hour.

Amy Hegi (File photo)

Amy Hegi (File photo)

Robyn Conlon (File photo)

Robyn Conlon (File photo)

To add to the event’s hoop-la, Interfaith Auxiliary Luncheon Co-Chairs Amy Hegi and Libby Hegi revealed that former Crystal charity Ball Chairman Robyn Conlon will serve as the luncheon’s honorary chair that will benefit the children served by Interfaith Housing Coalition.

The Coalition “provides transitional housing for working poor families who are experiencing a housing crisis.”

So, don’t wait too long to decide where you’ll be lunching on April Fools’ Day. Both these events have all the signs of being sold out ASAP. Check with Xiomara Ross at 469.828.1806 about getting your place at the Coalition fundraiser.

Crystal Charity Ball Bus Tour Covered The Map Doing Site Visits Of 2015 Beneficiaries

Does anybody know where Bonton is? Not to worry. Check later.

The beneficiaries for the 2015 Crystal Charity Ball had been announced. It was to be a blockbuster of a year with 11 recipients and a goal of $6,310,957. 2015 CCB Chair Michal Powell and her team including Underwriting Chair Tucker Enthoven recognized the overwhelming task and Michal was throwing her all into accomplishing the funding.

Michal Powell

Michal Powell

2015 Crystal Charity Ball bus tour

2015 Crystal Charity Ball bus tour

But before they reached out to donors, the CCB gals checked off Tuesday, February 17, as the day to get to know the beneficiaries up close and personally. Bus Tour Chair Margaret Hancock had put together the world tour of the beneficiaries. It was quite an undertaking and came off flawlessly

As the early morning chill filled the bus in the Turtle Creek Village parking lot, CCB members piled into the bus that would tour the beneficiaries with facilities. Some sent representatives to explain their programs. That was the case for the first two.

Mary Crowley Cancer Research Center
Ellen Dearman

Ellen Dearman

Mary Crowley’s Development Vice President Ellen Dearman and Chief Operating Officer Shannon Cagnina hopped on board and with microphone in hand explained that thanks to CCB funding, the Mary Crowley team would be able to advance drugs for children battling Ewing’s Sarcoma, “a deadly pediatric bone and soft tissue cancer with an overall survival of only 30%.” Because the market is so small, “pharmaceutical companies do not lead with a pediatric drug, so that’s why private philanthropy plays such a key role.” The plan calls for Mary Crowley to “leverage the work they’ve been doing in adults for the over 20 years to move into the pediatric population.” In addition to the drug’s advancement, they’re undertaking “targeted therapy” that targets the driver gene in Ewing Sarcoma and “knocks it down” and stops the growth of the cancer. Shannon explained that past treatments like chemotherapy have been a shotgun approach in ridding the body of cancer, with tough side effects. The targeted therapy is more like a rifle, reducing the side effects. She also reported that traditionally treatments and therapies have been initially used on adults first, while children had to wait until it was proven effective. But the young patients and their families don’t have the luxury of time. Ellen concluded by saying, “I just can’t tell you the difference you’re going to make.”

Family Compass
Tina Robertson

Tina Robertson

Next on the bus was Family Compass Clinical Director Tina Robertson. She was subbing in for Family Compass Executive Director Jessica Trudeau, who was in Fort Worth for an interview. Tina told how the CCB funding would support Healthy Family Visiting, a home counseling program for teen parents and their children in low-income areas with the goal of preventing child abuse. The home visitor works with the clients for five years because change doesn’t happen overnight and the families need a support system. The curricula may include helping a mom bond with her baby and assisting in pre- and post-natal care. The better and earlier bonding of mother and baby results in fewer cases of abuse.

As Tina said, “Prevention is preservation. When we prevent child abuse, we are preserving their innocence.” To back her comments, she provided the following statistics:

  • One in five Americans was sexually molested as a child.
  • One in four was physically abused to the point where there were marks left on their bodies.
  • One in eight Americans witnessed family violence in their home.
  • One in 10 Americans is currently taking anti-depressants. Most of that is related to childhood trauma and abuse.

She added that those numbers are based on reported information and reflect “disturbing mental health and public health outcomes.” Tina proudly concluded by announcing that as a result of this prevention strategies in the homes, “last year 98% of our families did not sustain a referral to Family Protective Services… and 99% of the children were developmentally on track.”

Texas Health Resources/SANE Program
Renee Donald

Renee Donald

As soon as Tina stepped off the bus, the driver put the bus in motion toward Texas Health Resources Presbyterian Hospital and its SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners) program. While the powers-that-be at Presby had wanted the ladies to arrive at the main entrance, the ladies stayed with the original plan of entering via the Emergency Room entrance, just as a teenage rape victim might. As the CCB-ers walked up the hill from the road to the ER entrance, Texas Health Resources Foundation President Jay McAuley and his staff rushed from the main entrance to the ER. Luckily, the ER was calm at this time, so the CCB-ers’ arrival didn’t interfere with the staff’s business as usual.

After the ladies were separated into groups, they were toured through the facilities and stops that a teenager experiences. SANE Supervisor Renee Donald explained that the waiting room often is a place where family and “friends” wait while the victim is examined both verbally and physically. What really surprised the group was that it’s not unusual for the person who committed the rape to bring the victim in.

The visit was cut short. A 14-year-old was being brought in.

Dallas Children’s Theater
Robyn Flatt

Robyn Flatt

The next stop may have seemed a far cry from SANE, but it simply touched on another aspect of youngsters with unique needs. It was the Dallas Children’s Theater. DTC Co-Founder/Executive Artistic Director Robyn Flatt explained their Sensory Friendly Initiative, a program providing 21 performances especially designed to accommodate children facing challenges like autism. The money will also be used to provide classes in which the children can take part.

With CCB-ers sitting in a small theater, Robyn and Senior Director of Communications and Philanthropy Sandra Session-Robertson explained that so often families of such children avoid theatrical productions. Such things as sound and lighting can affect these children differently, resulting in reactions that can be disruptive or distracting to others in the audience. Through the funding by CCB, performances would be designed to allow these children and their families to enjoy theatrical productions and allow for possible interaction by the children in the audience. The CCB-ers then toured the DCT backstage operations and visited with schoolchildren, who were attending a performance in The Baker Theater.

Callier Center for Communication Disorder
Jeff Martin

Jeff Martin

The next group to visit with was Dr. Tom Campbell and Dr. Jeff Martin of Callier. They came on board the bus in the Dallas Children’s Theater parking lot to explain how the CCB funding would provide hearing aids for children in need.

Due to changes at the state level, funds that would have been used to help low-income children with hearing challenges had been all but eliminated. The CCB monies will pick up the costs of providing help for these children. The result will be to provide help for 120 families per year for the next three years. That help will include children who are provided hearing aids by the school district. Since the aids are owned by the district, the children aren’t able to use them out of school. This funding would provide for children to have aids outside of school. The program will also allow the children to go through a comprehensive evaluation and to be fitted with their own aids.

On the way to the next stop, Pam Perella introduced the new members — Anne Besser, Bunny Cotten, Laura Downing, Susann Glassmoyer, Cheryl Joyner, Brooke Shelby and Stacey Walker.

Interfaith Housing Coalition
Interfaith Housing Coalition

Interfaith Housing Coalition

The bus was then heading to the InterFaith Housing Coalition, which helps families transitioning from homelessness to self-sufficiency. Once again the CCB-ers broke into groups and were shown the plans for the new facilities that will include the Child Care and Youth Services Building that will house and expand the present services for children in a three-story, 20,000-square-foot building. The first floor will provide child care for existing families in the program as well as other low-income families in the surrounding East Dallas community. The new building will allow 200-500 children to be served yearly.

They saw where the children in the program have Tuesday and Thursday night meals together with real plates and silverware, while their parents are attending classes on such subject as budget training. Then the ladies visited apartments where families live while preparing for the transition into permanent homes. Everything in the apartments is new and is especially created for that specific family. Children find toys and stuffed animals waiting for them on their beds. When the families make the move to their new homes, they take everything in the apartment with them.

To help care for their children while their parents are getting their lives in order, the CCB funding will support the organization’s childcare and youth services center, including the Children’s and Teens’ Multi-purpose Room, the Library and Resource Room, the Counseling and Play Therapy Room, the Teen Lounge, the Art Therapy Room, Children’s Dining Room and furnishing for the rooms.

Dallas Services
Stephanie Fleming

Stephanie Fleming

After a group picture, the CCB-ers were back on the bus and joined by Dr. Stephanie Fleming, who rode along to the next stop and told of Dallas Services. She started off by recalling how the night before she had told her sons that she was going to be on a bus and tell some ladies about the glasses. The boys were so excited and asked if the ladies got snacks and if there was a bathroom on the bus.

Once the laughter died down, Stephanie, who is the clinic director for Dallas Services’ Low Vision Clinic, explained the problem of low-income children with vision problems handling classes and interaction with others. With a handful of glasses, she told how thanks to the funding they will be able to provide 4,500 school children ranging from pre-K to high school for the next three years. In addition to providing the specs, the clinic also works with families encouraging them to have their children tested.

As the bus rolled on, Stephanie walked up and down the aisle letting the CCB-er’s check out the frames.

Thanks to ordering large numbers of glasses, Dallas Services is able to get bulk discount rates.

Just as the bus pulled up to the next stop, Stephanie concluded her talk. When asked how she was going to get back to Dallas Services, she laughed. Evidently, she’d had a car following the bus that would take her back to work.

Dallas Life
Dallas Life

Dallas Life

The bus then pulled up inside Dallas Life’s gated parking lot for the CCB-ers to tour a 104-year-old former warehouse that is the “largest homeless shelter in North Texas” incorporating around 3,500 volunteers. Of the 500 people nightly living there, around 72 of them are children. It has 50 individual family rooms. Dallas Life is “the only shelter that allows families to stay together on a long-term basis.”

As Rev. Bob Sweeney showed the “Kids’ Wing,” he told how all these rooms will be expanded and open each night with volunteer babysitters from 7 to 9, thanks to the CCB funds. This expansion will include the activity area and restroom facilities. It also allows for the expansion of the children’s programming as well as helping the on-going costs of care of basic children’s services.

In addition he showed them the living quarters that included “designer rooms,” that require clients to sign an agreement including no water on the wood, always picked up, etc. and the “private rooms” that accommodate families with children under 18.

There were also the library with rows of computer stations that had been donated and the Senior Overcomer Lounge, where older residents can retreat from the children’s activities.

In the dining room, Bob pointed out that the men sit in one area, the women in another and the families “down the center.”

Dallas Life maintains a very tight schedule. Dinner starts at 4:30 for seniors and the disabled, then families and women at 5 p.m. and men at 5:30. By 6 p.m. dinner is a done deal. Chapel takes place twice a week at 6 p.m. From 6 to 7 p.m. it’s showers for children only. Then from 7 to 9 p.m. the kids in their jammies go the Toy Room, while their parents have time to shower and get ready for the next day.

For the first 30 days of residency, there is no charge. During the first five days, the clients watch a 45-minute video of Bob explaining the rules daily. In many cases, this repetition is essential for those who have had drug and alcohol problems. On the fifth day, they pick whether they want the long-term program or pay-to-stay for short-term residency. Stage Two of the program includes attending classes for two months dealing with anger management, the psychology of addiction, budgeting, etc. At Phase Three clients get a job, no if’s, and’s or but’s. During this three-month period 180 job applications are filled by the individual. Bob added, “We’ve never had anybody filled out all the applications and not get a job.” In addition to getting a mentor, the clients sign up for low-income housing. In Phase Four, the client gets a full-time job.

Recently the neighborhood association sent a NBC newscast link including Dallas Life to Bob, adding they were glad to have the organization in the neighborhood.

Dallas Life

Dallas Life

Dallas Life

Dallas Life

Dallas Life

Dallas Life

Before boarding the bus, the CCB-ers spied the playground and headed straight for the swings. No, they weren’t going to swing, they were going to push the children already in the swings.

H.I.S. Bridgebuilders

The bus now headed to Bonton. Remember, it was mentioned at the beginning of this post. Bonton is an area of South Dallas that has a long history but until recently had little to brag about. That is, unless being described as one of the highest crime and greatest poverty neighborhoods in Dallas is something to be proud of.

As Tour Chair Margaret Hancock warned the committee members, she had visited the area and found it to be “truly eye opening.” On paper, the CCB donation would provide funding for the expansion of the Crossover Athletics program that would involve 96 male youths from 8 to 18 over a three-year period, plus the purchase of a 15-passenger van to help transport teams.

While that didn’t seem like a big deal, it was for this community bounded by Hatcher Street and South Central Expressway. Driving through the streets filled with aging homes, new homes with manicured yards and apartments appeared like an oasis. These new and restored residences are the results of efforts by many including Habitat for Humanity.

Brandon McCain

Brandon McCain

Laure Fechner

Laura Fechner

Michael Craven

Michael Craven

But those improvements are brick and mortar. To help the residents themselves, H.I.S. Bridgebuilders has developed programs that address education, health, economic development and spiritual development. One of those programs was the Crossover Athletics headed by Brandon McCain.

Joining Brandon on board the bus were H.I.S. Bridgebuilders Director of Development Laura Fechner and H.I.S. Bridgebuilders President Michael Craven, who explained the bigger picture of what they were accomplishing. As the bus toured the area, the CCB-ers saw such things as Bonton Farms, where chickens, goats — Laverne and Shirley — and a garden were being developed and maintained. The plan is for it to eventually supplement food for the community because a trip to the nearest grocery store is a 3-hour excursion via public transportation. In addition to the Bonton Farm, there is another community garden in another sector where they’re also raising tilapia.

Despite these improvements and projects, the past continues to linger. As the bus drove through the area, Brandon, Laura and Michael described progress and challenges. A liquor store was still a fixture fueling those dealing with futility. A young man was seen in front of a house teasing a gray pit bull dog with a steel pole. The neighborhood school has been closed down. Young people have been discouraged from going to the nearby lake because that’s where precarious activities take place.

Brandon told the ladies that he and his pregnant wife had moved to Bonton from Carrollton. He pointed out the homes on the street where he lives in which some of his Crossover youths live. The hope is that by involving young men in sports, it will provide them with tools like discipline, goal setting, respect, cooperation and hard work leading them to productive lives and breaking the cycle that has dragged down Bonton.

As the bus dropped off Brandon, Laura and Michael and headed to the next stop, the thought of having nearly 100 young men be part of an athletic program instead of heading to the liquor store or lake proved why the funding was so important.

Catholic Charities

Now the bus wove along the street leading to the Santa Clara Regional Community Center in West Dallas. It was obvious that the Center had gone through updating to provide services for the underserved in the neighborhood and had become a true gathering place for families pursuing opportunities to improve their lives, both personally and professionally.

Santa Rosa basketball court

Santa Rosa basketball court

In addition to the indoor basketball court and outdoor swimming pool for recreational activities, the Center provides programs for children and parents. Its Together We Learn program lets children participate in English-focused early education classes, while parents receive classes in children development, ESL and job readiness. It both prepares children for school success and empowers the parents.

The free after-school program takes place from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday with a snack and dinner for the children. Providing a STEM-based curriculum, tutoring and recreational activities, the CCB funding allow the program to operate at full capacity for approximately 275 children from birth through 8th grade over a two-year period.

North Texas Food Bank
Jan Pruitt

Jan Pruitt

For the final stop of the day, it was the North Texas Food Bank in Cockrell Hill, where NTFB Executive Director Jan Pruitt was still adjusting to being a 2015 beneficiary. It wasn’t her first rodeo. She had warned her staff that when they approached her about applying for the grant.  Did they know what they were undertakign? Jan had been through the Crystal Charity Ball application process and knew it was a new definition of “tough.” Later she confided that the CCB 100 were daunting in their vetting of candidates. Jan admitted that most people didn’t realize the depth and focus to detail that the 100 undertook. She admired them, respected them and still was in awe of them. Like others who had been approved for CCB funding in the past, Jan explained that as incredible as receiving the funding was, the validation by this group was priceless regardless of the size of the nonprofit.

Regardless, the NTFB staff fearlessly sought funds for the Food 4 Kids Backpack program.

In addition to providing “170,000 meals each day for hungry children, seniors and families through a network of more than 1,000 programs and 262 partner agencies.”

North Texas Food Bank's Food glorious food

North Texas Food Bank’s Food glorious food

North Texas Food Bank's Food glorious food

North Texas Food Bank’s Food glorious food

North Texas Food Bank

North Texas Food Bank

Unfortunately, the “cost of personnel, food purchases, supplies and associated warehouse costs with the ultimate goal of eliminating the 42-school waiting lists for backpacks” is daunting, but it is possible.

With the funds provided by CCB, “approximately 1,468 elementary-aged children and their young siblings will be provided 52,854 backpacks each school year, or the equivalent of 634,248 meals over” a three-year period.

It had been a long day being inundated by much-needed services for area children. But looking at towering shelves filled with boxes of food, the cartons full of peanut butter, cereals and other items that will find their way into the backpacks, it reminded the CCB-ers that there were children depending upon their raising more than $6M.