North Star Luncheon co-chairs Brooke Bailey and Elizabeth Dacus were joined by a sold-out crowd of 310 for the 5th annual North Star Luncheon presented by ExxonMobil on Monday, April 24 at the Dallas Country Club. The luncheon raised over $175,000 benefiting Family Compass.
The festivities began with top sponsors gathering early for a VIP reception sponsored by Mary Bowman Campbell, which included featured speaker Erin Gruwell, who graciously mingled, chatted and posed for photos with patrons.
As the VIP party was wrapping up, luncheon attendees began arriving in the ballroom. With the theme “Calling All North Stars,” guests arrived at valet to a pay phone engulfed in fresh florals as they were greeted by staff and volunteers. The foyer was filled with smiling faces, vintage telephones, yellow page phone books and the North Star cafe for guests to enjoy coffee from Grace Coffee Community and purchase raffle tickets.
Raffle tickets were available for sale for a chance to win one of three prizes: an R&R Getaway including a two-night stay for up to 12 guests at the newly constructed Bright Mornings luxury home in Broken Bow, OK complete with a $100 Costco gift card and YETI items; a six-course tasting menu for up to eight guests by Chef Darren McGrady, along with luxurious home goods by Diptyque; and a Shop Around Lakewood package with gift cards to Lakewood-area favorites, such as Alamo Drafthouse, Central Market, White Rock Coffee and many more.
At the appointed time, guests took their seats inside the ballroom as emcee Calvert Collins-Bratton welcomed all and thanked them for attending the 5th annual North Star Luncheon. Behind the stage, the day’s theme of “Calling All North Stars,” continued with the backdrop featuring a variety of vintage phones.
Luncheon co-chairs Bailey and Dacus followed to add their welcome and to thank attendees for their support of Family Compass, the only agency in North Texas solely dedicated to the prevention of child abuse and neglect. Since 1992, Family Compass has served over 56,000 children and parents whose lives would have turned out much differently had it not been for the steadfast support of the organization’s dedicated staff and community supporters.
Attendees continued to enjoy their lunch of a superfood salad with quinoa, avocado, greens, dried cranberries, marinated tomatoes, sunflower seeds in a lemon vinaigrette and a dessert of crème brulee or key lime white chocolate tart as the co-chairs recognized ExxonMobil Corporation for their support as presenting sponsor. Gerard Monsivaiz of ExxonMobil Corporation followed to share the company’s passion for the community and Family Compass.
CEO Ona Foster then took the stage to honor an organization who has been a part of Family Compass’ mission for over 30 years, the Exchange Club of Lake Highlands. She reminded attendees that in 1992, the Dallas community saw an alarming increase in child deaths, and that is when a group of local exchange clubs banded together and said, “no more, not on our watch.” However, one organization in particular the Exchange Club of Lake Highlands, truly “talks the talk and walks the walk.” Foster shared that their ongoing partnership has made an enormous impact not only on the agency but specifically on the children and parents served by Family Compass. From collecting diapers, holding toy drives, generous financial support towards our programs, and having club members consistently in service on the agency’s board, the Exchange Club of Lake Highlands have shown their care and compassion and the importance of continuing the legacy that started over 30 years ago.
Mark Holmes, current Family Compass Board member and a member of the Exchange Club of Lake Highlands, joined Foster onstage to accept the North Star Award. In his remarks he shared that The National Exchange Club officially adopted the prevention of child abuse as its National Project in 1979. Since then, Exchange Clubs like his, have gone on to form child abuse prevention centers across the country as well as work with government agencies, local and national partners, and our communities to raise awareness about prevention of this social crisis.
He said, “We believe that preventing child abuse is one of the most important responsibilities we have as a society. Every child deserves to grow up in a safe and nurturing environment, free from violence and neglect.”
Foster returned and in keeping with the day’s theme shared who her own personal North Star was – her mom – who profoundly changed the direction of her life.
She said, “This is what we do at Family Compass for the parents and children we work with. We profoundly and permanently change the direction of their life. We educate, mentor and model so that those children can have that same support and stability.”
She then revealed what Family Compass is doing to prevent child abuse from happening by educating, guiding and supporting… showing clients a direction, a path they didn’t even know was there, and walking by their side. She followed with stories of current families who are working with their own North Stars, Family Compass staff, to learn to be the best parents they can be.
Before leaving the stage, Foster welcomed another personal North Star to the podium, honorary chair Candace Winslow, with a moving story of Winslow’s unwavering support of her and Family Compass during the pandemic.
Winslow said in her brief remarks, “I accept this incredible honor not with me in view, but to bring to our collective attention to the thousands of families that have been served by Family Compass since 1992. I believe every child has the right to be a part of a loving, encouraging, and uplifting family. I also believe that in certain seasons of our lives, we all need others to guide us on our path. Family Compass reflects these two beliefs so exceptionally well in our community.”
Emcee Collins-Bratton returned for the much-anticipated chat with featured speaker Erin Gruwell, a teacher, author, and activist who has been fighting for social justice for over two decades. She first gained national attention in 1998 when she and her 150 students, affectionately called The Freedom Writers, appeared on an ABC special “Prime Time Live with Connie Chung.” Gruwell’s students came from backgrounds of poverty, gangs, and violence, many of whom were at risk of dropping out of school. Under her guidance, she helped change the trajectory of all 150 of her students’ lives. In the two decades since, Gruwell has since grown her social justice activism into a movement, writing several books and adapting one into a major motion picture film. Her work has been recognized with several humanitarian awards, including the prestigious Spirit of Anne Frank Award. She and the Freedom Writers have received continued accolades, most recently with the Emmy Award-winning PBS documentary “Freedom Writers: Stories from the Heart.”
The two went on to have a wonderful and inspiring conversation, with Gruwell moving the crowd with her sincere passion for her students. She talked about what it was like to be portrayed on film by actress Hillary Swank, who herself came from poverty and violence; what led her to teach; how her students who came from extremely challenging backgrounds began to trust her; games she introduced in the classroom to “take them outside of their school and their bubble and introduce them to the world;” and how she herself became a North Star to her students and remains so today with very close relationships to all.
To illustrate her impact, videos from two former students, Narada and Tye, were shown; with both sharing what The Freedom Writers and Gruwell meant to them and how their lives have been changed forever.
In closing Gruwell said, “Please make sure that Family Compass’ mission and their mandate is not in vain. There is someone in this very community, at this very time, who needs you; who needs to be heard and who needs to knows that they matter.”
The day concluded with co-chairs Bailey and Dacus returning for a final thank you to patrons for being North Stars to Family Compass, and an announcement to save the date for next year’s luncheon on April 29, 2024 at Dallas Country Club.
About Family Compass
Family Compass is a non-profit agency that believes that every child has the fundamental right to a healthy family and environment, the opportunity to succeed in school and the capacity to experience life without violence, abuse or neglect. The mission of Family Compass is to build healthy families and a strong North Texas community by preventing child abuse and neglect. This is accomplished through two home mentoring programs and community-based, educational programs for families that have elevated risk for child abuse. All programs are evidence-based, voluntary and free of charge. In 2022, the agency kept 618 high-risk children out of the overburdened CPS system, which according to the CDC costs $831,000 per case of child abuse and neglect to address, resulted in a $514-million-dollar savings for the community. These children didn’t have to spend a single night on the floor of the CPS offices or enter the over-burdened foster-care system. For more information, visit https://family-compass.org.