It was a young couple’s move from Illinois to North Texas years ago and a young woman recently moving to the area with a drive to serve her “boss” that brought these three together on Monday, April 3, at the Dallas Country Club.
But before the program happened revealing the backstory of the trio, the ballroom foyer was filled with Luncheon Co-Chairs and BFFs Liza Collins and Rachel Stephens, Honorary Chair Betty Regard, Can Do! Co-Awardee Chuck Thoele, Lynn Fisher, Jane Pierce and Linda McFarland.
Inside the ballroom Wilkinson Center Executive Director Anne Reeder Corley shared a quiet moment with Ellen McStay. It was back in 2013 that Ellen and her husband John McStay were honored with the very first Can Do! Award. Now ten years later the McStays’ support for Wilkinson continued with the Can Do! sponsorship and Ellen’s presence despite John’s recent death on Tuesday, March 21.
But soon the ballroom filled to capacity with emcee WFAA’s Kara Sewell taking her place at the podium and welcoming the guests like Kids Can, Too! recipients Kyla Allen, Grace Duncan and Sophia Wren, Connie O’Neill, Sandra Estess and past Luncheon Chairs Joan Eleazer, Christie Carter, Emilynn Wilson, Leslie Diers, 2023 Can Do! Co-Awardee Beth Thoele, Linda Secrest and Nelda Cain Pickens just past 11:30.
Following the welcome by Co-Chairs Liza and Rachel and an invocation by Ursuline Academy Chaplin Sister Lois Castillon, lunch was served.
Promptly at 12:02 Anne returned to the podium reporting how the organization serves a vast area way beyond its initial East Dallas community.
The message and the introduction of the day’s recipients were efficiently done via videos describing the reason for their being honored.
First honoree Beth and Chuck Thoele recalled starting their married life together 41 years ago in Dallas and began volunteering as tutors for elementary school kids. Over the years they have continued volunteering on advisory boards, committees and in a variety of leadership roles for area non-profit efforts as well as spearheading fundraising programs.
In receiving their Can Do! Award, it became clear that the “cans” filled with flowers from Central Market required some muscle to hold. This situation was a running joke as each of the following recipients returned the awards to handlers after a photo opp. Not to worry. They later picked them up to take home.
Following the Thoeles, the Celanese Foundation‘s Monica Akanmu-Williams and Dawn Conner accepted the flower-filled award for the Foundation’s “focus on areas where it can bring the resources and expertise of its corporation and employees together with local partners to create meaningful, sustained change.”
Awardee Maricruz Lopez laughed that she had written an acceptance speech but was too nervous to use it. Instead she had told how she moved to the area recently with little education. But thanks to the Wilkinson Center she was able to not just obtain her GED but also joined the Patient Care Technician program resulting in her becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant and an official Certified Phlebotomist Technician. She stressed that if she has been successful working with those in need and not fluent in English, it was because she was working for her “boss” — God.
Kids Can, Too! Awardees Ursuline Academy students Kyla Allen, Grace Duncan and Sophia Wren had created 800 blessing bags consisting of needed, everyday items for Wilkinson Center clients and shared the Wilkinson Center’s mission with classmates.
To finish off the luncheon the Ursuline Choir sang and guests headed to work and/or home by 12:45 p.m.