Deep in the Heart of Texas
A Personal Blog of Texas First Lady Cecilia Abbott
Friday, September 25, 2015
Last night I attended the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Texas Regional Office's annual Texas Heroes for Children Gala. Greg and I were given the 2015 Texas Heroes for Children Award, and it was truly an honor. I am particularly proud of the things Greg has accomplished to make Texas the national leader in the crusade to end child abuse and exploitation. Special Agent Ryan Kindell of the Texas Department of Public Safety also received the 2015 Texas Heroes for Children Award, and several other Texas law enforcement officers who have made protecting Texas children a priority were also honored last night. Greg and I are so appreciative of their service to our state. We are also grateful to have the Texas Regional Office of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as a partner in that crusade. Thank you for your commitment to protecting Texas children.
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
September is Hunger Action Month, and I want to do all I can to raise awareness about – and end – the problem of hunger in Texas. An important partner in accomplishing a hunger-free Texas is our food banks. There are 21 food banks across Texas, and I’ve visited several over the last few months to learn about the ways they are helping their fellow Texans in need. These food banks are part of a unified, statewide effort to end hunger in Texas that is led by an organization called Feeding Texas. According to Feeding Texas, one in six Texas households is food insecure, meaning either hungry or at risk of hunger. But thanks to our food banks, millions of Texans each day are getting the help they need through numerous programs. To find the food bank in your area, visit Feeding Texas, and if you are able, donate a dollar or two, an hour or two of your time, or a can or two of food. Every little bit helps. However it is you can help, I encourage all Texans to join our food banks and me in our quest to end hunger in Texas.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Last night, Greg and I hosted a reception and awards ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion honoring the recipients of the 2015 Governor’s Volunteer Awards. With the help of the OneStar Foundation, we honored nine awardees from across Texas for their significant contributions to their communities and fellow Texans through service and volunteering. I believe we are each called to service, and these philanthropic Texans have enthusiastically answered that call. Greg and I are appreciative of their service and thankful that they are sharing so much of themselves to help their fellow Texans succeed.
The recipients of the 2015 Governor’s Volunteer Awards are:
Governor’s Lone Star Achievement Award: 1sg (retired) Will Williams, Round Rock
For almost twenty years, Will Williams has served the community of Round Rock through numerous organizations, including Sertoma, Lion’s Club, Round Rock Foundation, Water for Africa, Heroes Night Out, El Amistad, and Blue Star Mothers. Thanks to Will’s leadership, over $1 million was raised for the Round Rock Foundation to benefit local charities.
First Lady’s Rising Star Award: Cullen Corr, Dallas
Cullen Corr began volunteering at age 13 as an after school tutor for underprivileged kids at Family Gateway in Dallas. He soon went on to found a Texas nonprofit called Kids Helping Kids (KHK), which today is powered by student leaders from eleven Dallas area high schools. Hundreds of KHK volunteers affect the lives of thousands of at-risk and homeless children in Dallas by providing school supplies, books, tutoring, and raising funds to benefit youth and children in need.
Partners in Education Award: Teach for America - Rio Grande Valley
Teach for America of the Rio Grande Valley (TFA-RGV) was established in 1991 to provide access to the highest quality classroom instruction and learning opportunities for students in minority and low-income communities in the Valley. TFA-RGV teachers are also AmeriCorps members who serve over 14,000 children and youth annually by leading in the classroom, sponsoring honor organizations, sports activities, and service projects in the community, all while instilling in their students the importance of giving back.
Service to Veterans Award: Military Veteran Peer Network Houston
Military Veteran Peer Network Houston at Mental Health America of Greater Houston is led by over two dozen veteran volunteers using a peer-led holistic community based approach to address the specific needs of Harris County veterans. They help veterans and their families reintegrate into the community, enroll in school, obtain employment, and navigate community assistance programs. They also provide innovative, comprehensive training and peer support to Harris County Veteran Treatment Courts.
Higher Education Community Impact Award: The Big Event, Texas A&M University
Thirty-three years ago, The Big Event started as a project for students at Texas A&M University in College Station to say thank you to the surrounding community through a one-day service blitz. In 2015, over 22,000 students volunteered to assist local residents with painting, yard work, cleaning, and various tasks, completing over 2,500 jobs. In a testament to the power of service, The Big Event has spread to 110 other schools across the country, and internationally. The Big Event is embedded into the undergraduate culture of Texas A&M students, many of whom continue their civic engagement into their professional and personal lives wherever they reside.
Corporate Community Impact Award: ExxonMobil Pro Bono Program, Houston
ExxonMobil lawyers have been providing free legal service in Houston and other communities for more than 50 years. During 2014, 170 ExxonMobil law volunteers devoted more than 3,200 recorded hours of pro bono service through clinics for veterans, taxes and wills, and citizenship. They partnered with groups such as Catholic Charities, Kids in Need of Defense, Tahirih Justice Center, Houston Area Women’s Center, and United Way’s Nonprofit Connection. ExxonMobil’s commitment to community service is making a huge impact in the lives of people in need.
Community Leadership Award: Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas
Founded in 1994 with a membership of 13 local centers, today the membership roster includes 69 developing and established centers in large urban cities as well as in small rural communities. Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) were established to minimize the impact of trauma to child victims by bringing together in one location district and county attorneys, law enforcement officials, and medical and mental health professionals to form multidisciplinary teams. Last year, Texas CACs served almost 40,000 children.
Senior Corps Community Impact Award: Ed Boyer, Dallas & Collin Counties
Ed Boyer has been a volunteer with the RSVP of Dallas and Collin Counties since 1998. Ed founded the White Rock Center of Hope Resale Shop and manages approximately 250 community volunteers. The shop has raised over $3 million. With the support of over fifty churches and civic organizations, more than 400,000 people in over 140,000 families have received over 3 million pounds of food, 814,000 clothing items, and $1.2 million in financial aid from White Rock Center for Hope, all thanks to the vision of RSVP volunteer Ed Boyer.
AmeriCorps “Make a Difference” Award: JoAnn Gama, Weslaco
JoAnn Gama is a former AmeriCorps member and Teach for America (TFA) alumna. A first generation college graduate, JoAnn founded IDEA Academy, a state-approved charter school for grades 4th through 8th in Donna, Texas. Fifteen years later, IDEA has become a network of 44 schools throughout Texas. Today, IDEA Public Schools is recognized as one of the highest performing charter school networks in the nation.
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
Yesterday I had the pleasure and honor of attending a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony for new ultrasound equipment at Central Texas Life Care Pregnancy Resource Center in San Marcos. I was joined by many members of the San Marcos community, including several students from Texas State University.
This brand new ultrasound equipment means Central Texas Life Care can continue to provide critical, life-saving services for thousands of mothers and their unborn children.
Here I am with members of Bobcats For Life, a student group at Texas State University.
The ultrasound equipment was donated to the Center by the Knights of Columbus. Through its Ultrasound Initiative, the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council matched funds raised by the Knights of Columbus Council 3458 in San Marcos to provide Central Texas Life Care complete funding for the acquisition of the ultrasound equipment.
With the steadfast commitment of organizations like the Knights of Columbus, Bobcats for Life, and Central Texas Life Care, we will continue to protect and defend life in Texas.
Friday, September 11, 2015
Today is Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance – a day for remembering our fellow Americans who lost their lives in the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001. We also remember the brave first responders who boldly ran towards harm to offer help, and the men and women in our military who courageously defend our freedom and liberty. But most of all, we remember and celebrate the patriotism and love of country that makes America so exceptional, and we pray that we never forget it. May God continue to bless America.
Friday, August 28, 2015
Earlier this week, Greg posthumously awarded the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor to Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle and Lieutenant Colonel Ed Dyess at a ceremony at the Governor's Mansion. It was a festive event attended by many on a beautiful day.
Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle and Lieutenant Colonel Ed Dyess were both heroes, and very deserving of this award. The Texas Legislative Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the state or federal military forces by the State of Texas. I am proud of the Texas Legislature for honoring them, and celebrating their lives and legacies.
I join Greg in saying "thank you" to Chief Petty Officer Chris Kyle and Lieutenant Colonel Ed Dyess, and to all who have served. Greg said it best at Wednesday's ceremony: "We can never repay the debt we owe for the lives these men saved and the freedom they preserved, but today we honor their memory, their patriotism and their sacrifice."
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
It's back to school time in Texas!
To all the students, parents, teachers, and administrators across Texas - I hope you had a wonderful summer, and I wish you all the best for the upcoming school year.
I had the pleasure of being a teacher and principal in Texas schools for ten years, and I remember how exciting the first day of school always was. In Texas, there's such a passion for education among our students, teachers, administrators, parents, and communities. Greg had the opportunity to see that passion in-person yesterday, when he visited Zavala Elementary School here in Austin on their first day of classes. The video below really captures the excitement among the students and teachers.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
One of my favorite parts of the Governor’s Mansion is the beautiful garden. Chef Connie has such a green thumb and is able to keep vegetables, herbs and flowers growing in the garden year-round.
Connie recently showed me around the garden and updated me on what’s currently growing. This summer we’ve got okra, black-eyed peas, tomatoes, Swiss chard, and arugula.
The Mansion Garden is also home to citrus and peach trees.
Chef Patrick even made peach pies from the Mansion peaches. Yum!
There is nothing better than fresh fruit and vegetables and we are so lucky to be able to grow them at home.
Connie is also growing many herbs, including basil, mint, sage, rosemary, and lavender. Connie and Patrick use the fresh herbs in dishes they prepare, and they smell wonderful as well!
As for flowers, we grow a variety of zinnias. Trent, the Mansion Steward, uses the zinnias – as well as some of the herbs – in lovely flower arrangements displayed throughout the Mansion. Beautiful pinks and oranges have bloomed this summer, and I am excited to see what fall brings to the garden!
Another neat part of the Governor’s Mansion garden is our compost bin. The garden is fully organic, and Connie composts the kitchen scraps, which turns them into fertilizer. This helps keeps the garden strong and healthy year after year.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
Today's Throwback Thursday is about our trip to the New York Stock Exchange earlier this summer. The NYSE was highlighting Texas companies that are traded on the market, and Greg rang the opening bell. It was quite the experience! Did you know that there are more than 280 Texas-based businesses listed on the market, representing over $2 trillion in market capitalization?
Following the opening bell, Greg appeared on CNBC's "Squawk on the Street". The show airs from the floor of the NYSE. Greg did a great job with the interview, and even sparred a little with Jim Cramer over the Dallas Cowboys. To watch the full interview, click here.
After the interview, we toured the floor of the NYSE and spoke with a few traders. They have such a fascinating job!
Friday, August 07, 2015
This is one of the biggest weekends of the year in Texas – almost as big as Black Friday! Starting today and going through Sunday is the annual sales tax holiday, also known as Texas Tax Free Weekend.
This weekend only, many items that are sold in stores all across Texas and worth less than $100 will be exempt from state and local sales tax. The items include many back-to-school necessities, like school supplies, backpacks, clothes, and shoes. The tax exemption also includes items sold online, by telephone, mail, and even lay-away.
More information, including a full list of items and FAQ’s, can be found at http://www.texastaxholiday.org/.
Thursday, July 30, 2015
On this Throwback Thursday, I’m remembering the Texas National Prayer Breakfast, which was held in Austin in May. Greg and I both attended – Greg delivered remarks and I led the attendees in prayer.
In May, Greg also declared May 7, 2015, to be A Day of Prayer in Texas. Here is the text of his declaration:
Throughout our nation's history, prayers have been offered by every generation of
Americans. During times of strength and times of weakness, in moments of joy and moments of despair, America has prayed, seeking repentance, giving thanks and asking for guidance and grace.
ln 1775, the Continental Congress asked the colonies to join in prayer, seeking wisdom as they faced the responsibility and opportunity of building a new nation. Years later, during a time of national turmoil, President John Adams declared “a day of solemn humiliation, fasting and prayer” and asked citizens of all faiths to pray for America’s protection from danger. Later, as civil war tore our young country apart, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a day of national fasting and prayer, saying “it behooves us...to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray to the God that made us.”
Today, Americans continue in the tradition of our forefathers by recognizing the power of prayer in our lives and cherishing our right to pray freely. Since President Harry Truman signed a joint resolution creating a day of prayer in 1952, one day each year is dedicated to national supplication.
At this time, I encourage Texans of faith to come together in prayer, acknowledging God's glory, seeking His promise and offering ow gratitude for our many blessings.
Therefore, I, Greg Abbott, Governor of Texas, do hereby proclaim May 7, 2015, to be A Day of Prayer.
Monday, July 27, 2015
Two of Texas’ most important and iconic buildings are located right here in Austin – the Governor’s Mansion and the Capitol. The Texas State Preservation Board conducts free public tours of both buildings, offering opportunities for Texans and out-of-state visitors to explore and learn more about their history.
If you are interested in visiting the Texas Capitol, free tours are conducted daily (except for certain holidays). The tour is about 30-40 minutes in length and features information on the Capitol, Texas history, and the Texas legislature. For more information on Capitol tours, click here or call 512-305-8402. You can also take a self-guided tour of the Capitol. And while you’re there, be sure to stop by the Capitol Gift Shop to say hi to First Dogs Oreo and Pancake Abbott!
Texas truly is a place like no other, and we’ve got a rich history like no other. There’s still a few more weeks left of summer break, so I encourage you to get out and explore our great state. And the next time you’re visiting Austin, be sure you make time to see the Governor’s Mansion and Capitol.