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Know Your CoServ Neighbors

Olympic hopeful, California transplants and longtime Texan share spotlight

Editor’s Note: CoServ Members lead active lives, fully engaged in the world around them. This month, we feature three interesting families who are part of the CoServ Community. If you know a CoServ Member we should write about, please contact us for a chance to see them featured in an upcoming edition.

Flower Mound Family Supports Figure Skater’s Olympic Dreams

Spinning with one leg extended, Olivia Tang practices each movement on the ice with precision.

Coach Natalia Mishkutionok, a 1992 Olympic champion figure skater, watches her every move – from Olivia’s posture to how she lands after a jump.

“She begged me for ice skates when she was 3,” said Olivia’s mother, Tracy Tang. “I told her no, but she kept asking.”

Olivia received her first pair of ice skates at age 4. More than three years later, her passion for the sport continues unabated with after-school workouts from 3:30 to 7:30 p.m., followed with a quick meal and bedtime. It’s a tight schedule for an 8-year-old, but she doesn’t mind.

“It’s what she wants to do,” her mom said.

While most of her time is spent on the rink, she also takes ballet classes tailored for ice skaters and specific exercise classes to strengthen her muscles and keep them flexible.

“I saw it on TV and it was like they [skaters] were flying through the air,” Olivia said, adding that she wanted to do it “for the fun of it.”

The family lives in Flower Mound, just a few miles from the skating rink inside the Dr Pepper Star Center in Farmers Branch. It is one of several across the Dallas-Fort Worth region, which is gaining a reputation for serious ice skaters.

Olivia is part of the Dallas Figure Skating Club, where she has placed among the top four in several competitions. This fall, she plans to compete in the Southwestern Regional Figure Skating Championships in Fort Collins, Colo. – the highest level of competition for preliminary – a rank she just reached earlier this year. Among her awards is one in 2016 for an act of kindness she demonstrated with a fellow ice skater.

Achieving an axle jump last September, Olivia is now working on perfecting her double toe loop. After completing her first one successfully, she received a promised gift of a pair of earrings for her newly pierced ears.

Olivia’s older brother and sister each follow their own passions. Anthony, 19, is pursuing a computer science degree at the University of Texas at Dallas, and Christina, 14, competes in golf and plays clarinet in the Marcus High School band. Her father, Huot Tang, is an engineer with Nokia.

Her siblings support Olivia’s success, either cheering her on or, in Christina’s case, fixing her sister’s hair before each competition.

“We never thought we’d go this far,” her mom said.

As CoServ Members, Huot and Tracy joined the electric cooperative’s Rush Hour Rewards program the first year they attended an Annual Meeting. They brought Olivia to their second one in June and won a giant teddy bear.

“Honey,” as Olivia named her, now resides on the top bunk in her pink bedroom and serves as the perfect prop for reading.

“She’s like a life-sized pillow,” Olivia said.

Solar Golf Cart Connects Family to New Neighborhood in The Colony

Little did Quinn and Jennifer Merritt realize a chance meeting as teens at a Los Angeles theater would one day find them married and living in North Texas.

The Director of Human Resources at Toyota Financial Services and the real estate agent with licenses in both Texas and California find familiarity in the bustling Dallas-Fort Worth region.

“I was surprised at how similar it feels in the neighborhoods,” Jennifer said. The Merritts’ expectations were not necessarily the same for everyone making the move to the new Toyota headquarters in Plano.

“They thought it was dust and tumbleweeds,” Quinn said. His role is to help educate employees about making the transition. “They have been pleasantly surprised.”

Living in a new neighborhood just off Lewisville Lake in The Colony, the Merritts have settled into their new lives, raising 7-year-old Alex and even buying the requisite golf cart to visit neighbors and participate in local events like the annual Mardi Gras and Christmas parades.

“We use golf carts to get around on weekends,” Jennifer said.

The only difference from their neighbors’ golf carts is the solar panel atop the Merritt’s vehicle and its customization with disc brakes in front, among other extras.

Plentiful sunny days keep the cart charged and ready to go.

“It’s a great conversation piece,” Jennifer said. “The neighbors talk about it.”

The CoServ Members also have been impressed with the energy efficiency of homes in North Texas and the renewable energy options that CoServ offers.

Toyota incorporated green technology in its new headquarters in Plano, including designing the campus to collect water runoff in cisterns that are then used on the campus.

“I’m hopeful we can pull technology forward and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels,” Quinn said.

For Longtime Texan in Ponder, Home Is Where the Heart Is

A gate entrance sign to a Ponder farm reflects the pride Georgia Hilger Elmore feels about her family’s heritage.

Today, leaving the mark of the Hilger family name means more to her than ever – after all, she was born there in 1928. And though she left the family farm to follow a career and raise her son, she returned regularly with her teenage granddaughter, whom she was raising, to let her experience country living.

Georgia’s family bought the 640 acres in 1877 for $2.50 an acre. She learned to drive on a tractor, donning a bonnet and a long sleeve blouse. Eggs from the hens sold for 50 cents a dozen. Hams and bacon were cured with sugar in the cellar, and blocks of ice kept items cold in the ice cooler – the closest thing to a refrigerator before electricity came along.

Denton County Electric Cooperative, now doing business as CoServ Electric, energized a line to the family’s home when Georgia was 9. A vivid post-electricity memory is not having to use newspapers to clean globes atop the kerosene lanterns that had provided indoor lighting. Electricity also kept the milk from the cows fresher for longer periods and, eventually, took over the milking task Georgia had handled from the age of 7.

“I’d milk 14 cows every morning before school,” she said. Each cow would take five to 10 minutes to milk, necessitating an early rise every day, seven days a week. Despite years of milking cows, she only recently began to drink it. “It was for selling, not drinking,” she said.

Georgia has always appreciated electricity’s convenience: “It makes so many things possible.” She also appreciates how CoServ operates: “It’s reliable. We’re very seldom out. And they spend their money where it needs to be spent.”

Her neighbors, Cindy and Bill Hall, also have generations of ties to CoServ. Bill’s father, former state representative W. Tip Hall, served on the CoServ Electric Board of Directors for 10 years beginning in 1989. Bill worked as a weekend dispatcher and helped process payments back when the co-op had 11,000 meters. Today, Tip’s grandson, Randy Hall, is Director of Job Training & Safety at the electric cooperative. Randy started at 19 as a meter reader and then worked 17 years as a lineman before overseeing safety for the past decade.

Many in the Hall family are or were educators–from Tip to Bill and his wife to the younger generation. Many taught mathematics–almost like a family tradition.

The Hall family marvels at Georgia’s work ethic from her early years on the farm to becoming a career woman who retired at age 71 only because the company she worked for changed hands.

“I just worked hard,” said the 89-year-old. “It’s what I do.”

As part of preserving their family’s heritage, Cindy and Bill restored a two-story homestead one room at a time. The old-style ranch house, complete with a year-round Christmas room, serves as the family’s central gathering place.

Despite the size of their home, the couple keep their electric bill low by closing off portions during the summer. “Our bill last month was under $125,” Bill said.

During a recent gathering in the kitchen to eat brownies and drink fresh peach tea, several in the Hall family swapped stories with Georgia about country life and the importance of being good neighbors.

“You didn’t wait for your neighbor to ask for help,” Georgia said. “And a man’s word was all you had to have.”