Cleburne Chamber of Commerce President Cathy Marchel discussed Christmas activities, Hurricane Harvey and Cleburne in general during her Friday talk at the Pinnacle Club 50.
Pinnacle Club 50 consists of Cleburne and Johnson County businessmen and women and other community leaders who gather monthly to fellowship and catch up on community happenings.
Guy James, Pinnacle Bank senior vice president, introduced Marchel as the lady who needs no introduction so well known is she about town.
“For 14 years she’s been the leader of the chamber,” James said. “If ever there was a get-it-done person it’s Cathy.”
Johnson County Judge Roger Harmon agreed.
“Cathy’s done an outstanding job,” Harmon said. “We have a winner in her. She’s like that bunny rabbit, just keeps on running.”
Marchel, while touched, insisted that she’s but one part of the equation.
“It’s really a team effort and we have a wonderful team of workers and volunteers who work to make this a great community,” Marchel said. “And, of course, my husband and kids who grew up volunteering because we wanted to instill in our family the importance of giving back.
“[Former Chamber President Nell Dixon] did such an amazing job that it was an honor to follow in her footsteps.”
Christmas activities and outreach took up the majority of Marchel’s talk.
The Cleburne Strong Toy Drive is underway to benefit children affected by Hurricane Harvey as well as local children in need. The city of Cleburne as well as local churches, schools, organizations and individuals have partnered with Ingleside and surrounding coastal towns particularly hard hit by the hurricane. Marchel and Cleburne Fire Chief Clint Ishmael recently delivered supplies to Ingleside and surrounding communities.
“A lot of the smaller communities that were not on the news,” Marchel said. “The devastation even now is just unbelievable. We’d see trash and debris in the roads and wonder why no one had picked it up. Then you drive further into the towns and it’s just overwhelming the amount of damage and debris still there. You see people still living in their houses that are sideways now with boarded up windows.
“In Port Aransas the newer houses seem to be OK but many of the older houses are devastated. To be protected, people have to have high wind insurance on top of flood and regular homeowner’s insurance and for many that’s just too expensive. Port Aransas is a tourist town with a lot of mom-and-pop businesses and many of those are still closed. Out of 300 or so restaurants only 12 were open when we were there. Many families have lost everything and the people who own those mom-and-pop businesses can’t afford to go several months without being open.”
Officials created the toy drive to collect toys for children in those areas to help them have a Christmas in the middle of getting back on their feet.
New unwrapped toys will be accepted through Dec. 11 at the chamber, 1511 W. Henderson St.; Apos Boot Outlet, 110 E. Chambers St.; and The Cabinetry & Tile Store, 915 N. Nolan River Road.
Children can have their picture taken with Santa for free from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 9 at the chamber provided they donate a toy toward the drive.
The hope, Marchel said, is to fill several trailers with toys to transport to the coast.
In other holiday news, Marchel noted that about 2,500 attended the annual Christmas tree lighting at Hulen Park for the chamber’s Whistle Stop Christmas. Marchel predicted the biggest crowd ever for the annual Cleburne Christmas Parade, which took place later that same day and said hundred’s of tickets have been sold for today’s Candlewalk Tour of Homes holiday event.
More generally, she said the chamber is involved in numerous events throughout the year, including Leadership Cleburne, Fourth of July celebrations, Cinco de Mayo and the chamber’s Young Professionals Group.
“That’s very encouraging to see the number of millenials involved in that and the passion they have for giving back to the community,” Marchel said. “We’re also working on bringing back Leaders in Lipstick, which is a woman’s group. Overall we have 758 member businesses and are the largest chamber in Johnson County. We strive to be the best and to give our members and the community plenty to do.”
The chamber also partners with Plaza Theatre Co. on Shakespeare in the Park and with the Times-Review on an annual magazine, Cleburne: This Is Texas.
“We have a major event every other month,” Marchel said. “We’re all about taking Cleburne to the next level.”
Marchel also touted city programs, such as the facade grant, and efforts by others to preserve and renovate downtown and encouraged all to visit The Depot, a recently constructed stadium that serves as home to the Cleburne Railroaders and community events.