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Waller Creek Garden Party, Black & White Ball, Lone Stars & Angels, more

Michael Barnes
mbarnes@statesman.com

CITY: Momentum keeps rolling. The rollout for the Waller Creek Conservancy has been deliberate and deterimined. And for good reason. The group’s power trio, Tom Meredith, Melba Whatley and Melanie Barnes, were drafted by public officials because they are veterans of major campaigns. And it will take more than $100 million in public and private funds to fully realize the vision of Waller Creek as an urban jewel. Friday, a garden party was held amid the magnificant landscapes belonging to James David and Gary Pease. The innovative home and studio above a creekbed in West Lake Hills were designed by Mel Lawrence. There, I met Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, founding president of the Central Park Conservancy, one of the key models for the Waller Creek group. Rogers comes from a Texas family who owns a ranch out in the Hill Country. (She’d make a thoughtful interview subject some day soon.)

HEALTH: Brazos Hall is a hit. Halls for special events spring up all over Austin. Few are as cleanly designed and clearly suited to socializing as Brazos Hall. Friday, the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital threw its annual Western-themed Lone Stars and Angels party there. Dinner tables fit comfortably in the wide open spaces downstairs, with enough room left over for a stage, bars and silent auction tables. Upstairs on the breezy rooftop terrace, folks mingled while a musical act kept the mood light. Other groups have discovered the many splendors of Brazos Hall — previously a school and before that a warehouse — on East Fourth Street. St. Jude solved the thorny parking problem with valets. I walked instead. (It’s easier to make multiple events when they are located centrally.)

LAW: Classic combo stays classy. Sometimes the whole point of a party is to dress up. Now, the Black and White Ball also comes with a very serious mission: To help the Texas Advocacy Project, which provides free legal services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault throughout the state of Texas. This year, the event stretched out over segmented hallways, banquet rooms and terraces of the Four Seasons Hotel and added a VIP tent. The party attracts guests who collaborate legally for the best reasons — I’ve met lawmakers, law enforcement officers, judges at this event. But I tell you, black and white formal wear looks fabulous on almost everybody. (Don’t ever change that theme.)

CHARITY: Season for Caring is upon us. Few newsroom efforts are more satisfying than Season for Caring. So far, the American-Statesman program has raised more than $7 million in cash and in-kind donations for Austin families served by a dozen nonprofits each year. Last year, my time with Hospice Austin client Patrick Wilson was precious. Friday, I met with Qusay Hussein, a blind Iraqi refugee, 24, sponsored by Interfaith Action (iAct). Over the course of two hours at his small North Austin apartment, mostly through a translator, we talked about the suicide bomber who wreaked havoc on a Mosul playground, about the 51 surgeries that reconstructed his features, about fleeing first to Jordan then to the United States with the help of the UN High Commission on Refugees. What place treats the disabled well? Austin, he was told. Hussein is very ambitious, a poet and a guide who wants to counsel people who have endured traumas like his. (Look for the Season for Caring package in the Statesman in about six weeks.)

STYLE: Professor plans dumpster-dwelling experiment. Reported by Pat Beach in today’s Statesman: “A couple of years ago, Jeff Wilson was sitting in a Starbucks, looking at a dumpster and thought, “I could probably live in that.” Now he’s going to. For a year. You’re thinking, “Seriously?” Seriously. He’s going to live in a trash container with 8 cubic yards of living space. Wilson is a professor of environmental science and a dean at Huston-Tillotson University who recently relocated from the University of Texas at Brownsville. Both personally and professionally, the Boerne native is interested in issues of consumption, conservation and sustainability. He’s not trying to be No-Impact Man, but for some time he’s been shedding possessions to see what’s truly essential.” http://shar.es/E9XC2(For my money, the best read in the paper today.)