Archive for the ‘Tori Mannes’ Category

For the past 5 ½ years it has been my great privilege to serve as the first Executive Director of The Wilson Foundation.  I am so proud of the progress we have made during this time: creating a website, brochures, blogs and other communications tools to help tell our story, expanding fundraising efforts and activities with a variety of events and other initiatives including the Hope Bracelet, increasing our donor base, both in number and in geographic scope, and deepening the Foundation’s partnership with our grantee partners in South Africa. 

As Executive Director I have had the opportunity to meet hundreds of generous individuals and companies who have supported and believed in our mission.  I thank you for that.  You have believed that working together, we can make a difference.  And we truly have! 

Children in the preschool training program

During my trips to South Africa over these years I have seen this difference first-hand:  people who are alive today because we have been able to provide funding for life-saving antiretroviral (ARV) medication; children who live in a third-world setting are receiving a first-world education; local community residents who have been employed as caregivers and counselors are providing inspiration and hope to their neighbors; at-risk boys who have been mentored by responsible adults have learned about goal-setting, morals, and values, and now these young men are taking their place among the leadership of the community. 

As I move on to lead another nonprofit organization in Dallas, I want to express my deepest thanks to my Wilson colleagues, to our loyal donors and supporters, to the many people inVaalwater, South Africa who I am proud to count as friends and to the children to whom I have been known as “Mama Tori.”   Most of all, I want to thank Trisha Wilson for giving me this amazing opportunity.  The Wilson Foundation’s mission is to “change lives, one child at a time.”  I know without a doubt that this experience has changed mine.  The Wilson Foundation and the special people of South Africa will be in my heart forever, and I am grateful.

Thank you.

Tori Mannes

Executive Director

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For all our design industry friends and supporters who will be attending the HD Expo + Conference in Las Vegas next week:

I wanted to let you all know that I will be speaking at Hospitality Design magazine’s booth  on Wednesday, May 18 at 2:00 pm on “Philanthropy and Business – Why it Matters Now.”

The Wilson Foundation supports programs for disadvantaged children in rural South Africa.


Trisha Wilson, CEO and Founder of Wilson Associates, established The Wilson Foundation in 1997 with a two-fold motivation: to provide opportunities for an education and a better future to extremely disadvantaged children, and to provide some balance to the world of luxury, beauty and privilege in which she and her employees worked every day.

“My employees and I have been blessed to work with some of the most beautiful and luxurious products and properties in the world, and it’s sometimes easy to forget there are children out there who have no parents, no education, and no opportunities,” Wilson says. “Through The Wilson Foundation, we and our industry partners and friends focus on these forgotten children, to give them hope and help.”

Social responsibility is part of the corporate culture at Wilson Associates, and I am thrilled to discuss this important topic as part of HD Magazine’s annual ‘HD Salon.’  The HD booth will be located on the upper level, Sands lobby, adjacent to the Radical Innovation Exhibit—Mosaic on the concourse.

Please stop by to say hello — I will have giveaways for all our friends!

Hope to see you there!

Tori Mannes, Executive Director

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For most high school girls, babysitting is a tried-and-true way to earn some extra spending money.  But high school senior Ellie Hamm has discovered another option: creating her own business.  After receiving a candle-making starter kit for Christmas, Ellie discovered she had a knack for creating wonderfully-scented, long lasted soy-based candles, and thus, Eleanor Hamm & Co. (http://www.eleanorhammandco.com/) was launched in January 20008.  Ellie creates over 100 candles per month, selling them to friends, through her website, and at local markets and shows.  She sells her candles in three sizes- small, medium and large – with some oversized and specialty containers also available.  There are over 14 fragrances to choose from, though the top sellers are French Market, Oak Moss & Clary Sage, and  Citrus & Basil.  

Since she’s still busy with things like attending high school and working on college applications, Ellie receives backup support for her business from her mother, Madeline.  As the self-named ‘supply gatherer’ and logistics coordinator, Madeline helps keep track of all the moving parts.

We are proud that last year’s Tseelana Market was the first official market that Ellie participated in, and in the past year her business has continued to grow.  We applaud Ellie’s creativity and entrepreneurship, but mostly her generosity in committing a portion of her sales proceeds to support the children served by The Wilson Foundation.  We are proud to have her back as a 2010 Tseelana Market participating merchant. 

Thursday, October 21 5 – 8 pm

Friday, October 22 10 am – 4 pm

7501 Turtle Creek Boulevard (corner of Turtle Creek and Hanover)

For questions, please call 214-523-7577.

Special thanks to Ryan Osborne Homes and Briggs-Freeman (Lindy Mahoney, Realtor) for enabling us to use this fabulous new home.


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Margaret Miller (http://www.margaretmillerdesigns.com/index2.php#/home/) was launched in 2009 after the overwhelming response designer and owner Margaret Brungart received to the stylish, easy to wear knit  dresses she made for herself.  Margaret Miller embodies the relaxed lifestyle of growing up on the beach, and always wanting to wear something fashionable and flattering yet super comfortable.  The brand is defined by effortless clothes that travel well and flatter the curves of a woman’s body. 

Margaret Brungart grew up in a family of exceptionally creative women including her grandmother, who had created beautiful clothes for her grandchildren and who gave Margaret her first sewing machine.  Margaret decided to use her grandmother’s maiden name, Miller, for her business as a tribute to her inspiration and strength.

We are thrilled to welcome back Margaret Miller as a  participant in this year’s  Tseelana Market.  Founder Margaret Brungart is a longtime supporter of The Wilson Foundation and when she established her company she made a decision to designate a portion of sales to support the Foundation’s work.  The Wilson Foundation and the merchants who participate in the Tseelana Market share a commitment to ‘do well by doing good’.  We are pleased to promote Margaret Miller and appreciate her company’s commitment to the Foundation’s work.

2010 Tseelana Market

Thursday, October 21 5 – 8 pm

Friday, October 22 10 am – 4 pm

7501 Turtle Creek Boulevard (corner of Turtle Creek Blvd. & Hanover)

Dallas, Texas  75225

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Many of The Wilson Foundation’s friends and supporters have heard about Simon Makinta, the young man from Leseding Township who we have been helping for the past several years.

Just over two years ago, Simon was a young man with big dreams but no way to achieve them.  He had just graduated from Meetsetshehla High School in Vaalwater and had no prospects for employment.  After meeting Trisha Wilson and Marion Frew, our local Wilson Foundation colleague in Vaalwater, Simon persuaded the foundation to help him further his education and pursue his dream:  to fly.

Simon Makinta with Marion Frew and Trisha Wilson

With funding support from The Wilson Foundation, Simon graduated from Jeppe College in March with a hospitality degree.  The next step was to attend a cabin crew training program. He completed his course last week and today we received word that he has passed his Civil Aviation examination so he will become licensed to work for an airline!

It hasn’t been easy:  along the way, Simon was mugged (twice) and robbed of everything he had.  Since English is not his first language, he struggled to understand the material in some of his classes.  He often did not have enough money for food.  To enroll in cabin crew training he had to learn to swim proficiently.  All these things he accomplished while living away from his family and familiar surroundings.

Simon Makinta and his family with The Wilson Foundation team in Vaalwater, South Africa

The one constant throughout his journey has been the support of  The Wilson Foundation.  Having the local ‘on the ground’ support of our representatives Marion and Angus Frew has enabled the Foundation to manage its grant programs efficiently and where necessary, provide additional assistance and help.  This certainly made the difference with Simon, as Marion was there to guide and encourage him along the way.

Now Simon will receive his license and will be actively looking for a position with an airline in South Africa (anyone with contacts please let us know!!).  As the first in his family to attend and graduate from college, and pursue a job that is almost unheard of in the township where he was raised, Simon is an example of how The Wilson Foundation ‘changes lives, one child at a time.”

For Simon Makinta, the sky’s the limit!

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People often ask how and why The Wilson Foundation began focusing its work in South Africa.  If you ask our founder, Trisha Wilson, she will tell you that when she first arrived in South Africa, it felt like home:  the climate, the terrain, the people- all reminded her of Texas.  The first time I went there, I understood what she meant.  This is truly a special part of the world: a country rich in natural resources and beautiful, friendly people with a wonderful spirit.  It is also a country that has suffered from a poor education system, staggering unemployment, a critical shortage of trained medical personnel, and thousands of children who have been left orphaned by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
The community of Vaalwater, South Africa has a population of about 35,000, including the sprawling Leseding Township, and an additional farm population of about 10,000.  Commerce in this region is mostly limited to agriculture and eco-tourism, with many game reserves located in the area.  There are not many other ways for people to make a living, hence the high unemployment rate.

A child in Leseding Township, South Africa

Over the past several years we have found that  by focusing our efforts in one specific geographic region we are able to see and monitor the difference we are making.  Here in Vaalwater, we are the only US-based nonprofit that is funding programs on a year-round basis.  Because we have board members who live in the local community, we are able to monitor the effectiveness of our grant dollars and, where needed, make corrections or adjustments. 

Leseding Township

We have had the privilege of working side-by-side with several community-based organizations from their very beginning.  These organizations are focused on working with stakeholders to find solutions to community needs.  The result has been stronger buy-in by the community, and their success is evidenced by the tremendous growth in their programs. 

A reminder of the toll of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in South Africa

So again the question:  why South Africa?  Maybe it’s because it feels alot like home.  But it’s also  because it is a country that desperately needs us.  Vaalwater is ‘off the grid’ to much of the world.  Rural areas like that  just aren’t known to most international aid organizations.  So working here, we know without a doubt that we are making a difference, and that our sustained support is ‘changing lives, one child at a time.”
In my next posts I will share a bit about our most recent trip to South Africa and all we experienced during our time there.

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I had heard a lot about South Africa from my mom’s work with The Wilson Foundation and her trips there.  My teammates and I had been briefed on the community where we would be working and the challenges of the children and families who lived there.  We knew that many of the younger children didn’t speak English. Event though I was excited about participating in the lacrosse camp, I  really wasn’t sure what to expect. 

The first day, we went to the Waterberg Welfare Society to meet the kids who would be participating in the camp.  It was the 4th of July and the kids surprised us by painting their faces red, white and blue and singing “The Star Spangled Banner” which they had learned just for us!  We  then had our first lesson of the “Diski Dance”, the official World Cup dance.  That really broke the ice for the kids and for us, and we all looked forward to the week of camp ahead. 

The thing that impressed me most about the kids was their enthusiasm for everything we did.  Though they had walked a long way to get to the field every day, they were full of energy and loved doing exercises and drills, even running laps.  I especially loved working with the goalies and teaching them to catch, block and clear.  (The first lesson they learned -the hard way – was to never turn your back to the ball!!) 

Working with the goalies!


All these kids knew how to make the most of what they had, and it showed everyday on the field. They shared cleats with each other and would switch off on who got to wear them each day. They cheered for each other in drills and when taking shots. They always had smiles on their faces and were eager to learn the complicated game of lacrosse. They seemed happy no matter what they were doing, whether it was playing lacrosse, doing the Diski dance, or just braiding our hair. 

Performing the Diski Dance!


One of the experiences that touched me the most was going with Coach Xan and his Xtreme soccer team to help serve at the soup kitchen in the local township.  Most of these boys come from difficult situations themselves, yet they had stayed up late the night before making hundreds of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to serve to those kids who were less fortunate than they were.  At the soup kitchen, which was really just tables set up under an old circus tent, the kids lined up politely and waited for their food.  Some carried younger siblings wrapped in shawls on their backs.  After going through the line once, they lined back up for more until all the sandwiches were gone.  I was amazed that these boys who themselves are receiving support, were also giving back to others who were more needy.  That was a really great experience. 

Every day after camp was over, the kids would surround the coaches and give endless hugs and ask to have their pictures taken with us. They reveled in the instant satisfaction of taking a picture and being able to see that moment frozen in time two seconds later. Something as simple as seeing a picture of themselves was a huge deal to them, though it’s something that many of us take for granted. In five short days, those children showed me how to enjoy everything thrown at you in life and to embrace it with joy and enthusiasm.  It’s something I hope I will always remember. 

My new friend Phinius - a great lacrosse player!


-Rachel Mannes

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The 6 of us and our 18 pieces of luggage landed safely in Johannesburg Friday evening. The first order of business was to exchange US dollars for South African Rand, and then purchase vuvuzelas for all!  After a quick change of clothes, we loaded up our gear with our driver Alan and set off for the bus station to catch a ride to the Ghana vs Uruguay game.  Johannesburg has vastly improved its public transport system, just in time for the World Cup and the bus ride was quick and easy.

Seeing the Soccer City stadium in person was so exciting.  From watching the games on TV you get a sense of its design, which is meant to resemble a traditional African calabash pot, but in person it is even more massive and beautiful. Navigating our way to our upper deck seats was easy, and we arrived just as the teams were being introduced on the field. The noise level in the stadium was unbelievable, with thousands of vuvuzelas blowing every second of the game. At times they created a sort of rhythm, as people joined together in a pattern of two blasts, then three, or with one side of the stadium blowing at intervals, then answered by the other side. You don’t pick up the nuances of vuvuzela blowing on TV back home as it all just sounds like the steady droning of bees!

Of course we were cheering for Ghana, which had beat the US for the chance to play tonight, and which was the only African team left in the competition.  It seemed most of the fans in the stadium were also cheering for Ghana. Everywhere you looked people were showing their support for Ghana: painted faces, hats, wigs, costumes, scarves, and many who were wearing the Ghana flag over their shoulders as a cape.

The game was exciting from start to finish. Every time Ghana got a corner kick or forced a turnover, there was a great crescendo of vuvuzelas. They had so many chances to win outright, especially the last PK of regular time, which would have advanced Ghana to the semis.

Instead, it all boiled down to what our goalkeeper daughter Rachel knows is every keeper’s nightmare: a game decided on penalty kicks.  The fans booed when Uruguay walked up to take a shot and loudly cheered each stop by the Ghana keeper. When the final Ghana shooter failed to score and the game was over, the crowd went almost silent and people took their vuvuzelas and left.  I think everyone was exhausted by watching 2 1/2 hours of top flight soccer!

To sum up the evening, I had a few final impressions: Soccer City is a beautiful facility, clean and well-organized. There was plenty of security and the crowd was civil and very well-behaved, much to my relief. Finally, there was an overwhelming spirit of unity and friendship among people of many nationalities and ethnicities.

As we left the stadium with thousands of others sporting the flags of Ghana and many other nations, I knew that this is what the spirit of the World Cup games is all about.  It was an evening the six of us will never forget.

On Saturday we meet up with the South African Lacrosse Project volunteers and head to Vaalwater. First, some much-needed sleep!

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We are here in Los Angeles getting ready for Wilson Associates’ 10th annual Point of Excellence Awards luncheon on Wednesday!  We are expecting a great crowd at the BHH and look forward to presenting the two Point of Excellence Awards to two deserving winners!  A HUGE thanks to our 2010 event sponsors:  Couristan, Alger-Triton International, Erika Brunson Couture Living, and A. Rudin.  See y’all on Wednesday!

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We just received these photos from the Waterberg Welfare Society’s youth center, Timothy House.  They had a party celebrating the opening of the World Cup and all the kids dressed up and painted their faces.  See the murals the kids painted in honor of The Wilson Foundation and the South African Lacrosse Project.  They are all eagerly awaiting the arrival of the U.S. volunteers who will be coming for the Lacrosse Camp in July.  At last count, there are over 150 kids signed up for the camp.  That’s more than twice the number who participated last year.  We’re going to be busy!!

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