Mar 31, 2016 09:12AM
● By Dia
By Lori Stacy
Select clothing courtesy Vineyard Vines in Southlake Town Square
Southlake Style’s annual Tastemakers recognition is a spotlight on those people who help make Southlake a first-rate community. From restaurateurs who have put our city on the culinary map to those working to make Carroll schools the best in the nation to a volunteer who makes everything she touches a little more beautiful, our 2016 Tastemakers are proof that it takes great citizens to make a great city.
Let’s first get something straight about Kari Mawn: When friends call her “the party mom,” they’re not implying that you might see her dancing on tables. Rather, Mawn is more than likely decorating those tables for worthwhile causes around the community.
“I have a decorating problem,” admits Mawn, a mother of three. “I love to decorate for events and fundraisers.” She’s put her design talents to work on everything from teacher’s luncheons to lacrosse banquets to even her tennis pro’s wedding.
And in fact, it was Mawn who, two years ago, started TableTops in order to raise money for the needy. After hearing from a friend that a local charity was not going to get all the bikes it needed to distribute to children in need, Mawn came up with an idea to create an event featuring—not surprisingly—beautifully decorated, sponsored tables at a luncheon and auction that could help raise money for the bikes. She approached Mike Hutchison at the Southlake Hilton first, garnering his support and securing the room, and then put out a Facebook call for help, which brought more than 40 women on board in less than 24 hours.
In its first year, TableTops raised $35,000—more than enough to purchase the needed bikes for children. “In Southlake, we hear of a need and we pull together,” says Mawn, who admits that it was emotionally gratifying to see so many volunteers come together in such a short amount of time—30 days—to make TableTops successful that first year. Last year, with more time and more volunteers on board, they raised more than $80,000 for local charities.
“So much of life happens at special events like holidays or parties,” says Mawn. “I just like to make them beautiful.”
As director of foundations for the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), Michelle Moore has raised
millions of dollars to fund programs on the premise that “a mind is a terrible thing to waste but a wonderful thing to invest in.” Now, in her role as a Trustee for Carroll ISD, she is using her experience and talent so that the youth in our community are positioned to achieve excellence today and for years to come.
“One of the reasons I wanted to serve on the school board and have dedicated my career to building better futures through education was largely due to my parents instilling the value of education at an early age,” says Moore. “Both of them immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba as teenagers. Both enrolled in college, but never finished. I am a first-generation college graduate in my family, and for that, I will be forever indebted to my parents for all the sacrifices they made.”
A quality education for her own children—her daughter, Katie, is 13 and her son, Harrison, is 10—is what brought Moore and her husband, Brandon, to Southlake 11 years ago. Moore says she feels blessed to be living here and gives back to the community through her extensive volunteering. In addition to her role on the school board, she has served on the Carroll Elementary PTO board, is co-chair of teacher grants for SAGAT (Southlake Association for the Gifted and Talented), and serves as an advisor for the Carroll Education Foundation. She’s also involved in the National Charity League and Odyssey of the Mind. And yes, she still works a full-time job at the UNCF.
Moore recalls filling out a get-to-know-you questionnaire for the National Charity League. “There was a funny question on the form: If you had a warning label, what would it say,” recalls Moore. “I wrote, ‘will volunteer for anything.’”
So why does this busy working mom stay so involved? Says Moore, “I heard a quote at a UNCF conference that really spoke to me about why I do what I do: ‘The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.’”
Officer Diron Hill
You could say that Officer Diron Hill wears many hats—both figuratively and literally. On any given Friday, you might find him wearing wigs or funny hats in his role as school resource officer (SRO) at Eubanks Intermediate School. It wasn’t part of the job description when he signed on to be SRO, but Hill wants the students at Eubanks to see the more human side of police officers.
As an SRO in Carroll ISD, it’s an officer’s job to provide a safe campus and environment for students and teachers. But that’s only a small part of their role, Hill explains. “It’s not just about walking around, checking doors and looking for suspicious people,” he says. “The most important part of our job is to build relationships with the kids in our community. We want them to trust police officers, to confide in them, to be able to go to them in a time of need.”
So Hill, a semi-retired former police chief, makes it a point to have lunch or play sports with the students and to talk to them about what’s going on in their lives. He also created a citizenship award that’s handed out each month to a student, nominated by a teacher, who has shown good character, such as one recent recipient who stepped in and took action when he felt another student was being bullied.
And when it came time to help raise money for the Carroll Education Foundation, Hill offered up his time, providing auction items including “SRO for a Day,” a chance for kids to work alongside Hill for the day, and a flag football game and pizza party at Dragon Stadium that he hosted.
Hill is thankful that Southlake has empowered him to get creative in his role as an SRO. “Southlake has done the right thing with the SRO program,” says Hill. “It really should be a pilot program for all schools in the U.S.”
If you’ve had the pleasure to dine at Del Frisco’s Grille in Southlake, you’ve probably been greeted
at your table by a warm, friendly woman with a British accent. Gemma Brady, the restaurant’s London-born general manager, makes it a point to stop by and say hello to guests, many of whom the Southlake resident has come to know.
The Southlake-based Del Frisco’s Restaurant Group, which operates 51 restaurants around the country, reminds its employees that they are in the people business, serving food, and not the other way around. But that’s something that Brady needs little reminder of. Having grown up with parents in the restaurant and hotel businesses, serving others has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. “Hospitality is definitely my calling,” she says.
In addition to bringing the community into Del Frisco’s Grille, Brady strives to ensure that the restaurant also reaches out to the community it serves. Every Friday, she reviews the myriad donation requests that come in from schools and charity groups, identifying the opportunities to best make an impact in the community. “We have a pretty big budget for donating to the community,” she admits. “But if we have to miss one event for a school for one quarter, I try to be sure to work with them another time.”
Brady is a mom (she and her husband have four young children between them), so she knows how important it is to work with schools and other local organizations in town. “What sets Southlake apart from other places is the sense of community here,” she says. Even the “competition,” she admits, likes to work together. “The other restaurants here are not our competition; they’re our friends,” she says. “We get calls from them to borrow something or to just see what’s going on.
“Southlake is just this quaint, little place,” she adds. “The schools, the education—everything is phenomenal.”
To get a better understanding of why Christopher Archer wanted to get involved with Carroll ISD, you might need to do a little math. Between he and his wife, Stacey, the Archers have five children, all of whom have gone through or are going through the district. Considering that his children started in Southlake’s school system in 1998 and the youngest will graduate in 2019, that’s more than 20 years of having a Dragon in the household.
Five children, 21 years—that’s a lot of PTO meetings and open houses. It’s also given Archer, president of the Carroll ISD Board of Trustees, a firsthand look at what a phenomenal job the school district is doing.
“There’s a good administration, quality programs; there’s not a need for a lot of change,” says Archer. Rather, “I wanted to be a part of adding to the success. It doesn’t matter how many National Merit Scholars you have, you still want to improve.”
In addition to meeting with the Board every other Monday, Archer attends school-related events throughout the week—lunches, banquets, programs, sporting events and more—in part to show the school board’s support but also because Archer wants to stay connected to the schools he represents.
Not to mention the fact that Archer, who is president and owner of Associated Time & Parking Controls, and Stacey are involved in local charities including the GRACE Gala (for which they were chairs two years ago), the Bob Jones Nature Center “Naturally Sweet” fundraiser (also which they co-chaired), Miracle League, Art in the Square and the Carroll Education Foundation, on which Archer serves as an Advisor.
But giving back is important to the Archers. “We feel Southlake has been such a great place to raise kids,” he says. Although, with just 24 hours a day and seven days a week, even Archer sometimes has trouble adding it all up and finding enough time. “We might need to learn to say no a little more often,” he admits. But somehow we doubt he will.
On his first week on the job as General Manager at Brio Tuscan Grille, Robert Talamantez received many welcome greetings from guests. There’s one that he remembers in particular, though.
“I had the opportunity to meet Brian Stebbins on our terrace and he said it the best: ‘You are now part of the Southlake family.’ That was such a warm, genuine welcome to the great city of Southlake,” recalls Talamantez of the late developer from Cooper & Stebbins, the firm that conceived and developed Southlake Town Square.
Indeed, it’s been Talamantez’s goal to make Brio a part of the community. In addition to partnering with charitable foundations such as Kids Matter International, Guzman 23 Foundation, Art in the Square and Wounded Warriors (to name just a few), the restaurant also does lunch drop-offs to local firefighters and police stations on Labor Day.
“We are grateful to be able to touch people’s lives inside and outside of the restaurant,” Talamantez says. “Known as a community restaurant, Brio believes in giving back.”
And the community, it seems, has embraced Brio as well. “Brio has always had that hometown restaurant feel. You often run into your friends, school teachers and business associates,” Talamantez says. “We are privileged in hosting many family get-togethers during the holiday season and throughout the year.”
Talamantez, who has been in the restaurant business for 23 years, admits that being in this industry has transformed him from a shy kid from Snyder, Texas, to an executive whose main job is dealing with people. “I remember my first mentor stating, ‘You will learn a lot about yourself and other people in this industry—more than any other industry out there,’” recalls Talamantez. “He was correct.”SaveSave