Dallas businessman Thomas Hartland-Mackie was surrounded by friends and well-wishers on Thursday, September 20, at The Bomb Factory. There, about 550 people had gathered for an evening event called “Impact: Celebrating 10 Years of Homeless Recovery.” The well-wishing was well-deserved, as Thomas and his wife, Nasiba, not only chaired but also underwrote all costs for the celebration marking the first decade of The Bridge, the only homeless recovery center in Dallas that’s open to all adults experiencing homelessness.
The Hartland-Mackies, it seems, were introduced to The Bridge by their friends Jennifer and Tom Karol, who had received the shelter’s Bridge Builder Award in 2014. After touring the shelter in downtown Dallas, which has provided day shelter for nearly 42,000 individuals over the years, “I realized how big a role mental health plays in homelessness, and that’s something we as a family are familiar with,” Thomas said, referring to a grandparent who was manic depressive. He observed first-hand the pitfalls of the current system for the homeless mentally ill and thought, “There’s gotta be a better way. The question was, how do we do a better job of impacting it?” Thomas went on. “It’s going to take a lot of people coming together.”
Many of those people were in attendance at The Bomb Factory, a popular event space in Deep Ellum. Among them: Thomas’ mother Georgina Hartland, Shannon Wynne, Sue and Jimmy Gragg, Joyce Goss, Jessica Nowitzki, Kelly and Gerald Ford, Kourtny Garrett, Nick Even, Donald Fowler, Myrna and Bob Schlegel, Cindy and Howard Rachofsky and Allan McBee. Alas, Allan’s better half Lynn McBee, chair of The Bridge board of directors, had to miss the celebration due to illness. What she missed included plenty of food and drink, a VIP party, an after-party with DJ Souljah, and a featured performance by Jewel, a multi-platinum singer-songwriter who as a teenager was homeless for a while in Southern California.
Jewel, who was hand-picked to perform by Thomas and Nasiba, would appear after Jane McGarry, the event emcee, and David Woody III, president and CEO of The Bridge, helped set the stage for presentation of the organization’s 2018 Bridge Builder Awards. This year’s awards went to The Meadows Foundation, Sarah Losinger, and Judy Noble. A little later, after a talk by the Hartland-Mackies and a super-slick video about The Bridge was shown, Jane gave a nice build-up and, her voice rising with excitement, announced, “Please welcome Jewel to our stage!” Someone must have missed a cue, though, because, instead of Jewel, some guy sauntered out onstage holding a guitar, another fiddled around some with the keyboards, and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones blared out through the hall. Finally, several long minutes later, Jane announced Jewel again … and this time the performer materialized.
After opening with an a cappella version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” the Alaska-born blonde launched into a long story about her personal travails growing up. The tale included her mother, who left the family when Jewel was 8, a father who suffered from PTSD following military service in Vietnam, and her homeless stint on the streets of San Diego. “Happiness depends on what you think,” Jewel counseled the big crowd, “not what you are.”
The 10th anniversary celebration for The Bridge, which provides a safe place for 250 people to sleep each night, was presented by The McManemin Family Fund of the Communities Foundation of Texas and Nancy C. and Richard R. Rogers.
* Photo credit: Kristina Bowman