Refugee Services of Texas, one of the nation’s leading refugee resettlement agencies, has named two Panhandle residents and leaders to the nonprofit’s Board of Directors. Debra McCartt and Holly Bellah, both residents of the Amarillo area, will each serve a two-year term. 

Refugee Services of Texas is the state’s largest refugee resettlement agency with five state locations (Amarillo, Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston) and a sixth office in the Rio Grande Valley devoted to assisting survivors of human trafficking.

“Debra and Holly’s credentials speak for themselves, and their passion for displaced families is the kind of passion that allows RST to excel in serving our refugees across the state each and every day,” said Russell Smith, LMSW, and CEO of Refugee Services of Texas.  “We couldn’t have asked for more dedicated and committed representatives to sit on our Board,”

Debra McCartt is the former Mayor of Amarillo and is currently the Community Relations Director for the new Embassy Suites in downtown Amarillo. Born and raised in Amarillo, McCartt graduated from local public schools and attended the University of Texas at Arlington where she earned a degree in Health and Physical Education.

She has worked in marketing for Amarillo’s public radio station KACV, in community relations for Texas Tech Medical School Amarillo, as a patient advocate for a community hospital in Amarillo, as the Director of Child Care for Amarillo College, and in community relations for Pantex. She has spent much of her life as a community volunteer across her home town with organizations like United Way, the Salvation Army, Faith City Ministries, Eveline Rivers Childrens’ Coat Project, Leadership Amarillo, and Leadership Texas.

McCartt has served on several City of Amarillo boards, including the Amarillo Economic Development Board. She served on the City Council for two terms and later as Mayor of Amarillo for three terms, during which she worked with the Texas Municipal League.

Holly Bellah is an instructor of Social Work and the BSW Field Director at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas. She holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Social Work and is a licensed master social worker. In her first term, she will serve as Vice President of the Board of RST.

Prior to settling in the Texas Panhandle, Bellah lived in Hong Kong for 18 years, Taiwan for four years, and India for a year and a half. Her field experience includes school social work, clinical group facilitation, work with foster youth and families, and work with refugees as an ESL teacher, liaison to community resources, and nonprofit work with the Amarillo Burundians Community Service organization. Through her work, she has built relationships with refugees from the Somali, Burmese, Karen, Chin, Iraqi, Ethiopian, Burundian, Ugandan, Congolese, and Rwandan communities.

Bellah teaches courses in Human Behavior, Group Practice, Practice with Immigrants and Refugees, and Contextualized Practice at West Texas A&M University. She has given workshops in the community and at the annual National Association for Social Workers. She also serves on the Amarillo Refugee Advisory Council and the Anti-Racism Think Tank.

Terms for board members last two years, and responsibilities include organizational oversight and leadership.