Salvation Army more than kettles

August 27, 2018

Those who are passionate about helping the most needy in Odessa will gather Thursday for a banquet that raises funds for the less fortunate by honoring those who come to their rescue.

The Salvation Army Heroes Banquet is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Odessa Salvation Army gym, 810 E. 11th St. The event raises money to fund renovations of the homeless shelter and to fund Salvation Army programs year around.

Advisory Board Chair Gloria G. Apoloinario gets emotional when she talks about the good work done by the Army in Odessa. She said there is much work to be done on both renovating the shelter as well as feeding the homeless every day.

Lt. Juan and Lt. Clara Gomez said that last year, the shelter provided 8,749 nightly housing to 570 men, 88 women and 15 families. The daily meals, they said, totaled 27,074.

Juan Gomez said the Army is dedicated to the slogan “doing the most good” and he encourages volunteerism from the community. “With your donations, in service and with the most valuable thing you own, your time. Volunteering at The Salvation Army allows our volunteers to experience a wide range of service through our different programs,” he said.

He said he is looking for a full house this year for the banquet and that all the funds raised stay in Ector County. “These monies will support services for the only non-target population shelter in Ector County, The Salvation Army,” he said. “Our shelter provides three meals a day ... seven days a week..”

He said it is more than a homeless center. “Trained and dedicated staff work with each guest to identify action steps and goals to help support self-sufficiency,” he said adding that the goal is to help people back onto their feet.

He said the shelter doesn’t really have a “typical” client. “Hardship knows no boundaries. Last night we had a couple who over the weekend were involved in a terrible car accident. The two were transported by ambulance to the hospital and their vehicle was towed. No identification, limited funds and no one to call. The Salvation Army was the only place they could find a night’s sleep.”

The Odessa Heroes Banquet helps fund these services. Apolinario said this year’s list of heroes is impressive.

Those being honored include: Greg Williams and Odessa College, State. Rep. Brooks Landgraf, Sheriff Mike Griffis, Rhonda Lewallen and Medical Center Hospital, The Wood Family Foundation, News West 9, Dr. Sanjay Patel, Aaron Bedell and the Permian Basin Area Foundation and Nick Hernandez. Judge Sara Kate Billingsley will be the guest speaker.

More about the heroes:

Greg Williams and Odessa College: Williams is president of Odessa College, a position he has held since January 2007. Accepting that post was a true homecoming for Williams, who began his journey in higher education as a student at Odessa College in 1983.

Before earning his doctorate in higher education administration from Baylor University, Williams’ educational journey also included the completion of three degrees from the University of Texas Permian Basin: first, a bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a certification to teach psychology, history, and learning disabled students, followed by two master’s degrees, in education mid-management and in psychology, respectively.

Since his return, Odessa College has experienced a transformation. Solid community support and a successful bond election in 2010 allowed OC to launch and complete “Vision 2015”, a $78 million, campus-wide new building and renovation program. During that same period, Dr. Williams initiated several other innovative programs designed to enhance both community and student engagement with the college. His long-standing personal dedication to the health and fitness lifestyle led to the launch of the very successful “30 for 30 Fitness Challenge”, which takes place annually during the month of September, and promotes both school- and community-wide participation in health and fitness activities for that entire month. Drawing once again upon outstanding community support, Dr. Williams also initiated the “Drive to Success®” program at Odessa College. Made possible by the unfaltering support of several major community partners, “Drive to Success®” is now entering its 10th consecutive year. Operating solely on funds generated by sponsor donations, DTS is the only program in the nation that encourages and fosters engagement and participation in success-driven activities by enabling students to accumulate “points” toward earning a new car – specifically a new Ford Mustang.

Further, Dr. Williams has led the OC team in breaking every major enrollment record, student retention record, student success record, and fund-raising record previously held by the college. His leadership has set OC on the path to becoming the best community college in the nation. In 2017 alone, Odessa College was first named an Aspen Institute Top 10 Community College, then went on to win the 2017 Rising Star Award for Community College Excellence from the Aspen Institute, and finally, won the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s 2017 Star Award for the program presentation Eight Week Terms: A Pathway to 60x30TX. In February of 2016, OC also was named the first AVID demonstration site in higher education in the U.S. . Williams serves or has recently served on the ECISD Education Foundation Board, Prosperity Bank’s Advisory Board, the Permian Basin Workforce Development Board, and Odessa’s Comprehensive Master Plan Advisory Committee.

On the state level, he serves or has recently served as Chair of the Texas Association of Community Colleges, and on the TACC Executive Committee, TACC Rural College Committee, and TACC Rural College Transfer Sub-Committee. He is a former member of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s Formula Funding Committee, Community College Advisory Group, P-16, and the Academic Achievement Distinction Committee.

On the national level, he recently served on the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Board of Directors and Executive Board. He also served as Chair of AACC’s Committee on Community College Advancement and on the 21st Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges’ Developmental Education Redesign Committee. Additionally, he serves on the Aspen Institute Change Management Task Force and the JFF Policy Leadership Trust for Student Success. Williams was appointed to the Achieving the Dream Board of Directors in January, 2018, where he will serve for a period of three years.

Williams and his wife, Karen, have two sons, Kiaran and Gregory, and one daughter, Kara, who also is a graduate of Odessa College – notably as one of the first Dual Credit students to earn an associate degree from OC before graduating from high school.

Sewell Ford. The Sewell family has been selling serving Texas since 1911. Initially selling Ford Model T’s out of a hardware store in Arlington, E.F. Sewell moved his family and business to Crane, TX during the great depression. In 1935, E.F.’s sons, Carl and Woody Sewell, purchased the Ford dealership in Odessa, TX where it is still in operation to this day. Sewell continued growth in the automotive sector by adding Lincoln, Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Toyota and BMW dealerships to serve the diverse needs of their customers.

In his role as the fourth generation president, Collin Sewell seeks out new ways to multiply value within the communities he serves. Over the past several years, the Sewell Family of Companies has donated thousands of hours and millions of dollars to a wide variety of organizations in each community they are a part of. This year will mark the twelfth Sewell Leadership Event, where the Permian Basin gathers for a day of phenomenal leadership training. Sewell underwrites all event expenses and donates all proceeds to local charities.

Sewell’s generosity doesn’t begin and end at the corporate level. Sewell team members recently pooled their own money to assist with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in Texas. Additionally, team members regularly contribute to the Sewell Care Fund, which benefits other Sewell team members who need assistance. They also regularly donate to an Angel Fund which provides Christmas gifts and sponsorships to underprivileged youth in the communities. Sewell is proud to call the Permian Basin home and looks forward to building a better tomorrow each day.

NewsWest9: For more than 25 years, NewsWest9 has been supporting the Salvation Army of Midland, Odessa and Big Spring with the NewsWest9 Salvation Army Toy Drive. Each holiday season, local businesses across the entire Permian Basin work with NewsWest9 to help make Christmas special for the children who are less fortunate in our area. During our efforts, we have collected thousands of toys for these children and their families. NewsWest9 is proud to work with the Salvation Army to help bring hope to those who need it most, not just during the holidays, but all throughout the year.

Rhonda Lewallen and Medical Center Hospital. Lewallen has lived in Odessa since she was 10. She graduated from Permian High School, earned a bachelor of science in communication degree from The University of Texas at Austin and, in 2013, finished her masters of public administration and leadership from UTPB. She is the director of public pelations for Medical Center Health System.

Her primary love is helping animals. She has great compassion for them, no matter if they have fur, feathers or fins. She learned this love of animals from a young age when her family adopted a stray called “Big Red Doggie”. And she was fascinated how her big brother raised orphaned baby birds and diligently cared for his saltwater fish. She has fostered many dogs and loves hearing from people who found happiness with her former fosters.

Rhonda currently serves as President of the Sigma Delta chapter of Epsilon Sigma Alpha. She is a member of Connection Christian Church, Downtown Rotary Club, the White Pool House Board and helps with the Heritage of Odessa Annual Banquet. She previously served on the United Way Board and is on the MCH United Way Committee.

She is dedicated to family. She enjoys spending time with her mother and loves to see her brother, sister-in-law, nephews and their kids. Although her father passed away five years ago, she thinks of him each and every day.

She said she thanks her mother, Janell, for raising her to understand the importance of volunteerism. From a very young age, she saw her volunteering with vision screenings, assisting children and doing hands-on projects. Her volunteer spirit was a blessing to many people.

State Rep. Brooks Landgraf: Landgraf represents District 81 in the Texas House of Representatives, where he serves on the Energy Resources Committee, the Environmental Regulation Committee, and the Local & Consent Calendars Committee.

He is a native son of Odessa. His family has been ranching in West Texas for five generations, and he helps manage the family’s cow-calf operation and mineral interests. He is also an experienced business lawyer who has worked in the oil and gas and healthcare industries. He practices law at Todd, Barron, Thomason, Hudman & Bebout, P.C.

A Permian High School alum, he attended Texas A&M University, where he received U.S. Army training in the Corps of Cadets. After graduating cum laude from Texas A&M, Landgraf earned his law degree from the St. Mary’s School of Law in San Antonio, where he also served as the editor-in-chief of the law review.

Following law school, he immediately returned home to West Texas and represented energy producers and other local businesses while working in private practice. He was named volunteer of the year by Legal Aid for his pro bono efforts.

He has served the people of Andrews, Ector, Ward and Winkler counties in the Texas House of Representatives since 2015. He quickly became known for his strong work ethic, commitment to his district and advocacy for conservative, practical solutions. Brooks has fought to improve highways and schools in West Texas while working to repeal burdensome regulations that harm the Permian Basin’s oil and gas industry. Earning many accolades for his work in the Legislature, including the coveted “Champion of Free Enterprise” award two legislative sessions in a row, Brooks demonstrated the approach and principles that earned him the respect of his colleagues.

Governor Greg Abbott has praised Landgraf for his “tireless efforts” and leadership in the Legislature where he played a key role in what Abbott called “the most conservative legislative session we’ve ever seen” in Texas.

He is a proud Eagle Scout and is dedicated to serving the community that has given him so much. He has been active on several local non-profit boards in West Texas. In 2017, He was named to the inaugural class of “Odessa Under 40” by the Young Professionals of Odessa.

Brooks and his wife, Shelby, whose family is from Andrews, have one daughter, Hollis Rose, and are proud to call West Texas their home. They enjoy volunteering together for local charities, and the family loves spending time together working on the family cattle ranch. They attend St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Odessa.

Sheriff Mike Griffis was born and raised in Odessa, attended Permian, and in 1988 enrolled in the Odessa College Law Enforcement Academy. He became a licensed peace officer in May 1989, commissioned by the Ector County Sheriff’s Office as a volunteer reserve deputy under Sheriff Bob Brookshire. He was elected as constable of precinct 1 and served from 1993 until 1995 at which time he returned full time to the Sheriff’s Office. He rose through the ranks to third in command in October 2015. He ran for sheriff in 2016, winning the election in the primary and became sheriff on Jan. 1, 2017. He is a member of the various organizations throughout the county. He has two daughters and five grandsons.

In December 2017, Griffis helped launch the West Texas North Pole Village, which raised about $50,000 that was used to provide toys and Chrismtas dinners to families in need around the Permian Basin. He partnered with Dr. Ann Wills of the Emergency Care Clinic. The West Texas North Pole Village occurred the first three Sundays of December at the Rolling 7’s Ranch Event Center, featuring reindeers, visits from Santa and other activities. The donations from that event, along with the money raised from tickets, sponsorships, Rudolph’s Candy Store and Hay Rides funded gifts and meals.

Seventy-five families in the Permian Basin were provided with meals and toys, Wills said. The remaining proceeds, which have yet to be totaled, will go toward the Ector County Child Services board, which provides for foster children, she added.

The toys and dinners purchased with the funds were distributed by various law enforcement agencies in Odessa and Midland during Christmas weekend during the first ever “Christmas with a Cop” event.

Dr. Sanjay Patel: Patel was born in India and went to medical school in India. He Came to the U.S. in 1995 and went to Albert Einstein College of Medicine for residency in pediatrics and then to University of California and Los Angeles for sub-speciality training in neonatal perinatal medicine and graduated in 2003. Working as a medical director of level 3 NICU at Odessa Regional Medical Center for the last 14 years and providing critical care to all babies delivered at ORMC. To date he has cared for almost 7,500 sick /premature babies.

He has been very active helping to write legislation at the state level to improve maternal and neonatal care in Texas. He is al lifelong lerner who says you can never stop learning. He attends Auburn University.

Aaron Bedell and Permian Basin Area Foundation. Bedell was born in a flyspeck of a town near the shores of Lake Ontario, he moved with his family to northeast Oklahoma when he was 7 and continued to bounce from adventure to adventure for nearly 40 years before discovering the inescapable and undeniable beauty of the Permian Basin.

A passion for helping others and a lifelong love of photography lead him to become a teacher, a globetrotter, a missionary, a church planter, and a nonprofit fundraiser. His travel portfolio includes 30 different countries, including six years in Japan teaching at International Calvary Academy. In 2015, he was honored by United Way of Odessa with the Trooper Award for his efforts in helping the organization achieve its fundraising goals. More recently, he was recognized for his photographic achievements as Arts Council of Midland’s 2018 Distinguished Artist. He looks forward to serving the greater business community of Odessa as a member of the Board of Governors for the Chamber of Commerce in 2019.

When not acting as Chief Operating Officer for the Permian Basin Area Foundation, he devotes much of his time, energy, and resources to being a good husband to his wife, Elaine, and father to his two year old daughter, Elizabeth. Long before joining the PBAF team, he earned a degree in Business Administration with minors in International Business, Marketing, and French from Oklahoma State University. Shortly after graduating, he made the jump to nonprofit work where he leveraged his leadership skills and experience as an Eagle Scout to eventually become Director of Development and CFO for the Buffalo Trail Council, Boy Scouts of America. Since moving to West Texas, he has served as a board member of Salvation Army Odessa, the Beacon Awards Committee, and Polo Park HOA. He also serves as a facilitator of the Next Steps program at Stonegate Fellowship Church. A favorite quote from Arthur Ashe helps inspire his life and charitable work, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

Nick Hernandez: Hernandez was born in Odessa and is married to Cindi Hernandez. He was inducted into the 2006 Lowrider Magazine Hall of Fame and was the only inductee from Texas.

He is CEO of Tejano International and the BSS Collision Center and is also known for the Annual Tejano Super Car Show in Odessa. He has been involved in numerous community events inicluding the Manny Ybarra Bone Marrow Donor booth, which has matched several bone marrow recipeints.

He also takes the time to teach at-risk students about car detailing and mechanics, and encouraged youth to love cars. He was instrumental with the National Lowriders Association. He said it has always been important for these groups to provide positive contributions to their communities, and still maintain their identities and their respective car clubs.

He also encourages graffiti art, and showcased art work provided by ECISD students at his Tejano Super Car Shows. He has been a huge advocate of the Lowrider “culture” by teaching by example and always encouraging our youth to “do the right thing”.

The Wood Family Foundation. The foundation is the realization of a dream by Odessans Clay and Louise Wood and their family to help support worthwhile community causes for generations of West Texans now and in the future.

Working together as a family along with sons Jack and Don, the Woods achieved financial success through old fashioned hard work and frugality in numerous industries including fuel distribution, oil and gas investments, banking, real estate, convenience stores and more. An integral part of the Permian Basin community for many decades, the family’s legacy continues to reinvest in the region and give back to West Texans by supporting those needs and causes that make Odessa and all of the Permian Basin a better place to live.

Since the formation of the Wood Family Foundation, more than $8 million has been reinvested into our community to improve the lives of men, women and children. With our major objectives focused on education and healthcare, the Foundation helps families, and Odessa, grow and prosper. The foundation has helped, among others, The University of Texas of the Permian Basin, Odessa College, The George W. Bush Tennis Center, Parks Methodist Retirement Village, The Odessa YMCA, The Odessa Council for the Arts and Humanities (now Odessa Arts) and the Crisis Center of West Texas.

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