In 1981, Master-planned communities were being developed and were expanding throughout the United States. To welcome new families and homeowners to these areas, an organization called Welcome Wagon would deliver baskets of gifts supplied by local businesses. Over a cup of coffee, their hostesses would tell new residents about local civic and cultural activities in the community while handing out gifts and coupons from local businesses. Sugar Land, Texas was one of these master-planned communities.
While the Welcome Wagon hostess continued to greet newcomers to the community, new residents joined together to share fellowship and common interests. In accordance with the rules of Welcome Wagon International, a “newcomer” had to give up membership after two years of residence and Welcome Wagon International limited the areas within Fort Bend County as to who could join and participate in the social activities.
During 1988-1989, members of Welcome Wagon Sugar Land voted not to have the restrictions imposed by Welcome Wagon International, which included a two year residency limitation and that guest speakers could only be Welcome Wagon business supporters. The ladies decided to restructure their club, creating an atmosphere of friendship and opportunities for “old and new” residents to become acquainted with one another in the spirit of community. These ladies pondered for a while over a new name. One day, President Ann Hayden, told her husband about her and her friends' dilemma. Understanding the commitment and friendship that these ladies held, J.C. Hayden said to his wife, “Ann, all of you are friends and neighbors, why not call yourselves that?” Thus, Fort Bend Friends and Neighbors (FBFN) was formed!
As the Club entered the new millennium, its leadership realized that it had grown far beyond a simple welcoming group and social group in terms of membership count, annual receipts, and in organizational purpose. It was time to give back to the community. The Club began holding small fundraisers and identifying young Fort Bend County students that needed financial assistance to attend local colleges. Over the next twelve years, the Club organized and executed a successful program to award college scholarships to deserving students who would otherwise not be able to attend a school of higher education. During this time, the Club distributed over $76,000 to 55 students to assist in their college tuition needs.
In 2012, Club leadership once again realized that its size, community image, and involvement had grown significantly, and it was now time to properly organize the Club for future growth. The Club engaged outside assistance to review its past growth, explore an approach to more fully document and improve the position of the Club within the community, and finally to recommend a structure that would position the Club as a more business-minded organization. The end result of this project was the formalization of the Club into two not-for-profit corporations; one which comprises the 501(c)7 social function and the other comprises the 501(c)3 charitable fundraising and scholarship function. New and expanded by-laws and standardized business policies now govern both organizations. Each entity shares common membership and enjoys the pride of not only developing lasting friendships and social fellowship, but also gives back generously to the community through the scholarship awards program.
This new structure has allowed the newly formed FBFN Foundation to expand its fundraising activities and to promote an organization to which corporations and individuals can donate tax-deductible gifts. The Foundation can now openly solicit community support through the use of tax-deductible giving. In addition, the operations of the social club and the Foundation now have a formalized business structure that is suitable for their functions and activities, and that are properly documented with local and state governments and the Internal Revenue Service.
Today, Fort Bend Friends and Neighbors has over 300 members from all areas of Fort Bend County. The cities, towns, and villages that comprise Fort Bend County are: Arcola, Beasley, Fairchilds, Fulshear, portions of Houston and Katy, Meadows Place, a majority of Missouri City, Needville, Orchard, Pleak, Richmond, Rosenberg, Simonton, Stafford, Sugar Land, Thompsons, and Weston Lakes. Other unincorporated areas of Fort Bend County are census-designated areas: Cinco Ranch, Cumings, Fifth Street, Four Corners, Fresno, Greatwood, Mission Bend, New Territory, Pecan Grove, and Sienna Plantation. Other unincorporated areas of Fort Bend County are: Booth, Crabb, Clodine, Foster, Guy, Juliff, Long Point, Pittsville, Powell Point, and Tavener.
Fort Bend Friends and Neighbors include many long-standing members and many long-time Fort Bend County residents. Newcomers continue to arrive daily just looking for a new friend!