The Color of Money

Crystal Charity Ball welcomes its first black member. (Can the Dallas Country Club be far behind?)

In Dallas society, nothing shouts “Arrived!” quite like membership in Crystal Charity Ball. By the time a woman is asked to join the grand dame of Dallas charities, she’s passed “Go” more than a few times, and collected {and often donated) thousands on behalf of the needy. And yet, in the 44 years since Crystal Charity hosted its first ball in the Crystal Room of the old Baker Hotel, this product of the ’50s has managed to keep its membership not just uppercrust, but white-bread.

Until now. This year, CCB decided to “diversify” its membership, as ball chair Randi Halsell puts it, by extending membership to its first African-American: Matrice Ellis-Kirk, wife of Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk. “I’m embarrassed that it’s been so long in coming,’’ says Halsell. “But I’m proud it’s happening on my watch.”

CCB members Nancy Marcus and Karen Shuford were behind the move to bring the old-line organization into the (late) 20th century. Marcus has been friends with Dallas’ first lady since the two women worked together as volunteers at The Dallas Museum of Art. “Matrice comes to the organization with a strong background in fund raising,” notes Marcus. More than that, she says, “it’s past time for all of our institutions to include all people.”

“The fact that there wasn’t anybody before is immaterial,” says Ellis-Kirk, who works as a management consultant for Grant, Lambeth & Karelsen, Inc., a business she co-owns. “What’s important is that the color barrier has been broken and that the organization raises $1.7 million for children. Every organization in this entire city should be diverse and now, Crystal Charity is doing that.”

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