East Park Revitalization Alliance
NEIGHBORHOOD SPROUTS NEW LIFE
Strawberry Mansion in North Philly boasts a history as elegant as its name. Once home to some of the city’s wealthiest families, the neighborhood takes its name from a mid-nineteenth century restaurant, located in a grand revolutionary-era residence, famous for serving fresh strawberries and cream to its guests. In the early 1900’s, the area became home to a prosperous community of Jewish residents who moved from South Philly to settle in the greener enclaves adjacent to spacious and cool Fairmount Park. It also became one of the most racially integrated parts of the city as the great migration saw many Black families move north, find jobs in the factories owned by wealthy Jewish business owners, and buy homes nearby. As a result, Strawberry Mansion has one of the highest rates
Tell us about yourself, and your work as managing director of private client services at CrossFirst Bank of Dallas.
I started my banking career after graduating college. Prior to moving to Dallas, about 25 years ago,
I worked at a couple of financial institutions before joining CrossFirst Bank. CrossFirst is a partnership model, and I was hired to be the partner and managing director for the Dallas private client group. I’ve been here for about six years working with clients and their families, as well as their business- related interests. We handle lending, depository, and treasury services and work with third party wealth advisors and asset managers as needed. CrossFirst became a publicly traded company three years ago, and CrossFirst Bank currently manages $5.6 billion in assets.
How did you come to meet Rosy Lopez and learn about Charity Services Center?
My first introduction to Charity Services happened when I was with my former firm. I was introduced to Rosy by one of her partners, Bill Burdette. I’d met Bill through an industry connection here in Dallas, who knew that we were opening a bank that would be well-capitalized, well-supported, with a strong organizing group and strong board of directors.
As a result, Bill had confidence in our bank. Charity Services Center was the first non-personal account that I opened at CrossFirst.
Who teaches your courses?
Our instructors honestly are just an amazing group of people — either retired professionals, or currently teaching in academic settings, or they have some area of expertise. So, for example, we just started with a guy who’s 94 years old, who was an engineer for 70 years, worked on the Apollo, and is teaching a course for people who will be coming out of prison in less than three years. He’s at a reentry center and he is teaching students how to get a job in construction, along with writing.
What happens in your classwork?
During classes we teach meditation and students keep a journal. We have a journalism course, so our people put together a newspaper. We teach traditional fiction, non-fiction and poetry, songwriting, screenwriting, a course called Trauma Toolbox that helps people figure out where their triggers are, and to divert those impulses into better communication rather than behavior that might have gotten them into prison to start with. The truth is that people who are incarcerated are a microcosm of society. So whatever interest you find outside in society, you have the same interests inside the prisons.
Charity Services Center works to fund nonprofits through Impact Deposit Corp’s cash deposit program. Rosy says you’re very passionate about a nonprofit in Dallas, which is the Equest Therapeutic Horsemanship Group. Did you bring that group to CSC?.
When Rosy and I began our relationship, I had at that time just been a volunteer and I had chaired a couple of events for Equest’s veterans program called Hooves for Heroes. We were talking about Charity Services initiatives and what they do to partner with nonprofits in each respective community. Generally, from my understanding, the banker gets a say in where those funds from Charity Services Center’s Impact Deposit Program are directed. Soon after I joined the board of Equest, and became so passionate about their mission, and that’s when I brought them to Charity Services Center. We provide equine assisted therapies for children and adults with diverse needs by partnering them with mounted and also unmounted horse therapies. So, it’s just being around the horse and caring for the horse— the human horse connection is very fascinating
What is so therapeutic about that connection?
The horse’s gait is very similar to the human skeletal gait. Horses have hips that move up and down and side to side and they rotate. When you mount someone on a horse who is unable to walk, they get the physical results as it relates to core strength. Those riders who are able to train the horses also get arm strength and dexterity work. But from a psychological perspective, the effects are measured primarily in the amount of success the riders report, especially as it relates to our veterans program and their ability to manage their emotions and deal with symptoms of PTSD.
We talk about it being magic, but some of it is very much measured. The Center for Brain Health was a big research provider, and they have a lot of supporting documentation and information related to how this human horse connection is an effective tool to help clients moderate their emotional well being, because they feel independent. They’re able to be up, and not in a wheelchair. And when you’re sitting on a horse, nobody would know that you couldn’t walk. And so, there is a very positive psychological effect that comes with that as well..
Can you speak about what it has meant to Equest to have the support that Charity Services Centers provides?
The average contribution from Charity Services Center is around $5,000 a year—which just in context, feeds a horse hay for an entire year. And so, in some ways they’re sponsoring one of the thirty-five or thirty-six horses we have now. We’re not a massive charity. Our budget is around $2.5 – $3 million—although we are a very highly- respected charity in Dallas and very well known outside of Dallas. Every little bit of support that we can get is just super important to help us continue to nurture those relationships. And Rosy is a great partner. She has actually been to a couple of our galas, and then a Boots and Salutes event, which is the event that benefits the Hooves for Heroes program. And she’s all in. She loves the mission. She loves the people, she loves the Texas horse park, and she just loves to see the results of what it is that Charity Services can contribute every year.