Palestine Magazine January 2019 - Page 53

A passionate advocate for children with disabilities Michael Patric Garcia, M.D., a Board Certified Pediatrician at Pediatric Associates, extends his service to children far beyond his practice. A husband and father of four, he’s “coach” to hundreds of East Texas soccer players. Garcia serves on the Council for Down Syndrome, and he advocates for children with developmental disabilities through Texas Partners in Policy Making. Garcia began the program in August of 2017. Nearly 130 hours and eight weekends later, he graduated. Through Partners in Policy Making, he aims to ensure the full participation and inclusion of children and adults with disabilities. This program hits close to home, and heart, for Garcia. His youngest son, Benji, was born with Down Syndrome. Benji’s infectious smile and unwavering love for his father helped pro- pel Garcia into the fight for the rights of children with developmental disabilities, including bringing these children into mainstream classrooms. Michele Merryman Bell Moving and shaking from Day One Michele Merryman Bell, the new executive director of the Palestine Area Chamber of Commerce, has been a mover and shaker in Palestine since the day she arrived from Houston seven years ago. “I see myself as someone who likes to coach others, based on my ex- periences, if you want to call that leading,” she said. “I believe in leading by example. I will get in the trenches and work. There is nothing I will ask someone else to do that I won’t do.” Merryman Bell credits her mother. “She raised me with tough love,” she said. “Manners mattered. Telling the truth mattered. Hard work is important. Life is not easy. You are in charge of you, not anyone else. She instilled all those things into me from an early age.” Tough love and hard work have paid dividends for Merryman Bell. From 2013 to 2016, Merryman Bell taught business management in the Palestine Independent School District, where she was named Teacher of the Year for Palestine High School in 2015. She was instrumental in giving Wildcat Golf Course a makeover. As a fun side hustle, Merryman Bell opened the Cocktail Camper, a mobile bar in a 1967 Vintage Mobile Scout. It’s a local favorite to rent for weddings, festivals, and business functions. In leading The Chamber, Merryman Bell is championing small business, getting The Chamber more involved with young people, and raising the organization’s profile and energy level. “I have such a passion for Palestine,” she said. “I love every opportunity I get to serve my community.” A non-profit organization to promote business and economic develop- ment, The Chamber serves more than 450 businesses, professionals, as- sociations, organizations, and people in the Palestine region. JANUARY 2019 53