Thursday, February 20th was a glorious day in Dallas. The sun was shining. The temperature nearing the 70’s was like a cute cheerleader flirting with the winning quarterback.
A bus was parked in Turtle Creek Village acting like a magnet. As cars parked near and far, the drivers headed to the bus. The occasion was the Crystal Charity Ball bus tour, where CCB committee members visit the year’s beneficiaries to get a first-hand look. Tour organizer Pam Busbee had arranged for a stellar opportunity to understand, to learn and to be inspired to raise millions of dollars for the area’s children’s charities at the December 6th fundraiser.
In between site visits, the CCB-ers learn about the new members. This year’s CCB Chair Robyn Conlon‘s internal-working theme of baseball deemed the new kids on the block (Tiffany Divis, Gail Fischer, Amy Hegi, Leigh Anne Haugh, Angela Nash, Mary Martha Pickens and Lauryn Gayle White) as the “2104 Rookies of the Year.” Each had her own baseball card with photo.
But before even boarding the bus, a chuckle was shared by the CCB’ers by the sign on the windshield reading, “Cristal Charity Ball.” Guess it was created by a champagne-loving non-member.
As the bus motor idled at 9:30 a.m., so did the 60 folks in the bus outside World Market. The first beneficiary on the docket was Café Momentum, the restaurant facility that “provides post-release paid culinary internships for juvenile offenders through which they receive intensive training, mentoring and support to foster successful re-entry into the community.” Instead of visiting CM’s current facility, CM mastermind charming Chad Houser was going to come to the bus to explain the operation. Alas, the ladies waited and waited, but Chad never appeared. Luckily, when the time for departure for the first site visit was nearing, CCB member Patti Flowers subbed in for Chad, explaining that CCB’s $487,640 would be used “to provide pre-and and post-release culinary job and work readiness training for juvenile offenders.”
After Patti’s talk, the bus headed to South Oak Cliff and the first stop — the construction site for Los Barrios Unidos Community Clinic. Barrios Director of Development and Marketing Joleen Bagwell was right at the curb to greet and hug the CCB-ers as they disembarked the bus. Providing “culturally competent primary health care and supportive assistance to the most at-risk, uninsured and under-insured populations in Dallas,” Los Barrios Unidos has two clinics in West Dallas and Grand Prairies. CCB’s funds ($603,543) will “be used to launch the first two years of pediatric staffing” in the new 21,400-square-foot clinic that is scheduled to open early in 2015.
Luckily, the CCB-ers are old hands at walking sites and manage to walk the construction site with its bulldozers and equipment to learn how nearly 5,000 children from birth to age 17 will be served thanks to their support.
Next stop on the schedule was Mercy Street in West Dallas. Talk about being organized, thrilled and grateful! As the CCB gals left the bus, they were greeted by a line of greeters who would make Dale Carnegie grads look downright shy. Hands were shook. Smiles were exchanged. Eye contact was without a blink.
With laser efficiency, the visitors were divided into groups and sent to various areas of the facility. There the Mercy representatives talked about various facets of the program. To keep things on schedule, a bell in the hallway would ring at five-minute intervals advising groups to move to their next station. For the Mercy team, every second counted in showcasing their “foundational mentoring program that matches adult Christian mentors with incoming 4th graders in the Pinkston High School feeder pattern.” According to Mercy Street Director Trey Hill, “In the 11.5-square-mile area that comprises West Dallas, less than 50% of residents have a high school diploma. To address the alarming drop-out rate and build a generation of future community leaders, Mercy Street recruits mentors to journey with students through 12th grade, along the path to graduation.”
Thanks to the money provided by CCB, $733,533 will “be used to fully cover the costs of the mentoring program in three current DISD partnering schools and to expand to one additional school. Approximately 400 children in 4th through 12th grade will be served.”
Even as the visitors left, the Mercy team was outside against with handshakes, smiles and thank you’s.
Just a bit down the road, past small neighborhood stores, worn-out houses and dogs wandering the streets, the bus pulled up to 3111 N. Winnetka, where a little cottage stood. There Wesley-Rankin Community Center’s Sarah Squires greeted the CCB-ers in front of the bungalow with its porch. Back in 1935, the area had been known as “Devil’s Doorstep” because of the “gangsters who claimed this neighborhood.” Things took a turn when Hattie Rankin “committed to education and compassion for children who had few choices beyond gangs and poverty.” It was about this time that Ray Hamilton, who was part of the Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker gang, was sentenced to die. Hattie learned of Ray’s grieving mother, who lived in the area. So, she drove her Model A Ford to the mother’s home and “comforted and ministered to the grief-stricken woman. She prayed with the family during the long night of Ray Hamilton’s execution and helped arrange his funeral.”
Hattie even “reached out to Mrs. Henry Barrow,” Clyde’s mother, who lived in the neighborhood. According to Sarah, the innocent looking bungalow’s porch is where Clyde gunned down Tarrant County Deputy Malcolm Davis in 1933.
Sarah then led the group around the block to the Wesley-Rankin Community Center, where the CCB funds will be used “over two years to help establish an early childhood education center in West Dallas in collaboration with East Dallas Community Schools and the Center for Communities and Education at SMU.” Approximately 314 children from birth to age 9 will be served.
But no dawdling was allowed and the CCB-ers once again boarded the bus and had box lunches from Cassandra’s as the bus rolled to the under-construction Texas Horse Park for a presentation by Equest. There was a slight hiccup. Seems the CCB bus wasn’t allowed on the property due to the construction, and Equest CEO Patrick Bricker with hardhat on head was waiting for the bus to show up “on the property.” Thanks to cell phones, connections were made resulting in a presentation plus a gift made on board the bus with cows, goats and horses grazing across the road, where a sign read, “To All Children, Don’t Sell Dope. . . Sell Goats!!”
The CCB-ers learned about Equest’s new program at the park in South Dallas’ Trinity River Corridor. With the CCB’s $851,500, Equest will be able to “provide traditional equine-assisted therapy, including therapeutic sports riding and Hippotherapy, to the underserved areas of South and West Dallas” for approximately 3,725 children ages 2 to 18 over two years.
Next stop was the Vogel Alcove’s facility in South Dallas. Formerly City Park Elementary School, the newly renovated 55,000-square-foot building amazed those who had known it in its previous life. From the red brick to the windows, everything had a polished sheen to it. Ah, but inside was even more startling. Such little things like toddler bathrooms, pint-sized lockers and munchkin-designed tiled walls were all in their final stages of completion for the March move-in. The CCB-ers were once again divided into groups to tour the building. Vogel Alcove President/Director Karen Hughes told her group how when singer Sarah McLaughlin had toured the building, she was so impressed that she donated a piano.
According to Vogel Alcove fans, it will continue its 26 years of providing “free quality child development services for the young victims of poverty: homeless children, who represent 22% of all homeless in Dallas. It is the only comprehensive early childhood education program in Dallas whose primary focus is to provide free childcare and case management for children and their families referred by 21 local organizations serving homeless families.”
With CCB’s $741,380, Vogel Alcove’s The Soar Program will “provide two new service components for children who have transitioned either into permanent housing or into kindergarten and elementary school; extended early childhood education for preschoolers; and enrichment, tutoring and summer camps for school-age children.” The money will also provide the creation of a “trauma-informed classroom for preschoolers which blends mental health and academic services.” As a result, approximately 120 children ages 3 to 11 will be served over a two-year period.
Keeping to schedule, the bus headed to Dallas CASA’s soon-to-be-opened building near the Wilson Historic District in East Dallas. As spectacular as the 25,000-square-foot facility was, it was the message delivered by volunteer Campaign Chair Jim Lozier that really stood out. Since 1979, Dallas CASA has been on the frontline advocating for “the best interests of abused and neglected children in protective care to help them find safe, permanent homes.” The group learned that “on an average day in Dallas County, more than 2,000 abused and neglected children live in foster care because they cannot live safely at home. Three out of five abused children are waiting for a CASA.”
But to handle this demand required 31 supervisors and 600 CASAs (Court Appointed Special Advocates), and they had simply run out of space in their old digs on Gaston Avenue. Thus a major campaign had been undertaken resulting in the two-story building and enabling Dallas CASA to “double the agency’s capacity, allowing them within five years to serve every abused children who needs a CASA.”
At one point on the tour, the CCB’ers were shown the 3,327-square-foot supervisor’s wing on the second floor of the building that the CCB’s $960,290 helped “cover the capitals costs” for. Thanks to this funding, 3,900 children from birth to age 18 will be served by 2019.
Outside the shiny new CASA headquarters, the gals gathered for the traditional group photo. To accomplish this feat, photographer Holt Haynsworth required a ladder that was quickly provided by the construction team putting the final touches on CASA.
As the group boarded the bus one last time, they knew they had their work cut out for them. While some were disappointed not to have seen one child during their 6-hour tour, all knew that countless children today and in the years to come would benefit from their fundraising.