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Lending Hands

Holly Haber, Kristie Ramirez and Krystal Sarna | October 23, 2018 | Feature Features National

Dallas ranks as one of the most generous cities in the country. We're highlighting our top nine locals for their shape-shifting ideas that make North Texas a place of thanksgiving.
Dr. Michael J. Sorrell

Paul Quinn College has but one goal,” says President Michael J. Sorrell. “Our vision is to eradicate intergenerational poverty.” Sorrell, who was named one of The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders by Fortune magazine in April, isn’t blowing smoke. He’s already rescued the historically black college from certain death, partly by turning it into the first urban work college, where all students work 10 to 15 hours weekly to help fund their tuition. The 2-acre vegetable farm he cultivated on the former football field is legendary as a food desert remedy. In August, Sorrell proudly oversaw groundbreaking on Paul Quinn’s first new building in 40 years. Now, he intends to export the Paul Quinn model so that more low-income people can earn college degrees and escape poverty. “We’re going to create an international network of urban work colleges in cities and countries everywhere,” he promises. Wilberforce University in Ohio and Kuyper College in Michigan have already signed up, and he’s negotiating for more. The son of a prosperous Chicago barbecue restaurateur who never attended college, Sorrell holds law, MBA and doctorate degrees. “We are tackling the great issues where there is great risk of failure,” he acknowledges. “We don’t have to play it safe. The communities we care most about are coming from a place [where] scarcity defines them, and we think people shouldn’t live those lives in a country that has so much.”

For Nancy Halbreich, it’s a moral imperative. For Carol Seay, it’s personal. The dynamic duo leads a $40 million campaign to construct a new breast center at Parkland Hospital. Named in tribute to a $15 million gift they helped coax from the Moody Foundation, the Moody Center for Breast Health at Parkland is expected to open in 2021. It will accommodate twice as many patients and offer screening, diagnostics and treatment in one spot to smooth the process for breast cancer patients. Most are working, poor and uninsured women who are dependent on public transportation. Currently, they must navigate a process so labyrinthine—it spans eight locations across Parkland and UT Southwestern Medical Center—that some abandon treatment. “It drove me crazy that they were losing these women in the system,” says Halbreich, a staunch health advocate who had already co-chaired the $150 million I Stand for Parkland campaign to build the new hospital. “It’s heartbreaking.” Seay is a breast cancer survivor and Parkland fan because the hospital saved her father’s life, twice. Longtime friends and fundraising dynamos, Halbreich and Seay have raised $36 million so far and are working on the remaining amount. Seay, a former assistant principal in DISD, also serves on the boards of Parkland Foundation, Methodist Health Foundation, The Family Place, Camp John Marc and the Simmons School of Education & Development at Southern Methodist University.


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