What started as a welcome committee intended to help new residents of The Retreat get to know more about Cleburne and Johnson County has morphed into a volunteer committee through which residents of the gated housing development southwest of town get involved in community service.
“When the Community Services Committee was formed in late 2009 or early 2010, it was really a kind of welcome wagon for new residents,” committee chair Stormi Lloyd said. “Most of the folks who live here are new to Cleburne and Johnson County. A lot of our residents moved here from places like Arlington and Grapevine and Colleyville. But we have people who moved here from out of state, too.
“So the committee was originally formed to help them stay connected with what’s going on here with events in the county.”
One of the first local charities the Community Services Committee began working with was Operation Blessing. The committee holds two collection drives a year for the nonprofit, Loyd said — one at the first of June and one at the start of the fall holiday season.
“They are both mainly food drives, but we collect donations of clothing and other items, too,” Lloyd said. “We call and find out what items they need, and then we try to get those items for them.”
They also hold a drive each summer to collect needed items for the Bono and Rio Vista volunteer fire departments, which serve The Retreat. She said they collect sports drinks, power bars and water so the firemen have them available when they need them.
The committee member take turns each Thursday delivering meals for Meals-On-Wheels of Johnson and Ellis Counties. And because many of The Retreat residents are animal lovers, the Community Services Committee also works hard to support the Cleburne Animal Shelter and the Ani-Meals program at Meals-on-Wheels.
“We see a lot of strays out here, too,” Lloyd said. “People seem to bring unwanted pets out here a lot and just dump them. The animal lovers here, we take them in and try to find homes for them. That’s one reason that we have residents — three residents — who are involved with a committee working on the issue of getting an animal shelter for the county, too.”
The Retreat is a private, gated community developed by Double Diamond Companies around a private golf course. It is one of six Double Diamond developments in the U.S. and one of one of four in Texas.
“Most people assume that most everyone who lives here [in The Retreat] is retired, but that’s not true. The majority of the residents here are still working,” Loyd said. “We have a lot of people who commute to Arlington and Dallas [and other parts of the Metroplex]. We have a resident who commutes to Grand Prairie every day to work at Lockheed Martin.
“One fella is in the insurance business and he commutes everyday to LBJ [Freeway] and the toll road [north of Dallas]. One gal used to drive to Garland for work every day, but she is retired now,” she said.
Lloyd said The Retreat has a number of younger families with small children, but the majority of couples are in their 40s and 50s, with some in the 50-to-70-year-old range, too. But one thing that many of them have in common, she said, is the desire to give back to their new community.
“We have one resident who works for Chesapeake Energy. He was offered a promotion and a big raise, which meant moving to Johnson County. But he volunteers with a group called Christmas in Action, and he wouldn’t accept the offer and move here until he knew there was a group here he could volunteer with,” Lloyd said.
The Retreat is still a relatively small community, Lloyd said but it is growing. Once the Chisholm Trail Parkway opens next spring, she said, that growth is likely to speed up considerably.
But for now, Lloyd said, The Retreat remains “a small community stuck out in here in the middle of nowhere. So we really rely on each other a lot. The residents here aren’t just friends, they are family. And even though we live in The Retreat, Cleburne is our city, and we want to do whatever we can to help our city and our county. That’s why we have the Community Services Committee, because that is our passion.”