- The Washington Times - Monday, October 27, 2003

If you’ve ever seen W. Lyles Carr III masquerading in his extravagant Elvis Presley costume at some charity ball, you’d never recognize him as the modest and mild-mannered Washington area businessman who “likes to stay behind the scenes” and gets “embarrassed by awards.”

It has been said of Concerned Carr that even though he’s everywhere, doing everything and is admired by most everyone in the area’s business and philanthropic circles, you “can’t find his fingerprints anywhere.” But you had better bet that you can find Mr. Carr’s humble but heavy hand not only in finding jobs for fancy folks, but also finding funding to assist poor folks.

He is, as Julie Rogers, president of the Meyer Foundation, says, “the consummate connector, adviser and mentor working behind the scenes to leverage the resources of powerful people and organizations on behalf of families who live at the margins of society.” Yesterday, Mr. Carr was honored by Women of Washington for his work on behalf of women, particularly those in the nonprofit sector who provide vital services to women in need.

WOW’s annual Highlight Award was “created to honor men who support women or issues that are important to women; men who bolster the lives of others by the work they do, the information they provide, the resources they share, or simply by the example they set.” CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer and Jack Valenti, chairman and chief executive officer of the Motion Picture Association, also were honored during the luncheon yesterday at the Four Seasons Hotel. Maureen Bunyan, WJLA-TV (Channel 7) news anchor and newly installed WOW board member, was the host.

Not surprising, the thoughtful, even teary-eyed, Mr. Carr would rather be anywhere but standing on a podium before an audience receiving accolades. So, he seized the opportunity to step on “a soapbox” to make a plea for poor women and to issue a clarion call for more involvement from the well-heeled women in assisting those less fortunate.

First, Mr. Carr rattled off “deplorable statistics” about women and girls compiled by the Washington Area Women’s Foundation. They indicate that “in the capital of the richest nation in the history of the world, one in three girls live in poverty, and nationally two-thirds of adults below the poverty line are women … and there is a body of evidence that suggests that up to half of the homeless women and children in the United States are fleeing domestic violence.”

Mr. Carr then pointed out that 75 percent of the nonprofit groups that provide services to women at risk are led by women. And recent reports indicate that charity donations to service organizations have dropped sharply, especially from residents of Montgomery and Fairfax counties.

“Statistics like these should be unacceptable,” Mr. Carr said. “The lack of compassion for the neediest of our neighbors is simply intolerable.” He noted that there has been an outcry lately for investments in the country’s infrastructure to improve the power grids and transportation systems, which are necessary.

But, he suggested, “There is an even greater need to invest in our civic infrastructure — the safety net made up of the myriad of nonprofit agencies that make life not just convenient, but even possible, for too many of the most vulnerable in our community.”

As a “card-carrying member of Women of Washington,” Mr. Carr applauded the group for its monthly Non-Profit Alliance, which provides resources to community groups such as Safe Shores, Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Care and the D.C. Children’s Advocacy Center.

How many, he asked, write a pledge or send a check for these groups if they can do nothing else? For his part, Mr. Carr said, he recently paid off his car and will postpone buying a newer model because with just two payments (of a little more than $700 each) he could provide a subsidy for a family of four to live for a year in an apartment in Jubilee Housing, his pet project.

It was a most poignant moment when Mr. Carr finished remarks and the crowd rose to give him a lengthy ovation.

Miss Rogers noted that among the groups Mr. Carr helped create was the Jubilee Support Alliance and its annual gala, which has raised $2 million in the past 15 years to support affordable housing, and the Workforce Organizations for Regional Collaboration, which connects unemployed workers to employers who can hire them at livable wages.

Mr. Carr, 54, earns his living as senior vice president of the McCormick Group, an executive-search consulting firm often noted for its commitment to community service.

He is on the board of directors or advisory councils of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, the Federal City Council, Cultural Tourism D.C. and the Economic Club, to name a few. He is also known for his work as past president of Leadership Washington and with Greater D.C. Cares.

Some assume that Lyles Carr is a member of the Oliver Carr clan, the wealthy family of Washington-area developers. Not so, he jokes, “nobody with any money would ever claim me.” Lyles Carr was born in Easton, Md., grew up in Palmer Park, attended Episcopal High School in Alexandria and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Virginia. He lives in Arlington with his wife, Sarah, a woman of considerable business accomplishments.

Those who know Mr. Carr’s familiar face — even hidden behind one of his funny costumes, like the overalls and tuxedo he wore as he rode into the Jubilee Housing “garage sale” gala on a tractor donated by the former Hechinger stores — invariably describe him as “a good guy.”

Mr. Carr said he took to heart what the late Betty Whaley, former director of the Washington Urban League, often said: “The service you give to others is the price you pay for taking up space on this Earth.”

To that end, Mr. Carr, a member of Christ Church, sees his spiritual “role to help to draw resources to nonprofits” as a “a personal mission that I am called to do.” After all, he is “just following orders from God.”

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