The Houston Area Women’s Center got its groove on with a gala that went back in time to celebrate the organization's 40th anniversary. The invitation read, "Let's Party Like It's 1977," the year the HAWC was founded, and many of the 470 guests took the theme to heart, wearing big wigs, bell bottom pants, sequined mini-dresses, nic nic shirts, leisure suits, and chunky shoes.
Among the standouts in '70s attire were Staci and Quang Henderson, Michael Pearce, Paul Brockman and Steve Greenwood, Cynthia and Wiley George, Craig Seebach and Wouter Van der Tol, Malcolm Waddell, and Thom McDaniel and Lance Menster. Mayor Sylvester Turner, who was recognized as the community honoree, showed up in a business suit, but quipped that he looked for his bell bottoms from that period, "but I couldn't find them." AIG was saluted as the corporate honoree; senior vice president Michelle Miller accepted the award on behalf of the insurance giant.
The ballroom at the new Marriott Marquis had a '70s theme, too, with disco-shaped flower centerpieces and psychedelic tablecloths. And many guests danced to hits by the band, Disco Expressions.
The gala also commemorated the organization's 40-year history as a refuge for survivors of domestic violence and and sexual assault. Founder Nikki Van Hightower, who served as the organization's first CEO, Houston City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Cohen, who succeeded Hightower at the HAWC, and current CEO Rebecca White were saluted for their work. A poignant moment came when a former client, who attended with her two sons, was tearfully reunited with Mamta Chabbra, who had served as her shelter counselor.
KHOU anchor Len Cannon, who emceed the gala, and his former colleague, HAWC chief marketing officer Chau Nguyen, worked the room to raise a record-setting $160,000 from generous guests who raised their paddles to make instant donations. Chris Smith and his fiancee, Laura Thompson, gave a spontaneous $40,000 donation, which was matched by the oil and gas service company Weatherford International. The duo then promised to match anyone who pledged $500, and 20 guests immediately raised their paddles.
Ajay and Dr. Sippi Khurana added in a $10,000 donation, as did a group including C.C. and Duke Ensell, Tracy and Harry Faulkner, and Jim and Vy Hopkins.
Proceeds from a big board and silent auction helped push the take for the evening to more than $650,000.
Joining in the celebration were U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, State Senator Sylvia Garcia, Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, Houston City Council member Jerry Davis, HAWC board chair Carrie Potter, Janis Schmees Burke, Jenni and Scott Tranweaver, Mike Mahlstedt and Kyle Dutton, Diana Hudson and Lee Kaplan, Dr. Suzanne Bruce, Brian Franco, and Anika Jackson.