Woman challenges city to donate $50,000 to Kitchen

10/1/2005 11:02:24 PM

Mary Ann Johnston snapped to attention and had to be fanned when she heard what Nadia Cavner was saying at the Celebration of Women, presented last week by The Kitchen Inc.

At a charity luncheon, you can be excused for a little inattention. You're expecting to hear a lot of speeches you've heard before, and sometimes, you just listen inattentively, ready to applaud.

But then, Johnston — development director of The Kitchen — heard what Cavner was saying. The Springfield financial planner was giving the homeless services agency $30,000 outright, with a bonus challenge to the community:

If we can come up with $50,000 in the next 30 days, she'll contribute $50,000 more.

The man sitting next to Johnston at the event "started fanning me with his napkin," Johnston remembers.

Cavner is donating on behalf of herself, her husband Howard Cavner and their daughter Maral, 14.

Named one of Barron's magazine's best 100 brokers in 2005, Nadia Cavner is one of USBanker's 25 most powerful women in banking in 2004, and is reported to manage $450 million in investments, according to the September issue of Investment News.

She says her decision to make the gift was simple. A former Kitchen board member, she knew the numbers, and the numbers weren't good.

"I always knew that 41 percent of the funds they need come from contributions, and I'd heard that after Hurricane Katrina the contributions had gone down tremendously," Cavner says. "I think if you are blessed, you need to give back to a community that's been so good to you."

Cavner, an Assyrian by birth, loves the country to which she immigrated. "We were one of the few minorities (in the region) who are Christians," she says. "Things started getting tough for us there, and I moved to Dallas when I was 14."

In Dallas, Cavner met her husband, a divinity student. Howard has been campus minister at Missouri State University for 21 years.

This is the second year for the Celebration of Women. The luncheon gives contributors an opportunity to honor a woman — wife, mother, aunt, friend, Sunday school teacher, co-worker, any significant role model in their lives — in a supplement to 417 Magazine. Each contributor buys part of a page for the honoree.

Ironically, the three women Cavner honored didn't get into the honor booklet. "I missed the deadline," she says, laughing. "But The Kitchen benefited to a greater degree, because they didn't have to publish anything in the book for me."

Still, Cavner can tell you why she chose the women she wanted to honor — Realtor Carol Jones, attorney Shari DeArmond and financial adviser Michele Osborn — without missing a beat.

"The best way I can describe these three women is that I see God's love and compassion in their lives on a daily basis. Their acts of compassion are limitless."