Pro Texana Medal of Service – Gabrielle “Gabe” Madison, B.B.A. ’00

Pro Texans Medal of Service

December 22, 2023

Bonton Farms is more than an urban farm; it is a place where communities are formed and enhanced. Gabe Madison did not expect to find herself in the heart of this community undergoing transformation ignited by hope.

Madison knew she wanted to attend Baylor when she was in the sixth grade. Even with long anticipation building high expectations, Baylor exceeded them in everything from connections with professors and career experience to finding some of her best friends at the University. Madison graduated with a degree in marketing and international business, with a particular interest in the professional selling curriculum.

“I knew who I was, I was a salesperson,” Madison said, a statement borne out in her education and early career. “I wasn’t so much driven by the money. I was driven by transformation. If you could show me how this actually helps somebody, then I could sell it.”

Following graduation, Madison saw 22 years of corporate experience. She pivoted first from sales to recruiting, which she described as selling an opportunity to both sides — the company and the person recruited. From recruiting, Madison transitioned into a full HR role, taking her talent for finding the right fit and combining it with her affinity for structure. But it was her last corporate role that Madison thought was her dream job. For more than five years, Madison pioneered the role of director of community relations at Thomson Reuters, using her position to help employees connect with the community in a higher, more purposeful way.

“I had pretty much planned on retiring out of that because it was really great,” Madison said. “And this is where God just messes up your plans.”

In 2017, Madison was introduced to the founder of Bonton Farms, Daron Babcock. Babcock had a vision for the health of the Bonton neighborhood. The South Dallas community is a food desert, and over half of the residents lack personal transportation. The result is devastating effects on the community’s health and restricted access to economic stability, safe and affordable housing, education and other basic needs. Bonton Farms aims to redefine the neighborhood with fresh food that they grow, meaningful work and new opportunities in Bonton.

Babcock believed that Madison had a place at Bonton Farms to help see this vision grow. In 2019, Madison joined the nonprofit’s board of directors, and soon she moved into the role of board chair.

“I was trying to compromise with God,” Madison admitted. “I want to be in a secure spot. I want security. And God whispered to me, ‘It’s you, stop looking for other people. It’s you that I’m calling.’”

In 2022, Madison left the corporate world to serve as president of Bonton Farms.

The heart of Bonton Farms is not a nonprofit helping transform the statistics of an underserved neighborhood. The heart of Bonton Farms is a community growing and healing together.

“We’ve often said that people are attracted to Bonton Farms because there’s something about you that’s broken that sees healing in this community,” Madison said.

When Madison first came to Bonton Farms, it was only 18 months after her husband died unexpectedly of a heart attack.

“I was very much still broken, still hurting, but I saw joy and I saw hope in what was happening in this neighborhood… And I know [my husband] would’ve challenged me to say, ‘Hey, have you really understood why you’re here? We’re not here for all this other stuff. We’re here for what God has purposed us to do. Don’t run from his purpose, walk in it.’”

Madison sees in Bonton a community that is resilient. She sees healing in a community where people rally together and where she is known and feels at home. In her role as president, Madison is leading Bonton Farms in creating the infrastructure that creates new opportunities and basic needs access. The aim is to create sustainable solutions, not dependent solutions, that allow people to be self-sustainable in their healing and growth.

“I don’t call this a job. I don’t call this going to work. This is my other community.”