Search TXNP

< More Funders and Foundations

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Share: facebooktwitterdigg

A Texas Panhandle Philanthropist and Pioneer establishes a lasting contribution to Texas through the Mary E. Bivins Foundation
Denise Wissing

July, 2004

Dignity. Independence. Self Worth. Good Health. These are the principles of the Mary E. Bivins Foundation, located in Amarillo, TX- the commerce center of the Texas Panhandle. For over 55 years, the Bivins Foundation has supported the efforts of nonprofits within the Texas Panhandle working for eldercare , religious and educational causes. The Foundation is the primary beneficiary of the Mary E. Bivins Trust and conducts its primary operations through the Elizabeth Jane Bivins Home for the Aged , Bivins Memorial Nursing Home and Bivins Village . They currently have assets over $50 million, placing them in the top 100 of Texas Foundations, and disbursed $1.1 million in charitable contributions in 2002 to Texas agencies.


Mary Elizabeth Gilbert Bivins (1862-1951) was a pioneer and philanthropist. Her parents, Miles Green and Lucy Harriett (Williams) Gilbert, Jr. moved from Missouri to Lebanon, Collin County, TX in 1859, where, three years later, Mrs. Gilbert gave birth to her daughter Mary on February 12, 1862. She attended Mary Nash College in Sherman and married Lee Bivins in 1882. Mary, her husband, and two sons moved to the Texas Panhandle eight years later where the family bought their first cattle ranch, Mulberry Pasture, and Bivins embarked on a career in the cattle industry and in merchandising. By the time they settled in Amarillo at the turn of the century, Lee Bivins had become one of the largest individual cattle operators in the world and the largest landowner West of the Mississippi, owning close to 30 thousand acres of land in Potter and Carson counties plus another 30 thousand acres, which he leased. While her husband was away on business, Mary Bivins supervised the building of their three-story house, which is now an Amarillo trademark and served as the public library for 20 years.

In addition to their business ventures in Texas and throughout the nation, both Mary Bivins and her husband were actively involved in the city's philanthropic activities and improvement projects. Lee Bivins was elected as the county commissioner while living in Armstrong, served eight years as the Amarillo County Commissioner, was elected mayor of Amarillo in 1925, established the Panhandle Area Service and Transportation company- Amarillo's first airport, was a member of the Panhandle and Texas Cattle-Raisers associations, and was fraternally affiliated with the Elks and the Knights of Pythias- a non-sectarian fraternal order who promotes cooperation and friendship between people of good will.

Mary Bivins' philanthropies also ranged from private gifts, building funds, and support to private charities. She furnished houses for needy families, financially supported the Amarillo Tuberculosis Association's preventorium, the School Children's Relief Fund, and the American Red Cross, and donated building sites for the Maverick Club, the Amarillo Christian Church, and the VFW headquarters, while initiating the building fund and purchase of a lot for the Social Center for Girls. She continued to give charitably to chapels at Philip University, finance the education of Christian ministers, uphold her position as the Grande Dame of the Amarillo Fat Stock Show and patroness of the young stock raisers, and donate purchases for resale at the Future Farmers of America auctions and 4-H until she was eighty-seven years old.

Arguably her most important and long-lasting contribution to Texas and the Texas Panhandle counties was the establishment of the Mary E. Bivins Foundation in 1949. She focused the Foundation's contributions to sponsor medical and social programs for the elderly. She expanded her dedication to eldercare in 1951 with the construction of the Elizabeth Jane Bivins Home- a retirement center that was later expanded and remodeled into a social care facility. The Bivins Memorial Nursing Home followed 17 years later. Today, the Foundation continues to head-start projects and finance organizations that support Mary Bivins' dedication to eldercare, education, and religious endeavors.

The Mission

The Mary E. Bivins Foundation is committed to improving and enriching the quality of life in the 26 counties of the Texas Panhandle by meeting the physical, mental, social and spiritual needs of the people of the region. In this spirit, the Mary E. Bivins Foundation is dedicated to helping individuals achieve and maintain dignity, independence, self-worth and good health.

The Vision

The Mary E. Bivins Foundation was founded with the noble goals of the betterment of humanity, leaving the earth better than it was found, and encouraging those who follow to do the same. It is the Foundation's vision to improve and enrich the quality of life in the 26-county Texas Panhandle through its ability to directly provide quality care for the elderly and their families and to share resources with partners addressing critical community needs.

Eldercare Vision : To be the eldercare center of excellence and the exemplary leader in the Panhandle of Texas by providing quality care at all levels of the care continuum regardless of the socioeconomic status of the person and families in need.

  • Religious-Based Vision : To impact critical community needs throughreligious-based organizations and to continue to provide scholarships to produce ministers to preach the Christian faith.
  • Community-Based Vision : To enrich and improve the quality of life in the 26-county area by positively impacting the community's critical needs and to continue to further the Foundation's primary philanthropic objective of eldercare.
  • Current Initiatives

    The Mary E. Bivins Foundation's primary philanthropic objective is eldercare especially for the needy of the Texas Panhandle counties. The following are their current priority areas of giving:

    1. Eldercare : The Mary E. Bivins Foundation has the primary purpose of providing housing, programs and services so that elderly citizens can continue to live fulfilling and dignified lives. The Foundation provides quality direct care of the aged regardless of the financial capacity of the individual.
    2. Religious-Based Charitable Undertakings : The Mary E. Bivins Foundation will distribute funds to aid and assist worthy Christian religious undertakings that address critical community needs and to educate ministers to preach the Christian religion. Scholarships are currently restricted to individuals seeking an undergraduate or graduate education leading to a Bachelors and/or Masters Degree in a field that prepares the student to preach the Christian religion. Scholarship applicants must be permanent residents of the 26 counties of the Texas Panhandle.
    3. Community-Based Charitable Undertakings : The Mary E. Bivins Foundation will distribute funds for charitable purposes which address the specific nonrecurring needs of qualified nonprofit organizations committed to improving and enriching the quality of life in the 26 counties of the Texas Panhandle. Preference is given to purposes that assist in furthering the Foundation's primary philanthropic objective of eldercare.

    Even though their primary giving areas are for religious, educational, and eldercare programs, the Foundation also considers (although to a lesser degree) programs in arts and culture, environmental quality, protection, and beautification, health-general and rehabilitative, youth development, housing and shelter, community improvement, capital funds, seed money, matching funds, and unique projects.

    However, they discourage requests for:

    1. Administrative/Overhead/General operations expenses
    2.   Annual campaigns
    3.   Marketing funds
    4.   Conference and Seminars
    5.   Fundraisers/Galas/Dinners
    6.   Sports program events
    7.   Grants to individuals
    8.   Student Aid/internships/fellowships/exchange programs
    9.   Honoraria (speakers, panelists, lectureships)
    10.   Trip Grants
    11. Memorials

    In order to be eligible for grant consideration, the applicant must have 501 c (3) documentation, 170 © documentation (organization to which a deduction for contribution is allowed), and 509(a) documentation (organization other than a private foundation). As stated in their mission, they allocate a majority of their funds to the Northern 26 counties of the Texas Panhandle, therefore funding must be used within and for the benefit of the residents and communities of the region. They do not contribute money to service club charities, political activities and organizations, organizations making grants to other agencies, groups that discriminate, or activities typically the responsibility of the government .

    Application Process

    The applicant's first approach for funding from the Mary E. Bivins Foundation should be through a letter of inquiry summarizing your organization, the project, and the funding need. Once you have received feedback from your letter of inquiry, the applicant can request the Foundation's Grant Application Guidelines if they have not already been sent. There are various deadlines for grants with scholarship applications due in the early spring. The Foundation's Board of Directors meets three times per year to review grant requests. The applicant will receive notification about their grant status within 4-6 months.

    Sample Grants

    Texas Tech School of Medicine in Amarillo- $ 350,000

    Dedicated to their initiative of eldercare, the Mary E. Bivins Foundation awarded the Texas Tech School of Medicine in Amarillo a $350,000 Geriatric Fellowship that will enable an internal or family medicine graduate to receive a year of intense geriatric training.

    ‘Amarillo doesn't have much in the way of trained geriatricians,” said Dr. Steven Berk, the regional dean of the School of Medicine.

    Therefore, this fellowship will hopefully pave the way to an increasing number of graduates interest in entering the geriatric field in the Amarillo area.

    High Plains Food Bank - $125,000

    The High Plains Food Bank received this $125,000 grant from the Mary E. Bivins Foundation to assist with the construction of a new warehouse. The project was a public- private partnership incorporating funding from the local community foundation, City of Amarillo and area businesses as well as the Bivins Foundation.

    The High Plains Food Bank distributes over 5.2 million pounds of food to a network of 170 member agencies feeding those in need within the region.

    The United Way, Inc . of Amarillo, TX- $ 10,000

    The United Way Inc. received this $10,000 grant from the Mary E. Bivins Foundation to offset a portion of their operating expenses and to provide funds for the 51 programs the United Way of Amarillo & Canyon support.

    “The application process was very simple,” said Jelaine Workman, the Director of Major Gifts and Planned Giving at the United Way of Amarillo & Canyon. “ They needed the basic information about the organization and what we needed the money for.  Being new to the position, our application request was submitted too late for their November meeting, but they kept the request for their next meeting and ultimately gave us the requested $10,000.”

    When asked why they thought the Bivins Foundation supported them, Workman said, “We are very careful how the money is allocated, using over 80 volunteers to make these decisions.  I believe that the foundation knows that the monies they give to us are well used in the community toward areas they are greatly interested in, including the elderly and those that are disadvantaged in our community.

    Doyle, Thomas. “Tech Announces Geriatric Fellowship.” Amarillo Globe-News, Jan. 24, 2003

    In Conclusion…

    Mary E. Bivins and her husband were great philanthropists of their time. They donated their time by serving on city boards and philanthropic committees and their treasure through charitable contributions to nonprofit organizations within the communities where they lived and worked and who sought to fulfill community needs that the Bivins' felt were imperative such as eldercare, Christian-based religious programs, and education. According to Judy Mosley Day, President of the Mary E. Bivins Foundation, “The panhandle region continues to benefit from the generosity of the Bivins family. The Foundation began very simply. A woman who loved her family, her friends, and her community wanted to leave this earth better than she found it and encouraged her children and theirs to follow her example”. The Bivins' legacy and lifetime of largesse lives on through the Mary E. Bivins Foundation who furthers her mission and values 53 years after her death.

    The information for this article was gathered from the Mary E. Bivins Foundation I Amarillo, their website ( ), the Texasnonprofits Online Fouundation Directory ( ) , and from the Handbook of Texas Online ( ) produced by the Texas State Historical Society. We would like to especially thank Linda Pitner, Grant and Scholarships Program Coordinator for her assistance.


    Your TXNP Weekly E-Newsletter is made possible by the generosity of:

    FROST in many Texas cities

    TXNP Professional Members Are Dedicated to Texas and Texans.

    Aurora Grants & Consulting |Dawson Murray Teague Communications | ELITE Research | FOR THE PHILANTHROPIST | Graystone Consulting | J A Churchill Associates | John F. Lewis PC | McConnell & Jones LLC

    Sign up for your personal TXNP E-Newsletter

    at-t Meadows Foundation express news HOBLITZELLE FOUNDATION v greenly zachry foundation w b h b bank of america southwest airlines Sid W. Richardson Foundation forst