Not many North Texas non-profit groups can say they’ve been around for a century. One that can is Goodwill Industries of Dallas, which according to President and CEO Tim Heis became the first Goodwill organization in Texas way back in 1923.
That made the group’s 100-year celebration luncheon on Friday, October 13, at the Omni Dallas Hotel a pretty special occasion, indeed.
Called The Lunch, Presented by JPMorgan Chase and Co., this year’s version of the annual fundraiser featured a conversation with former NFL star Drew Brees, the now-retired, 2009 Super Bowl MVP-winning quarterback for the New Orleans Saints.
With Julie Durham Rado and her father Steve Durham serving as co-chairs, the Omni event attracted 630 guests. Among them were Katy and Kyle Miller (he’s the current Goodwill board chair), Kathy Limmer, Connie and Denny Carreker, Kate Robinson Swail, Bob Ferguson and Robin Robinson (Bob and Robin were among 17 former board chairs in attendance).
Known mainly for its donation and retail operations, Goodwill also provides job training and employment to individuals with disabilities and disadvantaging conditions, including people with development and intellectual disabilities and those re-entering the workforce after incarceration.
One person in the latter category was Travita Parker, Goodwill’s manager of post retail and salvage at its Westmoreland Warehouse facility in Dallas. Travita, who oversees 60 employees and is said to embody the organization’s core values of respect, commitment, improvement and integrity, was featured in a video shown to the guests and attended The Lunch herself with her mother, Lalonnie Parker.
Following the serving of the meal (tomato basil soup, honey-glazed chicken breast, a fruit tart or Dr Pepper chocolate cake) and an invocation by Dr. Charlie Dunn, it was soon time for Drew to be interviewed onstage by entertainment and travel reporter Hannah Davis.
A native of Austin, Drew graduated from Purdue University and went on to play quarterback for five years for the San Diego Chargers and 15 years for the New Orleans Saints. The Saints won the Super Bowl under his leadership in 2009.
Here are highlights of his extended conversation with Hannah:
- “I consider myself to be a pretty ordinary person,” Drew said.
- His philosophy in general is to “look at every challenge as a growth opportunity.”
- When he arrived in New Orleans after playing—and being injured—with the Chargers, Drew said he was “damaged goods.” And yet, Saints Coach Sean Payton told him: “We’re building this offense around you.” Drew welcomed the challenge, asking his teammates how he could help them achieve their goals. “How can I get my teammates to love me by how I serve them?” Drew said he wondered. The goal: creating “an environment of success for everybody.”
- At the same time, the city of New Orleans was rebuilding after suffering the devastating floods of Hurricane Katrina. Drew and his wife, Brittany, and their Brees Dream Foundation helped raise money to rebuild storm-damaged local parks, schools, and playgrounds. “It truly was God’s calling to come here and be part of the resurrection of one of America’s greatest cities,” Drew said.
- Lifting up the Saints as well as the city were both important, Drew said. In sports, or in the activities of nonprofits like Goodwill, Drew said, “accomplishing things as a team or as a community is so much more meaningful than accomplishing things on your own.”
- Drew said his “servant’s heart” approach was inspired by his late grandfather Robert Ray Akins, the “second-winningest football coach in Texas.” His grandfather “was always in a position to help people,” he said, “whether the neighbors needed hay, or whatever.”
- Asked by Hannah to define leadership, Drew said, “It’s the ability to motivate, inspire and bring out the best in other people. What so many people need in life is for someone to believe in them.”
- While “God wants us to work hard,” Drew said, he’s always taken care to maintain a healthy work/life balance. He never misses his son’s football games, for example. Drew said he would “get up at 4:30 or 5 to start the day with caffeine and Jesus, and then read the kids to sleep” at day’s end. He also goes on a walk with Brittany every Tuesday, using the time to “catch up on everything,” and the two share regular date nights.
- Drew talked about the pre-game speeches he became famous for with the Saints, “getting the guys hyped up” with his own take on Gerard Butler’s Spartan pep talk in the movie “300,” as well as a U.S. Marine Corps chant he picked up during a USO trip to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
- Wrapping up, Hannah asked Drew why it’s important to invest in strangers. “One of the most powerful things in life is the feeling of gratitude,” he said. “Our calling is to continue to pass that forward.”
* Photo provided by Goodwill Industries of Dallas