Some people have told Leesa Stephens that she has big shoes to fill as she takes over the job that was held for years by Angelia Bostick.
Stephens, who retired as a teacher with the Bangs Independent School District to accept the top position at Good Samaritan Ministries, doesn’t see it that way.
“I’m not going to take Angelia’s job,” Stephens said at an introductory press conference Friday afternoon. “You can’t fill her shoes, or take her spot. This is a faith thing, and I’m ready to go to work.”
Stephens’ appointment concludes a search that began when Bostick stepped down at the end of March after 22 years serving as the only executive GSM has known. Bostick declined to call the decision retirement, because she felt the Lord was leading her into other areas of service.
Heather Thomas, the agency’s human resources and financial administrator, had been serving as executive during the interim.
As part of the reorganization, Thomas has now been elected by the board to serve as associate director, Dr. Paul Butler, GMS board member who headed the search committee, said Friday.
“This will be a great three-part team,” Butler said, including long-time communications director Misty Bowers in the leadership group. “Heather has a strong background in finance, and Misty has made a significant difference in how we handle our communications with the community. Leesa comes extraordinarily equipped to provide us leadership.”
Regarding her teaching position at Bangs, Stephens said she wasn’t planning to retire when school ended in May.
“When the summer began, I left my room ready to return if that’s the door God opened. I had no idea then, that I would be sitting here now.”
The notion of serving with Good Samaritan struck her when she learned the executive director’s position was open, Stephens said.
“I believe God has been preparing me for such a time as this,” she said.
She said she began her career teaching composite social studies, but branched into other subjects as needs arose. Those classes included government, economics, gifted and talented English, and journalism — serving as the publications adviser and UIL coach for journalism, extemporaneous speaking, current issues and events, and social studies.
“I’ve taught pretty much everything except math and science,” Stephens said.
Working in a school district where many families are below the average income level, Stephens said she saw a lot of generational poverty.
“The children of students I had taught previously were still suffering,” Stephens said. “I recognized that this is something that Jesus said will always be with us, and that’s so we can be His hands and feet.
“People hear Christ’s command, but then wonder what does that look like?” Stephens added. “Where does that leave the rest of us? How do we serve the Lord? Good Samaritan Ministries is doing that, and if people don’t realize that, they are an untapped resource. It’s a way this community can serve.”
Butler, who has been associated with Good Samaritan as a board member in three separate stints over the past 15 years, said the organization received “lots of wonderful, qualified applications” for the position. Stephens was selected, he said, because of her rich background not only in teaching, but also for her understanding of administration and her presence in the community.
“We are delighted to have her,” Butler said. “Good Samaritan is a special place. It does a job that’s mandated by Christ. The fact that it’s an arm of the church is shown by the fact that we are supported by almost every congregation in Brown County. We have a dozen staff members, and some 300 volunteers who come from those churches. We have grown every year, just as the need has grown every year.”
Butler said continued support is needed as Good Samaritan distributes one million pounds of food each year, along with good quality clothing that can also be measured in the thousands of pounds. These items go “to people who need a helping hand, and who among us has not needed that at some time in our lives?”
Butler said the board is “really pleased with what is happening at Good Samaritan. Angelia Bostick did a yeoman’s job, and our community does a great job supporting us.”
He said local grocery store chains and other businesses support Good Samaritan’s food pantry and other services in a variety of ways, and individual and church support is also strong.
“It’s extraordinary to come in here and see people being helped and see other people helping them, treating them with Christ’s love and respect,” Butler said. “It’s something that’s marvelous — even mystical — to watch.”
Good Samaritan Ministries is located at 305 Clark St. in downtown Brownwood.