From the Executive Director: Reflecting on the Friends Grassroots Network Rendezvous

Friends Office Manager Susan Singley, Executive Director Ben Gabriel, Las Cruces Green Chamber CEO Carrie Hamblen and Doña Ana County Commissioner Billy Garrett representing OMDP at Friends Rendezvous. Present but not pictured were Friends Board Members Fernando Clemente and Angel Peña.

I just returned from Friends Rendezvous 2016 in Las Vegas Nevada, a celebration of all the amazing work done throughout the Friends Grassroots Network. The events spanned two days and we heard personal stories of individuals and their connections to public lands that inspired me.  I also built relationships with new partners and worked to expand existing ones.

Carrie Hamblen and Ben Gabriel with Representative Beto O’Rourke of El Paso (center).

I am proud that Doña Ana County voices were shared to people from across the country on panels.  Carrie Hamblen, CEO of the Las Cruces Green Chamber of Commerce, discussed how local businesses are benefiting from Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks National Monument.  Doña Ana County Commissioner Billy Garrett discussed what drives elected officials to champion public lands, and gave suggestions to other Friends groups on working with their community. The hard work by our community should be celebrated.

Celebrating the kickoff of Rendezvous with Friends new and old.

I am leaving feeling inspired by all of the great work of the Friends Grassroots Network but understand we have many goals to accomplish and challenges ahead.  Through our connectivity to each other we are stronger and will work together to reach new heights.

Ben Gabriel is Executive Director of Friends of Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks.