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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

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The Abell-Hanger Foundation: 50 Years of Giving From the Heart
Denise Wissing

July, 2004

Since its incorporation in 1954, the Abell-Hanger Foundation has dedicated itself to financially supporting Texas nonprofits in their endeavors to provide services for their communities and to foster hope for the future of Texas. Over its 50 year existence, the Foundation's assets have grown to over $130 million and it has disbursed over $120 million in grants and charitable expenditures to Texas agencies and institutions.

The Founders

George Thomas Abell and his wife Gladys Hanger Abell were philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and socialites of West Texas. George Thomas Abell was born and raised in the down-home, rural town of Wakeeney, KS, about 200 miles outside of Wichita. He headed out West to attend college at Colorado A&M (now Colorado State University), where he was a member of Gamma Omega (an honorary fraternity), Sigma Alpha Epsilon (a social fraternity), and graduated with degrees in civil and irrigation engineering and mechanical engineering. He returned to the South in 1927, only this time, not to his hometown, but to Midland, TX. Wanting to get a foothold in the booming Texas petroleum industry, he trained himself in Geology and entered the business as an independent oil operator. During his professional career, he was active in the Independent Petroleum Association of America, Texas Independent Producers and Royalty Owners Association, Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, and the Permian Basin Petroleum Association. He was also a charter member of the Permian Basin Petroleum Pioneers Association.

In addition to his professional endeavors, Mr. Abell was also active in various civic, community, cultural, social, educational and historical activities. He served as a member of the Midland Independent School District's Board of Education and was appointed President of the Board during the construction of the present-day Midland High School auditorium.

He also devoted much of his time to the improvement of health services through his term as the Chairman of the first capital funds campaign for Midland Memorial Hospital and as a member of the hospital's Board of Trustees and Board of Governors. Abell did not stop there. He extended his giving of time, money, and expertise by also participating in the Downtown Midland Rotary Club's Board of Directors, by serving in various capacities in the Buffalo Trail Council of the Boy Scouts of America including leading their capital campaign to secure a 6,000 acre camp in the Davis mountains, by assisting as the director of the Chamber of Commerce, and working to establish the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, Library, and Hall of Fame, which houses antique oil field equipment and Abell's collections of historically-based oil paintings.

As a major supporter of the city of Midland, as a constant figure in some of Midlands' most prestigious Boards and for his innovative insight into the development of the future of West Texas, he has been recognized on numerous occasions for his contributions to the civic, cultural and educational betterment and growth of Midland, TX. These awards include the Silver Beaver Award – the highest recognition of the Boy Scouts of America-, a life membership in the Texas Congress of the Parent-Teacher Association, and his induction into the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum's Hall of Fame.

His wife, Gladys Hanger Abell, was also an active champion of civic and cultural causes in West Texas. Born and raised in Fort Worth, TX, Mrs. Abell attended Paschal High School, graduated from Texas Christian University and the University of Texas at Austin, and married George Abell in 1939.

Throughout her lifetime, Mrs. Abell dedicated her time, talents, energy, and financial resources to civic and cultural activities in Midland, making her one of West Texas' most philanthropic citizens. Along with her husband, she served on the board of governors of Midland Memorial Hospital, as well as the board of trustees of Midland Presbyterian Homes, and the President's Club of the Museum of the Southwest. She took great pride in her service on the board of trustees of the Permian Basin Petroleum Museum, Library, and Hall of Fame.

Her interests also included the Midland Odessa Symphony and Chorale, Midland Garden Club, Women's Auxiliary of Midland Memorial Hospital, Delta Delta Delta Midland Alumnae Chapter, and the Midland Women's Club of which she was a life member. An avid American patriot, Mrs. Abell was a member of the Texas Chapter of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America, and the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Together, she and her husband strived to improve the communities of West Texas through their philanthropic contributions. Their efforts culminated in 1954 with the incorporation of the Abell-Hanger Foundation. The couple's commitment to community was a driving force in their lives and in the work of their foundation. As George Abell explained, “Sure men like to be successful, not just for the money, but because of what one can do for his community, his country, and for mankind. Business success provides the opportunity to do some of the things most of us dream about doing for our community and its various institutions, organizations, and agencies.”

Charitable Giving Focus

The Abell-Hanger Foundation continues to strive to exemplify the principles and interests of its founders through its philanthropic contributions. They provide support to nonprofit organizations with an emphasis on education, health services, human resources, arts and cultural activities, community/societal benefit, and a small portion to religious purposes.

In 2003, 33% was designated for arts and culture, 26% to education, 23% to human services, 9% to health services, 8% to community/societal benefit, and 1% to religious purposes with a total giving of $ 7, 309,582. The Foundation provides financial assistance throughout Texas, but allocates most of its grant resources to organizations serving those in the 55 counties of Midland and West Texas- a region where Mr. and Mrs. Abell had a strong investment in the community and cities during their lifetimes.

Is Your Organization Eligible for a Grant From The Abell Hanger Foundation?

To be eligible for grant consideration, the applicant must have proof that they fall under exempt classification as described in Section 501 © (3) of the Internal Revenue Code and is considered “not a private foundation” within the meaning of Section 509 (a). Grant requests must be limited to programs and projects within the state of Texas and should be geared toward helping educational, cultural, medical, social, and civic organizations. National organizations may apply, but must have significant operations in Texas or provide materials that directly benefit Texas citizens. The decision, therefore, will be based on the organization and the degree of operations/benefits within Texas.

Within their focus areas, the Abell-Hanger Foundation's current initiatives include:

  1. Higher education
  2. Youth activities
  3. Cultural organizations
  4. Health services
  5. The handicapped
  6. Social welfare agencies

In general, the Abell-Hanger Foundation discourages requests for:

  1. Loans and fellowships for individual students
  2. Limits its educational grants to institutions of higher education, including religious educational institutions
  3. Applicants submitting to the Foundation for sole support. Applicants must seek project funding from various sources
  4. Grants requiring future support of operations or specific projects. Due to the number and magnitude of requests received each year, the Foundation cannot respond favorably to all requests. Therefore, grants are made without commitment to future funding support.

Grant Making Process

Grant requests are considered and awarded throughout the year, but applicants are encouraged to submit applications early. If it is the organization's first funding request from Abell-Hanger or if you have not submitted a request for funding in the last two years, then a Pre-Proposal Questionnaire should be filled out before submitting a full proposal. If the project is accepted, they will then require a full proposal to be submitted.

The trustees meet on a quarterly basis to review pre-proposal questionnaires and grant applications. There is not a set submission deadline for pre-proposal questionnaires, but it is recommended to submit both the questionnaire and the grant applications as early as possible to ensure that they are fully reviewed by the trustees and that you will have ample time to make any corrections or send additional information.

The trustee meetings are quarterly, taking place in March, June, September, and December, therefore proposals and pre-proposal questionnaires should be sent in February, May, August, and no later than November 15 to be considered for the present giving year. The Foundation will inform you of their decision soon after the meeting. If your proposal is not accepted, you are encouraged to resubmit in 12 months.

A Sampling of their Grantmaking

Friends of Big Bend National Park- $25,000

On April 2, 2004, the Friends of Big Bend National Park received a grant from the Abell-Hanger Foundation in the amount of $25,000. Friends will use the funds to upgrade the educational exhibits at the Panther Junction Visitor Center at Big Bend National Park located in the “big bend” of the Rio Grande in West Texas.

The Friends of Big Bend National Park are a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting, promoting, and raising funds for Big Bend National Park.

“We are honored that the Abell-Hanger Foundation has chosen to perpetuate the values of Mr. and Mrs. Abell through the educational exhibits at the main visitors' center in Big Bend National Park," said BBNP Superintendent John King.

With the Abell-Hanger grant the Friends of Big Bend National Park have raised nearly a third of its $200,000 goal for new exhibits at the expanded Panther Junction Visitor Center. “We have already received $56,500 for the educational exhibits, most of it in the last four months,” said Mildred Cox, FBBNP president.

Ms. Cox noted that over 80 percent of Park visitors stop at the Panther Junction Visitor Center to receive general information, campsite assignments, directions to Park attractions, etc. They also take advantage of the educational exhibits and bookstore located at the Visitor Center. Ms. Cox said that during peak visitor periods, the Visitor Center is often so crowded that visitors have difficulty accessing the exhibits and educational materials. “It is important that Park visitors have a positive experience at the Visitor Center so they can get the most from their visit,” she said.

The Visitor Center was built in 1961, when visitation was about 90,000 visitors a year. Today visitation is over 300,000, and the Visitor Center itself needs to be expanded. The Friends have already raised and contributed $50,000 for the expansion.

David L. Smith, Executive Director of the Abell-Hanger Foundation, said, "The Abell-Hanger Foundation has made this grant because of our founders' deep commitment to West Texas and because the Foundation trustees believe the educational exhibits at Big Bend National Park are a project Mr. and Mrs. Abell would have themselves supported ."

The Midland Odessa Symphony & Chorale - $50,000

In 2003 The Foundation awarded a grant to serve West Texas in an educational and cultural capacity by providing funding for quality music for everyone including special constituencies such as the elderly, minorities, handicapped, culturally and economically disadvantaged. Events include Pops concerts, Masterworks Series, Chamber Series, Ensembles, and the Chorale.

"Without the support of the Abell-Hanger Foundation the Midland-Odessa Symphony & Chorale would be unable to complete our mission of 'Enriching Lives Through Music'. Through Abell-Hanger Foundation's support; West Texas school children enjoy interacting with our ensembles and orchestra on the school campuses, free concert tickets are available to other non-profits to offer to their underpriveledged clients, the elderly are able to come to concerts and our graduating seniors are offered to means to go to college free for two years. Abell-Hanger Foundation touches the lives of many West Texans everyday. Phyllis Guinn, Business Administrator of the Midland-Odessa Symphony & Chorale, Inc.

Abused Children's Shelter Inc.- $ 15,000

In 2003, The Foundation awarded the Abused Children's Shelter Inc. of Odessa, TX $ 15,000 to offset a portion of their operating expenses. The mission of the Shelter is to “ lesson the trauma inflicted by the system upon child victims of physical and sexual abuse and to improve the response of the justice system to child abuse by uniting the efforts of public agencies and the community.”

Boy Scouts of America- Buffalo Trail Council Inc.- $ 187,500

The Foundation continues Mr. Abell's support of the Boy Scouts with this substantial grant. $37,500 is designated for unrestricted operations expenses while the remaining $150,000 challenge grant will be used to purchase 3,280 acres of land contiguous to the Buffalo Trail Scout Ranch.

West Texas Boy's Ranch- $ 5,000

The West Texas Boy's Ranch in San Angelo works to provide loving, caring families and homes for boys in need so they can become healthy, happy, self-sufficient citizens. The $ 5,000 matching grant will be used for barn and stall repairs

Pecos County Memorial Hospital- $ 10,000

One of the focus areas of the Foundation is medical services. Therefore, the Foundation contributed this $ 10,000 grant toward the purchasing of new physical therapy equipment for the Pecos County Memorial Hospital in Fort Stockton, TX.

Kirstie Ramirez, the Grant Director of the hospital said, “ The application process was simple. The application was sent upon request and the fill out process was easy. The people at the Foundation were very helpful, always nice, and answered my questions upfront.”

When asked why she thought Abell-Hanger decided to fund them, she said, “ Abell-Hanger has generated ample revenue from Pecos County, and our opinion is that this is their thank you.”

The Guardian of West Texas

For 50 years, the Abell-Hanger Foundation has been a major financial provider to West Texas nonprofits and agencies. Starting with the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Abell in their dedication to improving the lives of the people of West Texas through to today, with the charitable gifts of the Foundation who strive to encompass the values and vision of the Abell's through their philanthropic work. They continue to serve the people of Texas through the monetary support of innovative programming and projects that improve people's lives on various levels whether it be through improved health care facilities and equipment, supporting the operational expenses of cultural arts institutions who instill a love for creativity, fun, and fantasy in their constituents, or providing organizations who work for the handicapped population of Texas with the proper resources to carry out their missions. The Foundation has served as a guiding light for not-for-profit agencies in Texas who, together, are working toward creating a bright future for Texans.

The information for this article was gathered from the Abell Hanger Foundation in Midland, their website ( ), the Texasnonprofits Online Fouundation Directory ( ) , and from the Handbook of Texas Online ( ) produced by the Texas State Historical Society.


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