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.
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’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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.