by Jackie Bruton

Spring brings a time of renewal, as the rain washes away the pollen and greens up the grass, while we watch with anticipation as the azaleas, bluebonnets, and roses bloom yet again. I also see spring as a time of reflection. As we approach our annual Mother’s Day luncheon, members of the Women’s Fund of Smith County are asked to honor mothers or women in our lives, who have been influential or inspirational.

One such lady, a charter member of  Women’s Fund of Smith County, who has impacted countless lives is Marilyn Abegg Glass. It has been my privilege to observe her in action for years. In fact, if not for her, I would not be writing this column today!

Marilyn began her career as an elementary school teacher and in later years her role as an educator expanded from the classroom to the boardroom of nonprofit agencies. Through her decades of tireless work, she has trained, tutored, and mentored thousands of students, employees, board members and business partners across the state.

 At the urging of Tom Mullins, Marilyn’s first consulting contract, in Tyler, was with Discovery Science Place. Tom says he saw in her the capability to carry forward the work began by her late husband. He remains one of her most avid supporters. Most recently, Marilyn guided efforts to expand and restructure the Development office at the University of Texas Health Science Center. Regarding the impact she has had, Dr. Kirk Calhoun recently stated that if everyone whose life Marilyn touched gave her one dollar, she would be a billionaire.

Marilyn always taught us to start with the Why. Why do you exist and what needs will you address? She taught us that every organization must establish and articulate a clear vision and mission and must adopt and adhere to a set of agreed to values. Taking the teacher tone, she clearly and patiently communicated, using flip charts and notebooks, exactly how to build capacity by teaching leadership and staff how to energize, enable and empower for the greater good. Marilyn has been a generous donor to dozens of worthy organizations, but more importantly she has taught countless individuals engaged in fundraising the skills necessary to gather a cadre of believers who are willing to give of their time and treasure to enrich the lives of others.

 Our community has numerous needs such child abuse, poverty, and mental and physical health problems that we work together to address. Marilyn Abegg Glass has made our jobs easier and the burden a little lighter for those we seek to serve. She is also a woman of faith who loves her family and friends fiercely. As this gracious woman enters a new chapter of her life, we will always be grateful for her years of service. And I will not be surprised to see her break out the flip charts again at some point in the future.

There is another woman who inspires me that we will hear from at the Women’s Fund of Smith County annual Mother’s Day luncheon on May 5, 2022. Her name is Jennifer Reynolds. Jennifer, along with her daughter Rowan, will say a few words about how one of the WFSC grants has impacted them personally. Cook Children’s Hospital is opening an infusion center, in Tyler, so that children can receive lifesaving infusions without traveling to other cities. Our grant allowed them to remodel the room to be more comfortable and inviting to their young patients and their families.

Having lost her mother and sister to heart disease, at an early age, Jennifer must have been terrified when her only child contracted a life-threatening autoimmune disease. Her story is one of faith, hope and resilience.

Jennifer Reynolds is a member of the Women’s Fund Board of Directors. Rowan  Reynolds is a member of the G.I.V.E. (Girls Invested in Volunteer Efforts) organization of high school girls.

If you are fortunate enough to be able to attend our Mother’s Day luncheon this year, I promise your spirit will be lifted and you will be inspired. We are changing lives of women and children in our community.

Jackie Bruton is Women’s Fund of Smith County Board Chairwoman