The Gift of Reading was the theme of this year’s Power of Literacy Luncheon, hosted by the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation’s Ladies for Literacy Guild
Photo Credits: Daniel Ortiz and Jacob Power
On Friday, October 20, 2024, the Post Oak Hotel was the site of the eighth annual Power of Literacy Luncheon hosted by the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation’s (Foundation) Ladies for Literacy Guild (Guild). This year’s theme was The Gift of Reading. Maureen Higdon chaired the well-attended event and Keith Garvin of KPRC 2 emceed. Emmy® and Tony® Award-winning actress, singer, and New York Times bestselling author Kristin Chenoweth was the gracious headliner.
Stepping into the venue’s reception area and ballroom, the over 550 guests entered a winter wonderland featuring a 15-foot by 13-foot giving tree made of wrapped gift boxes, courtesy of A Pretty Party, Art Attack, and The Events Company. Glinda the good witch from Wicked, courtesy of J & D Entertainment, offered guests Champagne as they purchased raffle tickets. An image of The White House at Christmastime provided the stage backdrop. Gold, and signature Barbara Bush blue, embellishments sparkled throughout the ballroom along with fresh floral centerpieces, generously donated by H-E-B, on guest tables. Raffle prizes included a double-stranded necklace of freshwater pearls with a diamond clasp—inspired by the timeless style of the late Barbara Bush—donated by Tenenbaum Jewelers and a Hermès Red Bibliotheque Gavroche scarf, generously donated by the Guild.
The lovely lunch, catered by Post Oak Hotel, featured butternut squash shooters with Chantilly cream and herb-roasted chicken salad garnished with roasted sweet potato, goat cheese, cranberries, pistachio, and white balsamic dressing. Lunch was followed by a dessert selection of pumpkin spice cheesecake, a ginger snap cookie, and apple brandy Chantilly cream.
To the delight of the attendees, a video of Kristin Chenoweth performing The Girl in 14G in 2002 at Ford’s Theater, with former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush in the audience, was shown before the program began. It was followed by Garvin’s opening remarks and introduction of Higdon and Guild President, Stick Delaup. Higdon spoke about how aptly named this year’s theme was because the luncheon’s proceeds will give the gift of reading to underserved children across Houston. Delaup enlightened the audience with the strides the Guild had made over the past year, including the fact it has provided over 4,500 children with home libraries through the Foundation’s My Home Library program, opened two George and Barbara Bush Family Place locations, built a children’s library in the Spring Branch Boys & Girls Club, sponsored Camp Adventure for hundreds of children in the Third and Fifth Wards, and supported out-of-school time programming and books to thousands of children through the Curiosity Cruiser mobile library fleet.
After lunch, Garvin returned to the stage to introduce Chenowith, who discussed her book, I’m No Philosopher, But I Got Thoughts, with event moderator, Ernie Manouse, executive producer and host at Houston Public Media. Chenowith’s latest publication is an inspiring high-design, colorful book featuring philosophical-ish musings on connection, creativity, loss, love, faith, and closure. Her previously published works include What Will I Do with My Love Today? and her 2010 memoir A Little Bit Wicked.
As well as discussing her new book, Chenowith spoke about her family, friends, career, and recent marriage to Josh Bryant. “One of the hardest things I learned was forgiveness,” she said during the conversation. “When I learned how to forgive myself and forgive others, I felt free. We all need to forgive ourselves and each other more.”
When asked if she had any final, parting words or advice, Chenoweth paused, took a deep breath, and began singing Smile A Capella, for which she received a standing ovation as she left. The program concluded with the showing of For Good, from the Broadway show, Wicked, performed by Chenoweth and Idina Menzel.
Phillips 66 served as Title Sponsor. The event raised over $500,000 in support of childhood literacy programs.
Guests: Alvin Abraham, Martha Adger Madget, Lilly Andress, Julie Baker Finck, Ginger Blanton, Ann Bookout, Tony Bradfield, Amy Chronis, Cathy Cleary, Sue Conway, Emily Dalicandro, Stick Delaup, Rebecca and Brian Duncan, Deborah Dunkum, Lesha Elsenbrook, Scott Ulrich and Ernest Trevino, Sidney Faust, Paige Fertitta, Keith and Lisa Garvin, Rhonda Graff, Lisa Helfman, Maureen Higdon, Betty Hrncir, Lisa and Mark Jakel, Claudia Kreisle, Patti Kroll, Brenda Love, Megan Marietta, Mary Lynn Marks, Anne McClellan, April McGee, Carolyn Mohsenzadeh, Marsha Montemayor, Anne Neeson, Dorothy Nicholson, Barbara Paull, Beverly Postl, Sheri Reymond, Regina Rogers, Gina Saour, Sue Smith, Deborah Stavis, Juliet Stipeche, Molly Strange, Y Ping Sun, Stephanie Tsuru, Pam Wells, Vicki West, Cynthia Wolff, Trish Morille, and Sandra Shenkir.
About the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation
The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation (Foundation) is a charitable organization formed by Neil and Maria Bush to carry forth First Lady Barbara Bush’s legacy in the literacy cause and to focus deeply on breaking the intergenerational cycle of low literacy in the Bush family’s hometown. Founded on Mrs. Bush’s belief, “If you help a person to read, then their opportunities in life will be endless,” the Foundation’s mission is to improve lives through the power of literacy. Over the past 10 years, the Foundation has spearheaded innovative literacy programs and expanded access to high-quality services and resources that empower children, families, and adults with the support they need to learn how to read, write, and comprehend. For more information, please visit www.barbarabushhouston.org or follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bushhoustonliteracy, on Twitter @bushhoustonlit, and on Instagram @bushhoustonlit.
About the Ladies for Literacy Guild
The Ladies for Literacy Guild (Guild) is a volunteer auxiliary group that supports the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation (Foundation). Led by President Stick Delaup, the Guild is a volunteer-based auxiliary of the Foundation, which was formed in 2015 by a group of 97 Founding Members. Since that time, the Guild has grown to over 300 members. Their mission is: In the spirit of service, the Ladies for Literacy Guild mobilizes resources to foster a love of reading through the power of literacy. They do this by Rallying members and supporters to advance the literacy cause; Enriching the lives of those in the Houston community through literacy; Advocating the importance of literacy; and Devoting time, talent, and resources to ensure the success of the mission. To learn more about the Guild, please visit https://www.barbarabushhouston.org/ladiesguild. To learn more about the Curiosity Cruiser, please visit www.CuriosityCruiser.com.