Via: My Sweet Charity

By: Jeanne Prejean

With the first three months of 2022 looking a bit lean on in-person fundraising, April is busting out all over.

For those in need of a boost of wellness and inspiration, Texas Women’s Foundation’s Leadership Forum and Award Celebration (LFAC) is just the answer.

Taking place at the Omni Dallas Hotel and presented by AT&T, the two hour-long forums will take place from 4 to 5:50 p.m. with the 2022 Maura Women Helping Women awardees (Patricia Rodriguez ChristianArlene J. FordThana Hickman SimmonsPat Jasso and Lynn McBee) and Young Leader awardees Stacy Johnson and Sherri Kermanshachi) “discussing their leadership journey and the particular issue for women where they’re devoted their passion and interest.”

According to LFAC Co-Chair Bonnie Clinton, “Our award recipients are amazing and inspiring, and we look forward to hearing their stories and celebrating them for their dedication to lifting up women and girls across Texas and beyond.”

Following the forums, there will be a 45-minute reception following by the awards dinner featuring keynote speaker Radha Agrawal, who is CEO/Chief Community Architect of Daybreaker, “a dance and wellness movement that holds events in dozens of cities with a worldwide community of half a million people. In her spare time she has also been a “globe-trotting speaker, DJ, inventor and investor” and written “Belong,” sharing her thoughts on meaningful communities and relationships.

According to LFAC Co-Chair Ana I. Hernandez, “Our event theme is ‘You Belong.’ We are thrilled to welcome Radha Agrawal, who will inspire us to create and belong to a more meaningful community.”

With this LFAC being the 26th anniversary, it’s ironic that it will be held on Tuesday, April 26.

With sponsorships starting at $1,000, general admission tickets are going for $43 (virtual) and $430 in-person.

For additional information on the schedule and the awardees, just follow the jump.


4:00 – 4:50 P.M. Leadership Forum

  • Arlene Ford | You Advocate. : Advocating for diversity and inclusion in education.
  • Patricia Jasso | You Amplify. : Amplifying women in political office.
  • Sherri Kermanshachi | You Connect. : Engineering resilience for the next generation.

5:00 – 5:50 P.M. Leadership Forum

  • Lynn McBee | You Impact. : Creating a ripple of impact through philanthropy.
  • Patricia Rodriguez Christian | You Diversify. : Inspiring women entrepreneurs.
  • Thana Simmons | You Build. : Building safe spaces for teen mothers.
  • Stacy Johnson | You Persevere. : Paying it forward for at-risk youth.

6:00 – 6:45 P.M. General Reception

7:00 – 8:00 P.M. Awards Dinner, Awards, Keynote: Radha Agrawal

8:00-8:30 P.M. Radha Agrawal book signing

Maura Women Helping Women Award: For 43 years, the Maura Women Helping Women Award has been presented to more than 200 courageous individuals who have catalyzed change for women and girls. This year’s award recipients are:

  • Patricia Rodriguez Christian (Irving, TX) CRC Group Inc. – Rodriguez Christian is an entrepreneurial executive with more than 20 years of C-level experience at privately held CRC Group Inc., a group of family-owned companies. As CEO, she has provided leadership and direction at B2B/B2C companies in retail, restaurant, business processing outsourcing, real estate, and construction, from start-up through maturity. She is passionate about making diversity and inclusion a priority in all endeavors. Rodriguez Christian serves on corporate and nonprofit boards including co-president of Women Execs on Boards, Women’s Business Council Southwest, Women’s Business Enterprise National Council and past president of DFW Hispanic 100 where she helped establish the Latina Giving Circle at Texas Women’s Foundation. She serves as an independent board director at Actuated Medical Inc. She has a B.S. in Business Administration from University of Phoenix, a Master of Public Administration from the University of New Mexico, and is an alumna of the Harvard Business School with a Corporate Director Certificate.
  • Arlene J. Ford, Ph.D. (Dallas, TX) Equity Inquiry Project Inc. – Dr. Ford is the founder of the Equity Inquiry Project Inc. where she consults with organizations—educational institutions, nonprofits, corporations and their leaders—to build capacity around equity, inclusion and organizational change. She speaks nationally on issues of equity and inclusion, and has taught a graduate level course on equity to education leaders at Southern Methodist University. Dr. Ford is a trustee for the Dallas Museum of Art and is a director of Leadership ISD, a nonprofit organization that works to equip civic leaders to advocate for education equity and excellence for all students, particularly the most underserved. She also sits on the national board of LIFT Communities, an organization aimed at racial equity and economic stability. She received her Ph.D. in urban schooling from UCLA, her master’s degree in sociology and education from Teacher’s College Columbia University, her law degree from Harvard Law School, and bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University.
  • Thana Hickman-Simmons (Dallas, TX) Viola’s House – Hickman-Simmons is the founder and executive director of Viola’s House, an emergency placement shelter for teen mothers who have an unplanned pregnancy. Raised in a middle-class home on the south side of Chicago, she faced an unexpected pregnancy at 17 and made the decision to keep her unborn child because of her support system. Hickman-Simmons moved to Dallas in 2007 and opened Viola’s House in 2008 after seeing that teen mothers often became homeless and didn’t have resources. Through a partnership with Cornerstone Baptist Church, Viola’s House opened one apartment with two beds in 2015. Now, it has helped more than 240 homeless teen mothers in South Dallas through housing, licensed counselors, mentors and educators. In addition to helping these teen moms, she has also created jobs for women including her three daughters. She has a bachelor’s degree in business administration, is a certified life coach and holds a license of ordination in ministry.
  • Patricia “Pat” Jasso (San Antonio, TX) Senior Planet/Retired AT&T Executive – Jasso is a community outreach coordinator and trainer for Senior Planet, a national nonprofit of OATS (Older Adults Technology) targeting seniors 60+. She also taught for OASIS organization for those 50+. Previously, she worked for AT&T until 2011 and served in the Air Force Reserves for 15 years. Jasso is a board member of Brooks Development Authority, board chair for the Texas Business & Professional Women Foundation, director-at-large of Texas Business Women San Antonio and board chair for the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center Advisory Board. She serves as coordinator for Can We Talk, a coalition 65+ organizations that plan Women’s History Month (March) and Women’s Equality Day (August). One of her passions is politics, and she serves on the board of Annie’s List. She has received several awards including being inducted into the San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame for her volunteerism.
  • Lynn McBee (Dallas, TX) Young Women’s Preparatory Network – As a volunteer leader for more than 27 years, McBee has worked more than 45,000 hours of service for 30+ nonprofit groups. Her work has made a difference on issues like improving education, serving homeless, protecting children, fighting domestic violence and helping underserved students succeed in college. McBee has served more than eight years as CEO of Young Women’s Preparatory Network, a public-private partnership that creates STEM-focused schools of choice in an all-girls setting. To date, YWPN grads have a 100% college acceptance rate – many of them first generation college goers. She has grown revenues 300% and has partnered with ISDs to improve student achievement. As a biochemistry graduate from the University of Texas, she has worked for 30 years with New England Biolabs as a research scientist, manager and employee owner. She was recently appointed the Workforce Development Czar for the City of Dallas by Mayor Eric Johnson.


Patricia Christian              Arlene Ford                                   Thana Simmons             Patricia Jasso

Lynn McBee                         Stacy Johnson                         Sherri Kermanshachi

Young Leader Award: The Young Leader Award recognizes breakthrough leadership exhibited by a trailblazer who is achieving success in a field, initiative or sector, and creating a path of opportunity for other women to follow. This year’s recipients are:

  • Stacy Johnson (Round Rock, TX) Central Texas Table of Grace – After leaving an alcoholic and neglectful mother and entering the foster care system at the age of two, Johnson spent the next 14 years moving from foster home to foster home, dreaming that she would open a children’s shelter to help kids like herself. In 2014, she opened Central Texas Table of Grace, an emergency shelter for children ages 6 to 17 in the foster care system who have nowhere else to go. Its mission is to create a loving, nurturing, homelike environment for displaced youth in the Central Texas area. Today, nearly 500 children have experienced the life-changing, loving, nurturing care offered there. In 2021, with 20% of foster kids becoming instantly homeless after turning 18, she launched the Grace365 program, a Supervised Independent Living Program for kids 18-22 who have aged out of foster care. In 2021, NBC’s KXAN recognized Stacy as the “Most Remarkable Woman of the Year” in Central Texas.
  • Sharareh (Sherri) Kermanshachi, Ph.D. (Arlington, TX) University of Texas at Arlington – Dr. Kermanshachi is associate professor in the Department of Civil Engineering and director of the Resilient Infrastructure and Sustainable Environment (RISE) Lab at the University of Texas at Arlington where she leads post-doctorates, and Ph.D. and masters students. She has published more than 200 books, scholarly articles, conference proceedings and research reports and has conducted several research projects. Dr. Kermanshachi has received many prestigious national and regional awards including the 2022 Diversity Leadership Award, 2021 Rosa Parks Leadership Diversity Award, 2020 Women in Technology, 2020 Mark Hasso Educator of the Year, 2018 DBIA Distinguished Leadership Award, and 2018 Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. Kermanshachi serves as a board member of the CMAA-North Texas and editorial board member of three journals. She received her Ph.D. degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M University. She also holds a master’s degree in civil engineering, MBA and bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering.