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Inside Look From the President - March 2023

By: Cherry Kay Abel, TDM | Mar 15, 2023

My MPI Story!

A few chapter members have been asked to share our MPI stories, so I thought I’d share mine as my message this month:

My MPI THCC story began when I joined the MPI Texas Hill Country Chapter in 1991 early in my hospitality career while working at the Omni Bayfront in Corpus Christi. The first meeting I attended was in San Antonio at the Ripley’s Wax Museum, located across from the Alamo, where I met several chapter members. I was invited to lunch, on a subsequent trip, by the chapter Director of Membership (there were no VP’s yet), whose name was Tillie Rheiner. Over lunch Tillie explained to me the best ways to maximize my membership, as well as the ways to get involved. Within the year we hosted a weekend-long THCC chapter educational retreat in Corpus, so I had the chance to put my MPI membership to work immediately! 

A year later I moved to Houston, and I transferred my membership to the HAMPI (the Houston Area Chapter), and joined the board for the first time in an at-large position. It was during that time that I met fellow HAMPI board member Jeff Rasco, then working as a meeting planner for MD Anderson in Houston. Through the years he has served as a mentor, confidant, and life-long friend. Who knew in 1992 that Jeff and Monica Rasco would be at my wedding to my husband Jeff Sikes 25 years later here in Austin?

My next hotel stop landed me at the Worthington Hotel in Downtown Ft. Worth, then an independent luxury hotel, so I transferred into the DFW MPI chapter. I got ambitious with my MPI involvement and decided on joining both the membership and the education committees! I was able to serve with another MPI Icon, Mr. OD O’Donnell, the leader of the membership committee for the chapter. We had monthly meetings at a hotel in Dallas and after the meetings OD would buy his committee members a round or two of cocktails at the hotel bar – this was a great way to wait out Dallas traffic, as I lived in Arlington. The time spent around the table over adult beverages and hearing OD’s stories of the entertainment business (he created the Dixie Chicks!) are great memories – not to mention, serving with me on that committee was a new friend I made by the name of Karen Fogle, who was also at my wedding and provided us with a honeymoon suite!  

Soon thereafter I became a hotel DOS for a decade and due to the job demands wasn’t involved as much as in previous years. Let’s fast forward to October 2007 as that year I bid farewell to my hotel days and joined the team with the Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau. I realized after a month on the job that now that I wasn’t in charge of a hotel sales team anymore, I had time to get involved in industry organizations once again! So transferring back to the MPI THCC chapter was like going full circle for me, even though the faces had changed…or so I thought.  

My first MPI THCC event as part of the ACVB was in December of 2007 attending the MPI Holiday Bash. When I registered at the event, I reconnected with Lisa Fall, who I had attended elementary school with here in Austin, and then reconnected with Jeff Rasco, as well as Karen Fogle! I found after the years had passed, I had MPI friends here again too. The following spring I attended Donna Harbers’ banquet and had been working with Missy Floyd Seward on a three year program for TMSA, who told me at the banquet we had verbally received the vote but just needed to cite her President. Two weeks later I was driving them back to the airport after and I made mention to Missy, then serving on Debbie Farnum’s newly minted board, that I would be interested in joining the board again. As fate would have it the director of marketing for the new term in 2008 had to resign his position, and after a chat with Debbie, was on the board with THCC.  

Thanks to Debbie’s guidance and mentorship, and the celestial patience of Susan Greenberg, I agreed to become the president-elect in 2010-2011, and then serve as president in 2011-2012. In September of 2011, less than 3 months into my term, my world took a jolting, life-altering turn, as my lifelong birth defect of a leaky mitral valve prolapsed overnight, and I was told that open heart surgery was in my very near future. Both Debbie and Susan sprung into action, including hospital visits, to fill in for me along with Donna and Missy.

They say teamwork makes the dreamwork, but they got me through a nightmare in the fall of 2011. Without them it would not have been the same.  

Surgery was in November of that year, and after 2 days in the ICU I moved into a regular room and then back home for a month’s long recovery. The hospital visits and the visits to our home, often with home cooked meals, food baskets and Texas Longhorn themed goodie baskets, (this means you Mary Reynolds!) came from many of my MPI THCC colleagues, along with friends from TSAE and SGMP as well. If I didn’t know it was a family before, I knew it was a family now. 

Fast forward once again to November of 2020 when the entire meetings world had been attempting to survive the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, quarantine, and our collective worlds had been decimated. The phone rang and Donna Musselman was calling, asking me to consider being president again. I said I was flattered but no, it’s a great opportunity for a chapter up-and-comer. Another week went by, again Donna calling, again I said no and suggested a few names. Two weeks later and caller ID reads: Donna Musselman…third calls a charm, I guess, as I surrendered to her persuasive ways and joined the board again in 2021 as President-Elect, under the leadership of two phenomenal ladies by the names of Sophie Curtis, as president, and Meaghan Rhame, as Immediate Past President. 

It was as though we all started to slowly claw back to IN-PERSON, from oblivion, and rebuild after COVID. We all have been determined to make it happen, and to build back better! The road has not been easy, the convention world is not the same, but for the MPI Texas Hill Country Chapter, its heart is our members and their desire and drive to challenge the future is there. The fire is once again burning. The future is bright. 

As my year as President winds down I’m grateful for our existing board, am excited to see the new board leaders we have joining us soon, and the dedication of those board members coming back. There are many dedicated THCC members getting involved and joining committees and it's exciting to see! While my MPI story may be winding down, I can tell you that my twice repaired heart is full, my face has a smile, and my mind is filled with irreplaceable memories! 

I look back on that fateful lunch in 1991 with Tillie with fondness and wish that she was still with us so I could give her a hug. MPI goes beyond the education; beyond the networking; beyond the business-to-business connections. It will fill your life with friends, memories, and opportunities for you. It is up to you to make that happen! For anyone reading this, if you’d like to know more let me return the favor Tillie did for me and take you to lunch and tell you about MPI! Tomorrow is a new day and your MPI story might be just beginning…



Cherry Kay Abel, TDM





Texas Hill Country Chapter

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