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Jeff Parish Jeff Parish is a high school English teacher and journalist. He has worked for the Greenville Herald-Banner, Dallas Morning News, The Paris News and Galveston County Daily News, among others. For comments, feedback or suggestions, you can email him at jeff@eparistexas.com.

Community thanksgiving worship service set for Nov. 21

eParisExtra logoA community thanksgiving worship service is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. Nov. 21 at Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, 1002 5th St. NE.

“This isn’t a meal. It’s a community-wide Thanksgiving worship service,” said Brad Aldridge, pastor of Christ Community Church. “It’s an opportunity to create unity in the midst of diversity.”

The event is an annual partnership of Paris Ministers Alliance and Lamar County Christian Ministers Association. Worship will be led by the Mount Pisgah Baptist Church choir and LaDonna Davis from Christ Community Church. Aldridge will deliver the message.

“The offering that’ll be taken that night will be distributed to Co-Ministry, Red River Valley Boys and Girls Club and Paris Pregnancy Care Center,” Aldridge said.

Mount Pisgah is this year’s host church, which changes each year. The event should last about an hour. There will be an opportunity for fellowship and refreshments after.

“We encourage all in the community to come and participate,” Aldridge said. “We encourage pastors in the community to get the word out.”

Christmas comes downtown

ChristmasKickoff_32Downtown kicked off the holiday season Saturday, with shops around the Plaza decorating for Christmas and the annual Christmas tree lighting.

Downtown merchants got into the spirit of things, many playing Christmas music and offering treats to those who visited their stores. Santa Claus landed at Creative Candy Designs shortly before 4 p.m. and made his way to the square, where he spent the evening visiting with kids and their parents. Two of his reindeer, Blitzen and Vixen, were on hand in a pen nearby. Elves and clowns also made an appearance.

Santa took a break from talking to children in his hut on the western side of the square a little after 6 p.m. to help light up the 30-foot tree light. The community choir offered music, beginning of course with “O Christmas Tree.”

There is more to come soon. Holiday events include:

  • Nov. 16: Storytime with Santa at the Paris Public Library at 11 a.m.; also on Dec. 7 and 14
  • Nov. 18: A drive-through lighted Christmas extravaganza at Crazy House Western Wear in Reno, which will continue through Jan. 1.
  • Nov. 21: A community thanksgiving service at Mount Pisgah Baptist Church, 1002 5th St. NE at 6:45 p.m.
  • Nov. 23: Christmas in Paris arts and crafts show at Love Civic Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Nov. 28: The annual Turkey Trot on Trail de Paris at 8 a.m.
  • Nov. 30: Small Business Saturday
  • Dec. 1: Christmas Tour of Homes from 1 to 5 p.m.; the cost is $5.
  • Dec. 3: Songs of the Season at East Paris Baptist Church, 725 N. Collegiate; tickets are $8.
  • Dec. 5: “Annie,” presented by the Paris Community Theater, with more on Dec. 7, 8, 12, 13, 14 and 15
  • Dec. 7: 5K Reindeer Race at 8:15 a.m. downtown , benefitting the Paris Education Foundation. Historic Paris Trolley Tours, starting at 8 W. Plaza from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m. Christmas in Fair Park at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. “A Rocking Christmas” lighted parade, with line up at 4 p.m. at the courthouse, pre-parade party on the square at 5 p.m. and the parade at 6 p.m.
  • Dec. 12: “Christmas in the Camp” with the Cowboy Church at the Red River Valley Bible Camp. Sign up begins at 5 p.m.; rides are from 6 to 9 p.m. The event is also set for Dec. 13 and 14
  • Dec. 14: Christmas at the Maxey House from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Santa Paws dog parade is set for 10 a.m. on the west side of the Plaza. Carriage rides will be available downtown from 2 to 5 p.m. Christmas light trolley rides for $5 a person will run from the Chamber of Commerce from 6 to 9 p.m.
  • Dec. 17: The Chamber of Commerce Shop Local $10,000 giveaway is set for 7 p.m.
  • Dec. 21: Breakfast with Santa at Love Civic Center from 8 to 10 a.m.

For more information, visit www.holidayinparistexas.com.

PEDC director gives breakdown of spending

PEDC Executive Director Steve Gilbert

PEDC Executive Director Steve Gilbert

A great deal has been said about Paris Economic Development Corp. spending in recent months. In a recent presentation at the Friday Rotary Club, PEDC Director Steve Gilbert offered a breakdown of where some of that money has gone.

Gilbert said he wasn’t trying to stir up any kind of debate.

“I was invited by the Friday Rotary to be a speaker at their luncheon meeting. I just gave Rotary an overview of the projects I’ve been involved in,” he said. “It was really pretty uneventful. It was not intended to be any sort of response. It was just to present some information in perspective of the debate.”

According to the director’s analysis, PEDC has spent $48,340 on administration in the last three years – an average of $16,115 a year – and $92,345 on marketing – or about $30,780 a year.

PEDC has conducted 44 business trips since 2010, or about 15 a year, and spent $140,687 on travel. That amounts to an average of $46,896 a year or $2,939 per trip. In the last three years, the corporation has spent:

  • $36,685 for 13 trips to national, state and regional professional association meetings, for an average of $2,822 each.
  • $18,218 for six meetings with major corporate real estate executives, or an average of $3,036 each.
  • $6,400 for three meetings with site selection consultants, for an average of $2,133 each.
  • $19,625 for eight trade shows and trade missions – an average of $2,453 per trip.
  • $6,190 for five presentations about Paris economic development activities.
  • $53,569 for nine trips related to Lamar County Days, governmental affairs in Austin and Washington and seeking highway funding, with an average cost of $5,952 each.

Industrial recruitment is a competitive endeavor that requires time and patience, Gilbert wrote in a handout for the Rotary program Friday. Much of his time is spent in networking and building relationships.

“Public perceptions of Paris are formed every day through the media and the Internet,” Gilbert wrote. “Our internal fighting gives our competitors the advantage.”

Nothing on the web goes away, he said, and the community needs to be united, respectful and cooperative – especially in how it deals with disagreements.

Paris Economic Development Corp. has focused on food and consumer goods manufacturing and water-using industries since 2010. Since last year, PEDC has been named in the Top 5 Award of Excellence in Food Processing by Expansion Solutions trade magazine; has been recognized by Gov. Rick Perry as one of the “Big Stories of 2013-2013” for the work with Campbell Soup and J. Skinner; and named the sixth strongest Texas micropolitan area and in the top 17 percent for the nation.

PEDC has committed $8.17 million for a series of projects that are expected to create 817 new jobs – 625 in the next five years – and invest $407.65 million:

  • At Campbell Soup, $2 million in incentives for a solar array installed on the supply storage pavilion, the Ready-To-Eat Soup line and Single-Serve Juice line, which will provide 120 jobs and a $72 million capital investment.
  • A $1.78 million incentive for the J. Skinner Baking Company, which plans to invest $25 million and provide 393 new jobs.
  • A $1.43 million investment in the widening of Texas 24 in Delta County, part of a larger $34 million project of the Texas Department of Transportation.
  • For Bodyguard Truck Accessories, an incentive of $302,188 in return for 43 new jobs and a $2.5 million investment to expand facilities.
  • A $664,300 incentive for Daisy Farms, which is providing 150 new jobs.
    PEDC has budgeted $250,000 for infrastructure to the planned Paris Lakes Medical Center development, which could invest as much as $73.25 million. How many jobs it stands to create has not yet been determined.
  • For Rogers-Wade/WePack Logistics, an incentive and loan guarantee of $105,000 with 42 new jobs coming in.
  • A $66,000 incentive for T&K Equipment, which is investing $4.2 million to expand and create
  • A $59,000 incentive for Potters Industries, which plans to invest $17.7 million in a new glass bead line and create 25 new jobs.
  • Bond debt of $2.12 million for job retention at Huhtamaki, which the company is repaying.

There have also been abatements given for retention of jobs at Paris Regional Medical Center and upgrades at Kimberly Clark. PEDC also has a project pipeline of confidential new deals in the works.
As of Oct. 1, PEDC had $2.98 million cash on hand. Revenue for the next 10 years is expected to be about $12 million, for a total of $14.98 million. With operating expenses of $4.68 million and the money committed for incentives, that leaves $2.14 million to the good.

Gilbert said the board has approved and been fully aware of all expenses, including travel and training, from 2010 to now. The PEDC policy manual was revised in January to say: “The Paris EDC staff and board of directors are well aware that the operating funds for the organization are generated by the local sales tax collections. Therefore, discretion shall be used when entertaining a business prospect and/or client to the purchase of alcohol and food. In today’s business climate, the practice of having a drink socially or with a meal is a common practice. All such expenditures will require that the executive director, assistant executive director or a board member be present and approve all such discretionary purchases.”

Bill Strathern

Bill Strathern

PEDC was created in 1993 by approval of the voters for a quarter-cent sales tax to carry out industrial development programs. The money was to be used for the creation and retention of jobs, labor force training, land acquisition, rehabilitation of existing structures, promoting Paris and improvement of streets and utilities related to industrial jobs.

A five-person board was set up to govern the corporation, with members appointed by the City Council. The board is to be comprised of people with experience with industry, non-management employees, financial expertise and industrial development.

The spending became a public issue after former Councilman Bill Strathern filed two open records requests. The first was for copies of all PEDC credit card bills, receipts and related documentation from October 2010 through July 2013. The second was for detailed expenses and other information about the 2013 Lamar County Days, as well as expense reports, internal financial controls and monitoring of incentive agreements.

Gathering the information required 64 man-hours and 2,127 copies, Gilbert said.

Rotary program Friday to focus on equality in school funding

PaulTrullEquity Center Director Wayne Pierce will speak on equality in education funding during this week’s Friday Rotary Club program.

The program is scheduled for noon Friday in the Paris Junior College ballroom. Pierce is the guest of Paul Trull, former superintendent of Paris Independent School District.

“Everyone’s invited. He’s going to give an update on why the schools have filed lawsuits and what it’s all about,” Trull said. “He’s the lead witness in the state school finance lawsuits, which hasn’t been decided. The judge has chosen to hear six more weeks of testimony in January.”

The Equity Center was founded in 1982 by 55 school districts in response to what they saw as inequities in the state’s school finance system. The Equity Center has become the largest research and advocacy organization of its kind in the nation.

The information is not just for school administrators and trustees, Trull said.

“I think it would be beneficial to everyone,” he said.

An ‘icky’ year of overcoming breast cancer

TishHollemanTalk to Paris ISD Business Manager Tish Holleman about the last year dealing with breast cancer and the word “icky” comes up a lot.

“The worst part is hearing that you have it – hearing the words, ‘Ms. Holleman, I’m sorry, but it is cancer,” she said. “I thought my world was coming to an end.”

What she has come to realize, however, is that the “C-word” doesn’t have to mean the end of the world. Thanks to modern medicine, many forms of cancer are not only treatable but have high survival rates.

“Calm down, breathe and talk to your doctor,” she said. “Make a plan. Work a plan.”

Holleman has been out of treatment for nearly six months. Now she has periodic follow-up appointments with her oncologist here in Paris and the surgeon in Dallas.

It started with a routine mammogram on Nov. 28 last year. The doctor’s office tried to call her at home two days later, but she missed the call. The following Monday, the doctor called her at work at Paris Independent School District and asked her to come in for a sonogram and schedule a biopsy.

Holleman said she wasn’t too worried at that point. She had been through something similar the year before when a mammogram found some dense tissue but no tumor. It was when a nurse suggested they do the biopsy immediately after the sonogram that things “started getting freaky.”

“He never used the word ‘cancer.’ He said, ‘I will send this off, and I will get the results to you by tomorrow at 3, but you will probably need surgery,’” she said. “It was going very, very fast from wonderful, blissful ignorance to oh-my status.”

She left the doctor at 12:30 p.m. Dec. 3. Holleman had a physical with her doctor the next morning, and they talked a little about the possibility of a cancer diagnosis. By 3 p.m., she had confirmation.

“I pretty much lost it,” she said. “I was a wreck from my physical on. You have young kids. You think you’re going to die tomorrow. You don’t know how to process it.”

The earlier discussion while she “still had my wits about me” did help set some things in motion. She and her physician had started making a plan, so when Holleman got the call from her oncologist, all she had to do was call her regular doctor and get things rolling. Within a week, she was in Dallas meeting surgeons and scheduling her operation. A series of body scans had to come first, however. Her type of breast cancer was aggressive, and doctors had to make sure it hadn’t metastasized before they operated.

She had a bilateral (or double) mastectomy Jan. 10 – which she described as “the least fun part.” Her first round of chemo was Feb. 5. The series of eight treatments came two weeks apart, and her final round was May 14.

“It wasn’t fun, but with all the things I had heard about, mine was not bad,” she said. “I would even call it a walk in the park compared with what some people go through.”

Holleman did what she could to remain healthy. She ate right and made sure to keep away from sick people, since chemotherapy depresses the immune system. She also said insurance approving nausea medication made a great deal of difference.

“I had the ‘nagging queasies,’ but I never threw up,” she said.

What really hit her hard was the fatigue that came with chemo.

“The first time it hit, it felt like someone was sitting on my shoulders,” she said. “I spent the better part of every other weekend in bed asleep.”

By the end of February, her hair had started falling out. After dealing with an itchy, sore scalp for a while, she had her beautician shave her head. She had originally planned for her husband Clint and children to do it, but that proved too much. She was mostly concerned about how Brody, 8, and Lindsay, 5, would react.

“At that age, everything is final – mom’s going to be bald forever,” she said. “For the longest, I would not take my hat off at home.”

The hat became a staple of Holleman’s wardrobe. She started growing “peach fuzz” a couple of weeks after her final chemo treatment, but it wasn’t until the fall before she stopped covering her head at work. A few nice hats and scarves were part of a makeover a friend helped her with before she got too far into treatments.

“I made an extra effort to look like I felt good whether I did or not,” she said. “I think that helped me.”

As scary as cancer can be, it’s not something to go through alone, Holleman said. She encouraged patients to find a support group. Hers came from several directions, including friends, family, church and work.

“I showed up to church in a hat, and everyone had a hat on – women, babies, men,” she said. “It was awesome.”

On the last day of her treatment, PISD had a districtwide “Hats Off to Tish Day” where people at all the campuses wore hats in her honor. While sitting through her treatments, she would frequently send texts to friends, who would reply with messages of prayer and support.

“You don’t need to try to do it alone; it can be a depressing process,” she said. “I had a great church, great friends, a great husband, great kids and especially a great God – and He nailed it.”

Holleman said women should not “even be a day late” for their annual checkups. Her 2011 mammogram was the first in three years.

“One year later, it was full-blown 3.1 centimeters, which for a lump is big,” she said. “It can pop up way quicker than I ever thought it could.”

As aggressive as her cancer was, Holleman said waiting another three years could have been disastrous. Which is one of the reasons October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“Mine is still so new, October is no different than September or November. Right now, every month is breast cancer month for me,” she said. “I feel when I’m a little further removed from the process, I’ll want to get more involved.”

It has, however, become more personal. Every October, women put a pink extension in their hair for awareness. In the past, it was more of a general thing, Holleman said, but this month, it really hit home when one of her staff got the extension.

“She said, ‘Look what I did for you.’ That held a special meaning,” she said. “It means a bunch.”