Senators, judges, police chiefs, doctors, media personalities, and other notable Houstonians were all in one room at the Hyatt Regency Hotel Downtown late last month. The occasion, Crime Stoppers Houston's annual gala that serves as its largest fundraiser, drew more than 360 guests who collectively raised over $473,000 for the public safety org.
This year's event, deemed "Leading the Way to a Safer Houston," was chaired by philanthropic dream team Bashar & Brigitte Kalai and Ajay & Sippi Khurana. The evening honored legendary Houston socialite and philanthropist Joanne King Herring—introduced by Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott as "the only woman ever to win a war"—for both her global legacy of humanitarian aid plus her commitment to local issues, including her partnership with Crime Stoppers and other organizations to end human trafficking.
"I have been drinking wine," a demure, well-heeled Herring said to roaring laughter as she took the stage to accept her award. "Now listen, y'all, 'cause I'm not gonna talk anymore. We are number one—we have been number one for five years—in human trafficking. We have to stop it.
"My favorite words in the world are, 'don't speak of love; show me.' Just like Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady," she continued. "Thank you for caring about the worst form of slavery that could possibly be."
Herring was the latest and most prominent example of the "Ladies Who Lunch" crowd championing a perhaps unexpected cause; glamorous, well-known society women with means leading difficult conversations. And, as evidenced by the $473,000 raised that night, they're doing more than just talking.
Crime Stoppers CEO Rania Mankarious does more of that alongside fashionista Donae Chramosta, also known as The Vintage Contessa, in the duo's new podcast Styling Social Justice. Episode 8 features guest Joanna Coles, former (and first) chief content officer for Hearst Magazines whose tenure leading glossies like Cosmopolitan inspired the Freeform scripted series The Bold Type, which Coles also produces. Today, Coles is heading to CBS: This Morning as creative director; she also sits on the national board of Snapchat. Last month, she flew straight from New York to Houston to give the Crime Stoppers gala's keynote, in which she touched on children, social media, and the family and cultural impact of the meteoric rise of technology.
Coles' remarks were in keeping with Crime Stoppers' multi-pronged mission, proof of its evolution as much more than an anonymous tip line. It's still that, of course—the 24/7 Houston line (713-222-TIPS) helped police solve 450 cases and arrest 324 suspects last year, and it's closed over 34,000 cases and paid more than $11.4 million in rewards since its inception in 1980. But Crime Stoppers does more, today focusing on its Safe School Institute, victim services, and other proactive initiatives around crime prevention and community partnerships.