The annual Woman of the Year Gala presented by Les Femmes du Monde usually attracts a pretty decent crowd. Back in 2014, for example, more than 120 guests showed up for the Gala at Harlan Crow‘s library. And, last year and in 2016, the Dallas Country Club was packed for the event. But on Thursday, October 17, a mere 40 guests gathered at The Tower Club to honor Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott as the nonprofit’s 2019 Woman of the Year.
Organizers implied that the low turnout was due, somehow, to the political rally being held nearby that evening for President Donald Trump. But, the exact reason for the skimpy crowd doesn’t matter much. What’s important is that a lot of people missed a nice program.
During the reception, when guests like Rhonda Sargent Chambers, Janet Black, Kyra Barnett, Geri Hetterich, Regina Bruce and Jane Wynett seized the opportunity to catch up, Cecilia explained that she believes strongly in “Texanthropy.” That’s her own word (combining Texas and philanthropy) and, through it, she promotes volunteerism and service to others throughout the state. In fact, she added, she makes it a point to visit anywhere from three to 10 nonprofit-type groups every month.
As the attendees took their seats for dinner — they’d soon be enjoying 360 Salad, a Petite Filet with Roasted Chicken and Grilled Pound Cake or Chocolate Decadence — Les Femmes President Martha C. Cox welcomed all to the 27th annual Gala, saying they had scrapped the violinists who’d been scheduled to perform and were “starting early” to avoid the presidential motorcade. With that it was time to hear from Jim Falk, president and CEO of the World Affairs Council of Dallas/Fort Worth, and Brent Christopher, president of the Children’s Medical Center Foundation. Both groups benefit from the annual Gala.
Jim delivered a touching tribute to longtime Les Femmes member Mary Lee Cox, who’d recently passed away. He recalled how Mary Lee had once given a St. Christopher medal to Jim’s wife Terrell Falk, who’d been battling cancer. Then he asked the group to observe a moment of silence in Mary Lee’s memory. Brent pointed out that Children’s Health is the eighth largest pediatric healthcare system in the country, serving 300,000 kids each year. He gave way to District 12 Dallas City Council member Cara Mendelsohn, who delivered the invocation.
Accepting the group’s Woman of the Year award a little later, Cecilia said she was humbled by the honor: “Texas is a state like no other. My husband [Gov. Greg Abbott] always says he has the best job in Texas. But, I’m pretty sure that I have the best job. My top priority is urging Texans to give back.”
The First Lady proceeded to describe the efforts of three Texans to improve the lives of their fellow citizens. One was a young man with an idea to help those involved with Child Protective Services. Another was a Texas A&M freshman who’d helped pass the state’s cyberbullying law. The third was a 93-year-old World War II veteran who volunteers to help other seniors.
Cecilia concluded her remarks by saying, “I believe we are each called to serve.” She’s been a Meals on Wheels volunteer for many years, she disclosed, adding with a smile: “Tomorrow is my Meals on Wheels route. So I have to go home!”
Since it began in 1961, Les Femmes du Monde has raised more than $2 million for the World Affairs Council and more than $750,000 for Children’s Health.
* Photo credit: Danny Campbell