While the Cattle Baron’s Ball gals in their stiletto heels and puffy skirts were checking out the Koch fashions at Korshak, the rest of nonprofits types were filling the Dallas Country Club ballroom for the Can Do! Luncheon. Much to Luncheon Chair Leslie Diers‘ relief, no tornadoes were on alert. Why, the only hitch was a three-minute shower that took place during the luncheon with nary a guest aware.
Inside it was a sell-out and a positive one at that. Instead of your typical luncheon, where guests see sad faces on a video and have guilt served with their coffee, this one was served up with an extra helping of feel-good.
In the crowd were Wilkinson Center Board President Melanie Myers, Board Member Craig Innes with his wife Marsha Innes and daughter Lauren Innes Jackson, John McStay, Jan Pruitt, Paige McDaniel, Sara Martineau, Frank Risch, Joyce Lacerte, Jennifer and Joe Clifford, Sarah Nelson, Bryon Sanders, Joan Eleazer, Mary Jalonick and Leslie’s husband Bryan Diers and her mom Cynthia Melnick.
Benefiting Wilkinson Center, the luncheon’s videos focused on what had been achieved through education and championing clients to get on their feet.
Tying into its East Dallas roots, Leslie and Wilkinson Center Executive Director Anne Reeder arranged to have the blessing provided by Rev. Heather Mustain of Wilshire Baptist Church. That church gained recognition nationally by rallying to support one of its congregation — Louise Troh, whose fiancée died from Ebola last year. Organizers even arranged to have the closing songs performed by the members of the church’s choir.
In addition to videos explain Wilkinson Center’s accomplishments and mission and a talk by board member Bruce Ware, awards were presented for outstanding “Can Do!” examples within the community.
Carlin Morris, who has championed Wilkinson Center’s shoe drive for children, knew she was going to get the award. What she didn’t know was they were also renaming it The Wilkinson Center Carlin Morris Shoe Drive. Her acceptance speech reflected the thoughtfulness and dedication that runs throughout Wilkinson Center. Since she started volunteering at the center and spearheaded the drive in 1986, more than 36,000 children have received shoes and socks in time for the school year. She told of a Payless manager who approached Carlin and told how, years ago, when she was just 11, she had received her first pair of new shoes thanks to the drive.
Communities Foundation of Texas President/CEO Brent Christopher gave an intelligent and articulate talk on Dallas’ position in the philanthropy world. He dropped figures to back his comments like Dallas being in the top 10 cities in regards to philanthropy and its being the largest metropolitan area to rank that high.
The final recipient was Wilkinson Center client Tonya Howard, whose video showcased a personality with determination and spirit. Before becoming a Wilkinson client, she had worked in a warehouse and was starting a new job at Walmart during the Christmas holiday 2013. But she encounter financial problems and sought rental assistance at the Center. Instead of a temporary fix, she ended up working with her counselor, Myra Collins, who didn’t let up on her to achieve her “field of fascination.” After much work and effort, she achieved her Commercial Driver License. It was a year later, on December 17, 2014, when Tonya made her monthly visit to Wilkinson Center’s pantry that she pulled out her DART badge, having just passed her driver’s test. Seated at the front table, Tonya approached the podium to accept her award with a beautiful smile and still clutching her napkin. Looking at the room filled with people, she seemed a little overwhelmed by the support and applause. Her acceptance speech was to the point and said it all: “Thank you.”