Oscar-winning actress Helen Hunt champions 'circle of women' at powerful Dallas luncheon
What: 10th Anniversary Jewish Family Service Woman to Woman Luncheon
Where: Renaissance Dallas Addison Hotel
The 411: More than 1,000 attendees came together on May 25 to celebrate the power, influence, and impact of women, and to help advance Jewish Family Service's mission to serve the Dallas community.
The beloved biennial event — this year celebrating its 10th anniversary — came together smoothly after some rough waters days before. First, featured speaker Kristen Chenoweth was forced to cancel due to illness; Oscar- and Emmy-winning actress Helen Hunt quickly stepped in to take her place. Then the scheduled moderator, WFAA's Cynthia Izaguirre, got called to report on the Uvalde shooting (which had taken place the day before); WFAA’s Sonia Azad graciously stepped in to substitute.
JFS board chair Julie Liberman welcomed the crowd, then Rabbi Shira Wallach of Congregation Shearith Israel led a powerful prayer for the victims and families in Uvalde.
Woman to Woman sustaining chair Linda Garner and founding chair Ethel Zale expressed their excitement at how much the event has grown since the first one in 2004 — an event which has raised more than $4.6 million, helping to triple the number of clients served. JFS CEO Cathy Barker and Carey Nottingham, director of client navigation, both underscored the organization's commitment to clients.
JFS services include career and financial services, food pantry and emergency assistance, older adult services, family violence services, and clinical services, as well as referrals for support. They've gone from serving 7,400 individuals in 2004 to more than 39,000 last year, the leaders said.
The highlight of the afternoon was a keynote address by Hunt, followed by an onstage discussion between Hunt and Azad. (In a lighthearted start, Hunt introduced herself as Chenoweth – then added that she was a little older, crankier, less musical, and taller.)
“When I heard it was the Woman to Woman Luncheon, with respect to all of the men in the room, I breathed a huge sigh of relief,” Hunt told the audience. “I am grateful for the men who are here and help facilitate this, but at the end of the day, for me, for my whole life, circling up with women is the most important thing I’ve done.
I’ve been doing it since my 20s, and I still do it every Thursday. I gather with a group of women, and we get very real right away. The women I know just get right to it, and I need that.”
“I used to do everything I could to walk around and say I’m fine, but I’m just not. I need circles of women, I need groups of people, and I think we need each other. The days of pretending we don’t went away with COVID-19.”
She ended with a quote from a JFS client. “My pantry is full, my mind relieved, and my heart has new faith in humankind," she said. "With gratitude and love, thank you for your selfless work. So thank you all for your selfless work and for having me here today.”
For more information about JFS and their work, visit Jfsdallas.org.
Who: Luncheon co-chairs included Rachel Biblo-Block, Beverly Goldman, Julie Gothard, Marcy Kahn, Staci Rubin, and Laura Weinstein. Attendees included Lisa Brodsky, Jill Cumnock, Trisha Cunningham, Ben Leal, Marissa Castro-McCoy, Ana-Maria Ramos, Judge Clay Jenkins, Mary Pat Higgins, Jaynie Schultz, Tammany Stern, and Gay Willis.