Helping Hand Society Hosts Annual Presentation Gala

By Rose Betty Williams     Photography by Jetter Photography and Rose Betty Williams

THE SETTING: The Helping Hand Society recently celebrated the 78th annual Crystal Ball with a brunch and fashion show followed in the evening by a black tie Debutante Presentation Gala at Palmer Events Center. Twenty-nine debutantes, their escorts and junior escorts were presented along with 143 ninth grade Helping Hand Girls and Boys and 36 First Grade Princesses.


THE STYLE: Adelante, The Garden Room and Nordstrom presented the stylish fashion show that was produced by Sue Webber and team of Webber Productions. Emcee Jim Spencer introduced the First Grade Princesses, Helping Hand girls and Helping Hand debutantes. Helping Hand Home for Children Executive Director Ted Keyser expressed gratitude for everyone’s important support. At the gala, HH Society President Lucy Weber thanked the event sponsors, underwriters, auction donors, the participants, their families, Helping Hand Society members, and the gala committee for devoting “countless hours creating this special celebration in our community despite these unprecedented times and a date postponement.” The gala featured the debutante presentation, a silent auction, a seated dinner, and dancing to the music of Skyrocket.


This year’s Helping Hand Crystal Ball debutantes are: Riley Elizabeth Alam, Katherine Pearson Braziel, Madeleine Taylor Breeden, Bridget Faith Bryant, Taylor Ann Chatmas, Martha Coffin Crawford, Charlotte Williams Crider, Virginia Kathaleene Dolce, Grace Elizabeth Eckols, Anna Grace Gerrie, Mason Claire Gillingwater, Mei Mei Elizabeth Graber, Ellie Worth Greer, Brennan Paige Haralson, Corley Catherine Holland, Kay Lee Jenkins, Allison Elaine Kemmerer, Sarah Louise Latham, Hannah Mckenzie Maund, Ellen Reed McCartt, Madalyn Ann McCutchin, Ainsley Caldwell Merritt, Annabel Dooley Merritt, Shelby Lynne Owens, Grace Elizabeth Paape, Sarah Grace Shore, Hallie Varner Tyler, Meg Helen Utley and Patricia Claire Warner.


THE PURPOSE: Leslie Davenport and Suzanne Nash co-chaired the 2021 Crystal Ball and worked with a gala committee comprised of more than 65 Helping Hand Society member volunteers. It is the largest fundraiser for the Helping Hand Home for Children, annually raising approximately $1.4 million in support of the Helping Hand Home’s mission: to provide a nurturing and therapeutic home for children and to restore each child to a healthy family setting. The goal of the organization is to protect and restore the lives of victimized children so that those without hope may reclaim their futures. Today the Helping Hand Home has a nationally accredited Residential Treatment Center, a growing Foster and Adoption program and an on-campus charter school, and is mid-way through the construction of new facilities on the east side of the campus.


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Per Vitem! Ad Vitam! Through the Vine, Toward Life!

By Rose Betty Williams      Photography by Charles Quinn Photography

Kent and Connie Sullivan

THE SETTING: The Austin Chapter of the Brotherhood of the Knights of the Vine of America recently hosted the 21st annual Grand Assemblage and Enthronement Dinner at the Hotel Granduca Austin. Upon arrival, the members, happy to see each other after months of separation due to Covid, enjoyed lively conversation and a champagne reception in the veranda and outdoor patio with passed hors d’oeuvres. A plated dinner prepared by Executive Chef Collin Kaskel followed in the Salone Ducale ballroom with wines especially chosen to complement each of the five courses. The wines served, all rated 92 and above, included  a 2010 Diebolt-Vallois Blanc de Blancs Brut, a 2016 Simonnet Febvre Chablis Les Presuses Grand Cru, a 2019 Chene Bleu Rose, a 2016 Occidental Pinot Noir Freestone Occidental, a 2016 Argiano Solengo Super Tuscan and Graham’s 20-year-old Tawny.

Ron Mullen and Lynnda Colby Carter Mullen

THE STYLE: Toasts to KOV camaraderie echoed throughout the ballroom as the members watched a slide show of past KOV events that was produced by Austin Chapter Master Commander Jerry Gatlin. The Austin Chapter Cadre is comprised of Gatlin, Master Vice Commander Randy Groves, Master Commander Emeritus Ed Auler, Master Commander Emeritus J. Buckner Hightower, Master Gastronome Susan Auler, Master Roving Ambassador Jan Burrow, Master of Amity Jim Green, Lady Oenophile Jo Green, Cellar Master Chris Hightower, Master Councilor Bill Krumpack, Master Scribe Forrest Preece, and Master des Partis Rose Betty Williams.

Rose Betty Williams, Jerry Gatlin and Susan Auhler

Kelly and Travis Lightfoot & Dana and Dennis Jakubowicz

THE PURPOSE: The KOV Austin Chapter Cadre along with Robert C. “Buddy” Hagner, Jr, Grand Commander of the Knights of the Vine of America, walked in procession to the front of the ballroom for the enthronement ceremony.

Gatlin welcomed everyone and called on Susan Auler to introduce the new members: Daniel and Maria Bleier, Lynnda Carter Mullen and Ron Mullen, William Deaton and Cecilia Neuhaus Deaton, William Denigris and Penny Jamrack, Austin Dula and Amanda Massey, Don and Christa Heath, Ann Kugler, John and Nancy Mullen, Skip and Biddie Porter, John Robinson, William Stassen and Deborah O’Connell, Jim and Terry Whorton, and Tom Wilkinson and Lynn Nolen.

Buddy Hagner

Jim Whorten and Linda Ball and Forrest Preece

Founded in 1964 and in the tradition of wine brotherhoods around the world, KOV seeks to promote the US wine industry and educate members to the benefits and enjoyment of wine. KOV strives to promote American wines and wine producing regions; to introduce and recognize quality wines from around the world; and rekindle the respect of wine and wine culture for mankind and country. Currently, there are 16 chapters in the U.S.





Austin Opera Launches World’s First-Ever Formula One TOSCA

By Rose Betty Williams   Photography by Rose Betty Williams

THE SETTING: Recently, Austin Opera performed TOSCA at the Germania Insurance Amphitheater at Circuit of the Americas on Thursday, April 29 and Sunday, May 2. Created specifically for COTA, this was AO’s first large-scale production in 15 months and featured more than 150 local musicians, cast, crew and staff, all of whom, along with the audience, were socially distanced onstage and in their seats. 

Martha Ernst, Allan and Rose Betty Williams and Cliff Ernst

Despite rain and wind on Thursday night and stars and planes in the sky on Sunday night, guests were mesmerized by the COTA venue and Puccini’s masterpiece. Close live action shots of the soloists projected on the jumbotrons on either side of the stage, with music enhanced by state of the art sound technology, added to the excitement and pleasure of the crowd

Susan and Claude Ducloux

THE STYLE:  David Lefkowich directed this three-act Tosca that was set in Rome in the 1940s. The three leads Latonia Moore as Tosca, Adam Smith as Cavaradossi, and Aleksey Bogdanov as Scarpia all made their AO debuts. The 44-piece orchestra and 24-member chorus were conducted by AO’s Sarah and Ernest Butler Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Timothy Myers. 

Amelia Bullock, Bill Krumpack and Annie Burridge

THE PURPOSE: “Racing and opera both provide a visceral thrill and both have deeply passionate fan bases,” said AO General Director and CEO Annie Burridge, thanking AOs generous donors and devoted audience “whose safety and enjoyment power our every decision”.  AO’s TOSCA was dedicated to the memory of Marvin Womack, and with special thanks to Production Underwriter Eva Womack, and the Exclusive Circuit of the Americas Partnership Underwriter Frederick S. Addy.

Dennis and Dana Jakubowicz



Make-A-Wish Of Central And South Texas Celebrates 35 Years In The Region


By Rob Giardinelli     Photography by Emmy Baysden, Rick Cortez Photography, Mary Holguin, Belinda Lee and Lexie Yut

THE SETTING: Before COVID-19, the Four Seasons in Austin was the setting that celebrated a notable milestone of one of the city’s most beloved philanthropic organizations. Close to 400 of Austin’s most notable sociables and V.I.P.’s were on hand for the Make-A-Wish of Central and South Texas’ 35th-anniversary gala. The theme of the evening’s event, Beyond The Glass Slipper, was the perfect way to describe a magical, memorable night in Texas’ Capital City.


THE STYLE: The cocktail-chic crowd began the evening in the ballroom foyer and patio, where after posing for pictures on the red carpet, they were treated to a lively cocktail hour. Guests mingled and sipped spirits while perusing an impressive array of live auction items. Then, the action moved to the ballroom for the main program.


Inside the main ballroom, as attendees dined on a delectable multi-course meal, they listened to a series of heartwarming testimonials of critically ill children, who had received wishes beyond their wildest dreams. The evening continued with a spirited live auction, which included bidding on a piece of artwork, by Jaylah Martinez, a Wish Kid, who recently succumbed to a rare form of cancer. The fun concluded with a lively after-party where guests danced the night away, perfectly capping off a fairytale night.


THE PURPOSE: The event, chaired by Abby Argo and Kendell Kelton, raised over $640,000 for the Make-A-Wish Central and South Texas organization. The mission of Make-A-Wish is to grant wishes to children with critical illnesses, which research has shown can give them a higher chance of survival.


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Austin Opera Guild Hosts Annual Serenata Wine Dinner & Auction Gala

By Rose Betty Williams                Photography by Marjorie Kamys


THE SETTING: Pre-COVID-19, Austin Opera Guild and Austin Opera celebrated the 10th annual Serenata Wine Dinner & Auction at the Four Seasons Hotel Austin with dinner, dancing, and live performances in an evening glittered with Viennese music, cuisine and a memorable tribute to event honorees Elisabeth and Steffen Waltz. 

THE STYLE: Television personality Ron Oliveira emceed Serenata that began with a red carpet welcome replete with eye-catching human statues posed as opera characters, hors d’oeuvres, a cocktail hour and bidding on the silent auction. Once guests were seated in the ballroom, two professional dancers wowed the crowd with a dramatic and colorful waltz. Austin Opera’s General Director & CEO Annie Burridge, Austin Opera Board President Jeff Kodosky and Austin Opera Guild President Cathy Collins thanked event co-chairs Suzanne Breitbach, Paula Damore, Michael Garza and Roger Kahlbau, Austin Opera supporters, event sponsors, underwriters, auction donors, Guild members, and attendees for their tireless efforts and generosity. Serenata featured a stunning performance by opera soprano Alexandra Loutsion followed by a four-course wine dinner, the presentation honoring the Waltzes, the live auction and dancing to the music of The Grooves. 

THE PURPOSE: In addition to the event chairs, the 2020 Serenata committee was comprised of committee chairs Tina Barrett, Megan Bjorkman, Kim Cade, Jennifer Davis, Jim Green, Sue Hoke, Barbara Johnson, Jessica Jones, Monica Servidio and Sharon Sneed and more than 30 Austin Opera Guild volunteers. This is Austin Opera’s largest fundraiser, each year raising more than a quarter-million dollars in support of AOs goal to produce live opera performances for the community and to provide excellent music education to school children. Austin Opera reaches 30,000 community members annually, including 14,000 children through in-person programming, plus thousands more through new digital offerings.


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