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Houstonians Fall in Love with Reading All Over Again

The Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation’s Ladies for Literacy Guild’s Sixth Annual Power of Literacy Luncheon is a resounding seasonally themed success raising over $430,000

Photo Credits: Jacob Powers and Daniel Ortiz

The Celebration

On Friday, October 15, 2021, the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation’s Ladies for Literacy Guild (Guild) hosted its sixth annual Power of Literacy Luncheon at The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston. Themed, Fall in Love With Reading, the stylish event was cochaired by Stephanie Tsuru and Leisa Holland-Nelson Bowman. Keith Garvin, KPRC 2 news anchor, was the emcee. Kathie Lee Gifford, four-time Emmy award winner, former cohost of the fourth hour of The Today Show, and New York Times bestselling author, was the keynote speaker.


The Story

An enormous Giving Tree crafted by Art Attack, and larger-than-life open books featuring images and stories of former First Lady Barbara Bush and President George H. W. Bush created by The Events Company, greeted awe-struck guests in the foyer. Continuing the autumnal theme, a huge fall-floral-and-pumpkin-covered canopy on a boxwood stage backdrop welcomed attendees to the dining room. The nearly 500 guests then sat down to tables dressed in ivory linens adorned with vivid floral centerpieces provided by H-E-B and enjoyed a delicious meal featuring vichyssoise shots, chicken ballotine salad, and black forest cake catered by Post Oak Hotel.

Participants were able to purchase raffle tickets to win amazing prizes. These included a double strand necklace of freshwater pearls generously donated by Tenenbaum Jewelers and Tony Bradfield as well as attendance at the VIP Champagne reception with Kathie Lee Gifford. They were also able to donate to the Giving Tree planted by Phillips 66. With each donation of $100, guests received a velvet pumpkin thanks to Phillips 66 and were entered to win one of two pearl-and-rhinestone brooches courtesy of Kenneth Jay Lane Jewelers or a deluxe velvet pumpkin set courtesy of Plush Pumpkin.

The Moments

Stephanie Tsuru and Leisa Holland-Nelson Bowman spoke about how funds raised by the Guild’s initiatives make the Curiosity Cruiser mobile library fleet and other programs, which help children learn to read, write, and develop digital literacy skills, possible. Guild president, Lisa Jakel, highlighted the Guild’s achievements and announced that the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation’s(Foundation) My Home Library program will have given out its 100,000th home library to underserved children in December of 2021 with support from the Guild.

KPRC 2 News anchor Dominique Sachsemoderated the much-anticipated fireside chat with  Kathie Lee Gifford, which was preceded by a video montage of images from Gifford’s last day on The Today Show with cohost Hoda Kotb. Various topics, including Gifford’s impressive entertainment career; her family life; and her upcoming book titled, The Jesus I Know, which is to be released on November 30, 2021, were discussed. An unexpected video message from Kotb congratulating Gifford on her book was the first of two surprises. The second, heralded by confetti cannons, was the announcement that each guest present would be receiving an advanced copy of Gifford’s book.

Neil Bush, co-founder of the Foundation, gave the concluding remarks. He thanked everyone involved for making the luncheon successful and stated that the Guild has become a vibrant part of the Foundation.

Phillips 66 served as the title sponsor of the luncheon for the sixth year in a row, continuing its leadership position in the community promoting the literacy cause. Additionally, Cathy Cleary, Rhonda Graff, and Stephanie Tsuru served as literacy champion sponsors and Bobbie Nau, Memorial Hermann, the Quanex Foundation, and Stavis & Cohen Private Wealth served as presenting sponsors.

The event raised over $430,000.    


Guests: Stephanie Tsuru, Leisa Holland-Nelson Bowman and Bob Bowman, Julie Baker Finck, Maria and Neil Bush, Cathy Cleary, Rhonda Graff, Nancy Ames and Danny Ward, Lisa and Mark Jakel, Iris Griffiths, Jennifer Wilson, Alice Mosing, Betty Hrncir, Bobbie Nau, Carol Sawyer, Diane Gendel, Ginny Endecott, Janna Roberson, Rosie Damgaard, Mehrnaz Gill, Gail Garland, Claudia Kreisle, Laurie Lashier, Patricia Mitchell, Sonya Reed, Hallie Vanderhider, Kelli Cohen Fein, Lilly Andress, Vicki West, Ann Bookout, Anne Neeson, Sidney Faust, Paige Fertitta, Sara Wise, Sue Conway, Susan Bruch, Sidney Faust, Marsha Montemayor, and DancieWare.

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: the ability to read, write, speak clearly, and think critically.

About the Ladies for Literacy Guild

The Ladies for Literacy Guild is a volunteer auxiliary group that supports the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation (Foundation). Led by President Lisa Jakel, this dynamic assemblage of women is committed to carrying forth Barbara Bush’s legacy in literacy. It also supports the Foundation’s mission to improve lives through the power of literacy: the ability to read, write, speak clearly, and think critically.

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