Some of Cleburne’s best examples of service and achievement were honored for their outstanding commitment to the community during the East Cleburne Community Center’s 31st Annual D.L. Barrett Awards Banquet and Silent Charity Auction held Saturday night at the Cleburne Conference Center.

Founded in 1987 by the late D.L. Barrett and others, the mission of the ECCC is to provide Cleburne youth with the opportunity to enhance the quality of their lives through positive interaction with the community. 

Cleburne resident Ben Oefinger emceed the event and said each year he is grateful for the opportunity to do so. 

As of Monday afternoon, the event raised $41,275, which included money raised from the silent and live auction, sponsorships and individual donations.

ECCC Chairman Dexter Baldwin said they are grateful for all the support.

“The outpouring of generosity from the donations from the people that attended and the silent auction really helped us reach our total,” Baldwin said.  


Community service awards

ECCC board member Matt Lee presented the Outstanding Community Service award to the Educational Opportunity Center and Smith Middle School. 

The EOC is a program funded by the U.S. Department of Education that provides counseling and application assistance to qualified participants interested in pursuing higher education. Higher education can be college, university, trade school or any other training after the completion of high school or a GED. 

Lee said the EOC has serviced about 2,200 individuals in the area since it opened in January 2017 in Cleburne. The organization was founded in Fort Worth with the mission to serve rural communities. 

Several officials with the EOC accepted the award. 

After the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, Lee said many local residents and schools stepped up when Cleburne Mayor Scott Cain challenged them to stand “Side by Side with Ingleside” by providing assistance and support to the families impacted by the storm. 

Students and teachers in Cleburne ISD raised money and donated school supplies for students, but he said Smith MS stepped up in a big way when they hosted a school dance for Leon Taylor Junior High School in Ingleside ISD. 

Smith MS Principal Amber White, two students and several administrators from the district accepted the award.


Scholarship awards

In celebration of more student success, the ECCC presented two $500 scholarships to Cleburne High School seniors Logan Hessing and Sara Ray. 

ECCC board member Willie Baldwin said the ECCC has always been a supporter of education institutions like Cleburne ISD and the Johnson County Home-school Association.  

The students who receive the scholarships succeed in school based on their GPAs, community service and other factors, Baldwin said.  


Humanitarian awards

When it comes to serving the community, ECCC board member Valerie Carlton said they also look for individuals who make a difference. 

She awarded the Outstanding Humanitarian Service award to Helping Cleburne Homeless and Cleburne residents Michelle Moralez and Fernando Rodriguez. 

Starting in 2016, HCH has helped over 55 local individuals secure housing and has the mission to aid and uplift the homeless in the Cleburne area by connecting them with jobs and community resources, according to the banquet’s program.

Founder Brenda Bransom thanked the ECCC for the award and said they hope to open up a food pantry in the near future. 

For the past several years, Moralez and Fernando have hosted a free Christmas Day meal in downtown Cleburne for anyone from anywhere to enjoy a cooked meal during the holiday. 

“The dream started with 17 turkeys that Michelle bought and turned into a full Christmas Day meal in a hospitable setting,” Carlton said. “Because of their efforts to serve in the community, people can share their Christmas Day with other people that love to show kindness here. No one has to be alone, and no one has to go hungry.” 

Moralez also helps with HCH, and Rodriguez is the owner of Apos Floors and Apos Western Wear, as well as a member of the Pinnacle 50 Club and the Cleburne Chamber of Commerce.

Moralez thanked the ECCC for the award and said it takes a lot of people to put the Christmas Day meal together, and only God could make that happen.

Rodriguez also thanked the ECCC and praised God for this opportunity.

“If you want to succeed in life, you got to start giving,” he said. 

He said there are many opportunities to give in Cleburne. 

The ECCC also recognized Bill Kilgore, a religion professor at Southwestern Adventist University, who brings international students to visit children at the ECCC every week to talk to them about their culture and how it’s different from their own. 

Dinner was catered by Jean’s Divine Catering and music was provided by the CHS jazz band. To view a video of the band performing, visit  

For more information about the ECCC, visit

$41,275 raised for nonprofit

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