In February 2018, one of the nonprofits we fund was having their annual fundraiser where Dak Prescott and Jason Witten (two notable Dallas Cowboys) were the guest speakers.

I thought attending this gala would be a great opportunity for the Junior Board to represent the Guadalupe and Lilia Martinez Foundation, while being able to meet two local celebrities. 

We talked to the nonprofit hosting the event, booked our flights, and scheduled other site visits during that weekend.  Then the email came:  the fundraising gala had been cancelled.

That left us with a disappointed Junior Board and an open Saturday night.

Our first reaction was to call another organization and offer to take them to dinner, helping us get caught up on the happenings of the community.  But that felt like more of the same.  We already had three other meetings scheduled for that day.  Because it happened to be the 3nd and 4th generations (ages 50-15) who were slated to be a part of this weekend, we didn’t want to limit it to just another site visit. We wanted something more.

That is when I came up with the idea of a Guadalupe and Lilia Martinez Foundation “Meet and Greet.”

All the Executive Directors in the Laredo community are relatively familiar with us, however, few Board Members have the opportunity to engage with us regularly.  We shake the hands of staff members during site visits, but never get the chance to really get to know them. The Junior Board has been doing collaborative grantmaking for two years, but the community didn’t know them very well. This would be the perfect opening to let the world of philanthropy in Laredo gather on a larger scale.

The decision to organize a “Meet and Greet” was made on a Tuesday. The event was set to take place on Saturday.  My brother, Rob, was in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  I was in Allen, Texas.  The event was in Laredo.  The phone calls, text messages, and decisions were made in 48 hours. 

We were able to rely on one of the ladies from Texas A&M International who gave us recommendations on restaurants with a patio. We found an Italian restaurant that was relatively new, the manager quickly got permission from the owner, texted us the menu (their website wasn’t up yet), and Rob and I picked out appetizers, beer and wine, and non-alcoholic beverages.

In the meantime, I reached out to all of the agencies via email and social media and invited them to meet the Junior Board.  We had no idea what to expect.  If 20 people showed up, we would consider this a success.  That would be 20 people we got to engage with in a different, more personal setting.

When we showed up to the venue, people were waiting for us to arrive.  Then more people showed up.  Then mingling, handshakes, introductions, pictures, laughter took over the evening. Approximately 75 people from numerous nonprofits we fund came to our “Meet and Greet.”  Several had discussions and began collaborating. The event was scheduled from 6-8 pm, but people didn’t start to disperse until after 10 pm.

The Junior Board had their first taste of what it was like to work a room.  Ironically, at one point, I looked around and saw them standing by the door.  I thought they were bored and disassociated from the event.  That was the furthest thing from the truth. They had strategically placed themselves at the door so they could be the first ones to greet people as they arrived. 

At one point, my son Brendan came up to me and said, “Mom, my face and eyes hurt from taking so many pictures.” 

I heard so many stories about my great aunt and great uncle from those who knew them when they were alive.  It was a surreal moment because the younger generations were taking a big step to assure the community that we are as invested in it as they are.  They got to know us in a casual, open setting, rather than in a meeting, closed within four walls.  It was as if the night was meant to be. 

If we had to do it over, we would have remembered to bring a sign in sheet.  We remembered name tags (thanks to the Junior Board for suggesting them!), but there were so many people coming up to us, I felt like Meryl Streep needing Anne Hathaway to remind me of names, like in The Devil Wears Prada.

Below are quotes from two members of our Junior Board who attended the event:

“I really liked the meet and greet we hosted because previously I had heard names and the roles they play, but to put a face to the name was a whole new experience!  It made my connection with the organizations more personal and much stronger.  Hopefully by the meet and greet, they’ll recognize me, I’ll recognize them and we can both appreciate and talk about the differences we make in the community.” –Nadia Gonzalez, 4th Generation

“It was great to be able to talk to all of the different organizations we support.  It also gave me a chance to talk about the Guadalupe and Lilia Martinez Foundation, our mission, and how we plan on continuing to give in the future.  I can’t wait to do it again.” –Brendan Adams, 4th Generation

We might not have been able to mingle with Dak Prescott and Jason Witten that night, but be rest assured, the evening was a Super Bowl moment.