Interview and Photos by Jan Osborn.
Lee and Paul Michaels have been supporters of CARE Dallas since their two daughters attended Highland Park ISD schools and participated in Red Ribbon Week. The Michaels Family kept all of the family activities on the annual CARE Calendar, the calendar that the agency created with art work from students in the community illustrating why it was harmful to do drugs. While Paul was building a 38-year career with Invesco Realty, Lee was balancing work as a lawyer and involvement in her girls’ schools. CARE became one of her passions as she observed the community’s young people dealing with substance abuse. Lee was elected to the HPISD School Board in May 2014 to take Leslie Melson’s place and also filled Leslie’s board position on CARE.
Lee and Paul are co-chairing the 36th Annual (Virtual) CARE Breakfast on Monday, November 2 at 8 a.m. Terry Bentley Hill and Sally Long Conway will each share their very personal and painful stories in A Touching and Heartfelt Conversation with Two Survivors. Both Terry and Sally have been long-time advocates for educating the community about substance use disorders and advocating for mental health. We recently visited with Lee and Paul to learn more about the mission of CARE and their involvement with the upcoming event.
How long have you called Dallas home and how did you first get involved in the nonprofit community?
We have been in Dallas for 33 years. We moved here initially with Paul’s job and had no idea that we would end up raising two daughters here and calling Dallas home. I began to get involved with non-profits when I was in law school as a way to get involved in the community.
With the mission of CARE Dallas focused on helping families walk the complicated road of substance use disorder, what drew you to support this particular cause and organization?
We were raising our daughters in the HPISD schools and CARE provided education and awareness on substance use disorder through Red Ribbon Week and the Calendar Art Contest that encouraged students to be drug free. As our girls got a little older, I started to attend the CARE brown bag lunches, which were informative and introduced me to like-minded community members whose goals were also to teach our young people about the risks of alcohol and drugs. I would then share what I had learned with Paul. We both realized how important CARE’s mission was as we raised our daughters.
Lee, you were balancing work as a lawyer and keeping up with your girls’ school. What prompted you to step back from your legal career and run for the Highland Park Independent School District School Board?
I actually started cutting back in my legal career as the girls began middle school and high school to be able to be more involved with them as they approached those tough years. I had always been involved in the PTA but became more involved as I had more time. Running for school board seemed like the natural next step and also a way to pay back the District for providing such a great education to the girls. Disclaimer: To the girls’ huge relief, I did not become a trustee until after they had both graduated.
Paul, you recently retired after a 38 year career with Invesco Real Estate. Why did chairing the 36th Annual CARE Breakfast this year feel like the next right step?
Because my wife said it was. No, seriously, Lee and I had recently co-chaired another fundraising event together and we enjoyed that experience. She has always shared her passion for CARE with me so I agreed it would be a great way to get a little more involved.
What other North Texas causes and organizations resonate with your family?
Ever since our daughters were born, we tried to demonstrate the importance of service. Initially we would drive them around in the car as we delivered different holiday packages to those in need. Later we began working as a family on Saturdays at the Vickery Meadows Food Pantry. And occasionally would take the girls along as I drove Meals on Wheels or Paul worked on a Habitat for Humanity House. After the girls graduated and moved out, we focused on organizations that are passionate to each of us. For me it’s being on the board of the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum. Paul is on the board of the ADL and Legacy Senior Communities.
How has COVID-19 affected your work as co-chairs of the CARE Breakfast and how has it affected CARE Dallas as an organization?
Unfortunately we had to make the difficult decision to hold the event virtually this year. The event is described as a community breakfast so we will miss the sense of being with others in the community to address and talk about these important issues face to face. Additionally, CARE has not been able to provide much of its programming because of COVID so we are concerned on the impact the isolation, social distancing and uncertainty has had on the health of our young people.
What stories have most impacted you during your time working with CARE Dallas?
I became reacquainted with a friend a couple of years ago and was telling her about my involvement with CARE. It turned out that CARE had been impactful in helping her navigate substance abuse disorders with her now-adult son years ago and she was still grateful for CARE’s help. It is nice to hear that CARE has a lasting impact on families.
It is not too late register for the CARE Breakfast. For more information on sponsorships and tickets you can visit the CARE website.