Lions Feeding Lions: Match Challenge Brings Big Support to the Lion Food Pantry

Alumni Freddy and Margaret (Muffy) O’Pry presented the Lion Food Pantry with a $30,000 check on February 13 at the pantry’s grand reopening in the university’s Performing Arts Center. The funds were raised, in part, through the O'Pry Family Match Challenge in November 2023. During the challenge, donations made to the Lion Food Pantry were matched, dollar for dollar, by the O’Prys. The fundraiser was a massive success.

“We raised far beyond our $10,000 goal, and we are so happy with the results,” said Laura Lucas, director of Annual Giving at A&M-Commerce.

The fundraiser was for an important cause: food scarcity is a real issue on college campuses. In fact, according to PublicSource news, one in three college students experience food insecurity nationwide. The Lion Food Pantry is the university’s solution to this crisis, providing access to free food for many A&M-Commerce students in need. The funds donated by the O’Prys and other donors enable the Food Pantry to purchase food for students and pay for storage, refrigerators, and general upkeep of the pantry.

With a legacy of generosity at A&M-Commerce, the O'Pry family has been positively impacting students’ lives for many years.

O’Pry’s Career Story

Freddy O’Pry graduated from East Texas State University (now A&M-Commerce) in 1971 with a degree in marketing management, and Muffy graduated from ETSU in 1966 with a Bachelor of Science in Home Economics. After graduation, Freddy worked full-time at E-Systems in Greenville, processing data in the computer department. After leaving E-Systems, he tried his hand at a few different companies and careers, from purchasing a new car and truck dealership in Hunstville, Texas, to owning several businesses and franchises. However, he struggled to find the perfect fit for himself and his family.

An entrepreneur at heart, O'Pry's big break came when he ran across a newspaper ad advertising several different franchise opportunities. His interest piqued, O’Pry went to meet with some business men in Houston to discuss his options. They provided him with several different brochures for several different franchise opportunities he could buy into, one of which was a relatively new, up-and-coming therapeutic massage company.

At first, O’Pry was not impressed. He recalls thinking, “Massages? You have to be kidding me. That's what people waste their money on when they go on vacation!” He tossed the brochure aside, planning to forget the massage company completely.

However, O'Pry is a man of deep faith and conviction, and that night, he felt he received a clear message from God.

O’Pry recalled: “The Lord woke me up at four o'clock in the morning and said, ‘I handed you the opportunity you've been praying for, and you blew it off!’”

Although he still had doubts, O'Pry trusted that he had received a Divine message and chose to follow. Not long after, he signed the papers and officially became the owner of the Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth Regions of Massage Envy, a company that was virtually unknown when O'Pry purchased his regions, but is now one of the largest massage franchises in the U.S.

“The rest, as they say, is history!” O'Pry said.

With Muffy O'Pry as the company's CFO and their son as a business partner, the company prospered. Ten years later, after owning all or part of 11 individual Massage Envy spas, the O'Pry family decided it was time for a change. In what Freddy saw as an ironic twist, he sold the Houston and DFW regions back to Massage Envy's corporate office for almost 30 times what he originally paid. Today, the O’Prys still own part of two very successful Massage Envy spas in the Dallas area.

The O'Pry's invested the profits from the Massage Envy sale into their own company, Franchise Development, which provides resources and assists individuals in buying, organizing, running, and selling their own franchises. And, just as with the Massage Envy franchises, the couple works together on their business, with Freddy as CEO and Muffy as CFO. They also launched a second business, American Finance Group, which brokers loans for commercial real estate, equipment, franchises and more.

“The Lord has blessed me and my family tremendously,” O'Pry concluded.

Giving Back

Freddy and Muffy O’Pry at the Lion Food Pantry Grand Opening, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2023.
Photo by Matt Strasen | Texas A&M University-Commerce Office of Marketing and Communications

When the Lion Food Pantry opened its doors in fall 2018, the O'Prys became involved with it almost right away. Freddy explained that one day, he and Muffy were visiting Commerce when their friend, Wyman Williams (who at the time was the university's associate vice president of Institutional Advancement), offered to take them on a golf cart ride around campus to show them how much their alma mater had changed over the decades. At some point during the tour, they found themselves at the Food Pantry.

“It was there that I heard some things that I had never even thought about,” O'Pry said.

He heard stories of students who attended the university but couldn't afford to eat or were in desperate need of clothing for job interviews and couldn't afford to buy any. He also heard stories of international students who couldn't go home during extended breaks and struggled to meet their basic needs due to campus closures.

“My heart got hit big time,” he said, “and my wife and I agreed; we have to do something about this.”

Since then, the O'Prys have consistently supported the Food Pantry and the Lion Wardrobe, an on-campus resource that provides clothing to students who need professional attire for job interviews but can't afford it. To date, the O'Prys have donated thousands of dollars to the Food Pantry and even brought two SUVs full of clothing to the Lion Wardrobe.

Laura Lucas said that the O'Pry's have been monumental in keeping the Food Pantry filled and successful, and that the pantry and its patrons are forever grateful for their generosity.

“Last spring, the O'Prys donated some new refrigerators,” she said. “Mr. O'Pry is the kindest man, and he and his wife have the biggest heart for our students.”

Lucas isn't the only one who feels that way about the O'Prys. Many others have experienced their kind-hearted generosity, including Nikki Barnett, director of Student Advocacy and Support. In her role, Barnett oversees the Lion Food Pantry and the Lion Wardrobe.

“Mr. and Mrs. O'Pry have a passion for helping and making a positive, sustainable impact on students at A&M-Commerce,” she said. “They have had a significant impact on our pantry. From daily operations to weekly food purchases and transitioning to a new space, their contributions have impacted every aspect of the pantry. The pantry has been able to meet the increased demand for services due to the kindness and generosity of Mr. and Mrs. O’Pry.”

For all his success in life, what matters most to Freddy is that he and his family can take what he sees as a Divine blessing and give back to bless others.

The couple is already planning to challenge the Lion community to another fundraising for the Food Pantry and clothing donations to the Lion Wardrobe. To lead these efforts, the O'Prys have recently donated another $10,000 to the Food Pantry and have committed an additional $20,000 to be given between now and the end of March 2024. The O'Prys credit their consistent involvement with the university in part to the friendship, encouragement and support of Tre Johnson, director of Philanthropy at A&M-Commerce.

“It's our desire to help students eat, to help students have adequate clothes,” O'Pry concluded. “Personally, I desire to use my life and the time I have left to continue helping with that, and maybe even beyond.”

How You Can Help

Are you interested in supporting the Lion Food Pantry? You can donate time, money or even food! Small donations help in big ways, and volunteers are always needed. Visit the Food Pantry webpage to see how you can make a difference!

(Featured Image: From left to right, Judy Sackfield, Freddy O’Pry, Muffy O’Pry, and Nikki Barnett as the O’Prys presented their donation at the Lion Food Pantry Grand Opening, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2023. | Photo by Matt Strasen | Texas A&M University-Commerce Office of Marketing and Communication)