When people mention foundations, there’s a tendency to picture very stuffy types seated around a board table mulling over how to dole out money. Boy, is that the wrong image and Communities Foundation of Texas proved that Friday, November 8. The occasion was CFT’s 60th anniversary — “Giving Back & Looking Forward “— at CFT headquarters for 200 guests.
In the crowd there were some longtime members of the CFT community, like Linda and Bill Custard and Bobby Lyle and Lottye Brodsky, but there was also the next generation of philanthropists, like Melisa Ambers and Darryl Rose. The 30-something couple wanted to “give back in our community on a more significant level,” Melisa said. “My initial thought was to start my own foundation.” But they discovered that foundations required experiences, contacts and research that can become a full-time job and in some cases require a staff. Then they found another option: “After we discovered CFT,” Melisa went on, “we realized they have the resources and knowledge to help us make intentional gifts in this community. Why reinvent the wheel?”
They created private “funds” and funds for the company where Darryl works, Oliver Wyman.
Then there was the question of how to “raise money and awareness as well.” The answer was simple and fun. The couple raised money by holding a holiday party to benefit Reading and Radio Resources. With that simple undertaking, they not only started on their journey to “give back,” but they managed to have their friends and associates become acquainted with the simplicity of giving back via CFT.
But on this night, it wasn’t about fundraising so much as it was about celebrating the art of fundraising that started in 1953. In the crowd were retired politico types (Kay Bailey Hutchison and Florence Shapiro), mother-daughter types (Carol Stabler and daughter Lisa Stabler, Carolyn Lupton and daughter Carol Huckin) and couples like Ellen and John McStay, Lydia and Dan Novakov, Jan and Fred Hegi, Meredith and Jack Woodworth, Karen and Mike Tankersley, Gay and Bill Solomon and Dianne and Jim Beckett.
At dinner CFT CEO/President Brent Christopher started things off saying, “We have literally been working on this night for the last 60 years!” Like a proud father, the bow-tied Brent reported that CFT:
Has become a $1B foundation and has “granted out” over $1.3B.
Was named as one of Dallas Morning News’s Top 100 places to work in DFW for the second time.
Is committed to helping people shine.
Started Community Giving Day five years ago and raised $4M that year. This year the 17-hour event raised $25M for 1,300 non-profits. “If that doesn’t put you in a mood to give, you ought to see your cardiologist on the way home,” Brent joked.
Among the people that Brent pointed out in the crowd was attorney Vester Hughes, who had provided legal advice and counsel for CFT since 1958.
To follow all this good news and videos on CFT was a tough job, but they picked the right person to do it: Ruth Altshuler, who joined the CFT board in 1981 and was the first female board chair.
Arriving at the podium, she admitted that she had just found out she was supposed to talk that morning. Turning tables on Brent, she revealed that when he joined CFT, it was a $562M foundation; now $1B, “so he’s done well. . .I don’t think we had any bylaws until Brent came.”
Recalling the earlier days, she told how Louis Beecherl told the then-head of CFT: “You’ve been chairman long enough. Ruth, you be chairman!” Ruth’s response? “All right, if you’ll be vice chairman.”
She then pointed out people who had been part of the “fabulous trustees,” who had created the camaraderie and warmth on the board like Vester (“he’s the backbone of this organization”), the late Charles Wyly (“last of the great gentlemen . . . and you know how many of those are left!”), the late Phil Montgomery (“precious man”) and Bob Miller, who has written 8,000 columns since joining the Dallas Morning News’s business section in 1984.
Regarding Bob, Ruth recalled, “When [SMU President] Gerald Turner came to Dallas in 1995, I told him, you need to meet Bob Miller.” Looking at Bob, who had been seated next to her at dinner, Ruth said, “We’re not going to let you retire.” Well, shoot, he’s only been working at the DMN for 62 years.
Concluding the evening, guests discovered sunglasses at their places and put them on for a champagne toast as a music track played, “The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades!”