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Why I am passionate about SVP

Posted by Harriet Marmon Helmle

What I remember most about growing up was the “Friday Night Poker Dinners”. This may sound a little strange until I explain what the dinners were all about.

There were six couples, all close friends. The women were all stay at home moms and the men were all very prominent business leaders in San Antonio. The dinners would rotate between the couples so every six weeks or so, the dinner would be at our house.

The kids would be fed early and sent off to bed. The adults would have a drink or two and would eat their dinner around 8 PM. After dinner, the poker game would begin and often not end till midnight.

Besides my dad, Harvey Marmon, (Architect & Founder of the firm Marmon Mok), other business leaders included Ralph Langley, founding partner of Langley Banack law firm; Bill Langley, founding owner of North Park Lincoln/Mercury; Bob Jones, City Councilman for the Southside (no term limits back then); Starr Kealhofer, CEO of San Antonio Board of Realtors (SABOR) and so on. You can only imagine the conversations that took place during those dinners and poker games. I grew up knowing that these men supported by their wives, could solve the problems of the world. I believed that with all my heart.

I would sneak back into our hallway that was adjacent to the dining room. The dining room was up a few stairs at the end of the hallway so I could hide there without detection pretty easily.

What I learned in those very formative years was that we all can make a difference in our community. We can make it better by working together to identify the problems that keep our community poor; that keep families from achieving their goals; that put children at serious risk and all the other problems that require the community to come together to help solve those problems.

During my entire professional career, I often thought about the inspiration I received from ease dropping on those conversations of my parents and their friends. They often talked about what they wanted to accomplish, not as much in their professional lives (they were all very successful in their own rights) but rather what they would be remembered for in their community. What was accomplished because of their efforts?
Did they do everything they could to leave our community in a better place than when they started? These were the questions they concerned themselves of the most.

As I approach retirement, I often ask myself these same questions. What have I done to make San Antonio better? Stronger? More competitive? More literate? Healthier? More appreciative of the arts? Safer? This is most likely the last shot I will have to answer those questions and be proud of how I answer them.

I believe that SVP can make that difference! I want to be a part of that!

Harriet Marmon Helmle
Executive Director, SVP San Antonio

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