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How to Care: Manos de Cristo and Seton Breast Care Center

Michael Barnes
mbarnes@statesman.com

Two social gatherings, one for Manos de Cristo, the other for Seton Breast Care Center, demonstrated how to care through what, to an outsider, might seem like just another fine meal.

At the brisk Four Seasons Hotel lunch to benefit the Presbyterian-affiliated nonprofit that offers low-cost dental care, ESL classes and pastoral counseling along with emergency food and clothing, the main draw was writer, performer and executive coach Steven Tomlinson.

Following years of penetrating one-performer plays when he wasn’t circling the globe for corporate clients, Austinite — and dear friend — Tomlinson has devoted spare time to researching, reporting and writing vignettes about Austin nonprofits.

His four portraits inspired by the dental mission at Manos de Cristo made an ideal sequel to his astonishing playlets about the similarly essential People’s Community Clinic. His first subject was a transformative business and civic operator — uncannily like Dick Rathgeber, who matched all gift pledges this midday — and his next was an artist who wanted to keep the integrity of his teeth intact.

His third hilarious scene imagined a Tooth Fairy trying to persuade an assembly of fellow fairies to rebrand their magic, not unlike a certain national political party. The final playlet found a dentist from a private practice witnessing the emotional shifts in the clinic’s waiting room.

Barnstorming stuff! Tomlinson’s life partner and party co-chair followed the act with a short, powerful, plainspoken coda. Was there ever such a couple?

The evening of the same day, folks in cocktail attire got together over a special meal at Kenichi, once the darling of the Warehouse District that has since attracted some worthy rivals.

Devoted friends Marcia Levy and Susan Lubin greeted everyone at the door. They are the brains behind the future Seton Breast Care Center, which will gather related women’s health services in one pleasant space at the Seton Medical Center.

They couldn’t make an official announcment, but the pair is certain their $6 million+ goal will be reached by summer’s end. Expect the good news by October.

One of the things that pleases me most about this campaign has been the not-too-big, not-too-small scale.

It wasn’t exactly a grassroots, by-the-seat-of-our-pants effort. Look at the big names in the room: Eddie Safady, Carla and Jack McDonald, Ray Benson, Kim and Kyle Hughes, John Thornton, James Armstrong and Larry Connelly, Dr. John Hogg and David Garza, Charmaine Denius McGill and Gordon McGill, Chris Ney and Amanda King, Jeff and Sarah Zeigler, Wendi and Brian Kushner, Cherie Matthews, Candace Partridge, Mary Ellen Borgelt to name a few.

Yet Levy and Lubin labored mightily — twisting a few arms gently along the way — to reach this goal. A campaign that fit just right.

During the multi-course meal of fish, meat and sweets, my tablemates buzzed with conversation. Delighted to know them all.