More than 300 people attended the 8th Annual Interfaith Auxiliary Luncheon benefiting Interfaith Family Services, whose mission is to empower families in crisis to break the cycle of poverty. The sold-out event with a theme of Blossoms and New Beginnings was held on Friday, April 28 at the Dallas Arboretum and raised $254,825 from generous sponsors and attendees moved by the powerful stories of transformation.

Guests, dressed in many colorful spring fashions, arrived early to sip wine, take photos at the photo booth sponsored by Sewell, and catch up with friends and family. New to this year’s luncheon, NBC 5’s Katy Blakey served as emcee and welcomed guests. Reverend Victoria Robb Powers with Royal Lane Baptist Church led the invocation, followed by a Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad and desserts of Almond Tuille with Fresh Berries and Molten Chocolate Lava Cake.

Kennethia Price, Shay O’Dwyer King, Sarah Claire Corrigan, Emily Hill, Kimberly
Williams | Photo Credit: Simon Luna

Blakey introduced the co-chairs of the Interfaith Auxiliary Luncheon – longtime friends Sarah Claire Corrigan and Emily Hill. Peggy Sewell, her daughter, Jacqueline Sewell Atkinson, and daughter-in-law, Josie Sewell, served as honorary chairs.

Corrigan said, “Philanthropy is truly a family affair for the Sewells. Whether it is the arts, medical research or, like today, an investment in the potential of families, they come together to invest in the organizations that are helping make our city a better place for us all. We so appreciate their longtime, unwavering support of Interfaith Family Services.”

Hill added, “We have been so impressed by the thoughtful approach Interfaith takes to helping families in crisis to transform their lives. From play therapy for children and a fully stocked library to financial coaching, counseling, and childcare, Interfaith’s program considers the needs of the whole family and what it takes to build stability and security for the long term.”

Kimberly Williams, CEO of Interfaith Family Services, spoke about the families, especially single mothers and their children, that the organization serves and the barriers they face, including cost of living, compensation, and childcare. “You may wonder why so many families are struggling. If they just work hard, why can’t they get back on their feet? …The reality is complicated. Even those with who work hard struggle. … In fact, more than one-fourth of our city’s children live in poverty. Their parents face three key barriers to self-sufficiency: the cost of living, compensation, and childcare.”

Williams then shared a video about how Interfaith’s holistic approach helps families eliminate these barriers to creating long-term stability – with housing or rental assistance; then, equipping parents to overcome poverty, with career and financial coaching; and finally educating children to help break the cycle of generational poverty.

Interfaith’s approach is proven – nine out of 10 clients exit with permanent housing, and four out of five exit employed with a livable wage and are still employed a year later.

Next, Shay O’Dwyer King, chair of the Interfaith Family Services Board of Directors, talked about the need to provide single mothers with a soft place to land when the unexpected happens. She said, “In my eight years of involvement with Interfaith, I have witnessed first-hand the life-changing impact of this organization in helping these women, children and families rewrite their stories. Interfaith is committed to its unique strategic philosophy of giving women a hand-up, not a hand-out, when they find themselves at the lowest point in their lives.”

King then introduced Interfaith graduate Kennethia Price, who shared her personal story of losing her job after a difficult pregnancy caused her to take bed rest. After she and her children spent two years living with friends and relatives, and finally sleeping in her car, Price felt like she had exhausted her options. She was running out of hope when a friend introduced her to Interfaith. Price said, “Interfaith helped me move from surviving to thriving – in fact, you could say Interfaith was my soil and my water, and I was the seed. With a new beginning at Interfaith, I blossomed.” Since participating in Interfaith’s program, Price has gotten a stable, better-paying job, saved money for an emergency fund, and moved into an apartment near Interfaith, where her children still attend daycare. She has earned her notary commission and looks forward to starting her own business and one day showing her children the world.

Blakey congratulated Price and the work of Interfaith and asked the attendees to reach deep to support single mothers like the ones Williams described. She also surprised Kennethia with a gift basket from Interfaith that included housewarming items for her new apartment and memberships to the Perot Museum and Dallas Arboretum, where she and her children can explore the world, starting with Dallas. A total of $56,625 was raised the day of the luncheon.

· Special thanks to the luncheon’s generous sponsors:

· Magnolia Sponsor: The Corrigan Family

· Orchid Sponsor: Katy and Kyle Miller Family Foundation

· Peony Sponsors: Benchmark Bank; The Hegi Family; Grant and Jill Henderson; The Hill and Guy Families; Kershaw Foundation

· Lily Sponsors: Susie and John Adams; Carpenter Family Fund; Clavis Impact Fund; Dirk and Kathryn Copple; Adriane and Andy Crosland and the Sapphire Foundation; Caroline Harrison Loehr; Ashley and Ryan Reid; The Rosewood Corporation; Sewell Automotive Companies; Ali & Justin Treaster and the Sapphire Foundation