A Love for Her Community
Megan Henderson loves the Texas tradition of tight-knit communities. Growing up the daughter of pilots who ran their own business, Megan loved the community feel of the airport and the relationships her parents built with other small business owners.
Unfortunately, Megan also watched her parents struggle to keep their business afloat. They eventually went through a catastrophic bankruptcy, but they continued to be passionate about the importance of small businesses to their community. Even as a self-described “tone deaf, self-absorbed teenager,” Megan noticed how local business owners were at the center of every good neighborhood. While she left Texas, she always felt Fort Worth was home.
Leaving home to go to college was a difficult transition for Megan. Everything felt foreign, so she left school to move to Miami, but that wasn’t right either. She returned home to go to the University of North Texas, but she couldn’t figure out how to turn her interests into a career. She felt lost.
After college, Megan spent a lot of years traveling the world and working odd jobs. While she loved the people and places she visited, she always felt her roots were leading her home. Her travels gave her a bigger and broader view of the world, which she puts to good use as director of events and communications for Near Southside, Inc., the nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing the Near Southside neighborhood for Fort Worth.
Megan remembers that during one holiday break, she was sitting with her friend John Carney in The Chat Room on Magnolia. She was “spouting ideas of how to make this city better and all the things Fort Worth was lacking.” John listened to her talk for a while, and then he said, “Hey, listen. We love you but either put up or shut up. Either get busy fixing, or quit telling us how much better the rest of the world is.”
With this challenge, Megan had found her direction in life.
Around this time, Megan was working at John Peter Smith Hospital. She remembers that a man would come to deliver pizzas and could never figure out where the various departments were. She said, “He would tell me about why he came to the US and about his dreams of opening a restaurant.” He had just opened a pizza business in a gas station across the street from the hospital. His passion and his determination impressed Megan, and she knew that he would achieve his dream. But then she left town again.
When Megan returned to Fort Worth, the pizza man, Nehme Elbitar, was achieving that dream. He was about to open his restaurant, Chadra Mezza and Grill, and he convinced Megan to come work for him. There, a customer connected Megan with the folks at Downtown Fort Worth, Inc., and she soon left the restaurant world for the nonprofit world.
Working for Downtown Fort Worth, Inc. gave Megan an understanding of how nonprofits connect with businesses. “If it wasn’t for my childhood and going through those really hard years,” Megan said, “I don’t know if I would have an appreciation for what [nonprofits] are doing and what sacrifices these business owners are making.” After working for Downtown Fort Worth, Inc., she took on her current role with Near Southside, Inc.
Megan’s job description is nebulous, but she’s the perfect person for it. She tells the stories of the people of the Near Southside community. She works on economic development and small business support, answering questions for property owners, explaining public policy. She’s a problem solver. She also produces newsletters, helps to find funding, and in her copious spare time, produces all the Near Southside’s events and festivals that Fort Worth loves: ArtsGoggle, Open Streets, Park(ing) Day, and Friday on the Green.
(Fun fact: the beer concession for Friday on the Green is still run by Nehme and Chadra. Near Southside, Inc. prides itself on the fact that their members are really part of one big family.)
“What makes the Near Southside so special is that there is space for everyone. Any passion or idea, any point of view, you can come in and be a part of the community and learn from each other.”
When asked for her official job title, Megan says, “I’m just a girl from the Southside.” She lives with her wife Tatara, an artist at SiNaCa Glass Studio, and their daughter on “the southern side of the Southside.” She uses her experiences and her passion to help others. She is an advocate, an inspiration, and a friend to everyone she encounters.
This is the most hard working and sharing young lady I know. She will help you whenever she can, great community lady!
We are so proud to know her.
Go Megan Go! Incredible from the first time I met her and the rest of the team at Near Southside Inc. I’m always amazed to see her depth of knowledge about the people, businesses, and happenings in the neighborhood. A knowledge that can only be gained from genuinely being a part of the community she supports!
Everyone that meets Megan never forgets her passion and smile. She’s the glue of our great community. I’ve always been proud to know her🌺