By LIBBY CLUETT
As if her work as chair for the First United Methodist Church Food Bank, for the past eight years, wasn’t enough, in 2012, this year’s Woman of the Year made a difference in the community.
In addition to the FUMC Food Bank, a quick glance of her 2012 endeavors include:
• Serving as a founding board member of the start-up Center of Life.
• Chairing Backpack Buddies through the food bank – a program she helped initiate in Mineral Wells.
• Helping with the Crazy Water Festival – having run the children’s area through FUMC and helping in other areas.
• Serving as a founding board member for Noah’s Ark Thrift Store, which opened this year.
• Coordinating, with the help of others through email and Facebook, needs among individuals in the community.
• Helping initiate the Palo Pinto County Disaster Relief organization, which started with the Rhodes Ranch Complex Fire in August.
• Working with the Mineral Wells Area Chamber of Commerce, through her business Freeze Carpets and through the FUMC Food Bank.
• Working with Clark Gardens Botanical Park’s annual BOOtanical event at Halloween, which raises monies and non-perishable food for area charitable organizations.
Those who know her, know this is none other than Tammy Lovell, who is the Index’s 2012 Woman of the Year.
At 48, the 1983 Mineral Wells High School graduate and active, hands-on grandmother seems to have ramped up her community activity, even more this year with so many new organizations she’s been a part of. All this, while maintaining her work as co-owner/treasurer/secretary/store manager of Freeze Carpets, according to her husband of 30 years, Gary Lovell.
“She has been our rock,” he said of her role with Freeze Carpets.
Lovell noted they purchased in 1989 with Tammy’s father, Jerry Watts.
“She worked for the store since the early ‘70s and she was in and out, working during school breaks,” he added.
Now, “she actually runs the business end of the store. She does bookwork at home and works in store until 5-5:30 p.m., and still does the rest,” he said, citing that she has one to two non-profit organization meetings a week and spends until about 11 p.m. each night checking emails and Facebook “to see if someone is needing something.”
Gary Lovell said Tammy maintains a network by attending the monthly community network meetings and through electronic media. Through the latter, she can “help distribute things to needy people and food banks. She checks each night to see if someone needs something.”
She recently helped a group give away some bicycles, he said. On a regular basis, an individual brings in bread “and she’ll either take it to our food bank or one of the other food banks.”
Last year, a local store contacted Tammy with potatoes to give to food banks and organizations. Gary Lovell said this ended up being 1,500 pounds of spuds.
“In two-and-a-half hours she found a home for every bit of it from the charity organizations around town,” he said.
In addition to helping organizations, Tammy Lovell has taken a hands-on approach to helping individuals in need.
“If there’s a person in need, she’ll do her best to find a solution,” said Gary Lovell. “She said it’s her calling, it’s what God wants her to do.”
Tammy Lovell has served as FUMC Food Bank chair for eight years, he said, adding that her ramped-up community involvement started in 2005, when refugees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita came to town.
“She helped refugees and fed a lot of people,” he said. “They stayed with families, who weren’t prepared. She was running the [FUMC] Food Bank then and saw the need and got a little more involved.”
“Tammy and Amy Ortiz got together to talk about this and [set up] a meeting with Michelle Garcia, based on Center of Hope,” he said. “Ray stepped up and they had the [Miracle Mission] Action Fair at the high school.”
Lovell said the group, namely his wife, Garcia and Mays, proceeded with plans for the Mineral Wells Center of Life.
Center of Life
Tammy Lovell shared with the Index that a network of area citizens was meeting to form a faith-based center called Mineral Wells Center of Life. Largely based on the Parker County Center of Hope, she said the proposed center would help educate citizens in job skills and try to help break the cycle of poverty in Mineral Wells.
It started with a suggestion at a meeting in early 2011, recalls Center of Life board member and fellow organizer Ray Mays.
“Two years ago, January, she and Amy Ortiz were going to meet at First United Methodist Church. Tammy was going to show Amy what they do with Backpack Buddies,” said Mays. “That meeting of those two ladies, turned into 27-to-29 people who showed up [at the church], when they got Paula Robinson of the Parker County Center of Hope, in Weatherford, to speak.”
Mays was there, along with City Manager Lance Howerton, Mayor Mike Allen and other community officials.
The goal of the center, like the one on Parker County, is to use education, empowerment and teaching self worth to people needing a hand up and their family, Lovell told the Index in February 2011.
"It was the right message at the right moment for Mineral Wells. More and more of us wanting to come together and do more, get invested in their lives, find out who they are and what they need and get tools they need to make a better life for themselves,” Mays noted.
“By the end of the meeting, Tammy asked the question, ‘Do any of you feel this is something we need – take the same concept and do the same thing in Palo Pinto?’” he added.
“I barely knew her; we had met before,” he said, adding that he spent the night after the meeting researching what could be done. “I took the information to her at Freeze Carpets, this was the second week in January 2011. Within three months, she and I were sitting on the board of this organization.”
“Everyone has been extremely supportive and wants to get involved,” he added of the new center, which opened in the spring of 2011 and had an action fair at Mineral Wells High School soon afterwards, according to Gary Lovell.
“It’s been neat to see it all come together,” Mays said of the Center of Life.
Mays said what makes Lovell worthy of the Index’s top honor is “her boundless energy and passion.”
Of the adage, “If you want something done, ask someone busy and they’ll get it done,” Mays said Lovell’s “the epitome of that.”
“She’s extremely, extremely passionate about making Mineral Wells the best it can be,” he said, but added, “She’s very humble.”
Taking on tasks to improve the community
Joy Garcia, a fellow member of First United Methodist Church, said she’s “a friend and fan of all Tammy’s many missions that she’s taken on.”
“I believe it was divine inspiration,” Garcia said of Lovell being tapped to take on the FUMC Food Pantry. She said Lovell said, “Oh, no, I can’t do this,” but added after she was “given the opportunity, she just blossomed.”
Characterizing her as a “sweetheart,” Garcia said Lovell doesn’t tend to say “No,” but gets the job done once she commits.
“She’s very organized and she just doesn’t let things go,” she said. “If she says she’s going to do something, she’ll do it. You don’t ever have to worry if it will happen or not.”
“I know she’s a spiritual woman. She looks to God for her strength and her guidance. And she’s excellent at getting other people to help her. She knows how to recruit and motivate people. That’s a great attribute of a a leader,” Garcia added. “By recruiting others, she’s able to get so much more accomplished.”
Garcia said Lovell doesn’t always have to be the leader and will help whenever and however.
“Whatever she’s involved in she doesn’t mind rolling her sleeves up and working as hard as the next person.
“She has a great support group in her family. Gary is amazing and her sons and daughters-in-law are always willing to help with whatever projects come along,” added Garcia.
The Zonta Club of Mineral Wells recognized Lovell in March as one of three 2012 honorees at the club’s annual Status of Women Luncheon.
She was one of many community members honored by the Mineral Wells ISD school board as a September Partner in Education, for work on the Back-to-School Fair.
Creighton said receiving the Index Woman of the Year award “told me somebody thought I made a difference in the community.”
“Giving back is one of those things we all need to do to make this community better,” said 2001 Index Woman of the Year and MWISD Director of Public Relations Mary Creighton.
“I was a member of the 4H Club and our motto was ‘To Make the Best Better,’” she recalled. “You don’t go through the world as an average person, you have to step out there to make the best better.”