Donation nation: Kiwanis of Greater – #PlanoTX #foodpantry

To Sharon Macduff, the Food Pantry and Kiwanis, we say thank you in Plano, Texas

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McKinney Community Development Corporation grants

The McKinney Community Development Corporation (MCDC) has announced grant awards totaling $40,000 for initiatives and activities that enhance quality of life for McKinney residents, attract visitors to the community and promote the City for the purpose of developing new or expanded business opportunities.
Each year, the MCDC board allocates funds for grants designed to promote the City of McKinney through events or other initiatives that support tourism, promote the city for the purpose of economic development and improve the quality of life and place.

Following submission of the grant applications, MCDC board members reviewed the requests for funding and heard presentations from each of the applicants describing the impact of their proposed programs on the local community.

Listed below are the grants awarded by McKinney Community Development Corporation at its February board meeting:

Heard Natural Science Museum – Heard Nature Festival Funding Amount: $2,000
Heritage Guild of Collin County – Farmers Market, Living History Weekends, Ice Cream Festival, Trolley Tours of Historic District Funding Amount: $15,000
Dallas Off-Road Bike Association – Two bike races in Erwin Park Funding Amount: $3,000
Kiwanis Club of McKinney – Historic McKinney Triathlon, Kids Triathlon, Fun Run Funding Amount: $5,000
McKinney Chamber of Commerce – McKinney First! Be vocal. Buy local. – promotional campaign Funding Amount: $15,000

Applications for the next cycle of promotional and community event grants will be accepted May 15 through June 29, 2012.  

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Cairo known for helping others

By Gerry Batte Russell
Giving back to the community

McKinney got lucky when the Cairo family moved here several years ago. The family exemplifies everything that McKinney offers – a sense of family/community. The Cairos were immediately drawn to the beauty and “uniqueness” of the community and they weren’t shy about jumping in and becoming a big part of it.

The Cairo family includes daughters and their families and it is truly a Catholic Italian family. Jim’s father’s family lived in Italy and his father was the first of the children to be born in the United States. Jim’s mother was born in Italy and came to the United States when she was 10 years old. She spoke fluent Tuscan Italian and later learned English.

As an adult, Jim (pictured at right) visited his mother’s home in Ogliastro Cilentro, Italy, which is known to be the home of some of the best olive oil in Italy. When he was there, he discovered a family library of hand-written books from the 1400 to 1500’s. Jim never saw his father’s village but it is located on Mount Cairo in Italy. And to further establish his Italian heritage, Jim was able to find records of both sets of his grandparents on the Ellis Island website.

Jim stayed true to his Italian heritage.
His wife Anne is also Italian – both her parents were born in the United States but her grandparents were all born in Italy. Jim’s hope is to someday get the younger generations of the family to Italy for a visit so they can absorb the richness of their heritage.

Jim and his family came to Texas from Rhode Island. Jim received his Bachelor of Science from Bryant University in Rhode Island. After graduating from college, he spent seven years in finance and then 14 years as an operations manager for a construction equipment company. The next 10 years, he was a partner in a wholesale costume jewelry business and before leaving Rhode Island, he spent years in real estate development, taking raw land and developing subdivisions/communities and selling the lots to home builders. Anne had a 33-year career with what is now known as Verizon.

Today, Jim and his daughter Kristen Vartian are partners in the real estate industry. They work together as a team for Ebby Halliday, REALTOR(S) in McKinney, and that is how I first met them – I was managing the office.

From the day they came on board they were a part of what is known as the “Ebby Family.” No matter the project: helping with the United Way Campaign, Relay for Life, Salvation Army, or any of the office events or gatherings, Jim was there. He would load tables, set-up booths, walk the walk or run the run.

Today, it is the same. And to add to an already good thing, Jim brings the family when it comes to giving back to the community. For those who know, Anne is one of the best cooks in McKinney and she is always there with treats for any occasion or project.

Jim is most proud of his participation in the McKinney Kiwanis Club. He likes the fact that there is a good mix of generations and gender in its membership. He is always helping with all the projects because he truly believes the organization’s projects are worthwhile.

There is a twinkle in his eye when he talks about the joy of the children being rewarded for good grades and perfect attendance through the “Terrific Kids” program. And, he is especially proud of the project to build wheelchair ramps for people who might otherwise be shut-in.

He and other Kiwanis members personally construct the ramps for absolutely no cost to the recipient. The organization also raises funds through their Pancake Breakfasts to be able to donate to organizations such as CASA and the Food Pantry.
Like so many who give back to the community, Jim says that he receives much more than he ever gives.

Gerry Batte Russell of McKinney writes about people who enjoy giving back to the community. She is a Licensed Texas Real Estate Broker, and she is well-known for her work in the community as Manager of the McKinney Ebby Halliday REALTORS’ office
(July 1999 to Nov 2010 with approximately 90 REALTORS and staff.) Gerry served as President of the Collin County Association of REALTORS (2006).

Mark Yablon: Try serving others for a richer life

By MARK P. YABLON, Viewpoint
Do you ever get that feeling in your gut that something is missing? Ever feel disenfranchised or wonder what is God’s purpose for you? So many Americans today are detached from family, friends, work, neighbors, places of worship and political leaders like never before.
It’s hard to put in words. Others sense something is awry, but have not experienced the benefits of what’s missing. Though they never had “it”, they long for a connection to others and for real meaning.

As kids, we knew nearly every neighbor – adult and child. We ran together, left for college, started careers and married, but we returned “home.” There was stability and purpose. We bonded through a patchwork of families living in the same neighborhoods for decades, being active in churches and synagogues, attending school, playing sports, volunteering in community projects and cultural events and trying to improve politics for future generations.

Adults are so mobile and usually in a rush. They change careers and states more often than autos. People are too busy to know their neighbors, much less regularly interact for fun and to improve community. Many “get” what they “need” for instant gratification and immediately seek the next “hit.” They go through the motions, respond to who knows what and why and wish for only God knows what or why.

Too many kids today may never experience growing up appreciating the value of long-term relationships and the communal bond for another reason. The rampant numbers of “no fault” divorces show children not to be accountable to one another since even “permanent” relationships become disposable, unilateral contracts, not interdependent relationships that vibrant cultures were built upon.

I was pondering these thoughts as I walked from my office to my Rotary luncheon at Rick’s Chophouse in Historic Downtown McKinney recently. I had a few minutes to reflect with no stop lights or cell phones (turned off for Rotary) to interrupt. That’s when it occurred to me that most people would benefit from and could help many more as part of Rotary International, Lions, Kiwanis and others. The public knows their names, but not their purposes.

On many levels, society benefits from membership. When Paul Harris helped found Rotary in downtown Chicago, he was a young lawyer new to town who initially wanted to network with other disconnected professionals in town.

Fast forward 100 years, and Rotary is known as the leader in abolishing Polio worldwide except in four countries. I understand Bill Gates Foundation gave its largest grant to Rotary because it’s is considered the most viable group to permanently eradicate polio worldwide.

I’m not saying you’ll find purpose and unity with our community only through joining a service club. But, I personally know the value in helping future generations by being part of something bigger than myself that will outlive my kids. Paul Harris probably never dreamed his club would do such grand projects, but thank God he understood it takes one person to act before the rest of society benefits.

Mark P. Yablon is an entrepreneur in Historic Downtown McKinney. He can be seen with his four beautiful daughters leading them in various community and church activities, including pro-American, pro-family and pro-business causes. He was a Rotary Student of the Month at Sam Rayburn High School in Pasadena, Texas. Yablon joined McKinney Rotary shortly after moving here in 1993 and is a Paul Harris Fellow. E-mail him at for more information on Rotary, including one of the newest clubs forming in Melissa, or to comment on his thoughts.

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