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Community Book & Buyers Guide

Complimentary Issue 2019-20 EDITION


YOUR CONNECTION 2019 Community Book and Buyers Guide

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Your Connection 2018-19







Your Connection 2018-19

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A Message from the CEO Mount Pleasant is a community built on innovation, entrepreneurship, family and faith. Located just off of the I-30 corridor, we are strategically positioned at the crossroads of America and are poised for continued growth and economic development as new businesses, new entrepreneurs, and new families make Mount Pleasant their home, recognizing the limitless possibilities available here. The Mount Pleasant-Titus County Chamber of Commerce is composed of over 450 local businesses who contribute to the economic strength and cultural diversity of our community. These businesses range from the restaurant run by a brother and sister to the cutting edge industry leader that employs over 900. Our members are the backbone of this community, the drivers of growth, the dreamers and the doers. As we look to our future, we see good things. We see continued development in our downtown, new industries making Mount Pleasant home, and an ever-increasing quality of life as we work to make sure that our children have meaningful educational and cultural experiences that inspire them to be the next generation of entrepreneurs who put Mount Pleasant on the map just as Bill Priefert (Priefert Manufacturing), Ricky Baker (BigTex Trailers) and Jim & Krista Webb (Sweet Shop USA) have done before them. Our three school districts are thriving and working relentlessly to provide the best K-12 education available. Dual language classrooms, Destination Imagination programs, project-based learning, Lemonade Day, industrial technology training facilities and dual credit courses with Northeast Texas Community College are part of the academic pathways available to the youth of Mount Pleasant. A two year degree at NTCC or a four year degree from Texas A&M Texarkana at NTCC provide higher ed opportunities right here at home. With the feel of a small town and the innovation and vision of a thriving city, Mount Pleasant offers families and business leaders the opportunity to live, grow and prosper in Northeast Texas. If you are visiting us, we welcome you. If Mount Pleasant is home, we encourage you to continue to partner with us as we work to make our community stronger for the next generation.

Katie A. Stedman, President & CEO

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A partnership with the Mount Pleasant-Titus County Chamber puts you in contact with business owners and employees in the region. • Support of more than 480 business and professional Chamber members • Partnership with the Texas Association of Business • Partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce • Access to individual leadership coaching services • Partnership with the Texas Chamber of Commerce Executives Association • Enhanced business credibility through Chamber partnership • Influence in legislation and local government that affects your business • Increased market share and presence via the Chamber’s extensive advertising services • Availability of cutting edge business education and workshops

Partner with the Chamber. See your company connect, grow and succeed! For more information on the Chamber, please call 903-572-8567 or visit


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Titus County - 426 square miles Mount Pleasant - 10.2 square miles




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Connect With Us on social Media! /mountpleasanttx /visitmountpleasant


YOUR LINK TO GOOD BUSINESS The Mount Pleasant-Titus County Chamber of Commerce, founded in 1939, is the area’s leading membership driven organization. The Chamber’s goals are simple– enhance business and improve the area’s quality of life. Our 450-plus member base ensures strong partnerships with the City of Mount Pleasant and area communities, the Mount Pleasant Economic Development Corporation and the Mount Pleasant-Titus County Visitors Council. Chamber committees and task forces actively improve the economic welfare of the community through study, recommendations and actions related to business retention and expansion, education, government affairs and tourism. Chambers are only as strong as their membership support. Please take a moment to browse our partnership directory in the back of the magazine. We invite you to join the Mount Pleasant-Titus County Chamber as a business or individual. Enjoy the partnership that is your link to good business.

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80 Year History


Your Connection 2018-19

MOUNT PLEASANT An economic hub and cultural cornerstone of East Texas. By Mount Pleasant Chamber of Commerce and the City of Mount Pleasant

Located on a broad hill in the heart of Northeast Texas, Mount Pleasant has served as the county seat of Titus County since 1848, after Texas became a state. When the county was organized, the small village that would become the seat of government was given the name Mount Pleasant. In 1850, the little town on the hill had a population of 227. One thing that contributed to attracting settlers, and especially merchants, in the early years was the Clarksville to Jefferson Road, which passed d through Mount Pleasant. Established by Andrew J. Titus, s, for whom Titus County is named, this road made possiblee the movement of goods to and from Jefferson, which at that time could be reached by riverboats.

also include tourism from visitors to three large reservoirs nearby. Mount Pleasant is an amazing place to live, work and play in Northeast Texas. The Mount Pleasant Chamber of Commerce’s mission statement says that the organization exists to “connect, serve and promote our members for the purpose of building economic

prosperity in our community.” Their vision statement takes it even further with an emphasis on “inspiring business leadership, promoting regional tourism, and enhancing quality of life” in Mount Pleasant. These big goals are where the Chamber Board of Directors and staff have set their sights, and they are working daily to make it all happen.

Today the town serves as a retail center not only for Titus, but adjoining Franklin, Camp, and Morris counties. Titus Regional Medical Center serves the entire region’s healthcare needs by bringing world class healthcare to Mount Pleasant and it’s surrounding communities. Mount Pleasant is a commercial center for farming, livestock, and oil. Northeast Texas Community munity College, which serves a three-county area (Camp, Morris, and Titus) is located there. Important industries


The tourism arm of the Chamber managed the annual events that bring visitors into our community who spend money and invest in our community during their stays. Those events included the annual Cinco de Mayo on the Square, Uncorked Food & Wine Festival, Everything Texas Ranch Run, Highway 271 Car Cruise, and Deck the Halls Holiday Bazaar. These events were promoted across the region and into surrounding states. The community itself was featured in


Your Connection 2018-19

regional and national publications, including Texas State Travel Guide and USA Today. The Chamber believes in investing consistently into our schools and our students, connecting business to education and supporting Mount Pleasant’s future workforce. The Mount Pleasant Chamber of Commerce was founded over 80 years ago and currently has approximately

500 members who are the heartbeat of the organization. Every project, program, and event organized by the Chamber is designed to ultimately support and advance those members. Their mission and vision statements say it all - connect, promote, and serve to build economic prosperity here at home.




Your Connection 2018-19


Dr. Lance Walsh knew, at an early age, what his life’s calling would be—and he never looked back. As a fifth generation Texan, Walsh, who today heads the Advanced Urology Institute (AUI) at Titus, was born in Amarillo. As a middle child with an older brother and younger sister, Walsh later graduated from Seattle High School before returning to his West Texas roots to pursue higher education. “No one else in the family went into medicine,” Dr. Walsh explained of his other siblings. “For me, though, I just knew early on that becoming a doctor was what I was supposed to do.” After overcoming an illness as a young boy, the experience had a profound impact on the doctor-to-be. Earning both a medical degree and a PhD in Philosophy in Medical Biochemistry from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Walsh then completed a grueling, seven-year residency in urology from one of the most prestigious institutions in the country, UT Southwestern in Dallas. “I literally learned from the best,” Walsh said. ‘It was world-class training. I saw just about every scenario you could imagine which really prepared me well.” That adaptability has served Walsh well especially when it comes to urology, an ever-changing field of study. “Urology is a very unique area to

specialize in,” he explained, “and there have been some really major advances in it. That means, as an urologist, you have to continue learning because there’s always something new in this profession.” Some of the new urological advancements Walsh uses in his practice today include the Blue Light Cystoscopy or Cysview which can detect tumors in the bladder. Another popular and improved qualityof-life procedure, UroLift, is minimally invasive and treats urinary tract symptoms due to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The UroLift permanent implants relieve prostate obstruction and open the urethra directly without having to cut or remove prostate tissue. Other advances in urinary health have led to such treatments as HoLEP (Holmium laser enucleation of the prostate) for BPH patients. This type of laser surgery removes blockages of urine flow. Still other advances include daVinci robotic prostatectomy for the treatment of prostate cancer and also the MOSES laser lithotripsy for kidney and urinary stone management. Tests such as Urodynamics determine how well a patient’s bladder and urethra hold and release urine. Much of what is available in advances now didn’t exist when Walsh first started practicing. After successful work at UT Southwestern, the native Texan decided to take a “walk on the sunny side” when

he moved to Palm Springs, California to establish a robotics program. Averaging 25-35 robotic prostatectomies each year, Walsh built up a highly respected, private practice over the course of some 15 years. “The use of robotics has dramatically changed how we treat patients,” Walsh said. “It has replaced a lot of open surgeries with less blood loss than an open incision. Robotics only requires a small incision so less blood loss means less recovery time. After several years of success, Walsh started to miss his home state. While on a visit to West Texas to interview for another potential job change, Walsh happened to pick up a flyer promoting bass fishing in the nearby area. “I had not heard of Mount Pleasant before then, but I was immediately interested,” Walsh said. That intrigue led Walsh, who received the Patient’s Choice Award from Vitals in 2019, to make a call to find out more about Titus Regional Medical Center (TRMC). “I had a great, initial phone conversation with Terry (Scoggin, TRMC’s CEO) and was very impressed with their unique vision to partner with physicians to develop excellent, clinical practices,” Walsh said. “I also learned that there was a great need for an urologist in the area. For over two years, the closest, practicing urologist to Mount Pleasant had been in Sulphur Springs and Paris. I quickly realized I was needed here.”



Indeed the need was great so Walsh and his family decided to make the crosscountry move arriving in Mount Pleasant in early spring of 2019. It’s a decision he hasn’t regretted. “I always wanted to be somewhere where I could have a big impact on my patients,” Walsh said. “I feel like that’s exactly what I’m able to do here in Mount Pleasant. I joke that I took care of CEOs, politicians and movies stars when I was in Palm Springs and now I get to take care of real people. I really enjoy now being able to have great impact in an underserved area of my home state. My vision for AUI is to someday be a Center of Excellence in Northeast Texas.” Specializing in a variety of minimally, invasive and robotic-assisted surgery procedures, Walsh and his staff are able to treat local patients suffering from a myriad of urinary conditions. Walsh is one of only a handful of urologists in Texas to have performed both HoLEP and UroLift procedures on BPH patients. He received formal training to perform such intricate procedures at the prestigious Cambridge University in England.


Your Connection 2018-19

Mount Pleasant resident Bill Resser met Dr. Walsh by happenstance early one morning at a weekly gathering. “Dr. Walsh was the guest speaker that morning at our Men’s Prayer Breakfast,” Resser said. “I had not met him before that day. After he talked to the group, I went up to him and explained what I had been experiencing. He asked me to make an appointment to see him and I did.” That appointment led to a definitive diagnosis and the decision to perform the Urolift procedure. “I had been suffering for the past 8-10 years,” he explained. “I had just decided this was the way things would be for me.” The surgery took place May 2019. Dr. Walsh took the additional precaution to perform the surgery at Titus Regional Medical Center instead of as a normal, outpatient procedure. “He (Dr. Walsh) decided, because of my age, to have it done at the hospital and I really appreciated that he did that,” Resser explained. “I received excellent care. From the reception desk to all of the nurses to Dr. Walsh, everyone was very courteous. I had the best experience.”

After a short recovery period of only a few days, Resser’s quality of life has dramatically improved. “It literally changed my life,” he said of the procedure. “It’s kind of like the 1920s song ‘I’m just doing what I did again.’ Without a doubt, the surgery has improved how I live. I’m so thankful to Dr. Walsh and his staff.” Like Resser, Mount Pleasant resident Charles Wilkerson is also thankful for the care he has received at the AUI. “I had a great experience,” Wilkerson said. “Dr. Walsh is a great, caring doctor and the staff is the greatest. They have made this journey as easy as possible and I am thankful for everything.” Dr. Walsh, the father of older sons Jacob and William, is also thankful that he, his wife Laura and young daughter Naomi made the move east. “We feel like we’ve really had an easy time making the move and adjusting,” Dr. Walsh said. “It’s a great fit for the family. It’s a very good place to live and raise a family.”

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Your Connection 2018-19


SUCCESS By Annette White

When the 2018-19 season began for the Chapel Hill Lady Devils basketball program in the fall, the team of 10 had one way in mind of how to reach their goal of winning a state championship. Ironically, the young ladies, at the insistence of husbandand-wife team Head Coach Matt Garrett and Assistant Coach Courtney Garrett, first watched a movie about football set in Birmingham, Alabama in the early 1970s amidst racial tension. That divide existed until a Billy Graham Expo event in Dallas in 1972 changed the mindset and the direction of the entire community. One Way, the motto from the motivational movie, also became the battle cry for the Titus County team as they defeated every single opponent on their schedule, all 37 of them. “It’s based on the scripture found in John 14:6 that says there’s only one way to do whatever it is you wish to accomplish: one way to practice, one way to play and one way to ultimately achieve your goals,” Matt Garrett said. “This is not about the wins or the losses, but truly how you play the game. Are you going to be about lifting up your teammates or are you going to try to tear them down? There’s only one way.” “And there’s only one way this season could have been scripted,” Courtney Garrett said. “God had it all planned out. He just needed for us to trust Him to make it happen. I can’t tell you how



many people, who have no association with Chapel Hill, have come up to us after watching the girls play and just ask what it is about them. I know it’s because we all truly believe there’s only one way for this to all happen.” That determination took the Chapel Hill team all the way to the Final Four at the Alamodome in San Antonio in early spring. After edging out Edgewood 42-38 to punch a ticket to the state championship, the Lady Devils won a nail biter against Wall 53-49 before taking on Woodville in the state matchup. In the end, the Lady Devils triumphed 55-46 to capture the ultimate title March 2, 2019—a first in girls basketball for the small 3A district. “The girls have wanted this for so long,” Courtney Garrett said of the title. “It’s been their dream. This wasn’t something they just woke up in January and started trying to achieve. This is three or four years in the making. Just to see it become reality for them was pretty amazing especially knowing how hard they had worked. “ In addition to bringing home the state hardware, the Lady Devils continued to received accolades long after returning home from the Alamo City. “Rep. John Ratcliffe, U.S. District 4, came to visit the school,” Courtney Garrett said. “He brought us a U.S. flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol.” Additionally, Rep. Cole Hefner provided the team with a Texas flag that was flown over the state capitol in their honor, and Sen. Bryan Hughes penned a Senate resolution recognizing the team. The Lady Devils even received an invitation from the Texas


Your Connection 2018-19

Capitol to meet Governor Greg Abbott. “You know, I was really more excited for the kids because it’s something that, more than likely, they’ll never get to experience again in their lifetime,” Matt Garrett explained. While there, Hefner and Hughes recognized the team on the House and Senate floors, and the team presented Abbott with a signed basketball and a team picture. “They didn’t know what to think,” Matt Garrett said as he described the girls’ reaction to the state-wide recognition. “For them to experience something like that was just amazing.” The honors didn’t end there, though. Locally, the Mount Pleasant City Council and the Titus County Commissioners Court both voted on proclamations declaring March 5 and March 6 as Lady Devil Days. Even more recently, the Titus County Community Alliance recognized the team at the downtown Mount Pleasant Juneteenth celebration and presented the Lady Devils with a trophy. “The support of the entire community has been absolutely incredible,” Courtney Garrett said. “The media coverage, the recognition by the Chamber, City Council, County Commissioners and Community Alliance, the local businesses who broadcast the games and displayed congratulatory signs, the law enforcement agencies and fire departments who facilitated the best send off and welcome home escorts ever, and the churches and pastors who covered us with their prayers, they have all contributed to making this season unforgettable. We are eternally grateful for all of the encouragement. There is no way we could ever explain exactly how much it has meant to us!”


Additionally, state and national recognition began pouring in as the team was notified of the records set for the season. The Lady Devils set three state records, four national records, and received four awards from the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches (TABC). The team earned the state record for free-throw percentages in a state tournament both for the 3A division and all classes with 23 of 24 free throws scored, 95.8 percent. Mason Garrett also earned the state record for second-best free throw effort by a player in the state tournament with 10 of 10 free throws scored. The Lady Devils set national records with their three-point field goal percentages also: 20 three-point field goals in a game was earned on their Dec. 4 game against Center, 333 three-points field goals made in a season, 923 three-point field goals attempted in a season, and 36.1 percent as a threepoint field goal percentage for the season. The Chapel Hill Lady Devils were also recognized as the Texas Team Three-Point Champion and the Texas Team Free Throw Runner-Up by the TABC. Mason Garrett was awarded the Texas Individual Three-Point Champion, and Matt Garrett was awarded the 3A Coach of the Year by the TABC. In addition to this year’s championship, the team has won three district championships in the past four years. Matt


Garrett, after completing his 28th year as a coach, ended the season with a record 609 career wins. Senior Ja’Mya Bishop left the state matchup with the MVP award and several of her teammates also received All-District Team honors including Rebekah Crane, Mason Garrett, Kaylyn Tompkins, Kinly Posey, Katia Hernandez, Macy Cox, Rachel Crane, Carolina Newman and Katelyn Baker. With state tournament records for an undefeated season, overall free throw percentage and 3A Conference free throw percentage, the Texas Girls Coaches Association (TGCA) All-State Teams also named Rebekah Crane and Mason Garrett to the 3A elite team. The Texas Association of Basketball Coaches also named Rebekah Crane and Mason Garrett to their Top 20 All-State list. As Matt Garrett looks toward the upcoming season, he is faced with the challenge of filling the void left behind by departing senior duo Bishop and Tompkins, but he is confident that his team has the potential and the ability to fill those shoes. “I think we’ve got lots of good players that are ready to step up and fill those roles,” he said. “Just as those girls stepped up and filled those roles last year. We just need to approach it the same way, play it one game at a time, play at the best level we can, and take the games as they come. We just reload and do it again.”




A SEASON TO REMEMBER Henderson 69-46 Arp 91-19 Atlanta 85-38 Winona 89-9 New Boston 92-24 Anson 74-23 Slaton 48-39 Haskell 44-37 Big Sandy 87-23 Pleasant Grove 65-57 Queen City 83-16 Kilgore 49-23 Van Alstyne 74-39


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Center 90-33 North Lamar 91-23 Pattonville 77-36 Winnsboro 33-28 Mount Vernon 47-46 Cooper 77-21 Pine Tree 79-25 Greenville 73-15 Terrell 70-32 Commerce 86-29 Paris Chisum 44-31 Pattonville Prairiland 43-21 Winnsboro 42-37

37-0 Mount Vernon 50-46 Cooper 89-33 Commerce 85-22 Paris Chisum 71-35 P L AY O F F G A M E S Omaha Pewitt 69-18 Elysian Fields 73-27 New Boston 80-38 Mineola 70-55 Edgewood 42-38 Wall 53-49 Woodville 55-46



Harts Bluff ISD Celebrates

60 YEARS with Program Expansions By Annette White

When Dr. Bobby Rice became superintendent of Harts Bluff ISD two years ago, the school board immediately tasked him with the responsibility of finding an innovative way to add a high school to the district. “We already have two great high schools in our community and if we were just going to try to duplicate those services, there would not be a reason for us to have a high school,” Rice said. “But if it were something new, something innovative, then it would be something the board would be interested in doing.” Rice said he had been told that the conversation to add a high school had been happening for a number of years before he arrived. “In the spring of 2018, I started looking at things that might be beneficial to our district and I found out about the early college high school program, which is not something I had been aware of prior to that,” Rice said. According to Rice, there are currently 183 school districts in the state that have at least one early college high school. While that number may seem high, Rice said there are approximately 1,200 districts in the state, making the percentage of early college high schools relatively low. “I think the reason that more high schools don’t become early college high schools is that it is harder to fund if they’ve been in operation for a number of years, because in order to fund the program they would have to take money from another program,” Rice theorized. “We’ve never had a high school, so we don’t currently collect any ADA (Average Daily Attendance) money for grades 9 through


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12, so we will be using that money to pay for the college program.” School districts in Texas receive funding based in part on ADA enrollment numbers. Because Harts Bluff ISD is not building another facility for the high school, and is adding one grade level each year over four years, the district expects the funds received from the state to be enough to cover tuition and books for each student in the program.

According to Rice, the school district will completely fund tuition, books, and transportation to and from the college for each student enrolled in their early college high school. The goal is to have every student graduate from high school with either an associate of science degree in a multidisciplinary track or a certification of their choice from Northeast Texas Community College.

“We chose the multidisciplinary track because it’s easier to transfer to a four-year university and, hopefully, not lose any credits,” Rice reasoned. “But even if they do lose a credit and a class won’t transfer for some reason, they’re not out any money, and they still have a degree.” Rice also mentioned that they could possibly offer more tracks based on the certifications the students choose to attain in the future. So what’s the biggest obstacle facing the new program? According to Rice, it’s a three-letter acronym called the TSI. The Texas Success Initiative, better known as the TSI test, is an assessment that determines the appropriate level of college coursework for an incoming student. Students must obtain certain scores in math, reading and writing in order to enroll in college-level courses. “We’ll have to have a program in place for this entire year to do TSI prep for our eighth-grade students, and we’ll test in the spring,” Rice said. “We’ll also have an opportunity in the summer for a summer bridge program, sort of like a TSI camp, to help them with that test as well.” Rice said students entering the ninth grade who have not passed the TSI will only be enrolled in courses which do not require a student to have previously passed TSI. School staff will keep working with each of those students to bring them up to that level. He said the district will have to have plans in place for students who do not reach that goal of degree or certification attainment. “(A total of) 63 percent of our kids in the district are low socio-economic, meaning 63 percent of our kids qualify for


free or reduced lunch,” Rice explained. “In my opinion, the only way out of poverty is through education.” Rice’s personal goal for the Harts Bluff students is to graduate high school with a college experience where they can see themselves as a college student and feel confident in their ability to go on and get a bachelor’s, master’s or even a doctorate degree. At the very least, he wants them to have the skills training necessary to prepare them for whatever field they want to go into next. “It just makes them more marketable as an employee,” he said. “Just having an associate’s degree gets them half a million dollars more in salary in their lifetime.” Rice said the district has already begun to put resources in place to help prepare their students for college-level courses. “We’re starting a program called AVID, which is designed originally for firstgeneration college students, to help teach them note-taking skills, organization, using calendars, those types of skills. We’ll have resources in place to help any student struggling. Being a small school, we know every kid. We can pull every kid and work with them on things they might be struggling with.” Rice explained that the district has also been in contact with the University Interscholastic League (UIL) about establishing a rough timeline for competing in sports at the high school level. Since the program is building only one grade level each year, Rice doesn’t expect to be competing at the varsity level for approximately three years after the program’s start, or when the incoming freshman would be juniors.

Even then, it might take longer to build the athletic program, depending on the number of students participating in sports and their interests. The first freshman class will begin in the fall of 2020. This year’s eighth-grade class is approximately 52 students. While the district will accept transfers at no cost, Rice warned of a couple of stipulations for out-of-district students interested in transferring and entering the early college high school program. “We won’t accept any students in tenth, eleventh, or twelfth grade that first year, because we are building the program one grade at a time. We would only accept transfers in ninth grade and below,” Rice explained. “Also, while we have never charged a fee for out-of-district transfer students, we do have a screening process, and they have to be approved.” Rice expects to have between 250 to 300 high school students by the time all four grade levels are in place. He said he appreciates working with a school board that is forward-thinking enough to make these kinds of decisions for the kids. “We are very excited to be the first school in the area doing this,” he said. “Anytime you have a more educated workforce it is a benefit to the community.” Since the 1959-1960 school year, Harts Bluff ISD has served as a benefit and beacon to the surrounding community by

educating area students. As a result of the consolidation of two school districts, the Nevill’s Chapel Common School District and the Oak Grove Common School District, Harts Bluff was originally formed 60 years ago due to low enrollment at Oak Grove. As part of the consolidation, the location of the current district is strategically placed halfway between the two original school buildings and was named after the nearby farm-to-market road. A few years later, the Midway School District also combined thereby creating a three-community consolidated district which still exists after six decades. As part of a continued effort to further expand services, Harts Bluff Pre-K and Kindergarten students will walk into a brand new 14,400 square feet facility in Fall 2019. The new Early Learning Center, at an estimated $2.6 million price tag, will feature state-of-the-art accommodations for the district’s youngest students. For more information on the Harts Bluff Early College High School or the new Early Learning Center, visit



Historic Seasons TOGETHER By Annette White

For the first time in the history of the school’s soccer program, both the boys’ and girls’ teams advanced to the regional tournament in Spring 2019. The girls’ varsity team made it to the quarterfinal round at regionals before being defeated and the boys advanced to the regional final--just one game shy of the state tournament. “What got us there this year was that all the girls came together as a team and worked hard every day,” Assistant Coach Erin Bowers said. Bowers explained that the team also had strong senior leadership including Dulce Memije who was the leading scorer and offensive MVP. Bowers said while those girls will be missed, the program has continued to have a strong freshman group to help fill in the gaps left behind by graduating players. “It was also Coach Hernandez’s fourth year meaning his program had been implemented from the time these senior girls were freshmen,” Bowers explained. “As coaches, we say that it takes that first group of freshmen you get to become seniors to really see the success of your program. As a new coach, you are basically building the program from the ground up, so I think that played a big factor in it.” Ramon Hernandez, the girls’ head soccer coach for the past four years, has since left the district for an assistant principal position at Pleasant Grove. Boys soccer coach Jason Mayfield, on the other hand, has continued the team’s legacy as reigning district champs.


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“Of the last 18 years, the boys have won 16 district championships,” Mayfield said. “We’ve been to two state tournaments and to the regional tournament seven times. So, this year really wasn’t that historic for the boys individually, but when you combine it with the girls’ success, then it really becomes more significant. That doesn’t happen that often---two teams from the same school advancing that far in the same season.” Mayfield, like Bowers, credits years of hard work as the reason for both teams’ successful season. “I think a lot of it is work ethic and preparation; just years and years of preparation,” Mayfield insisted. “A lot of people think that preparing for a season just takes place in that year, but that’s not the case. You spend years preparing for one particular season.” Mayfield, who is the son of longtime Mount Pleasant ISD Coach Joey Mayfield, has literally spent years getting to this phase of his career. In fact, the elder Mayfield started a soccer program in the district in 1984. Jason, a graduate of Texas A&M University-Commerce, later returned to work as his father’s assistant coach before he retired. While the Tiger boys’ team enjoyed successes throughout the season, Mayfield, himself, reached his own career milestone this year after posting his 300th win as a coach in early spring. The win came after the Tigers defeated Mansfield Lake Ridge 5-3. Although the victory was memorable, Mayfield knows it will take even more hard work and preparation for the team to


reach its ultimate goal: winning the state championship. “Our success tells us that we’re obviously doing a lot of things right, but we’re still not getting past that big obstacle of actually winning the state championship. It tells us that there is growth that still needs to happen in our preparations,” Mayfield said. Both Bowers and Mayfield said they have seen an increased interest in the program with incoming freshmen over the last several years. “We’ve pretty much seen a growth in student interest for a long time,” Mayfield said. “We have had more kids sign up for soccer than any other sport in our school district with numbers as high as 180 students in the high school soccer program.” Bowers mirrored Mayfield’s comments. “Every year the program just keeps getting bigger,” the girls’ assistant coach said. “It just continues to grow and grow and grow with the incoming freshmen and now they’ve seen what success feels like so, you know, everybody likes to be a part of successful things.” Both Bowers and Mayfield expect the departing seniors to be one of the biggest challenges both teams face in the upcoming season in addition to a new head coach for the girls. “We graduated a very large amount of seniors this year,” Mayfield said. “With that being said, our JV had a tremendous year. We even had to pull some of our JV players up during the playoffs due to injuries, so they were able to gain a lot of experience.” Mayfield said if the players will come back with the proper mentality and ready to work, the team has an outstanding opportunity to keep rolling and continue building on the legacy. Bowers said while she expects the upcoming season to be a big transition for the girls’ program, she thinks the girls are up for the challenge. “It will be a challenge, adjusting to a new coach and a new program for the first time,” she said. “But I think they can do it.” With the support of the community, including the multimillion dollar sports complex under construction just north of Town Lake, Bowers and Mayfield expect continued success in the soccer program. “It’s important for these kids to have access to a good field outside of the high school field,” Bowers said. “This complex is going to make a huge difference in the off season, for them to have a place

to go and play and not have to worry about twisting an ankle or breaking a knee.” Mayfield agreed. “Like at the high school, soccer is the sport that the most people participate in in the community,” he said. “We have a men’s league, a women’s league, and a kid’s league. We don’t currently have the facilities to support the number of people involved. We don’t have the fields to do it, and we never have in my lifetime, so getting the complex is years and years overdue.”







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By Sonya Roberts-Woods

Consuelo Mercado, affectionately known as Connie, has literally had a love affair with food since childhood. Over the years, that passion for all things flavorful has translated into a successful restaurant chain feeding thousands throughout Northeast Texas for more than 25 years. As the owner and operator of Mount Pleasant’s favorite Two Señoritas Mexican Restaurant and Cantina, Connie developed an affinity for cooking learning from her mother as a toddler. She grew up in her mother’s hometown of Nochistlán in the state of Zacatecas in central Mexico. Her father, José Luis Gasca, hailed from Guadalajara. The Gasca family of eight children, four boys and four girls, were raised by their mother, Maria Gasca Perez. “My father was not in the home when we were growing up,” Mercado explained, “so my mother was basically a single parent raising all eight of us.” As the second born and oldest daughter, most of the household duties of the family automatically fell to young Connie. “My love of cooking most definitely came from my mother at an early age,” she explained. “Mom made great tortillas that her mother taught her how to make. We would sell them around town. And then one day we got the idea to start making donuts.” Using a two-burner stove that sat atop a stack of bricks, the family would cook every single day to survive---literally. “We would get up very early in the morning to get everything ready to sell,” she said. “Looking back, I don’t think I necessarily missed out on my childhood. Sure, I had to grow up quickly, but I don’t feel like I missed out.” Converting an old wooden Coca-Cola box into a makeshift tray complete with strings as handles, young Connie made her rounds throughout the neighborhood selling the delightful, dough

delicacies. At the tender age of five, she was already an entrepreneur in the making. “I’d knock on every door and sell until they were all gone,” she said. “I’m sure most of them bought from me because they felt sorry for me.” On one of her recent trips back to her childhood neighborhood, Mercado ran into a young girl that reminded her so much of herself. “She was selling donuts and I bought all that she had,” she said. “All I could do was cry. It just took me back to my days growing up there.” After years of struggling, the Gasca family of nine came to Texas looking for better opportunities. For several years, they lived in Dallas. When Connie was 15, the family moved to Terrell. That transition would later have a profound impact on her life. “On any given weekend, my family would make 150 dozen tamales (1,800 if you’re doing the math) Thursday through Friday night,” she explained. “On Saturday mornings, we would have customers already lined up. We would go around to all of the factories in town and be there by lunch to sell them. Selling food kept us alive when we were in Mexico and once we moved here too.” Connie’s mother was eventually able to find employment at a window blind manufacturing company where she worked for several years and later as a cook and caregiver for a local doctor. “It was still hard,” she said, “but she never asked for food stamps. If we only had beans, then that’s what we had to eat. We regularly shopped at Goodwill and the Salvation Army for clothes. On the rare occasion we ate out, she would take turns taking us. The girls would go with her one time and then she would take the boys the next time. She couldn’t pay to take us all out at the same time.” Ironically, Connie grew up similarly to her mother.


“My Mom was one of five children,”Mercado said. “Her mother, my grandmother, was basically a single parent too because her father lived and worked in the states. In fact, her father left the day my mother was born. Mom didn’t see him again until she was 18.” In fact, Connie’s mother often fantasized about who her father really was. “My mother thought her father was John Wayne because that’s who she would always see in the movies,” she said. “Because she didn’t know her father, she pictured him as being John Wayne. Her dad was actually short and dark—not at all like John Wayne.” Without a father figure at home growing up just like her mother, Connie had to quickly learn how to make ends meet. Working at a local supermarket, she also tried her hand at fast food. “I lied and said I was 16 so I could get a job at Burger King,” she said. “Back then, you could get away with that. I was actually only 13 at the time.” That tenacious spirit even led her to go looking for jobs for her brother and cousin one day. “I was at the restaurant getting applications for my brother and cousin because it was taking them too long to get a job. I saw someone peeping from the back in the kitchen.” That someone was Johnny Mercado. A few years earlier, he had been staying at Connie’s aunt’s house after her brother-in-law brought him to the states. “He (Johnny) originally came (to the U.S.) with the idea of going to school, but had to start working at the restaurant.” Working as kitchen manager at Johnny Miguel’s, Johnny immediately hired Connie’s family members. He also, instantly, gained her as a girlfriend. The young couple dated for several months even though Connie’s mother wasn’t too excited about the two lovebirds. “Mom was a Jehovah’s Witness and only believed in marrying within the religion so it took a while for her to even come around when it came to Johnny,” she said. “Growing up, I couldn’t really go out with my friends. I remember wanting to be a cheerleader, but I couldn’t try out. Mom was very picky about everything we did.” After almost a year together, the two decided they officially wanted to be husband and wife. “We made the decision to leave and elope,” she said. “I left a letter on my bed for my Mom and climbed out my bedroom window.” The young pair set out for San Antonio where they tied the knot May 26, 1985. “I eventually called my Mom after a few days,” she said. “I found out from my brothers and sisters that she drank a whole bottle of Jack Daniels and was so upset for two days. For my mother, it was tough because I was


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more like her best friend. She knew she could always depend on me. I think she was worried she would lose me now that I was married.” The couple also needed to make a trip to Mexico. “We went so I could meet his mother for the first time,” she said. “Johnny was the oldest son and basically head of the house. He had been sending money back to his family to help take care of them ever since he left home. We had a lot in common and our love for our families and especially our mothers was something we instantly bonded over. ” “John captivated me from the very beginning,” she said. “He was nothing like I thought he would be. We actually spent most of our time together talking about our dreams for ourselves and our parents.” The couple remained in San Antonio for about two years before returning to Terrell. Johnny reconnected with a former employer, John Woodruff, owner of Johnny Miguel’s. He was now married to Cheryl Woodruff. The four entrepreneur decided to open the first Two Senoritas together in 1987 in Canton. “It was so bad,” Connie laughed. “It was hilarious what that first restaurant looked like. It was an old Taco Delite building and it had definitely seen better days. Cheryl and I found some towels with a Santa Fe print and made curtains out of them. We had these ugly, fat birds on the wall with flowers all around them. It was not good, but it was all we had.” Together the two couples combined the Woodruffs’ real estate and business acumen with the Mercados’ authentic Mexican culinary skills to serve up a winning recipe. In fact, the restaurant’s name speaks to merging the two cultures of the couples together as Cheryl Woodruff explained in 2018 when she returned to Mount Pleasant to help Connie and her staff celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Mount Pleasant location. “From the start, we each knew what our best strengths were and I think that’s what helped us to be successful,” Cheryl Woodruff said in 2018. “The name itself, Two Señoritas, is a combination of what Connie and I represent—it’s the English (Two) and Spanish (Señoritas) or Tex and Mex coming together. It doesn’t seem like 25 years. We’ve been through a lot over the years since those first days in business. We’ve always had each other’s backs no matter what. We’re just like sisters.” After successfully launching the first restaurant in Canton, John started looking at other locations to expand. In 1988, they opened in Greenville and then a year later in Commerce. The first Papa Nachos location came to Granville in 1990 and then another Two Señoritas opened in Sulphur Springs in 1991. In 1993, the team decided Mount Pleasant would also make the

perfect location for a Two Señoritas. “Those first few years were a struggle,” Connie said, “but Mount Pleasant was always so supportive of us being here--so much so that Johnny and I decided to make this our home.” In 1994, the Woodruffs decided to head to Florida opening a Two Señoritas there. In 1996, Pittsburg welcomed Papa Nachos to town and a year later another Florida Two Señoritas opened in Bradenton followed by another one in Texarkana in 1998. “I think what set us apart was that we had a love for the food we were making,” Connie said. “Johnny was a great cook and a very detailed person. He never believed in opening a can of anything.” While juggling the demands of several restaurants in those earlier years, the Mercados gave birth to two sons, Carlos and David. Connie later took in another son, Brian, as her own. “The two of them literally grew up in the restaurant,” she said. “We’d work long hours and when they weren’t in school, they’d be right here with us at the restaurant. It’s not surprising that both of them work with me in the restaurant today. ” After several years of success as local restaurateurs, a trusted employee almost ruined the family-owned business. And then, in 2005, Connie tragically lost her lifeline, Johnny. “I wasn’t sure I’d be able to go on,” Connie said. “When he died, I felt like I lost me. I felt like I was nothing without him. I did everything with him. Johnny was such a good husband, father and business partner. He always pushed me and encouraged me. He was not a jealous person. He wasn’t controlling. He always had my back. I miss him still even after all these years. I think he would be very proud of me. He was always my biggest fan.” With the help of family, Connie didn’t give up. “I knew I had to be there for the sake of my sons,” she said. “They had already lost their father. I couldn’t let them lose me too.” Bouncing back, the business continued pressing on until 2013 when the Gasca matriarch became ill.

“Mom had a stroke in September 2013 that left her paralyzed on her right side,” Connie said. “She spent 12 days in ICU. That was hard for me because I had devoted my entire life to my mother. She was such a go getter before her stroke. She was always there for each of us. She had been living with my sister when it happened. It was hard to see her in that state. I immediately brought her to live with me after the stroke.” The following summer Connie, her mother and her father decided to take a trip back to Mexico. “We talked about flying, but Mom decided she wanted my father to drive us so that’s what we did.” Just a couple of hours from their destination, tragedy struck. August 3, 2014 is a day Connie Mercado will never forget. “Dad hit a pothole and lost control,” she explained. “The car flipped several times and Mom was thrown out of the car. Dad was pinned in and the car ended up on top of me. Bystanders were able to rescue me dragging me onto the asphalt.” “I could feel the blood rushing to my face,” she said. “I felt no pain but I could see the bones sticking out of my arms. I could see the ground, but I couldn’t move. My eyes were out of their sockets. “ At some point, she remembers someone joining her as she waited for the ambulance to arrive. “A lady sat beside me and asked what my name was and where I was from,” Connie said. “She kept talking to me and told me she was a doctor.” Connie later learned it took almost three hours for medical attention to arrive. “I don’t know how to explain it all except to say, all of a sudden, I felt a sense of calm and peace,” she said. “I even saw (an image of) Johnny standing there looking over me.” Losing over two liters of blood, Connie was transported to a hospital along with her father. She later learned the devastating news about her mother who was 69 at the time of the accident.



“ I kept asking for my mother and trying to figure out what had happened to her,” she said. “When they told me she didn’t make it, the whole hospital could hear me scream.” Spending two months recovering after the wreck, Connie regularly returned to Mexico for two years after the accident to receive care from her doctors. While her injuries were severe, over time she recovered and so did her father. “My mom’s legacy will always be her family,” she said. “She didn’t have much money, but what she had was love for every single one of her children and grandchildren. She loved the Lord and she always wanted us to remain close and not split up. That is why we have such a tight bond with each other still to this day.” In fact, several of Connie’s siblings either work with her or are themselves in the food services industry. Frank, the oldest, lives in Dallas and works for the city. Born after Connie, George lives in Greenville and operates a sports bar. Paul lives in Kaufman and works at a restaurant owned by his sister Raquel. CJ lives in Pittsburg and works as a Two Señoritas manager. Joe, now deceased, lived in Dallas. Sister Raquel lives in Forney and owns her own restaurant. Ruth also lives in Kaufman and works at Raquel’s restaurant as well. All of the siblings and extended family get together on holidays. The Gasca sisters host a summer party each year and take girls’ trips at least twice a year. “Whenever we have a family gathering, I’m the one who usually cooks,” Connie said. “I’m sure Mom wouldn’t have it any other way just as long as we all continue to stay in touch and get together as often as we can.” The siblings also now stay in touch with their father who lives in Sulphur Springs and works for Connie. “I keep him busy doing nothing,” she laughed. In October 2018, the Mount Pleasant Two Señoritas rolled out the red carpet and threw a huge 25th Anniversary Celebration complete with mariachi bands, selfie booths, karaoke contests and


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Mexican folklore dancers. In preparation for the event, Connie and her team embarked on massive renovations starting a year earlier. The project included extensive expansion to the patio area, new entry doors and Mexican-themed décor upgrades throughout the exterior and interior. “I was so grateful Cheryl was able to come and be a part of the celebration,” Connie said. “That meant so much to me for her to be there because we started it all together. The week couldn’t have been any better. My staff did an outstanding job putting everything together.” The event was also a time for Connie, now the proud grandmother of six, to honor her late husband with a scholarship presentation. The family has been awarding the Johnny Mercado Scholarship to a local high school senior for the past 9 years. The fiesta also allowed Connie to celebrate several of her kitchen staff many of whom have worked at Two Señoritas for more than 20 years. “They have set the standard for the food we serve,” she said. “They are truly a part of my family.” Connie also values the customers who have continued to support her business now for over 25 years. “My customers have always been my eyes and ears,” she said. “I depend on them to let me know what’s good or what’s not. And what I like most about my customers is that they give me the opportunity to fix something if it’s wrong. They also show us love when we get it right.” “Someday, I would like to write a couple of books; one about my Mom’s life and maybe one about my life. I want these books to empower people to conquer their greatest fears and make their dreams come true.”

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Dedication & Hard Work By Sonya Roberts-Woods

Buddy McCollum can still recall the night his family’s company received the prestigious Business of the Year award at the annual Chamber of Commerce banquet in 2019. “When they first started reading the description of the recipient, I kept saying to myself ‘gosh, that sounds a lot like something we’ve done.’ The similarities were almost identical. The more they kept reading the more I realized, ‘gosh, that is us they’re talking about. I was completely shocked.’” Winning the award was, arguably a far cry from McCollum’s beginnings. Born in Waxahachie, a young Buddy McCollum and his family moved to Titus County when he was in the third grade. The year was 1959. “My Dad’s sister, my aunt Opal, lived here and worked at the Mount Pleasant Service Press, an office printing business, which was near where Ivan Smith Furniture is today,” Buddy McCollum said. The product of a former army soldier father from Ennis and a mother who also served in the military, McCollum’s parents met while they were both stationed at Fort Knox in Kentucky, her home state. “Mother was an E6 in the army and Daddy was an E5 so she was actually a higher rank than him,” he said. After serving their country, the military couple decided to trade in life living near a big city for a more rural setting. So McCollum, his parents, an older sister, Kathy, and an adopted brother, Don Hester, loaded up all of their possessions and made the trek to the piney woods. While Mount Pleasant is today known nationwide as a mecca for the modernday utility trailer, McCollum remembers when his father created and pulled one of the first 16-foot utility trailers to Titus County. It was how the McCollums made their move to Mount Pleasant. At the time, Buddy was only 10 but his Dad’s original creation had a lasting impact on the future entrepreneur. “He built the floor and sides of the

trailer out of an old Air Force truck,” Buddy McCollum recalled. “It was pretty impressive even back then.” And it didn’t take long for others to take notice of his Dad’s treasure of a trailer. “I remember my Dad sold his first trailer to Roland Nicholson’s dad,” McCollum said. “When we first moved here, Dad worked for Frank Glover in downtown Mount Pleasant. The shop was where Cliff ’s Body Shop is now located. Dad originally built cattle trailers for himself, but then people started wanting him to build them one too.” A year after moving to Mount Pleasant, the family moved to a 64-acre farm in Cookville which featured a peach orchard, cattle, hogs and a couple of horses. Attending the community school through the eighth grade before transferring to Mount Pleasant schools, McCollum walked one mile to school each day. As he got older, he took a paper route earning a mere $4 a week for a 14-mile roundtrip route on horseback or bicycle. Once in high school, McCollum eventually graduated to a better-paying job working for more than two years for Marvin Priefert. “Working for him was the first time I figured out that ordinary people could really make it big,” McCollum said. “I saw firsthand how hard work could make a difference. Bill (Priefert) really took the company to where it is today, but his father Marvin definitely laid the foundation.” Learning what he could about the trailer business from both his father and the elder Priefert, work locally came to an immediate halt when, in 1970, he was drafted into the Army. After boot camp, McCollum was stationed at Fort Hood in Killeen as part of the 518th Battalion, 410th Company as a part of the military police. “I learned a lot about hard work and to never give up while I was in the Army,” he said. “I also learned that there’s always a way out even when things get tough. The military taught me a lot about life.”




After returning home from the service, McCollum took a job working for Larry Spruill of Spruill Honda. When he wasn’t working, the young Army veteran also found time to socialize. One chance encounter at the local movie theater soon turned into much more. “A friend of mine and I were on the Piggly Wiggly parking lot on my motorcycle,” he said. “I was visiting with my friend Patty Justice and Becky was on the passenger side. I asked if I could get a

did, though, around the clock. It was good money even back then, but you rarely had time to enjoy it.” At the time, McCollum’s father was still managing his welding shop. His father later started selling trailer parts as owner of Mount Pleasant Trailer Parts. The business was located on Highway 67. In 1980, McCollum got a call from his father one day. The elder McCollum had a proposition. “Dad was selling the trailer parts portion

date with Becky.” Becky said yes and Buddy made his intentions for something more serious known soon afterwards. “On our very first date, I introduced her to my mother as ‘the girl I’m going to marry,’” he said. “I knew she was the one.” On the couple’s third date, three weeks later, the two went to Hugo, Oklahoma and made everything official. “We got ready to give our names and when I said John R. McCollum, Becky said, ‘I didn’t know that was your name,’” he laughed. “She just figured it was Buddy because that’s what everyone called me.” And why Hugo? “Back then, you didn’t have to wait three days to get a license, at least not in Hugo,” he said. “I think the fee was $5 and we waited for the minister to come home from fishing to perform the ceremony.” The ceremony took place December 21, 1972. At the time, Becky was 18 and Buddy was 21. The newlyweds returned to Mount Pleasant and spent one week with Buddy’s parents before renting a hotel room and then moving into the Suzanne Apartments located where the local Dairy Queen is today. The first few years as newlyweds were financially tough for the couple. But things improved when, in 1975, Texas Utilities opened its doors for business. McCollum was hired to work as a welder/mechanic. “It was shift work so we would work 6080 hours a week,” he said. “Work was all I

of the business and wanted to know if I would come run it for him,” he said. McCollum had a big decision to make. And by this time, he and Becky were now the proud parents of two children: Michael, who was born in 1975, and Crystal, who arrived three years later. The young father could continue making good money or take a substantial cut in pay in order to continue the family’s legacy. “I decided to take a chance on me,” he said. “I would be going from making $40,000, which was good money especially back in the 70s, to making $12,000 plus commission. At the time, we had just built a new home and had purchased our first new vehicle. It was scary, but I believed I could do it. Most importantly Becky believed in me. She supported me 100 percent.” At the time, there were over 150 trailer manufacturing businesses within a 50mile radius and McCollum knew they all would need parts on a regular basis. For years, Buddy built his business on good relationships with his customers and set up satellite locations in Florida, Georgia and Colorado to service clients nationwide. Earlier on, McCollum fostered several important business partnerships—one of which was with Jerry Clay, an accountant from Fort Worth. “I’ve always valued good partnerships with good people,” he said. “I think that’s been one of our keys to success.” Another key to McCollum’s success has also been his willingness to work hard to

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provide for his family. “At one point, I even dabbled in real estate and sold cars; anything I had to do to take care of my family,” After a series of trailer mergers and business buyouts, Best Fender Products was born in 1993. “I thought of the company like I do when I go out to eat,” he explained. “You can have a really nice restaurant with pretty good food and great service and then you can have a restaurant with the best food in town, but if the service is lousy most people will never grace the doors again. I knew I could out service and out work every single one of my competitors at the time.” Surrounding himself with good people, McCollum quickly assembled a team of dedicated people--- several of which still work for him today. “I learned a long time ago that you have to trust and respect the people who work for you,” he said. “That’s something that is earned, though, and not a given.”

Business While Best Fender has had great successes over the years, one of the company’s darkest periods came in 2008 and 2009 when the economy nationwide took a nose dive. “We went from nearly 100 production workers down to 8,” he said. “It was the first time I had ever had to lay anyone off. I hated to do it, but I had to in order to save the company. It was really tough because you knew every single one of those employees had families. What was tough for us was that production all over the country literally stopped. There was no place for our stuff to go. Cash got short for everybody.” But the company weathered the storm and as the economy slowly bounced back so did BFP. “A lot of our customers simply went out of business during that time, but the ones that hung on immediately started calling us again.” Those calls kept coming in and a few years ago BFP had the opportunity to buy

out a Grand Prairie precision fabrication company which serviced Fortune 500 companies nationwide and abroad. The result of the buyout was the creation of a new proprietary division called IMFAB or Imagination Fabrication and a brand, new state-of the-art building. “We actually take the customer’s concept, imagine it from scratch and then design it for them,” McCollum explained. But before the paint could dry on the build out of the new facility (located at the corner of County Road 2348 and Highway 67), the company quickly experienced growing pains to the tune of double the size they originally projected. Today the facility encompasses some 60,000 square feet filled with office space and large shop areas featuring cutting-edge fabrication machinery. “What these (IMFAB) machines can do is just amazing,” McCollum said. “And what we are now able to offer our customers is just beyond anything we’ve ever been able to do. All of what we do

at IMFAB is completely proprietary. We keep our noses clean and are fiercely loyal to our customers. We don’t discuss what we’re working on for them because we’ve made them a promise. We take that very seriously.” When McCollum is not taking care of serious day-to-day demands of heading two companies, he likes to spend his free time in the clouds—literally. “I absolutely love to fly,” he said. “There’s nothing like being up in a plane; nothing like the peace you get when you’re in the air.” Often in the air with his family, McCollum now enjoys nothing better than being a grandparent. Actively involved in various causes in the community including the Mount Pleasant Rodeo Association, the McCollums are well known and respected in the area for their philanthropic spirit. “Becky and I have been tremendously blessed by God and that’s something we’ll never take for granted.”




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'LVFDUGHG +LVWRULF 0XUDO )LQGV 1HZ +RPH $IWHU 5HVWRUDWLRQ By Annette White When Dr. Jonathan McCullough first heard, in 2015, about the Dr. John Biggers’ mural, “History of Negro Education in Morris County, Texas�, he had no idea the impact that discovery would have on the community. “It was during a gallery presentation in the Whatley Center when this gentleman came up to me and said to me, ‘You know, you’ve got all this Biggers’ art, but the biggest piece of art is this mural that’s sitting in Pewitt Elementary School,’� explained McCullough, Executive Vice President for Advancement at Northeast Texas Community College (NTCC). “He said to me, ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could get that mural on campus to where the public could see it’, and that’s really what got the ball rolling.� McCullough said shortly after that a team of concerned citizens from Morris County formed a committee to create a petition. The group’s request would be for the Paul Pewitt CISD school board to provide the mural to NTCC on loan. “The agreement was that if we would get it refurbished then they would give it to us on loan for x amount of years,� McCullough said. The condition of the mural, however, almost squashed the project completely. NTCC didn’t have the funds to restore the artwork. However, a private donor stepped in to fund the project. “It ended up costing $105,000,� McCullough said. “It took a year to refurbish. The art itself is priceless, but that gives you an idea of what this piece is worth.� In addition to funding the restoration, McCullough said the donor, identified in a brochure simply as the Burt & Nancy Marans Charitable Fund, also provided funds for future restoration projects that might be needed for the mural. When the restoration was finished in 2017, the curator delivered it to the college to go on display in the John Biggers Room of the Charlie and Helen Hampton Library, a room specifically designed and constructed to house the mural. On the other side of the wall, in the back of the library, is the Biggers gallery,

featuring several famous Biggers works. “The college had the foresight to build a room specifically for this piece of art,� McCullough said. “The room is climatecontrolled. Every night at midnight the shades get drawn to protect the mural from the morning sun. They raise at 10 a.m. once the sun has risen high enough.� According to McCullough, the room was designed with a wall of windows facing out into the Whatley Center parking area so that anyone visiting the college, especially at night, would be able to view the art and learn the story behind it. “We have a special LED light that shines down so that it is visible from the parking lot. We also have all the information hanging outside the room so that anyone walking by can learn this mural’s story,� McCullough explained. According to McCullough, Biggers was commissioned by the state in the early 1950s to paint three murals. People from all across the state lobbied for the artist to come to their community providing the painter with a rich pool of cultural subjects from which to choose. In Morris County, the students and staff at George Washington Carver High School lobbied for the artist to honor the retirement of their very own Professor Phineas Y. Gray. McCullough said Biggers became so enthralled with Gray and his story that he ended up spending additional time in Morris County before completing the project. “This guy (Professor Gray) made such a huge impact on the community in the 30s, 40s and 50s that Biggers ended up staying with him for 3 months before he painted the mural,� McCullough said. The mural, which measures 22 feet long and six feet tall, hung in the halls of the all-black high school for many years before it was later integrated into Paul Pewitt Elementary. McCullough said from there, the mural’s story becomes a bit of a mystery. “There are different stories as to why it was taken down during the integration of the schools,� McCullough said. “One

story is that it was taken down because the schools were moving around. The high school was becoming an elementary school and then it just got set aside and forgotten about. Another story is that it was taken down because somebody said under no circumstances is that art going in our school. There was a lot of racial tension at that time. East Texas was one of the last places in the country to integrate.� Regardless of the reason, it was set aside. According to McCullough, the mural was forgotten about or shuffled around for 18 years. “It first got put behind some bleachers, then when they were renovating the gym it got put under one of those built-up floors in the music room,� he said. In 1988, a school district employee found the mural and realized its importance. McCullough said the school contacted Biggers and invited him to join them at a rededication ceremony when they hung it back up in the elementary school in 1989. McCullough said Biggers even repaired a tear in the painting himself before the ceremony. “Just think about that,� McCullough said. “The fact that it survived all of that is a testament that there is a reason for this art to have made it.� Since being moved to the college, McCullough said the piece has garnered plenty of attention, both locally and statewide as a tourist attraction for art enthusiasts and history buffs. “There are still many people in the community today, especially in Morris County, who remember this from being in the school in the 50s and 60s, and every time we have visitors, we get new stories we didn’t know about, and that’s always intriguing,� McCullough said. The piece is currently being featured as the centerpiece to an exhibit in the Witte Museum in San Antonio, but McCullough said it is expected to be back in the Biggers room on campus by mid-September 2019. To learn more about the mural and its history, visit


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Dr. John Thomas Biggers


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Dr. John Thomas Biggers, Ph.D. (1924-2001) was born in Gastonia, North Carolina on April 13, 1924 as the last of seven children. Biggers was born in a shotgun house built by his father Paul who was a Baptist preacher, farmer, shoemaker , schoolteacher, and principal of a three-room school. His mother Cora was a housekeeper. Biggers was reared in a close family that valued creativity and education. When Biggers’ father died in 1937, John and his brother Joe were sent to Lincoln Academy, an American Missionary Association school in Kings Mountain, North Carolina. After graduating from Lincoln, Biggers attended Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) beginning in the fall of 1941. His goal, at the time, was to become a plumber. During his freshman year at Hampton, however, Biggers enrolled in an art class taught by the dynamic educator Viktor Lowenfeld. It was a course that changed his life. Lowenfeld encouraged his students to explore the culture of their own people. During that time, in 1943, Biggers was drafted and joined the U.S Navy, which was then still segregated. He remained stationed at Hampton Institute and made models of military equipment for training purposes. In that same year, his talents were recognized when his work was included in a landmark exhibit Young Negro Art at the Museum of Modern Art

in New York. Biggers was discharged in 1945. When Lowenfield left Hampton to teach art education at Pennsylvania State University, he persuaded Biggers to follow. In 1946, Biggers enrolled at Pennsylvania State where he earned a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art education in 1948. In that same year, he married Hazel Hales. He earned a doctorate from Pennsylvania State in 1954. He was awarded an honorary doctor of letters degree from Hampton University in 1990. Biggers later established and chaired the Department of Art at Texas Southern University in Houston where he remained for the next 34 years before retiring in 1983. In 1988, he was recognized as the Texas Artist of the Year. While working full-time as a teacher and administrator at Texas Southern, Biggers began establishing his reputation as a major AfricanAmerican artist of the Southwest. From 1950 to 1956, Biggers painted four murals, including the one for Morris County, in African-American communities in Texas which was the beginning of his interest in this category of painting. During the course of Biggers’ illustrious career, Lowenfeld significantly influenced his artistic development. Biggers later created works that reflected his perspective of the anguish that people have suffered merely because of their race or religious beliefs. Biggers died January 25, 2001 in Houston at age 76.

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Your Connection 2018-19

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1,>,3,9: /HTPS[VU 1L^LSLYZ 0UJ (903) 572-8361 110 West 2nd Street antjewelry /VV]LY»Z 1L^LSY` (903) 577-8183 5VY[O 4HKPZVU (]LU\L ^^^ MHJLIVVR JVT OVV]L rsantiquesestatejewellery/? rf=639208296142988

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Your Connection 2018-19

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7/65, 9,7(09 +H` 5P[L -VVKZ (903) 918-7408 Find full listing under Grocery & Convenience Stores ,;? 7OVUL 9LWHPY HUK :H[LSSP[L :LY]PJL (430) 222-2016 :V\[O 1LɈLYZVU (]LU\L

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*V^HU 0UZWLJ[PVU (903) 577-0777 Find full listing under Real Estate: Inspection 4VVYL 7LZ[ *VU[YVS (903) 639-2884 *9 Hughes Springs

7,; -66+ :,9=0*,: 4PK (TLYPJH 7L[ -VVK (903) 572-5900 5VY[O -YVU[HNL 9VHK 4V\U[ 7SLHZHU[ 7L[ 9LZVY[ (430) 222-2024 1901 West Ferguson Suite 200

3\PZ 3VWLa 7OV[VNYHWO` =PKLV 33* (903) 241-3352 1\KZVU 9VHK 3VUN]PL^ 5LSTZJHWL :[\KPVZ 33* (972) 658-3663 :HT .\aTHU 7OV[VNYHWO` (903) 241-2258 manphotography

73<4)05. :,9=0*,: >VVK (PY *VUKP[PVUPUN 0UJ (903) 572-8549 Find Full Listing under Air Conditioning & Heating


769;()3, :(50;(;065 0KLHS :HUP[H[PVU :LY]PJLZ 0+,(3 :: 5VY[O :LU[LY (]LU\L Omaha ^^^ PKLHSZHUP[H[PVUZLY]PJLZ JVT 7VY[ ( 1VU 0UJ (903) 572-9397 >LZ[ -LYN\ZVU 9VHK

7905;05. :,9=0*,: ,JOV 7YPU[ +LZPNU :[\KPV (903) 572-6673 119 East 6th Street :O^LPRP 4LKPH (210) 804-0390 :WHJL *LU[LY +YP]L :HU (U[VUPV :[HWSLZ (903) 572-8089 -PUK M\SS SPZ[PUN \UKLY 6ɉJL Supplies & Furniture ;OL 7YPU[PUN -HJ[VY` 0UJ (903) 897-5636 *1 >PZL :LY]PJL 9VHK >LZ[ Naples

79646;065(3 0;,4: :0.5(., 7YPU[ >VYRZ (903) 717-8999 Find full listing under Embroidery & Screen Printing :PNU :[VW :PNU :OVW (214) 970-6510 5VY[O 4HKPZVU (]LU\L texas :[HWSLZ (903) 572-8089 -PUK M\SS SPZ[PUN \UKLY 6ɉJL Supplies & Furniture

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3PNO[OV\ZL 9LHS[`¶ +HUPLS HUK Corri (S]HYLUNH (903) 576-1989 5VY[O 1LɈLYZVU (]LU\L

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7HISV *OPUJOPSSH 9LHS[VY (903) 908-5154 7HSVTH 8\PU[HUH 3LHS 9LHS[VY (903) 809-3483 :\aPL *HZ[PSSV 3PNO[OV\ZL 9LHS[` (903) 466-5779 5VY[O 1LɈLYZVU (]LU\L

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9,:;(<9(5;: :7,*0(3;@ -66+: (SSHU +LUUPZ *VUJLZZPVUZ 0UJ (903) 235-4936 Find full listing under Event Services & Venues (U[VQP[VZ ` 4HYPZJVZ º»:PYLUPH»» (430) 222-2149 >LZ[ -LYN\ZVU 9VHK :\P[L (WWSLILL»Z 5LPNOIVYOVVK .YPSS )HY (903) 577-7234 .YLLUOPSS 9VHK )HJRYVHK )HY HUK .YPSS (430) 222-9803 >LZ[ -LYN\ZVU 9VHK )SHSVJR )HY ) 8\L (903) 572-1561 5VY[O 1LɈLYZVU (]LU\L Suite C )VIH ,[J (430) 222-2065 (SL_HUKLY 9VHK :\P[L )YH\T»Z (903) 572-0772 :V\[O 1LɈLYZVU (]LU\L ;OL *OVWOV\ZL VU )HUROLHK (903) 270-2600 102 Main Street Mount Vernon *YHa` /LPMLY»Z *HML (903) 563-6972 730 East 16th Street erscafe

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5HYKLSSV»Z 7PaaH ;H]LYU (903) 380-6200 5VY[O 4HKPZVU (]LU\L 5L]LYPH 3H 4PJOVHJHUH (903) 960-5622 ,HZ[ -LYN\ZVU 9VHK ^^^ MHJLIVVR JVT UL]LYPH lamichoacana 6\[SH^»Z )HY ) 8\L (903) 572-7860 >LZ[ -LYN\ZVU 9VHK 7HUKH ,_WYLZZ (903) 577-8810 :V\[O 1LɈLYZVU (]LU\L 7PaaH /\[ (903) 572-1871 :V\[O 1LɈLYZVU (]LU\L 7VSSV )\LUV 33* (903) 572-3368 >LZ[ -LYN\ZVU 9VHK

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4PSS»Z -SV^LYZ .PM[Z (903) 572-3951 Find full listing under Florists

*HZ[SL[VW 9VVÄUN *VUZ[Y\J[PVU (903) 434-3351

4PZZ )LOH]PU )V\[PX\L (903) 572-4545 124 West 2nd Street OH]PUTW[_

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9VJRPUN * 3LH[OLY )V\[PX\L (903) 305-3489 109 West 3rd Street www.rockingcleatherandbou :HT»Z *S\I (903) 663-5588 Find full listing under Wholesalers :L^PUN HUK =HJ\\T ,ZZLU[PHSZ (903) 380-8944 >LZ[ -LYN\ZVU 9VHK Suite D ]HJ\\TLZZLU[PHSZ

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( 4VT»Z 3PML *OPSKYLU»Z )V\[PX\L (903) 573-2889 112 West 2nd Street childrensboutique

:[YVUN :^LL[ :V\[OLYU (602) 425-0906 sweetandsouthern

9V\UK ,`L :\ZOP .\` (430) 222-2084 113 West 3rd Street

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:HT»Z :^LL[Z (903) 305-8598 112 West 2nd Street :JOSV[aZR`»Z (903) 717-8207 :V\[O 1LɈLYZVU (]LU\L smtpleasant :VUPJ ¶ 4V\U[ 7SLHZHU[ (903) 575-0141 5VY[O 1LɈLYZVU (]LU\L ^^^ ZVUPJKYP]LPU JVT ;HJV )LSS (903) 572-3366 :V\[O 1LɈLYZVU (]LU\L ;HX\LYPH 4VU[LYYL` (903) 575-9447 721 West 12th Street /?rf=116153511746999 ;L_HZ *YHPNZ (903) 717-4492

*SHZZPJH .VSK ,U[LYWYPZL (903) 575-9266 5VY[O 1LɈLYZVU (]LU\L +PHTVUK ; 6\[Ä[[LYZ (903) 577-8190 5VY[O 4HKPZVU (]LU\L ^^^ KPHTVUK[V\[Ä[[LYZ JVT .S`UZ >LZ[LYU >LHY )VV[ 9LWHPY (903) 572-3232 5VY[O 1LɈLYZVU (]LU\L ern-wear-132664406746888 /VTLIV` :WVY[Z^LHY (903) 577-7000 :V\[O 1LɈLYZVU (]LU\L

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2HZZLPNO»Z (903) 572-2239 118 West 2nd Street

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+LM`PU» ;PTL 4LKPJHS :WH (903) 575-7281 Find full listing under Healthcare: Dermatology

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Making iT Efficient. Networks | Copiers & Printers | Document Management

Sales Agent: Amy Mackey | 903 238 7477 800 284 4270 |

Right here in your Hometown! Carpet, Laminate, Vinyl, Ceramic Tile, Luxury Vinyl Tile, Hardwood Flooring, Custom Showers 1216 NORTH JEFFERSON AVE MOUNT PLEASANT, TX



Your Connection 2018-19

Creative Catering Goldie Vaughn 903-563-4341 715 East Ferguson, Mt. Pleasant, Tx 75455


THE LANDING Event Center

ALL PROCEEDS fund Hope Ministries, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to transform lives & alleviate poverty for single mothers with children and senior women. ( 9 03 ) 3 05-9 09 8

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Babies - Kindergarten have Sunday Morning Bible Study classes at 9:30 in the preschool wing. Also, during the 11:00 service, Bible stories and care are provided for babies - 4 year olds. 1-6 Grade Kids have Sunday Morning Bible Study classes at 9:30 in the children’s area.


7-12 Grade Students have Sunday Morning Bible Study classes at 9:30 in Southside. Breakfast is provided every week.


Adults have Sunday Morning Bible Study classes at 9:30 throughout the church, designed for every age and stage of life.



TRINITY BAPTIST CHURCH VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT 2830 West Ferguson Road • Mount Pleasant, TX 75455 (1 mile north of Interstate 30 on Highway 271)

Trinity Baptist Church exists to become a Gospel-Centered community, redeeming brokenness through hope in Jesus Christ.



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* Painting Parties

Doing good in our community every day.

* Glass Etching * Murals

I'm pleased to support our local Chamber of Commerce.

* Custom Artwork * Lessons

Bruce Moler 903-572-3307


Federally Insured By NCUA


400 South Madison Avenue Mount Pleasant

Maurya Beth Holland

© 2019 Allstate Insurance Co.

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