Young Fort Worth charity is learning from its mistakes

The HALO Society wants to earn one.

After three years as a young adults' civic club throwing fun parties and donating supplies for neglected children, the fledgling group has formally organized as a charity.

That has meant splitting up in part with its original charity partner, the Fort Worth children's agency known as CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children).

There's more to that story.

"We started out as a business and social networking group that just wanted to help neglected children," said co-founder Bridget Shelton of North Richland Hills.

She was 28 in 2007 when she and her husband, Bric, decided they wanted to do something for charity besides another golf tournament.

They started throwing parties with friends and gathering necessities and school supplies for children.

At first, the HALO Society was a volunteer auxiliary for CASA, which for more than 25 years has served children in the Tarrant County courts.

By any measure, HALO is a well-rounded success. More than 400 members pay $40 a year, come to Cowtown Casino parties and donate hundreds of supplies and backpacks.

But club leaders acknowledge that much of HALO's money has gone to pay its own expenses, not to CASA.

Connie Brown is the director of CASA.

"It was getting confusing in their advertising," Brown said.

"HALO gives us some goods. But they do not raise money for us. I don't know what they do with their money, but they don't give it to us."

Shelton said HALO never set out to donate money. She said news announcements saying that HALO "proceeds benefit CASA" have been the result of reporters' misunderstandings.

HALO is now chartered as an independent 501(c)3 charity, Shelton said. It will no longer claim that events benefit CASA.

"Our board of young people is trying to learn from our mistakes and move forward," she said

"We still want to help children. We'd love to be the kind of organization someday that could write big checks."

The new HALO will reduce its fundraising costs to no more than 40 percent of its budget this year and less in coming years, board President Chris Wilkie of Fort Worth said.

He said HALO will continue to collect children's supplies and donate them to four agencies: CASA, the Alliance for Children, Catholic Charities and the SafeHaven family shelter. A successful Apple Tree Project is under way.

"Halo's mission is growing," said Wilkie, a fundraising consultant. "As a charity, we can seek grant funding. We can do more to seek donations. We can do more than we ever have for children."

They'll also open their books to the public.

So we can see what's under the halo.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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