“Oh, my goodness. I’m so impressed. The hospitality has been amazing.”
Alma Brown was gushing praise for Abilene, its attractions, amenities and hospitality, as she and 89 other women in town for a Leadership Texas conference toured Global Samaritan Resources Monday afternoon.
This was the first trip to Abilene for Brown, who lives in San Antonio and is a member of the Leadership Texas Class of 2018. But it might not be the last.
“I’m going to bring my family here for a mini-vacation,” she vowed, after seeing some of the city’s top tourist spots.
Monday’s tour of Global Samaritan was more than just a sight-seeing venture. While there, the women packed 70 boxes, each filled with 36 bags of fortified rice to ship to refugees in Iraq. David Griffis, with Heaven Sent Ministries in Wichita, Kansas, arrived in Abilene Sunday with a truck load of ingredients for the bags. He and a group of home-schooled children set up 10 workstations where the women lined up, donned protective hairnets and gloves, and filled the bags. Each bag contains enough rice and other ingredients for six meals.
“Most of the world eats this kind of food,” Griffis said, “and they’re happy to get it.”
Abilene was the second of four cities that the 90 members of the Leadership Texas class will visit this year. Fort Worth was first. Next up will be El Paso, followed by Houston.
Each tour carries a sub-theme, said Heidi Murray of Dallas, chief operating officer of Leadership Texas. The visit to Global Samaritan Resources fit in perfectly with the sub-theme for Abilene — the difference one person and one community can make.
“The lens we look through in Abilene certainly is community engagement,” Murray said.
While at Global Samaritan Resources, the women also watched Michael Bob Starr, executive director, demonstrate water purification systems that are shipped worldwide to areas where clean drinking water is hard to find and to areas hit by natural disaster.
The Leadership Texas conference started Sunday and ends at noon Tuesday. During that time, the women are being treated to some of the best the city has to offer, from touring Dyess Air Force Base, the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, Frontier Texas!, other venues, and enjoying Abilene’s famed hospitality at the Paramount Theater. They also will hear from a representative of the Texas Midwest Community Network about the economic impact of rural Texas.
Many of the women are from metropolitan areas and most have not been to Abilene, Murray said. They may have had an idea of what a smaller city has to offer before arriving.
“Now,” Murray said, “they might have very different ones.”
Leadership Texas, with 40 years of service, is the longest-running women’s leadership program in the country, Murray said. Abilene is home to 100 graduates. Previously, Murray said, women’s leadership has occurred in “vocational silos,” with women networking according to career field. Leadership Texas exists to change that model.
“We want them to all know each other across vocations and geographies,” Murray said, “so they can collaborate.”
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