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Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation

Lena Early has fond memories of spending time with her dad in Pennsylvania when she was a child.

“My father was an avid outdoorsman and did it all, hunting, trapping and fishing,” she said. “We had a vacation home on the Allegheny River where I spent a lot of time outdoors.”

Sadly, her father passed away when she was quite young, and as she entered her adult years, she had fewer opportunities to get outdoors. She studied economics and mathematics at Columbia University in New York City, and after spending a few years in a finance career, she decided to try something new.

“I wanted to take a break from an office job and work with my hands for a while, so I went to culinary school,” said Lena. “I wasn’t interested in working in a commercial kitchen, so I decided to become a personal chef.”

She built a successful business in Pittsburgh that focused on personal chef delivery services, and she catered to a lot of professional athletes. After a few years, she decided to pivot back to finance.

“I landed a job with Charles Schwab that took me to Denver, and a few years after that, I moved to North Texas for another opportunity with the company.”

Now she lives in Fort Worth, and as she settled in her new home, she looked for ways to get involved in the community.

“I have two hunting dogs and was looking for training opportunities and to connect with other folks with similar interests,” she said. “I was also interested in finding ways to get outdoors more.”

At the same time, she was exploring some legacy giving opportunities.

“I have a much older brother, and we had been talking about making an impact after we’re gone, and he inspired me to start thinking about what kind of legacy gifts I might want to make in the future.”

She found Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF) on Charity Navigator, and she also learned about the Stewards of the Wild. When she heard about the mentored hunting opportunities available through Stewards, she signed up.

“I was thrilled to be selected to participate and had an absolute blast refreshing my outdoor skills with a knowledgeable mentor.”

Another thing that impressed Lena during her first mentored hunt was the food offered throughout the weekend.

“I noticed that they were preparing all their own food, and I told them I would love to help out in the future.”

Lena has put her culinary skills back to work volunteering at several mentored hunts in different parts of the state. She has also raised her hand to be a mentor for future hunts.

“Everyone I know that is successful and happy is doing something to help someone else,” said Lena. “It never occurred to me that some of the skills I’ve learned along the way might be useful to someone else. I feel like everything came full circle in that way for me through Stewards of the Wild.”

She especially appreciates the Stewards of the Wild community.

“A person can be really dedicated to a certain mission or cause and do everything they can to have an impact, but there is nothing like sharing it with other people. There’s nothing like building relationships with other people working towards a common goal. And that’s what Stewards of the Wild does super well.”