Public Invited to Zumba® Dance Fundraiser on April 12 in McKinney to Benefit the Community of West, Texas

By Holly Becka, HorsePower Communications

McKinney, Texas – When Tammy Elliott of McKinney visits her hometown of West, Texas, she is saddened that so much work remains to help the community recover from the devastating fertilizer plant explosion that killed 15 people and destroyed hundreds of homes nearly one year ago.

“West has definitely made great efforts in the ongoing recovery, but it’s hard to see the damage and know there are still West residents who are missing loved ones and aren’t back in their homes,” Elliott says.

That’s why Elliott, a Zumba® dance fitness instructor, organized a Zumba® dance fundraiser April 12 in McKinney that will benefit The First Baptist Church of West Disaster Relief Fund. The public is welcome.

“RISE UP, Dance for West” begins at 5:30 p.m. this Saturday at The Beach at Craig Ranch in McKinney. All event proceeds and T-shirt sales as well as 15 percent of food and drink sales until midnight will benefit the West disaster fund.zumba_zumba_logo_color

“My favorite thing about being part of the Zumba® community is that I can dance while helping people in need,” Elliott says. “This event to benefit my hometown of West means the world to me, and I feel so blessed to be able to let the residents there know that North Texans are still thinking about them and helping their recovery.”

When a fire initially broke out at the West Fertilizer Company, emergency personnel rushed to the scene. A dozen first responders were among the 15 people killed and 300 people injured during the ensuring explosion of ammonium nitrate stored at the plant. About 350 homes and three schools were devastated as well.

The opening ceremonies at “RISE UP, Dance for West” will include a tribute to fallen West first responders and a performance of the national anthem by country singer Donna Beckham, a West native. Beckham will also sing a song she wrote about West, titled “Home.” The song is available for download on iTunes, and CDs of her album, titled “Charm,” will be on sale during the event. A percentage of album sales and downloads of the song “Home” have gone and will continue to go to West, Beckham says.

The public is invited to join the two-hour event, during which more than 40 Zumba® instructors – including some who are visiting from West and the Waco area – will lead a dance workout that will feature Latin, hip hop and pop songs, spun live by DJ Sneaky of Frisco.

Elliott says she could not have organized the event without a great team, including Sylvia Bernal, Danny Rojas, Kerry Oldham, Connie Elledge, Liza Engh, Alicia Trimble, Sweta Rajesh, and Sara Torres. Elliott gives special thanks to Brenda Lang, who is donating her professional photography services during the event, and Greg Richey, who designed the “RISE UP, Dance for West” T-shirts, which will be sold for $15 each to benefit West.

Key sponsors of the event include The Beach at Craig Ranch; Texas Family Fitness; Luke Elliott, President of Consumers for Specialized Coverage; Intersect Church of McKinney; Italian Garden on North Custer Road in McKinney; North Texas Orthodontic Associates of McKinney, featuring Drs. Donald J. Copenhaver, Robert J. Lugo, Carlos Nurko, and Jerome S. Schechter; Frederick Moreno’s Allstate Insurance Agency in McKinney; and Realtor Jeanne Elliott of Williams Davis Realty.

How to Participate or Donate:

  • What: RISE UP, Dance for West Zumba® Fundraiser
  • When: 5:30 p.m. April 12 (two hours of Zumba® dancing starts at 6 p.m.)
  • Where: The Beach at Craig Ranch, 6145 Alma, McKinney
  • Cost: $20 ($15 for first 50 entrants)
  • Registration website:

“RISE UP, Dance for West” poster by Alicia Trimble.


McKinney Ladies Association to Present $10,000 to Meals on Wheels; Funds Were Raised during MLA’s Spring Fashion Show in Early March

MLA logo image


By Holly Becka, HorsePower Communications

The McKinney Ladies Association (MLA) will present $10,000 to Meals on Wheels and Senior Services in Collin County on April 14, after a highly successful Spring Fashion Show fundraiser in early March.

“We are so happy to be able to present this money to Meals on Wheels, which does an incredible amount of good in our community,” said Tammy de Wet, a McKinney business owner who served as fashion show chairwoman. “Meals on Wheels not only provides freshly prepared meals for the elderly in our community, but their volunteers form important relationships with the people to whom they deliver food. MLA is proud to support this outstanding agency.”

MLA President Becky Smeltzer thanked everyone who attended the fashion show, donated silent auction items, provided in-kind donations, and served as models and business partners.

“We were thrilled to partner with some wonderful McKinney businesses during our fashion show, and I think that extra bit of generosity and excitement helped make this event one of the most successful ever,” Smeltzer said. “On behalf of the MLA Board of Directors, I would like to publicly thank our title sponsor, Warthan Dermatology Center, as well as our key partners, Cynthia Elliot Boutique, Shear Image Salon, and Upstage Dancewear.”

MLA models showed off the latest fashions during MLA's Spring Fashion Show, which raised $10,000 for Meals on Wheels.

MLA models showed off the latest fashions during MLA’s Spring Fashion Show, which raised $10,000 for Meals on Wheels. Photo courtesy of Joe Ownbey of

MLA holds its popular Spring Fashion Show fundraiser every year to raise money for a different nonprofit in McKinney.

This year, MLA selected Meals on Wheels as the beneficiary to support the fact that this nonprofit prepares and delivers more than 700 meals to home-bound elderly residents every day. The funds MLA raised through its fashion show came from ticket sales, silent auction sales, and sponsorships.

MLA Board members will present the $10,000 check to Meals on Wheels during MLA’s next meeting, set for 7 p.m. April 14 at Griffin Jewelry, 2811 Craig Drive in McKinney. The public is invited.

Smeltzer noted that Griffin Jewelry had donated items for the fashion show’s silent auction, and she thanked the business for playing host to the women’s group’s next meeting and check presentation.

“We in MLA like to say that we all can do so much for our community when we work together. We are truly blessed to have so many wonderful, giving people who unite with us in our efforts,” Smeltzer said. “We are so inspired by the giving nature of McKinney residents and businesses.”

The next fundraiser on MLA’s calendar is the community-wide Spring Yard Sale from 7 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 26 in the parking lot of Stonebridge United Methodist Church. All proceeds will go to college scholarships for the children of McKinney’s first responders. For details and to register as a vendor, please visit  

About MLA:

The McKinney Ladies Association (MLA) is dedicated to supporting the children and families of our community through special events and fundraising efforts organized by MLA.  Connect with MLA by visiting the group’s website,, where you can sign up for the monthly MLA e-newsletter. Look for MLA on Facebook at “McKinney LadiesAssociation” and on Twitter at @McKinneyLadies.

Elegant, Historical or Outdoorsy: McKinney Offers Wedding and Reception Venues to Suit Every Couple

My story for the March 2014 issue of McKinney Magazine, published by the McKinney Chamber of Commerce. I always love doing these types of stories because the interviewees are enthusiastic about being included, and I get the bonus of visiting lots of wonderful places in the community! So fun!!

By Holly Becka, HorsePower Communications


A wedding set in the gazebo in Katie’s Garden at the Heard-Craig Center for the Arts. Photo courtesy of Phase 3 Photography.

When you imagine your dream wedding, what do you see? A sophisticated ballroom with luxe furnishings and crystal chandeliers? A chapel with stained glass windows? Contemporary décor juxtaposed with historic brick walls? Shabby chic elegance with flowing linens and simple flowers? Or perhaps a gazebo set amid manicured lawns and towering trees?

No matter your vision, the tried-and-true wedding and reception venues in McKinney can make any couple’s nuptial dreams come true, says Vanesa Baggett, tourism services representative for the McKinney Convention and Visitors Bureau. And she should know. Part of her job involves offering free concierge services to connect couples with McKinney wedding/reception venues and hotels. Each month, she helps at least a half-dozen couples start the process of booking their wedding, reception and guest accommodations in McKinney.

“McKinney is a destination for weddings,” Baggett says. “I personally think it’s the quaintness of the town in general – our downtown is such a big seller. We have a lot of quality venues and hotels, and people love to bring their out-of-town guests downtown to shop and dine. Our population is about 150,000 but we don’t feel like a big town. We still have a warm, quaint hometown feel.”

The McKinney CVB offers a list of tried-and-true wedding and reception venues on its website, When couples meet with Baggett, she first assesses their vision and guest needs before taking them on site visits to introduce them to events venue and hotel contacts.

“The most popular venues we seem to see are the Grand Hotel, Cotton Mill and Flour Mill [in historic downtown McKinney], Myers Park, Storybook Ranch, Chestnut Square, and the Bella Donna Chapel in Adriatica – it all depends on the bride’s vision,” Baggett says.

Myers Park and Event Center: Nature’s Beauty

If couples favor a natural setting and an outdoor wedding, they’ll want to visit Myers Park and Event Center, a public facility in north McKinney operated by Collin County that features 158 rolling acres and multiple venues. Myers Park is so popular for weddings, in fact, that only six open Saturday evenings remained available in 2014 as of mid-January. It’s no wonder that Star Community Newspaper readers voted it the best McKinney wedding venue in 2011 and 2012.

Judy Florence, Myers Park manager, encourages couples to contact her and her staff because they can still accommodate 2014 wedding parties on Fridays, Sundays and even Saturday mornings. Couples love getting married in the beautiful gazebo at Myers Park and then having their reception in the Landing, a large hall. Other popular wedding sites at Myers Park include in the perennial garden, on a small bridge surrounded by woods and in the big pole barn. A new venue, called the Amphitheatre, will be available soon, likely in May. It features Austin stone columns with a small roof and an open back that looks out into a stunning wooded area.

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A wedding at Collin County’s Myers Park and Event Center in far north McKinney. Photo courtesy of Myers Park.

Florence says couples love Myers Park’s natural beauty; the highly competitive, affordable prices with few added fees; the fact that they can choose their own caterers and vendors – or have family members provide refreshments; and the fact that those who book the gazebo and the Landing package automatically have a backup plan in the event of bad weather on their wedding day. Couples can simply get married indoors at their reception hall.

“We get a lot of rustic and natural weddings,” she says. “We have a beautiful grassy area with trees as the background, and the brides show a lot of creativity. Some of the brides have come in by horse and carriage, in a Rolls Royce, or drive in on a four-wheeler.”

For information: Go online to or the Myers Park and Event Center Facebook page or call 972-548-4792.

Grand Hotel: Refined Elegance

The Grand Hotel on the downtown McKinney square is synonymous with world-class luxury and sophistication. The beautifully restored building formerly served as McKinney’s opera house, and it’s now the definitive locale for couples dreaming of an elegant wedding and reception.

Sales Manager Melanie Kosarek says while the Grand Hotel is known for its refined splendor, couples don’t realize how reasonable its prices are. “I consider us, for the quality, service and amount of space, to be very affordable,” she says. “Everybody has a budget – we’re very conscious of that.”

Guests rave that “we make it really easy for them,” Kosarek says. “We’re a one-stop shop with a lot of amenities to offer. We offer all-inclusive fabulous service throughout your event – we take care of everything. I think our service really stands out.”

The most popular wedding and reception venue at the Grand Hotel is the 2,500-square-foot Grand Ballroom, which held 61 of the 78 weddings at the hotel in 2013 as well as numerous other events.

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The Grand Ballroom at The Grand Hotel is all decked out for a wedding reception. Photo by K and S Photography, courtesy of The Grand Hotel.

“The décor is elegant and timeless, so it goes with every bride’s style and is fully adjustable. It’s a very flexible space,” Kosarek says. There are still some 2014 dates available, she says.

One of the fun trends that the Grand Hotel has enjoyed assisting couples with is creating a signature wedding cocktail for them. Many couples are also foodies who relish having a say in their dinner presentation. Kosarek is also seeing trends with desserts in which couples choose cupcakes, pies or other non-traditional wedding cakes.

Smaller wedding parties are easily accommodated at the Grand Hotel as well. Rick’s 110 is a private dining room with its own street entrance. The inviting Wine Room features floor-to-ceiling oak wine racks, and the intimate Library seats 28 guests who dine amid recipe books from around the world.

“When you’re getting married, you want to be treated well, like you’re the only person who matters on that day – and you are,” Kosarek says. “That’s what we strive to do well.”

For information: Go online to or call 214-726-9250.

The Pantry: Historic Charm

Built in 1898 and originally a hardware store, The Pantry in downtown McKinney features historic charm, original wood floors (complete with inset numbers for measuring various goods), brick walls, and exceptional pies. The Pantry is home to numerous wedding receptions, rehearsal dinners, and special events each year. There are still available 2014 dates.

Among its selling points for couples: Wedding parties get the entire building when they rent the venue; the space is fully customizable and can be transformed to feature any look; and The Pantry’s events coordinator provides wedding planning services.

“We do everything; we take care of our guests from beginning to end, and I help you coordinate everything as well,” says Kim Shumway, events coordinator at The Pantry. “I help them choose a menu that’s appropriate for their budget. I also make suggestions for everything from decor to how many guests to invite. We want the bride and groom to have a fun, stress-free experience planning their wedding. From the moment we greet them and their guests as they arrive, we want them to enjoy the party while we take care of all the details.”

Shumway says The Pantry attracts many brides who favor weddings with rustic elegance. However, it’s incredible how the vintage building can be tailored to meet any bride’s vision, she says.


A wedding party celebrates at The Pantry. Photo by Don Sparks Photography of Frisco.

“We had one bride who tented the second floor so the first floor was draped in material; we’ve had dance floors down the center aisle; we’ve had people giving toasts from up on the second floor and brides throwing their bouquets from the loft,” she says. “It’s very versatile.”

A highly popular offering at The Pantry are the homemade pies, which couples often serve in lieu of a groom’s cake. Plus, Shumway says, “any of the pies can be made into three-inch mini tarts, and they’re adorable. We’ve had brides use them as favors. We put them in cute cello bags and each guest walks away with a bit of The Pantry.”

For information: Go online to or call 972-542-2411.

Gather: Industrial-Contemporary Luxury

This beautiful restaurant and events venue celebrated its two-year anniversary in November 2013 after quickly becoming one of the hottest spots for a get-together. Gather, located in downtown McKinney, also recently earned accolades from McKinney Magazine readers as the best wedding venue in 2013.

Owner Crystal Bryant says Gather is perfect for smaller weddings, since it holds as many as 100 people. Couples who book their wedding and receptions at Gather tend to favor simple, natural elegance, she says. There are still available 2014 dates in the fall and winter.

Gather features exposed historic brick walls, hardwood floors and luxe, contemporary furnishings with crystal chandeliers, beautiful place settings and elegant linens. Couples are welcome to provide their own table-top décor or just the decorations for a sign-in table.


A wedding party at Gather in downtown McKinney. Photo courtesy of Gather.

“Because of everything we offer, people like that they have to do minimal decorating,” Bryant says. “It’s not an empty ballroom – we have created a beautiful space. We saw a lot of people using succulents, a lot of moss, and a lot of greenery last fall. Very elegant, simple and classic. We get a lot of candles in our venue. Some venues don’t allow real flames, but we do.”

The wedding parties at Gather feature sit-down dinners, and the on-site chef offers a delectable menu that’s 11 pages long. “We can customize it any way you’d like – you can pick as much or as little food as you’d like, and with our pricing, you can build a full menu within our minimums,” Bryant says.

Bryant says she’s honored that couples have been raving about how easy it was to have their event at Gather, the excellent food, and the efficient, customer-oriented staff.

“If your wedding is stressing you out, you’re doing too much,” she says. “Let me take that on for you – and it’ll be done. If you want easy, we’ll do that for you. We do only one wedding per day so that there is no rush on either end. It really will be as easy for you as I say it is.”

For information: Go online to or call 972-548-8882.

Heard-Craig Center: History & Hospitality

If couples wish to celebrate their big day in a beautiful historical site, they should consider booking their wedding and reception at one of the venues at the Heard-Craig Center for the Arts in downtown McKinney.

The Heard-Craig House is a museum listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. While it’s not available to lease, couples can rent the elegant Heard-Craig Hall, get married outdoors in picturesque Katie’s Garden, or enjoy a celebration with a small group of family and friends in the Carriage House. There are still available 2014 dates.

Executive Director Barbara Johnson and her staff love being part of a couple’s historic day. They take joy in discussing brides’ ideas — often assembled from — and then showing them a photo album illustrating the ways the Heard-Craig venues can be transformed to fit a bride’s theme.


The Heard-Craig Hall is ready for a wedding reception. Photo courtesy of the Heard-Craig Center for the Arts.

“We take a lot of photos so that other brides can get ideas for their wedding,” Johnson says. “When you walk into a room and it’s not decorated for a wedding, sometimes it’s hard to imagine what it would look like. If you look at photos of ideas, it helps a lot.

“We always try to give superior customer service and let them know that we’re with them the whole way,” Johnson continues. “We want to make their event an easy, great event for them so we are happy to work for them as much as they need or want us to.”

Entire wedding parties and the bride and groom’s relatives often tour the Heard-Craig house museum before the wedding so that they learn about the venue’s rich past.

“We love that they do this because when they have their wedding, they have a real sense of our history and McKinney’s history,” Johnson says. “There are so many people who love getting married in the historic district because there’s so much to do on the square. When they have people visiting from out of town, they can show friends and family something that’s really exceptional when they go to downtown McKinney.”

For information: Go online to or call 972-569-6909.

About the author: Holly Becka is the owner of HorsePower Communications, a public relations, public involvement, and business writing and editing firm in McKinney. She cries at weddings, loves creative wedding cakes, and favors reception venues with big dance floors. You can reach her at

McKinney Ladies Association Thanks Warthan Dermatology for being Title Sponsor of Spring Fashion Show on March 3

By Holly Becka, HorsePower Communications

The McKinney Ladies Association (MLA) is pleased to announce that Warthan Dermatology Center of McKinney will serve as title sponsor of MLA’s Spring Fashion Show fundraiser on March 3.Warthan-lo-res logo for online use

“We are absolutely thrilled that Warthan Dermatology is supporting MLA’s fundraising efforts by becoming our event title sponsor,” says Tammy DeWet, chairwoman of MLA’s Spring Fashion Show.

“Drs. Mandy and Molly Warthan are known for providing great medical care in our community, and we truly appreciate the fact that they have such big hearts and are contributing in such a big way to MLA’s fundraiser, which this year is benefiting Meals on Wheels,” DeWet says.

Every year, MLA holds its popular Spring Fashion Show fundraiser to raise money for a different nonprofit in McKinney. This year, MLA has selected Meals on Wheels/Senior Services of Collin County as the beneficiary to recognize and support the incredible fact that Meals on Wheels prepares and delivers more than 700 meals to homebound elderly residents every day. MoWMeals on Wheels/Senior Services of Collin County also provides hope and socialization for its clients, because its volunteers connect with and form friendships with otherwise isolated seniors.

Public Invited

You are invited to join MLA for its Spring Fashion Show on March 3 at Eldorado Country Club, where you will enjoy a delectable three-course meal, preview the freshest fashions and bid on fantastic silent auction items. Tickets are $50 per person. Go online here to purchase tickets through PayPal.

MLA raises money during its fashion show through ticket sales to attend the fashion show, through a silent auction of unique items contributed by both individuals and businesses, and through sponsorship opportunities.

Sponsorships Available

Additional sponsorships are available, as is the opportunity to contribute items to the Spring Fashion Show’s silent auction. The sponsorship deadline is Monday, Jan. 27. The deadline to contribute silent auction items is Friday, Feb. 21. If you would like to participate, please contact Tammy DeWet by email at image


About MLA:

The McKinney Ladies Association (MLA) is dedicated to supporting the children and families of our community through special events and fundraising efforts organized by MLA. For more information about MLA or to find out how to become a member of this exciting women’s organization, please visit our newly redesigned website at and sign up for the monthly MLA e-newsletter. Look for us on Facebook at McKinney LadiesAssociation and on Twitter at @McKinneyLadies.


About HorsePower Communications:

HorsePower Communications is a full-service consulting firm specializing in public relations, public outreach/public involvement, marketing, business writing, and editing for businesses of all sizes. Find us online at

Thankful for Great Publicity for a Great Cause

By Holly Becka, HorsePower Communications

When people who work for a good cause receive terrific publicity, it makes my heart sing.

I could not have asked for more lovely coverage than the beautiful photo essay presented today by The Dallas Morning News about Gingerbread for Humanity. This annual Christmastime fundraiser at Trinity Presbyterian Church in McKinney lets participants decorate gingerbread houses and enjoy frivolities while doing something sweet for the community. All proceeds benefit North Collin County Habitat for Humanity.

The coverage reflects the hard work and inspiring motives of the volunteers’ efforts, not to mention the good family fun that the event breeds. To read the DMN story and look at all the great photos, please go to this link.


Photos by Dallas Morning News Special Contributor Brandon Wade

Starting late last spring, HorsePower Communications was honored to serve on the organizing committee for the eighth annual Gingerbread for Humanity fundraiser. HorsePower developed a marketing plan and put it into action — the first time the event has had a comprehensive, coordinated marketing strategy. Our goal was to raise general public awareness about this incredibly fun event to attract new participants and increase fundraising profits.

HorsePower Communications’ pro bono efforts included writing and distributing news releases and media alerts, ad coordination and placement, social media campaigns, and taking advantage of low-cost and free marketing outlets.GBH_logo color

Thank you to chief Gingerbread for Humanity organizers Pam Hatch and Dawn Serr for allowing us to be a part of such a wonderful event! Next year’s Gingerbread for Humanity date is already set. Mark your calendars for Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014!

HorsePower Communications believes in giving back to the community and in sharing our gifts to promote others. We offer special rates for nonprofits. Call us at 214-208-3524 to discuss your project and receive a quote.

Look for Gingerbread Storefronts in Historic Downtown McKinney & Register Now to Decorate Your Gingerbread House on Dec. 14

By Holly Becka, HorsePower Communications


The gingerbread storefront created to resemble Orisons Boutique is on display now at the business in historic downtown McKinney. The Gingerbread for Humanity fundraiser to benefit North Collin County Habitat for Humanity is on Saturday, Dec. 14. Photo by Jim Davis of Go Life Imaging in McKinney.

When you visit historic downtown McKinney this holiday season, be sure to stop by Snug on the Square, Orisons Boutique and Goodies Texas to see creative miniature gingerbread storefronts that look just like the actual businesses.

These gingerbread masterpieces are part of an ongoing publicity campaign to raise awareness about the upcoming eighth annual Gingerbread for Humanity fundraiser at Trinity Presbyterian Church.

From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 14, the public is invited to unleash their creativity and decorate a gingerbread house to take home while benefiting North Collin County Habitat for Humanity. Pre-registration is highly advised. To obtain a registration form, please go online to and click on the gingerbread icon.

“We love to see what the participants come up with each year,” explains Pam Hatch, one of the event organizers. “We have tons of candy that decorators can choose in our candy buffet – and because of all the choices, we’ve had really cool gingerbread houses decorated by theme, by color and even one that was created to look just like Trinity Presbyterian Church.”

This creativity inspired event organizers to seek volunteers from the congregation to make and decorate gingerbread storefronts that could be displayed in downtown McKinney with the hope of increasing awareness about the Gingerbread for Humanity fundraiser.

A dedicated team agreed to take on the challenge of building what Hatch calls “the extra-tough structural gingerbread storefronts” and decorating them to resemble the actual businesses. The volunteers’ work began this summer and was perfected through trial and error.


Trinity member Myrt Bunje crafted the back of the Orisons gingerbread storefront to look like an old plaster wall. Photo by Jim Davis of Go Life Imaging.

Tim and Amy Sherman baked the gingerbread storefront pieces using a secret recipe to ensure the gingerbread structures would stand the test of time. Pablo Ruiz and Andrew Bender served as the architects; Bender also served as the structural engineer and one-man construction crew, donating dozens of hours to build the structures. Myrt Bunje decorated the Orisons gingerbread storefront; Debra Guillemaud decorated the Snug on the Square storefront; and Bender decorated the Goodies storefront.

“The results have been amazing – they were shown at church and they were a huge hit,” Hatch says. “Everyone who sees them cannot stop looking at all the intricate details. We truly appreciate the volunteers’ hard work, and we cannot thank Snug, Orisons and Goodies enough for partnering with us on this project.”

Creativity with Gingerbread, Candy and Icing


This gingerbread storefront is on display at Snug on the Square in historic downtown McKinney. Photo by Jim Davis of Go Life Imaging in McKinney.

Guillemaud loved the creativity involved with the project and was determined to make the Snug storefront as edible as possible (except for its florist foam supports and foam board base). She made the bricks with sugar cookies and the paving stones with crackers, and she applied tubs of frosting to cement everything in place.

“I have decorated houses at the Gingerbread for Humanity event with my children where their goal seemed to be to use as much candy as possible, have a colorful and festive outcome, and to be able to surreptitiously remove candy over the coming days,” Guillemaud says. “Creating the Snug storefront was fun because it was an adventure into something new. I quickly developed expertise into ‘rework’ procedures!”

The biggest challenge, she says, was ensuring the candy windows would hold their shape and reliably remain on the gingerbread storefront.

“I used melted candy but early versions seemed to just melt away on humid days,” Guillemaud says. “To create the shape, I used cookie dough as the outline, crushed candy within the shape, and baked this on parchment paper. Then I cut away all but the thinnest strip of cookie, which resulted in a window with a frame.”

For the Orisons storefront, Myrt Bunje went above and beyond adding fun details, including a display window showing off western apparel, street lamps and Christmas lights that actually light up, a horse and carriage, snow and evergreens.

Bricks on the Orisons storefront were fashioned from “sour power belt” candy and then hand-painted with food coloring. The windows were piped with black licorice laces. Bunje then finished the structure’s exterior walls with frosting that she created to look like vintage signs and old cracked plaster.

The Gingerbread for Humanity Fundraiser


Photo by Jim Davis of Go Life Imaging.

The gingerbread storefronts will be on display downtown through Saturday, Dec. 14, the day of the Gingerbread for Humanity event at Trinity Presbyterian. Anyone who cannot attend the event may still participate by registering for a take-home gingerbread kit, which comes complete with a pre-made gingerbread house, icing and lots of candy to decorate with. Please go online to and click on the gingerbread icon for details and the registration form.

For many McKinney residents, enjoying Gingerbread for Humanity is part of their family’s Christmas traditions.

“My family and I have participated in Gingerbread for Humanity for many years starting when my children were, well, little children,” Guillemaud says. “Now that they are teenagers, I thought their interest might wane. However, I was surprised to hear from them that this is our ‘tradition’ and a must-do holiday event! We love it because not only is it fun, but it also funds Habitat for Humanity!”

Do something sweet for your community!

Gingerbread for Humanity Event Details:

  • Time: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14
  • Location: Trinity Presbyterian Church, 5871 W. Virginia Parkway, McKinney
  • Cost: $32 when you pre-register; $38 at the door (spaces limited)
  • Registration details: Go online to and click on the Gingerbread icon to download the registration form.
  • Send any questions to

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Join McKinney Smiles at the Crape Myrtle Trails Races on Nov. 23 in McKinney

By Holly Becka, HorsePower Communications

Dr. Paul Lawrence of McKinney Smiles Family and Cosmetic Dentistry advocates a complete approach to wellness, from a healthy smile to eating healthful foods and getting regular exercise.

He’s also a staunch supporter of local nonprofits, including the Crape Myrtle Trails of McKinney, which works to increase McKinney’s natural beauty while promoting the community as America’s crape myrtle city.

Dr. Lawrence is combining these interests by supporting the Crape Myrtle Trails of McKinney as a main sponsor for the “Run the Trails” 5K and 1-mile event on Saturday, Nov. 23. For details or to participate, please click here.

To help increase participation in this family-friendly event among patients, McKinney Smiles paid the race entry fees for 10 patients and friends of the dental office who were notified via email about the opportunity. To sign up for future emails from McKinney Smiles, please call the office at 972-542-8400.MS_logo_200x200

Dr. Lawrence encourages area residents to attend the event and cheer on the runners if they don’t plan to participate in the races.

“This will be an awesome event for families, regardless of whether they run in any of the races,” Dr. Lawrence says. “The organizers are setting up ‘Myrtle Village,’ which is a festival area. I understand that there will be a petting zoo, face painting, a bounce house, a kiss-the-pig contest, an inflated obstacle course, and dancing.”

Dr. Lawrence is an avid runner and encourages his friends and patients to do those things that will improve their health.

“There are many studies about the benefits of exercise, including combating disease, reducing stress, improving your mood and promoting better sleep, to name just a few,” Dr. Lawrence says. “At McKinney Smiles, we are committed to promoting the overall health and well-being of our patients.”

For nearly eight years, Dr. Lawrence has offered top-quality, comprehensive dental care for children and adults at McKinney Smiles, conveniently located at 2780 Virginia Parkway, Suite 201, in McKinney. A full screening of each patient’s oral health is among the first orders of business at McKinney Smiles.

McKinney Smiles’ services include:

  • comprehensive dental care for adults and children;
  • preventive care;
  • orthodontics, including clear aligner orthodontics;
  • cosmetic dentistry;
  • whitening;
  • sedation dentistry;
  • restorative care;
  • one-visit root canals;
  • dentures;
  • and much more!

For more information, please visit McKinney Smiles online at and connect with us on Facebook.

Call McKinney Smiles at 972-542-8400 today to book your appointment, and be sure to ask about our ongoing new patient specials.

Gingerbread For Humanity Fundraiser On Saturday, Dec. 14 Benefits North Collin County Habitat Chapter

Reserve Your Tickets Now Before This Popular Event Sells Out

By Holly Becka, HorsePower Communications

You’re invited to take part in an ongoing tradition that combines family fun and the heavenly scent of gingerbread with the opportunity to make a positive difference in your community.

Registration is ongoing for the eighth annual Gingerbread for Humanity event at Trinity Presbyterian Church in McKinney, Texas.

On Saturday, Dec. 14, you can decorate and take home a fully assembled gingerbread house while supporting North Collin County Habitat for Humanity. The candy buffet — described as “awesome” by children who flock to the event each year — will delight any gingerbread house decorator. Be sure to stop by the photo booth to get a free picture of your family, your gingerbread creation and Mrs. Claus before you leave.

Gingerbread slide-TPC holiday bazaarThis popular holiday event always sells out, so pre-registration is highly recommended. To register, please go online to and click on the gingerbread icon to download the registration form. Paid registrations are due by Dec. 8 to secure reservations to the event.

Anyone unable to attend the Dec. 14 event may still participate by ordering Gingerbread for Humanity kits from Trinity. Kits contain fully assembled gingerbread houses and plenty of frosting and candy for decorating at a later time. They’re great for holiday parties and children’s activities. Look for the link on Trinity’s website to order your kit.

Gingerbread for Humanity Details:

  • Time: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14
  • Location: Trinity Presbyterian Church, 5871 W. Virginia Parkway, McKinney
  • Cost: $32 when you pre-register; $38 at the door (spaces limited)
  • Registration details: Go online to and click on the Gingerbread icon to download the registration form.

It’s a great time for a greater good. All proceeds benefit homes to be constructed as part of North Collin County Habitat for Humanity’s mission “to put God’s love into action by building homes and communities.”

NCC Habitat is part of a global non-profit housing organization operated on Christian principles. The organization encourages positive relationships throughout the community by advocating for fair housing policies and by providing training to help families improve their shelter conditions.

Delicious, Healthy Food Part of the Restorative Experience at Crescent Moon Lodge and Retreat Center

By Holly Becka, HorsePower Communications

The Crescent Moon Lodge and Retreat Center is restorative in every sense of the word, right down to the wholesome farm-to-table group meals prepared by the on-site chef.

When Dr. Suzanne Hales of CCA North Texas founded the Crescent Moon Lodge near the Texas-Oklahoma border, she intended it to be a tranquil, recuperative place for families, groups and individuals – a respite for anyone looking to unwind and enjoy the healing power of nature. That is why healthful group meals, available upon request, are part of the Crescent Moon’s comprehensive approach to a soothing, relaxing experience for guests.

Locally Sourced Food

Crescent Moon guests can refuel with professionally prepared seasonal meals featuring fresh, local meats, cheeses and organic vegetables, including many grown on-site in the center’s organic garden. In addition, group meals can be customized for any dietary need (including vegetarian and vegan), says Anne Young, a former caterer and private chef in Dallas before she moved to Rattan, Oklahoma, to serve as caretaker and chef at the Crescent Moon.

Organic veggies from the Crescent Moon Lodge and Retreat Center's garden

Organic veggies from the Crescent Moon Lodge and Retreat Center’s garden

“I believe in eating fresh foods and buying locally as much as possible,” Young says. “I don’t believe in buying food that has to travel hundreds of miles to reach our plates. Our ultimate goal here at the Crescent Moon is to garden with exclusively heirloom plants and avoid any engineered foods, as much as possible.”

Seasonal favorites for autumn include Cuban chicken with saffron rice, olives and tomatoes, served with salad and homemade bread; currant-glazed pork tenderloin with wild rice, corn casserole and mushrooms Florentine; and fresh pizza with goat cheese (made from milk obtained from a nearby goat farm), spinach and artichokes – to name just a few options.

Healthy or Decadent: Your Choice

While healthy, low-fat and low-sodium meals are always available, some guests opt for more decadent group meals, which Young is happy to prepare as well. A recent feast that Young prepared for a men’s group included Croque Madame (a luscious casserole with French bread, ham, gruyere cheese and a Dijon- béchamel sauce topped with fried eggs). Dessert was homemade banana pecan ice cream prepared by Dr. Hales.

“It was delicious,” Young says. “One of the guests brought fresh peaches for everyone, so I whipped up a peach cobbler with a sugar cookie crust to go with it. Every single guest we served this meal to came up to me and raved about it.”

If you’re craving food fresh off the grill, Young and her husband specialize in preparing delectable brisket, burgers, grilled chicken poppers (chicken strips with a jalapeno sliver wrapped in bacon and grilled) and grilled corn, among other goodies.

“The food here is a big selling point,” Young says. “People enjoy a freshly prepared, home-cooked meal, and we love providing it for them.”

Upcoming Foodie & Cooking Retreats

In coming months, Young plans to host workshops on cooking, baking, cheese making and wine tasting at the Crescent Moon. Call 214-926-2074 for details or to schedule your group for such a workshop.

Young is happy to share her extensive cooking experience with Crescent Moon guests.

“I come from a family of six kids, and all my family recipes are designed to feed a lot of people,” she says, “so when I was divorced and cooking for just me and my young daughter, we had all this extra food left over. I started selling the extras, making sandwiches and desserts to sell at my office for extra money, and from there I began catering parties.”

Crescent Moon Logo 200 x 200To become a more accomplished chef, Young studied cooking, nutrition, wine pairings and sanitation at El Centro College’s culinary school and served as a caterer for 15 years. She then became a personal chef for 10 families in Dallas. She also served as a wine consultant for a Napa Valley winery and conducted wine tastings throughout the Dallas area for several years.

While Crescent Moon guests are welcome to prepare their own meals in the fully stocked kitchen, Young enjoys cooking for guests. For details on pricing, please check the reservations page on the Crescent Moon’s website.

Let the Crescent Moon Lodge Pamper You

“I like all kinds of food and can cook just about anything, so our menu is very versatile,” Young says. “I love pampering people and making their stay at the Crescent Moon Lodge as comfortable and as fun as possible. Good food is just one of the many benefits we offer guests.”

For more information about the Crescent Moon Lodge and Retreat Center, please go online to

Amenities include sleeping accommodations for 24, four bathrooms, a large open living area with a stunning oversized stone fireplace, a full kitchen, a wrap-around porch and a hot tub. Visitors enjoy panoramic views, cultivated gardens, a five-acre pond, three docks, a river, catch-and-release fishing, bird and wildlife watching, a stone labyrinth and trails for jogging, hiking and exploring.

To make a reservation or obtain answers to any questions, please call 214-926-2074.

About the Crescent Moon Lodge and Retreat Center:

Join us for a retreat into nature. The Crescent Moon Lodge and Retreat Center is a relaxing, tranquil respite for groups, families and friends. The 5,000-square-foot lodge stands on 160 acres of wooded hills in the town of Rattan, Oklahoma, near the Texas-Oklahoma border. The Crescent Moon Lodge and Retreat Center provides comfort and quiet reflection amid natural beauty. For more information, please go online to

About CCA North Texas:

CCA has provided counseling services to residents from McKinney and the surrounding area for more than 25 years. Founded by Dr. Suzanne Hales, CCA offers a staff that includes licensed professional counselors, social workers, therapists and a psychiatrist who provide counseling, psychotherapy and psychiatric care for adults, children, couples and families. CCA is located at 2750 W. Virginia Parkway, Suite 104 in McKinney. To make an appointment, please call 972-542-8144. For more information, please go to CCA’s therapy provides encouragement, support, information and assistance to help you in the changes and transformations you seek in your life. We are honored to be a part of your process of change, and we applaud your courage in seeking assistance to make changes in your life.

Shop Local and Support McKinney Small Businesses during MLA Business Expo on Nov. 11

By Holly Becka, HorsePower Communications

The McKinney Ladies Association (MLA) is comprised of diverse volunteers from all walks of life who work together for community betterment.

But exactly who are these local business owners who graciously donate their time to help the McKinney-area community? The public is welcome to attend the MLA Member Business/Vendor Showcase on Monday, Nov. 11 to find out.

“MLA is organizing our first-ever business fair to spotlight all of the business owners and vendors who so willingly give of their time to support MLA and our community,” explained MLA President Becky Smeltzer. “We want to do what we can to support them for being part of MLA’s ongoing efforts to raise funds for charities throughout our community.”

The MLA Members’ Business Expo and Vendor Showcase is scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11 at the McKinney Performing Arts Center, 111 N. Tennessee in historic downtown McKinney, Texas. Vendors will exhibit information about their companies, and a wide variety of services will be represented — ranging from jewelry, makeup, fine baked goods and window treatments to financial advice, professional photography and public relations/business writing. Vendors say that holiday pricing will be available for those who would like to shop early for the holidays!Updated MLA Vendor Flyer 110513

The Nov. 11 event is free to attend. Snacks will be provided, and glasses of wine will be available for purchase. In addition, there will be goodies and door prize giveaways, so be sure to mark your calendars now. All attendees are asked to bring a donation to benefit Seniors Helping Seniors in McKinney.

MLA’s mission is to support the children and families of McKinney through special events and fundraising efforts organized by MLA. The group meets monthly during each club year, which mimics a school calendar and extends from September to May. Each meeting is designed to give members a philanthropic opportunity as well as the chance to engage in a variety of social activities with other members. MLA’s goal is to have fun, make friends and change lives in our community.