I worked with the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas in San Antonio a few years ago. The Diocese has a beautiful campus in Alamo Heights. At the time, I was a member of the Diocese living in Corpus Christi, shortly before moving to San Antonio during the last economic downturn.
I was involved in several activities for the Diocese. I fine-tuned a case for support for a retreat center expansion campaign, conducted advanced research to bolster a somewhat over-solicited existing donor base, and I was charged to help bring a prior major gift campaign to a conclusion before a new one could be launched.
One of my tasks was to organize and implement a private dinner for leading donors to the aforementioned major gift campaign. The event, to be held at the San Antonio Country Club, would thank them for their support and introduce them to the concept of a new campaign.
The staff of the Diocese felt they were busy with existing work. I was asked to “go it alone” on the event’s design and management. That was a bit of a tall order for one person, but luckily, the San Antonio Country Club staff were very accommodating. We printed and mailed invitations (the old fashioned way), and I found a way to take all 500 RSVPs personally, by using the amazing telephone answering platform, Grasshopper. Key volunteers helped determine the menu and helped with the physical layout. An agenda was developed, speaking assignments made, and the necessary equipment was rented.
I began setting up the event mid-afternoon. It was quiet at the Club, with few interruptions. I had compiled the RSVP list and prepared name tags. I was relieved members of the Diocesan staff would be on hand that evening to check in each guest as they arrived.
Little known to me, the Club staff had also checked out the RSVP list. They had favorite Club members, and wanted to see if any of them would be attending. One name caught their eyes: James Avery.
As Wikipedia notes:
“In the summer of 1954, James Avery started his jewelry business in a two-car garage with about $250 in capital. He built a small workbench, then bought a few hand tools and scraps of silver and copper. It was his desire to create jewelry that had meaning for him and his customers as well as having lasting value.”
The company he built has lasted more than fifty years. “One man’s dream has ignited the passion of an extended team carrying a product, a set of values, and a commitment to doing all things well across our land.”
James Avery served as an advisory board member to the Episcopal Diocese of West Texas. I met him at meetings, and he was exceptionally gentle, kind and low key. And I had no idea the effect he had on those in the community at large.
When the Club staff saw James Avery’s name on the RSVP list that day, they became excited. It was as if Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones was attending. Rock star! I had never seen such overwhelming admiration and excitement regarding one person’s pending presence. And I have organized a lot of high level events for philanthropists.
Later as we checked-in our guests at the Club, the staff kept checking in with me to see if he had arrived yet, so they could see him in person. “Is that him?” “Is he here yet?” Keep in mind, we had many stellar guests arriving that night including a few billionaires. But only one guest received this kind of attention.
Sadly, not long after I wrote this article, James Avery passed away. He was a legend to people at all levels of society, and his legacy lives on through his marvelous company.