Prominent Women Share Ideas on Fundraising and Giving to Charities
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By Jawahar Malhotra
HOUSTON: It was the perfect opportunity for the audience to become an involved participant to the discussion, posing questions to the panel of three women who figure prominently in the worlds of business (Dr. Latha Ramchand), health care (Mary Ann Craig) and high society (Carolyn Farb) in the Bayou City and gladly took time out from their Saturday morning to share their ideas and thoughts on fundraising and support of charities.
The audience of mostly women who came to the Indo American Charity Foundation’s “Women, Charity’s Champions” brunch on Saturday, June 21 found that the three featured female chief guests Farb, Ramchand and Craig were remarkably approachable and willing to respond to their questions – like in a talk show format – rather than deliver a prepared talk on the subject, which is the way that many of these meetings are usually conducted.
Instead, the IACF’s first community outreach event (the IACF started the year with a golf tournament in April) mixed several items into one program held in the richly decorated ambiance of the Nirvana restaurant on Memorial which had been closed off for this private function, with general manager Mansour on hand during the whole program. Along with the chief guests, the venue featured a cooking demonstration by international chef Kiran Bheemarao who travels worldwide working on different concept restaurants; and colorful, creative handbags by the new designer label Earthredz, whose two founders – Kalpana Peck and Mercedes Ortiz Monasterio (the third, Vandana Prakash was unable to come) – were on hand to display and talk about their products.
After a brief welcome by IACF President Ramesh Cherivirala, the featured women, chef and designers were introduced by IACF President-elect Kamala Raghavan and followed along by the organization’s Secretary Vanitha Pothuri who gave background information on each. Several other IACF Board members were present, including Past-President Murthy Divakaruni, though many others could not attend due to scheduling conflicts. The event was coordinated by this reporter, who is also a director on the IACF Board.
The program began with a demonstration right in the main dining area by Bheemarao of three dishes and a summertime fruit drink. By random draw, he chose three guests – who just happened to include Democratic candidate for Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg – to sample his creations, all the while explaining the cooking process. The dishes he created were a kaffir lime-ginger Fresca drink, a watermelon salad, spice crusted wild Alaskan salmon, petit gateau au chocolat desert and pave glace bon bons, all of which were later available for sampling. Bheemarao gave a gift set of bon bons to each of the chief guests. Bheemarao has been a well-respected chef for 20 years and received part of his training in French pastry from the Chocolatiers at Valrhona in Tain l’Hermitahe and Bernachon, Lyon, both in France. He recently relocated to the Houston area.
Next came the discussions and a series of question and answers with the three main guests. Carolyn Farb, a native Houstonian who is internationally recognized for her work raising funds for non-profit groups and for major local landmarks like the Menil Collection and the Museum of Fine Arts. She is also a lover of art and has a large personal collection of works by major artists and has also written a children’s book, “Lucas Comes to America” which she brought to the brunch and gave away autographed copies of to the attendees. Farb gave her perspective on effective and zero-cost ways to do fundraising and offered suggestions for causes that needed help.
Dr. Latha Ramchand, the Dean of the Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston took the perspective on the financial aspects of fundraising and what methods charities used. She answered questions from the audience on the areas of education and the work that charities could do in supporting young children’s development.
Mary Ann Craig is the CEO of the Kindred Hospital, NW and was previously with the Memorial Hospital system. She focused on the needs of seniors in geriatric healthcare and how best to serve them through different programs.
The three speakers were able to illuminate the issues that require earnest funding and support within the general community and keyed in directly with the areas that the IACF has focused in on since its inception. As a token of appreciation, the IACF presented Bheemarao with given a gift bag and each of the ladies an original handbag, courtesy of Earthredz.