By Elsa Maxey
With the new year off to a great start in prospering Fort Bend, this week the limelight is cast on outstanding community leaders about to be honored with recognition events that come with a deserving toast in celebration of their civic work. If the spotlight’s beams aiming skyward were still being cast from the Colony Square Shopping Center ‘s parking lot along U.S. 59 as was the case during the holiday season, it would seem fitting that the rays would find the honorees.
On January 25th, the Sugar Land Cultural Arts Foundation’s (SLCAF) gala with community partner Don Kerstetter’s Classic Chevrolet will be raising their collective glasses to Don and his late wife, Merle Smithers, at its 2016 Gala for their part in its founding back in 1999. The Smithers, who together made their home in Sugar Land for almost 40 years, started their work long before the SLCAF was organized as a non-profit, and they worked tirelessly to preserve the Lakeview Auditorium. Don Smithers formerly served Sugar Land as a city councilmember between 1997 to 2003, and later between 2009 to 2013, both times contributing to the growth of the city in his official and volunteering capacity. He also served as Mayor Pro Tem for the City of Sugar Land during both stints on city council. The Smithers’ fundraising work with the SLCAF began with May Fest at Lakeview Elementary school and the popular Ice Cream Socials that further led them to continue their steadfast involvement with the fundraising gala. And now, the Big Wigs themed, 2016 Founders Ball at Safari Texas celebrating them for their devotion is in the making.
SLCAF promotes the arts and successfully renovated and restored the city’s oldest public space, the Sugar Land Auditorium. It represents a historic landmark in old Sugar Land in a neighborhood where employees of the Imperial Sugar Factory and their families lived, and to this day the origin of the community is still known as “The Hill,” adjacent to the Imperial Redevelopment District. Based on the progress and continuing development underway with planned retail, residential, entertainment and office sites, it appears that this area may again be a destination.
Following the SLCAF gala is the annual Helen Cordes Award Dinner on February 25th at the Stafford Centre honoring Fort Bend ISD Superintendent Dr. Charles Dupre. For its 7th annual event, the Fort Bend Regional Council on Substance Abuse will present Dr. Dupre with the coveted award named after Helen Cordes, recognized for her generous community spirit and achievements, inspiring the work of the organization. Cordes served on the board from 1991-1997 and also as President from 1992 – 1995. She was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award in February 2010 for her devotion and dedicated service to the Fort Bend Regional Council, which was accepted by her husband, Fort Bend County Attorney Roy L. Cordes, Jr.
This Helen Cordes award to be presented to Dr. Dupre recognizes him for the time, experience and expertise he has given to the Fort Bend Regional Council.
Since 1976, the Fort Bend Regional Council on Substance Abuse has reportedly partnered with school districts in Fort Bend with prevention programs. Dr. Dupre has been FBISD’s superintendent since 2013, and leads the state’s seventh largest school district, overseeing a student population of more than 71,000 students and over 9,500 a full time and part time school district employees.
For several years now, a local leader from Fort Bend County has been presented with the Helen Cordes Award. Former recipients include Linda Schoonmaker a partner with the Seyfarth Shaw’s Houston law firm, 2012; Union Pacific General Solicitor David Young, 2013; John Zerwas, M.D., District 28 State Representative, 2014; and last year, the prestigious award was presented to County Court at Law No. 3 Judge Susan Lowery. To become a sponsor for the Helen Cordes Award Dinner, interested persons are asked to contact Debbie Ortiz, firstname.lastname@example.org or 281-207-2406.
As for the SLCAF’s Founders Ball, Pat Hebert will serve as the honorary chair of the evening with co-chairs, Himesh and Farrah Gandhi. The gala’s proceeds will benefit the organization’s efforts and continued support of the arts in Sugar Land. For sponsorship and/or more information on the SLCAF Founders Ball, 281-313-0752 or email email@example.com.