Two words come to mind to describe Michelle’s counseling style – determination and results! Well actually, three words – the third is fun! While taking the work of fundraising seriously, Michelle doesn’t make the work of planning, campaigning and mentoring anything but an enjoyable experience. When in a tough spot, Michelle will settle for nothing short of success and the celebration that follows achieving a goal. Her goal is to make others better – to strengthen the skills and results of those with whom she works.
Building strong, trusted relationships is one of the secrets to Michelle’s success as a development professional, both as a major gift officer and fundraising counsel. Michelle began her fundraising career at the Wesley Community Center, eventually serving at the University of Houston’s main campus. Before joining Dini Spheris, Michelle was a leader among the major gift solicitors at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. There, Michelle managed an annual portfolio of over 150 individuals – many of whom she would come to regard as personal friends.
At Dini Spheris, Michelle has served as team leader on numerous projects. Those projects include building a centralized philanthropy program for St. Louis’ Mercy Health system, which spans four states and 32 hospitals, as well as working with Medical Center Hospital in Odessa, Texas, to create the first-ever major gift foundation. A
graduate of Texas Tech University, Michelle is often heard speaking at major professional conferences in nonprofit, educational and healthcare philanthropy. She has been working in the Permian Basin consistently with clients such as Odessa College for the past eleven years.
Cookie has worked in the nonprofit and government sectors for 33 years. She is currently serving in the Development office of Centers for Children and Families as the organization’s grant writer. This is her 13th year with Centers. Prior to her current position, she served as the Director of the Nonprofit Management Center for almost five years, earned certificates in the ToPs Group Facilitation Methods, Effective Management of Nonprofit Organizations from Texas Tech University, and completed an Advanced Professional Development Program for Nonprofit Governance Consultants from BoardSource. While at the NMC, she was an instructor for three years for UTPB’s Nonprofit Leadership course and served as a trainer for Midland College’s nonprofit courses. She worked with hundreds of nonprofit organizations across the Permian Basin during her tenure at the NMC. She remains involved with the Center as a mentor to the professionals that enroll in the Generations board training program. Her work history includes serving as the Director of the Permian Basin Area Agency on Aging and the founding director of MOHRE, the Midland Odessa Health and Retirement Endeavor. She was employed with a federally-funded job training program for eight years.
She is a ”forever” volunteer and has served on many local and state boards and advisory councils. Along with many community volunteers, she has been honored with the Junior League of Midland’s Sustainer of the Year Award, Business & Professional Women’s Woman of Achievement Award, Girl Scout’s Women of Distinction and the Association of Fundraising Professional’s Outstanding Professional Fundraiser Award in 2017. She enjoys cooking and gardening - add 5 grandchildren to that “enjoys list”.
Wesley Bownds is the Permian Basin Region President for Frost Bank. Frost is a 151 year old $33 billion Texas based financial institution. A native of Andrews, Texas, Wesley is a graduate of Texas A&M University. He has lived in Midland and worked in the banking sector for 38 years. Wesley has served in various public and non-profit organizations during his career and currently serves on the board of the Salvation Army, the Midland Development Corporation and is the 2020 Chair-elect of the Midland Chamber of Commerce board of directors. He is also actively involved in the Priority Midland imitative as a member of the infrastructure work group.
Wesley is married to Lisa Bownds, the CEO and Founder of Reflection Ministries. Reflection provides restorative care to human trafficking victims. Lisa and Wesley have two daughters and five grandchildren. They are 20 year members of Stonegate Fellowship Church.
David Meek has served as the Director of Human Resources for Concho Resources for over eight years. Born and raised in Odessa, David is holds a BA from Baylor University and an MS in Human Resources from Amberton University. He has 20 years experience in human resources.
Larissa A. Minjarez is the Founder, Owner, and President of Recurso Hispano (Hispanic Resources), a business consulting firm educating and empowering start-ups and seasoned entrepreneurs in the
areas of administration, accounting, and financing.
As the sole educator in West Texas for entrepreneurship in Spanish, Larissa presents seminars at no cost which continue to land her the trust of the community. She has committed to serving West Texas by engaging English and Spanish-speakers in our highly entrepreneurial community. As a result, clients are able to purchase their first home, fund a start-up business, and/or bridge the language barriers in order to reach their target market.
Larissa started this turnkey venture full-time following fifteen years of diversified experience in a variety of sectors including insurance, banking, financial services, human resources, oil & gas, and consulting for non-profits. She is a 2018 Leadership Midland graduate and currently serves on the Board of Directors for Casa de Amigos, the Executive Committee for Priority Midland and works closely with experienced leaders to enhance the services provided in our community.
As a Midland native, she earned her BBA in Marketing from Texas Tech University. When she is not presenting or consulting clients, Larissa is usually recording her son’s soccer games, reading about plant-based nutrition, or traveling for her husband's barber competitions.
Mark is the Executive Director of the Abell-Hanger Foundation. He has been with the foundation since 2011 originally serving as the Special Projects Manager. In that role, Mark led the effort to establish Midland Shared Spaces. Prior to his time at the foundation, Mark was the Executive Director of the Nonprofit Management Center of the Permian Basin. He started his professional career as a classroom teacher. Mark is a graduate of Texas Tech University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. He is married to Susan and has two grown children.