Ray Caraway can’t stop smiling.
He loves his new job. He loves his new work family. He loves his new community. He loves smiling.
And everyone involved with the JF Maddox Foundation loves his passion.
Caraway became CEO of the JF Maddox Foundation in September following the retirement of Bob Reid, another man filled with passion for family and community, who worked for the foundation for the past 25 years.
“And Ray’s passion is only increasing,” said JF Maddox board chair Ann Maddox-Utterback. “Any time I am on the phone with him or in a meeting, the first thing he will tell me is, ‘I’m loving the work! It’s everything that I had hoped it would be.’ Now that is exciting. Not only was he the right fit for us, our community and the work that the foundation does, it was a good fit for him to come into this community. It’s a win-win situation.”
How it started
The JF Maddox Foundation was established in Hobbs in 1963 by Jack and Mabel Maddox. Jack Maddox built a career in the local utility industry with additional interests in estate development, gas pipeline operations and banking. He was a civic leader with a special interest in youth programs and higher education. Donovan Maddox, Jack’s brother, served as a personal representative of their estates and was foundation president from 1978 to 1990.
For 58 years the foundation worked to better the Lea County community. According to its mission statement, “We innovate primarily in education, community development, and social services to ensure people are attracted to and thrive in Lea County.”
Through the decades the foundation’s leadership shifted to the family’s second generation, Donovan’s two sons, Jim and Don Maddox, joined the board along with their wives Sue and Susan. A non-family member, Harry Lynch also joined. Today, the foundation’s board mostly consists of the family’s third generation, Maddox-Utterback and her brother, Ben, who are Don and Susan’s children, and Tom, John and Catherine, Jim and Sue’s children.
Throughout that time the foundation has had some part in a plethora of projects, small and large, used in making Lea County a better community. On the smaller end, but not less vital, are its constant grants to numerous non-profit organizations such as United Way of Lea County, the Boy Scouts, the Guidance Center of Lea County, Option, Inc., Habitat for Humanity and the Weekend Hunger Initiative – Hobbs.
Then there are some larger community development projects in recent memory. From the beautification and redesign of Broadway Street and north Turner Street, to financial assistance in the construction of the current Hobbs Teen Center, Lovington Highway walking trail, Hobbs Boys and Girls Club, the CORE, the current construction of the CTECH facility and financial incentives that led to Covenant Health coming to Hobbs and the construction of the new Covenant Health Hobbs Hospital.
On the educational side there is the Distinguished Lecture Series, which has brought some of the nation’s top speakers, from political dignitaries like former U.S. Secretary of States Gen. Collin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, to engaging celebrities like “Dirty Jobs” Mike Rowe, Olympic medalist Dara Torres and NBA legend and acclaimed novelist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
There is also the foundation’s scholarship program. The Jack Maddox Distinguished Scholarship annually awards one student a full ride to any accredited school of foundation’s choice in the continental U.S. The Maddox Scholarships annually awards four students $20,000 ($5,000 per year for four years) to the same type of school. Additionally, the foundation has partnered with eight other schools which match that scholarship money if the student attends.
“(The foundation) has done some big things and we are doing some big things,” Caraway said.
There’s still a difference
Despite the generational shift, JF Maddox Foundation remains a family foundation.
Part of the third generation’s transition to leadership is seeing the board go from a working board to a policy board. Long-time business owner Paul Campbell, a non-family member, is the only board member who lives in Hobbs. Ben Maddox, of Taos, is the only other board member who lives in New Mexico. Elaine Agather, another non-Maddox board member, works in finance and helps maintain the foundation’s trust of around $250-$300 million used in its philanthropy. She lives in Dallas.
Although the third generation grew up in Hobbs, as Maddox-Utterback said, “We’ve never started our careers in Lea County.’
However, it hasn’t changed their love of Hobbs and Lea County.
“I live in Denver now, but I miss the sunsets of Lea County,” Maddox-Utterback said. “Every time I go back to Hobbs I take a photo of a sunset. I love Lea County. I love going back to do foundation work. We may not physically live there but we are here for the community, the whole community.
“And we have a great staff and management team to help us do that.”
That is led by Caraway, someone who knows about philanthropy. A Louisiana native, he spent the past 17 years as CEO of the Community Foundation of Northern Colorado. Before that he worked with other foundations in Louisiana and also practiced law.
But working for a community foundation is different from working with a private, family foundation. When working with a community foundation there is need for more fundraising. Sometimes those specific funds go to specific needs or desires wished upon by the grantor. The Maddox Foundation’s funding is an endowment and it’s board is the only grantor.
“I loved what I did for the community foundation but I was pulled in a thousand different directions,” said Caraway. “However the work was incredible. What we did to help the northern Colorado area and its communities was so satisfying. It was a great experience. But I was at a point where I wanted to do something different.”
The idea of coming to a small oil and gas town, much like the small oil and gas towns where he spent his adolescence, appealed to him.
“To me, coming to work for a family foundation, a great family who I think think a lot of, and to help them focus the resources they have on this community, is pretty special,” said Caraway. “Their focus is Lea County. The only other real substantial giving outside of Lea County, but still has a big Lea County connection, is Texas Tech University. But it is the nearest big university and its effectively an in-state university because we are allowed in-state tuition. A lot of our Lea County students have and continue to attend Tech. So that is something that we are looking at potentially strengthening.”
A pandemic transition
As excited as he was to start his new career, Caraway’s smile diminished some due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been one of the hardest things I have ever done, moving to a new community in the middle of a pandemic,” Caraway said. “Anyone who made a move from one state to the next during COVID is tough. One of the things I really wanted to do when I got here was get out in the community and meet people. I was doing the best I could with the limitations that we had.”
Through its support, the foundation’s staff and board did its part of help the Caraway’s transition. Ray, and his wife of 36 years, Mary, have since established some roots in the community. They have joined a church they enjoy and have done some volunteer work in the community. Mary, an artist and graphic designer, teaches art at the Hobbs Boys and Girls Club.
“Mary teaches several classes a week there and really enjoys that,” Caraway said. “Other than COVID, which was a huge curveball for all of us, things have gotten much better. Even though I have been here since September, I feel like the last three months since things opened up, that I am finally getting to connect with the community.”
Helping with the transition was Reid, who stayed on the job for about a month after Caraway arrived.
“Bob has been the best possible person to follow,” Caraway. “I can never take his place, especially after all the work he has done for the past 25 years. However, Bob has been extraordinarily genuine in trying to help to give me the input I need to come into this position. I continue to touch base with Bob. I just call him up and ask his advice. He continues to care about this community.”
Engage the community
Despite the pandemic, the foundation continued its mission by helping many nonprofits provide community services. But much of that work was done remotely by the staff. Since April, the staff has come back into the fold, physically, to continue with its work.
“We have been closed down for so long because of the pandemic that we are ready to say, ‘we’re open for business,’” Maddox-Utterback said. “We are an organization who wants to work with the community. It’s in our vision and our mission. We are here for this community. We have an open door policy and we want the community to come talk to us.”
Caraway believes there are three words needed to improve the quality of any community — engagement, philanthropy and vision.
“If you go to any community and it’s lacking those three things … it’s going to be a lousy community,” Caraway said. “You can pick the most boring place in America, but if the people are engaged, they care about their community and are involved, they are giving back and they have a vision for the future, it’s going to be a great community. And I think this community has those things and we want to enhance those three qualities.”
Caraway admitted he would not have come to Lea County if he didn’t see those three qualities.
“There are a lot of people here who are super engaged, who give back to this community and there is a real sense of vision for the future of this community,” Caraway said. “Hobbs and Lea County is going to be better five years, even 10 years, from now.”
Caraway cited the redevelopment of the Lovington downtown area through the Lovington MainStreet program, the chamber of commerce and the Lea County Museum.
“They have a lot of potential there,” Caraway said. “That’s one of the things we want to be looking at with the Hobbs downtown area. What’s the next step for downtown Hobbs? We have to have a vision for that. It’s nice to have the landscaping on Broadway but we have to do more than that. We have to attract more businesses.”
There is an attraction to Hobbs from professionals in many fields according to Caraway. That attraction comes from the collaboration of so many local entities willing to help make Hobbs and Lea County a better community. An example Caraway gave was the partnership between the foundation, the City of Hobbs, New Mexico Junior College, the University of New Mexico, Community Health Systems, which owned Lea Regional Medical Center before selling it to Covenant Health, which has since joined the partnership, to attract more physicians to the area. The Maddox Foundation gave $350,000 to build some new housing at NMJC.
“The idea was that housing would be used for residents from UNM’s medical school,” Caraway said. “In terms of residents coming out of UNM and going to communities, Hobbs was last on the list. We are now first on the list because they get free housing. The hospital contracted to provide free food. So if you are a UNM resident who just graduated and are looking to start your residency, a lot of people of don’t know this but you have no money after four years of medical school. So if they come here to Hobbs they have free housing and food and free membership to the CORE. Because of those things, we are now a place where the residents want to come and a lot of them have stayed here. That’s a great example of a partnership.”
Same faces, same mission
Caraway may be the only new face at the foundation however his hiring started a “wholesale” change in the staff’s leadership.
Vice president of Finance and CFO Kerri Frizzell moved to Colorado and works remotely. Kyle Shepard, who has worked in the foundation’s finance department, is set to take over.
Senior Program Officer and Communications Manager David Reed and Senior Program Officer Mayra Lovas are providing the “strategic vision” for grants moving forward. The four make up the management team and rely on the staff’s assistance in continuing the foundation’s vision.
“We will be working with our partners, we will be working with different grantees and helping to determine what the path is for our grant making moving forward,” Reed said. “Kyle will be our CFO and she will be seeing over our investments and making sure the bills are getting paid and managing that aspect of the foundation. Then there’s Ray who will be overseeing all of us and giving the entire foundation a direction in collaboration with the board.”
Caraway said the staff is a huge wealth of information since most of them have grown up in Lea County and have worked at the foundation for some time.
“Hands down, the most enjoyable thing in my time here has been working with this staff,” he said. “We have a phenomenal, smart, engaged staff that really understands this community well. I enjoy working with these folks.”
Change is good and often necessary to keep up with the times. But it’s also exciting, according to Maddox-Utterback, mostly because of Caraway’s vision, leadership and …
“His passion! I can’t emphasis that enough,” said Maddox-Utterback. “He understands transition and was certainly all-in. I felt his passion for Lea County and a passion for the civic engagement and work that he would be doing in Lea County. I think he is someone who likes a challenge.”
Caraway looks at his role as one of a stewardship. He’s there to maintain order of what the foundation has done while keeping his eyes and ears close to Lea County’s future needs.
“That will be a big theme for us as a management team and with the staff,” Caraway said. “We don’t want to forget about the things we have already invested in. We want to take good care of those things and work with the organizations that are involved in all of those projects to strengthen them.”
And that gives Caraway a reason to smile.