Sunday, July 31, 2011

Smart Gals Sip

Jeffrey’s was cool and dark, a welcome relief as I’d just walked through a wall of heat between my car and the bar. Although I never drink hard liquor, on a whim I ordered a “Friendly Ghost,” gin, coconut water, lime and cucumber, and tried not to gulp it down. Francie Ferguson was the first to arrive, face lit up as usual, and viewing my cool concoction, she ordered the Ghost too!

I met Francie when she was the Executive Director of Foundation Communities and I was president of the board. Francie actually founded Foundation Communities, but at the time it was call the Central Texas Mutual Housing Association. We bought distressed properties (apartment complexes, duplexes, etc), fixed them up, housed low-income families, and provided onsite services, i.e., tutoring, tax preparation, counseling, job skills training, etc. Of course all the board did was show up and vote, lend credibility, advise and occasionally raise a little money. Francie was the brain behind it all and I’ve vowed to never let her out of my circle of friends. Francie has served as the Director of the NeighborWorks® Multifamily Initiative for NeighborWorks America since 1998, and holds her masters in business (concentration in real estate and finance) from the University of Texas at Austin, and her bachelor's degree from Oberlin College.

While Francie and I caught up we grazed on an eclectic selection of cheeses, figs and melons, Steak Tartare, Quail Leg Confit, and Pommes Frites. Sounds like a lot, but you know how it is, your pay $60 for plates of food that wouldn’t satisfy a small child (quality not quantity, my new mantra).

Melinda Rodriguez swept in next, obviously still buzzing from her board meeting with the Catholic Charities of Central Texas, for which Melinda serves as the Executive Director. Melinda has lost 85 pounds over the past year so I almost didn’t recognize her. She looks great! I met Melinda when she was the Director of Development at El Buen Samaritano, a wonderful organization in south-central Austin that provides services to primarily low-income Hispanic families. Melinda has since moved on to Catholic Charities, which provides a variety of human services in a 25 county area of Central Texas, and the woman is busier then a cranberry merchant on Thanksgiving!  A native of Brownsville, Melinda has a master’s degree in Human Services from St. Edward’s University, a bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of Texas, and is incredibly focused and bright, the criteria for membership in the Very Smart Gals! When I urged Melinda to have some of the snacks, she said she’d nibbled all during her board meeting and wasn’t hungry. I said, pizza? And she said, no, turkey out of the sandwiches! She also drank water. I tell you the woman is focused!

Last to arrive was Andrea Torres, and when I hugged her, she was so hot from being outside in the horrible heat; I thought I was going to spontaneously combust! I was on my second Ghost and was seriously flammable! Andrea is the Director of Development at Meals on Wheels and More, and I met her when I was writing grants for their capital campaign. There’s really something special about walking into a new building serving hungry elderly and homebound people, knowing that you helped make it possible. Andrea graduated from Stanford University, a school I've always wanted to attend, and may yet! She’s super smart, cool as a cucumber and fun too! Especially after she’s had a gin and tonic!

Before long, we were all baring our souls, commiserating, talking about everything and nothing – which is my second favorite thing about these get togethers. My favorite being the Very Smart Gals, with whom I feel fortunate to share oxygen! Thanks for a fun happy hour, Francie, Melinda and Andrea!

1 comment:

  1. I had a great time. It was inspiring to be in the presence of very smart gals..Francie, Andrea and SueAnn. What an awesome experience. I can't wait for the next time.
    I am very grateful...Melinda