Lewisville ISD third graders enjoy symphony performance

Published in The Lewisville Texan Journal on March 12, 2016

Last Friday, the Lewisville Lake Symphony performed a closed concert for all Lewisville ISD third graders in two performances at First Baptist Church, 1251 Valley Ridge Blvd. in Lewisville.

Each concert lasted almost an hour and a half.

“Aaron Ming, our conductor, talks to the students before each piece to explain what they should listen for,” said Diane Busche, the Marketing Chair for the Lewisville Lake Symphony. “They are respectful, attentive, and in awe of the large and beautiful space they are entering at the church.”

During the concert, musicians also talked about and sampled each of their instruments. Students seemed to particularly enjoy hearing the piccolo, played by Juli Powers.

“It’s a great to see the energy and excitement from the students,” said Lewisville ISD Superintendent Kevin Rogers. “We provide the opportunity for students to hear a great local symphony and to experience all different types of culture.”

Indian Creek Elementary School student Steven Solis, 9, said his favorite song was the Star Wars selection.

“I liked the symphony a lot, especially the percussion,” he said. “It was helpful to hear them talk about the instruments and I learned a lot.”

Amareya Clay, 9, a fellow Indian Creek student, said her favorite piece was also Star Wars because she’s seen the movies before. She hopes to get dressed up and go back to the symphony someday, she said.

“It was really cool because it was a new experience and I loved to see all the instruments because I rarely see instruments,” she said. “I hope I learn to play an instrument. My favorite one they talked about was the drums because I love loud sounds.”

Dan Lewis, the principal cellist, has performed with the Lewisville Lake Symphony for almost 30 years.

“These kids make a really well-behaved audience and the teachers prepare them really well,” he said. “We’re just trying to capture the audience when they’re young before they develop any prejudices against classical music.”

Viola player Sonja Ryburg said that reaching out to the children is “the most important thing the symphony orchestra does.”

“It gives us energy onstage to see so much energy in the room, and it’s never distracting because we expect it,” she said. “Hopefully they will choose an instrument to play or come to symphony concerts.”

Marissa Rick, the music teacher at College Street Elementary School, is one of three music teachers that organized the event. Rick attended the elementary school as a child and has been teaching there since 1998.

“It’s very powerful for the kids because it goes right along with the state mandated TEKS that we’re teaching in class,” she said. “So it’s great for them to see and hear real life instruments as opposed to a poster of an instrument.”

Rick said that it’s contagious to see the children’s enthusiasm.

“They dress up nice and know they’re coming to a wonderful concert,” she said. “Kids say that this is the best day of their lives and want to take their parents to the symphony.”

Excitement for the symphony program has grown each year of its existence since it started four years ago, Rick said.

“It’s neat that this is now a tradition. The little kids look forward to being in third grade so they can come to the symphony,” she said. “We appreciate the Lewisville Lake Symphony working with us to make this happen and the fine arts in LISD.”

Kaylee Rutland talks about new EP release

Published in The Lewisville Texan Journal on April 6, 2016

Kaylee Rutland, a Marcus High School graduate, announced she will release her third EP, “That Side of Me” by early summer.

Rutland, 20, said this EP will slightly differ in style from her others to make her music accessible to more people. The reason, she said, is so that her lyrics in the semi-autobiographical EP can have an impact on more lives.

“Especially in a time of rebellion and edginess, I want to be committed to keeping my music and image wholesome for young girls, as well as enjoyable for those my age and older,” she said. “It’s really important for me to do this as I perform and enjoy modern country while honoring traditional country.”

So, “That Side of Me” was written in a modern contemporary style of country but includes traditional elements like banjo and mandolin, she said.

The country singer debuted with her first EP, “Kaylee Rutland”, in 2012 and a single “Into The Circle”. The song featured Colt Ford and Grammy-nominated country star Jamie O’Neal. She released her second EP, “Good Day to Get Gone”, in 2014. Billboard magazine then named her a Country Artist to Watch and she was featured on CMT.com.

The newest EP will have six songs that, when listened to in the correct order, tell the story of the cycle of a relationship. It starts with the honeymoon phase.

“Then it hits the typical angry at your boyfriend song, the breakup song, the nostalgic song and the moving on song,” she said. “All that leads into the final song about finding love, which starts the cycle over.”

Rutland said that each song was inspired by different memories from her own relationships, or are drawn from stories of her friends’ experiences. So Rutland wanted the EP’s booklet to have lyrics printed on each page with open line so listeners can write their thoughts about their own relationships.

“People can use it as a diary entry or their own song lyrics they come up with,” she said. “Because the album does tell a story, I wanted people to be able to tell their own stories too.”

The nostalgic song, titled “Always Summer”, is one of her two favorites on the CD, she said.

“One of the lines talks about a box of mementos I keep from old relationships,” she said. “Everyone has a box like that and can relate to the powerful memories hidden away in the box.”

Her other favorite song, “U and the Universe”, appeals to her love of fairy tales, she said. It tells the story of a woman falling in love on a perfect night “when you can’t believe you’ve fallen for this person so hard.”

“As I’ve gotten older, as other girls, we’ve held onto the idea of a Prince Charming or knight in shining armor sweeping us off our feet,” she said. “You deserve that and that’s the message of the song.”

The EP’s narrative structure could leave the listener with ambivalent feelings, Rutland said.

“I could definitely see how people would hear a message of hopelessness in the sense that the cycle is starting over and is doomed to repeat itself,” Rutland said.

But her direction when writing was more hopeful, she said.

“The cycle may repeat itself a few times,” she said. “But the hope with having a song about falling in love again at the end of the EP is to leave listeners with the message that at some time you’re going to fall in love for the last time with the love of your life.”

Rutland wrote “That Side of Me” about a year ago with O’Neal, Lisa Drew, and Minnie and Jimmy Murphy.

It was originally set for release last year but Rutland wanted to compete in Nash Next, an online talent competition last fall. She saved the songs she had already written to release to her fans throughout the course of the competition, she said.

Nash Next, who produces the competition, is a record label under the Nash Country umbrella that has signed Reba McEntire and Martina McBride.

The final challenge in the Nash Next competition involved creating a music video. Rutland decided to make a video for “U and the Universe”, the last song on the EP. She finished the challenge in eighth place on Dec. 6.

“I was jumping around the room when I found that I made it into the top 10 and got to go on tour for the competition,” she said. The tour hit stages including the Gramercy Theater in New York and the House of Blues in Dallas.

Rutland said she will release a new music video this summer as well, but she hasn’t settled on which song yet. In the meantime, she continues to study music business as a junior at Belmont University in Nashville.

“My goal is to ultimately graduate with my music business degree but my main priority is and always has been music,” she said. “I haven’t released any LPs yet but that’s definitely something I intend to do. I’m always writing and in the recording studio, so new stuff is on the way soon too.”

Flower Mound approves stricter sex offender ordinance as safety measure

Published in The Dallas Morning News on Nov. 6, 2015

Sex offenders have fewer options to reside in Flower Mound after changes were made to the town’s ordinance.

The changes collapsed pockets where offenders could live in eastern Flower Mound and created areas where they cannot live in the western part of town, which was previously open to them. The town unanimously approved the ordinance 5-0 at its Sept. 21 meeting.

Now, registered offenders must remain 2,000 feet from locations where children commonly gather. That distance was previously 1,500 feet. The changes also added trail systems and public or private youth centers to the previous list of prohibited areas of public parks, public and private schools, public and semi-public swimming pools, day care centers and video arcades.

“The first priority of any PTA is the safety and well-being of our children,” said Katherine Sells, president of the Lewisville Council of PTAs. “We support any ordinance or law that increases the safety of our children, whether that’s on the bus, on school grounds or at home.”

Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Itamar Gelbman championed the ordinance, hoping to keep Flower Mound one of the safest towns in the country, he said.

“I don’t see this as a second punishment for the sex offenders, I see it as a safety measure,” he said. “We have not banned them from Flower Mound, they can still live in the town — we just made it safer for the kids.”

The lives of sex offenders

All 18 registered sex offenders in Flower Mound will be grandfathered in under the old ordinance for their existing addresses, according to Flower Mound Police Capt. Wess Griffin. New or repeat offenders who already own or rent homes in town are also filed under the old ordinance.

Griffin supplied neighborsgo with a new map of the prohibited areas. Two offenders live outside the restricted areas, both in the western part of Flower Mound which is mostly undeveloped or with expensive estates that can be difficult to afford for sex offenders.

Gelbman said the town still has room for them to move in — even if not immediately. Much of western Flower Mound is under development into low- and medium-density residential neighborhoods. A large portion is zoned for agricultural use. Most of this land also lies in the Cross Timbers Conservation Development District where development and re-zoning are limited but still possible.

“The western part of Flower Mound is a little bit more expensive than the eastern part,” he said. “It’s harder for them to live there because market conditions dictate that the western part of Flower Mound is more expensive. There’s nothing I can do about it.”

Town council member Bryan Webb lives in the western part of town. He said he’s not concerned that the area will become a “sex offender haven.”

The land will develop along the same lines as Chimney Rock or High Meadow, “with 1- or 2-acre lots at a significant price point,” he said, but “it wasn’t intentional to block out the entire town.”

“There is a school being built at Canyon Falls. There is land being purchased for parks,” he said. “And in terms of the large landowners, I’d be surprised if they would be interested in cutting off a 2-acre plot for an individual house.”

The ordinance does not consider landscaped street medians as public parks or equestrian trails as multi-use trails, which is what makes west Flower Mound an option for sex offenders.

Although the Flower Mound ordinance might seem strict, it’s lighter than many area restrictions.

Richardson’s ordinance, passed in October 2006, also makes the buffer zone 2,000 feet, which causes 98 percent of the city to be off-limits to convicted child molesters.

Aubrey City Council passed a sex offender ordinance on July 21. The city made it unlawful for sex offenders to live within 1,000 feet of where children gather, and also made it illegal to loiter within 300 feet of a child safety zone. Violators can be fined $2,000 a day for each violation. In Flower Mound, violators are charged with a misdemeanor and upon conviction fined a sum not to exceed $500 for each offense.

Little Elm passed an ordinance in 2007 that also established a 1,000-foot buffer zone. It furthered restrictions by prohibiting sex offenders from visiting within that zone. It provides exemptions so offenders can attend school, transport their minor children to and from school, engage in business or visit friends and family. However, law enforcement might require proof.

Facing lawsuits

Lewisville restricts sex offenders from living within 1,500 feet of schools, playgrounds, day-care centers and pools. In 2012, The Dallas Morning News reported that Aurelio Duarte and his family sued the city in federal court for its restrictions after two years of living in a 780-square-foot room in an extended-stay motel. The city passed its sex-offender ordinance while Duarte was in jail.

The lawsuit failed and was appealed multiple times. On Aug. 21, a U.S. magistrate for the federal Eastern District of Texas in Sherman recommended to the U.S. District Court that the Duarte claims be dismissed.

In March, the Denton Record-Chronicle reported that Krum was hit with a lawsuit alleging its 2,000 feet restrictions are unconstitutional after a resident was ordered to leave his parents’ house. The lawsuit cites a March 2007 ruling from then-Attorney General Greg Abbott that general-law towns such as Krum cannot enact sex-offender residency restriction ordinances under the Texas Constitution unless authorized by the Legislature.

When the Flower Mound ordinance was before Town Council, Webb inquired about the status of the Lewisville litigation.

“It is a concern of mine,” he said. “My request to the town attorney when we passed the changes was that they monitor that Lewisville litigation closely and advise us of any changes very quickly.”

Gelbman said he is not concerned about the lawsuits and feels “very comfortable that the ordinance will sustain in court and be enforceable.”

Flower Mound resident runs support group for sexually abused and assaulted women

Published in The Dallas Morning News on Dec. 3, 2015

Flower Mound resident Michelle Robinson runs Shelter from the Storm, a support group for sexually abused and assaulted women. Robinson, 36, said she was abused and gang-raped as a child.

“We don’t claim this is a counseling group or to have all the answers,” Robinson said. “But giving real-life examples of how we dealt with our abuse is beneficial to women.”

The support group is affiliated with Irving Bible Church and takes its name from a Christian-based, 12-unit workbook written by Cynthia Kubetin Littlefield and James Mallory.

Kubetin Littlefield said the Shelter from the Storm support group is what she intended when she wrote the book, and that it’s designed to be worked through multiple times. She also released a DVD series to accompany it in group settings.

“I’ve seen it tremendously help women, particularly in the group settings,” she said. “I think it should be mandatory for people to be in a support group because healing won’t really come if you’re not. In support groups, you get so many different views and accounts that may help with your own.”

Robinson said that despite the workbook’s religious base she’s helped women of all faiths, as well as many women who are atheist or agnostic.

“Those women think that if God is real, he could have stopped it and didn’t,” she said. “So we don’t shove scripture down their throat.”

Robinson leads with what she wishes she had heard when she was healing from her abuse, she said.

“The facilitator’s guide is good for those ‘church answers,’ ” she said. “But when you’re dealing with hearts and people, you kind of just need to be real about it.”

Shelter from the Storm offers two-hour classes each week for 12 weeks, one for each chapter of the workbook. Shelter from the Storm usually has three groups a semester with nine women in each. Robinson meets with every woman before placement to make sure similar survivors can support each other.

The organization started in 2006 after Irving Bible Church began a recovery ministry called Celebrate Recovery.

“Survivors found that it didn’t hone in enough on sexual abuse,” Robinson said.

So Robinson met with a woman who found the curriculum, planning to lead classes based on Shelter from the Storm after they finished testing the workbook together. She’s now run the support group for eight years.

“I only do one class at a time because I’m essentially working through my own sexual abuse each time I lead the class,” she said.

Robinson selects and leads other group leaders, meeting with them to get updates on their groups. The group leaders are all women who have been through the program.

“Some support groups use counselors and spiritual leaders to run these groups,” she said. “But until you’ve been put into this situation, you really just don’t get it.”

Shelter from the Storm is also unique because classes close, Robinson said.

“We promised the ladies that nobody new will come in so we can build trust from the very beginning,” Robinson said. “If a woman is late or misses a class, we call them and check in. We love them so much we’re going to push them to be here and on time every single week.”

Robinson said it took her three years of teaching classes to feel healed. When she flips back through her workbook answers, she’s proud to see how she became more honest in her healing over time.

“So I always encourage ladies to be 100 percent honest from the get-go,” she said. “They’re only going to reach that peak of recovery faster if they’re more honest and open.”

Robinson finds that the women are always more honest and vigilant in their recovery in repeat classes.

Chapter 6, when they first share their stories, is when recovery starts to become noticeable, Robinson said.

“Many times, it’s the absolute first time they’ve ever shared their story,” Robinson said. “They break down crying immediately after they finish sharing because they feel relief and freedom.”

Chapter 7, which covers coping with anger, is almost as impactful, Robinson said.

“Survivors don’t understand that it’s healthy to still feel anger after [they] tell their story,” she said. “But they’re angry at everybody because they don’t place the blame where it belongs.”

There is an average of 293,000 sexual assault victims ages 12 and older each year, according to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network. Someone known to the victim commits an estimated 80 percent of assaults. While it’s difficult to know how many sexual assaults actually occur, RAINN estimates that 98 percent of rapists will never spend a day in jail.

Robinson said that many try writing letters to their abusers for closure but don’t get a response. When they do, the accused only admits to part of the allegation, if at all. Most survivors resort to simulated confrontations. Robinson meets with them alone and takes on the role of their abuser.

“They get really into it and start yelling at me, I’m the [jerk] that did it and that they remember everything,” she said. “It’s a little weird, but it’s all about them just having a voice, and they always feel so much better about life afterward.”

Robinson said she frequently meets women who have been date-raped in Flower Mound. But the women rarely file police reports, she said.

Flower Mound Police Captain Wess Griffin said that sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes nationally. Only 36 percent of rapes are reported to police, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

To date, there have been 23 sexual assaults reported this year in Flower Mound, according to the Flower Mound Police Department. Since 2005, there have been 209 reported sexual assaults in the town. The most assaults, 28, occurred in 2010. The fewest occurred in 2012 — nine assaults.

“The FMPD partners with the Children’s Advocacy Center of Denton County, Friends of the Family, SANE nurses and the Denton County District Attorney’s office to offer victims a network of social services designed to help make the victim whole again after an offense has occurred,” Griffin said. “We encourage victims to come forward and report abuse or assaults so that we can assist them as quickly as possible.”

Griffin said reporting sexual assaults quickly is crucial, but the health and well-being of the victim is most important.

“Oftentimes, victims may take days or weeks before making an outcry to a friend or family member, and this delays the delivery of critical services to the victim and may hinder the investigation of the offense,” Griffin said.

In Texas, there are no statutes of limitations for most sexual assaults and abuse, according to the Texas Code of Criminal Procedures. There is also no statute of limitations if a rape kit has been collected and subjected to DNA testing.

“But they get scared because it’s their word against the abusers and it’s hard to prove if they didn’t immediately go get a rape kit,” Robinson said. “Sometimes they ask me to go with them. They make it into the police station and walk back out before talking to the police.”

So, Robinson hopes the biggest lesson survivors learn is to tell someone about the abuse immediately.

“Keep telling people, even if it’s embarrassing, until someone believes you and takes action on your behalf,” Robinson said. “The abuser can’t continue without getting justice like they did with me.”

For more information, email shelterfromthestormibc@gmail.com.

Local painter creates intrigue, beauty in portrait

Published in The Denton Record-Chronicle on Feb. 14, 2016

Behind the bar at 940’s Kitchen and Cocktails is an oil painting.

The painting depicts a woman with bright red lips set against a smoky background. It’s flanked by colorful bottles of expensive liquors.

The bar’s centerpiece, which shows three perspectives of the unknown woman’s face, is like a memory of another time — a throwback to the great tradition of paintings of beautiful women behind bar counters.

The portrait feels like a modern Mona Lisa. Like Leonardo da Vinci’s famous portrait, the subject of Daniel McCullagh’s Sight Unseen is shrouded in mystery. Nobody knows the identity of the model or what’s behind the curiosity of her expression — though she looks a little like Michelle Dockery, Lady Mary of Downton Abbey.

Bartender Tyler Jenkins, 26, said much of his clientele asks about the painting. The bar recently held a gallery event featuring McCullagh to give the artist a chance to answer their questions.

“It’s very striking, and the first thing that caught my eye when I came in here to apply,” Jenkins said. “She follows you around the room in a dizzying way.”

Sight Unseen was meant to capture the details that are often lost in motion.

“It’s like when you see a girl out of the corner of your eye and turn to look at her,” he said. “You pick up little pieces of information. Your brain, influenced by your emotions, creates the rest of the image.”

McCullagh said the idea to have the subject turn came to him just after Christmas 2014 while sitting at Paschall Bar talking about art with friends. In the past, he had painted images showing the subject as if it were dripping down and stretching across the canvas.

“Spiraling would give more dimension and depth to her face, emotionally and visually,” he said. “My friends encouraged me to do it.”

McCullagh did not use a model for the painting, he said.

“People tell me that it looks like their friend or family member,” he said. “It could be a real person, but even I’m not sure if it is.”

Working at Jupiter House, McCullagh sees many people every day. Occasionally, he said, someone will come in and look familiar — like a subject of a painting long since finished.

“It will be funny if this woman walks in to get coffee someday and it turns out she’s real,” he said. “Or maybe the face is derived from different people I’ve seen.”

Art critic Bill Marvel, 76, attended the event as a friend of McCullagh’s mother. Marvel said the woman looks curious as she faces forward. Her eyebrows are raised. Marvel argued that the subject is turning away from the viewer; other viewers think she’s turning toward the viewer.

“The painting really left it open to which direction she’s turning,” Marvel said. “If she is turning away, her eyebrows lower, indicating that she’s shy or uninterested. If she’s turning towards us, it indicates that we sparked her interest.”

McCullagh won’t say which way the woman is turning. But, he gave this clue: He did not paint the faces individually; he painted them as if they were one.

The artist would start the brush on the in-focus face and immediately paint the same feature on the next faces, without pulling the brush from the canvas.

“Blurring from one face immediately into the other, instead of painting three distinct faces and blurring them together, makes the movement look a little more organic,” he said.

“It’s the kind of painting that demands you to look at it,” Marvel said. “It does everything a painting like this is supposed to do on a sophisticated level. This is sophisticated bar with sophisticated drinks, and it deserves a sophisticated painting.”

Police designate safer space for trades

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Published in The Dallas Morning News and The Denton Record-Chronicle on May 23, 2015

The Flower Mound Police Department recently put up two signs marking two adjacent spaces in its parking lot. Police hope the signs, which read “online exchange zone,” will encourage smarter shopping with online classified sites such as Craigslist.

Wess Griffin, a Flower Mound police spokesman, said the signs are precautionary measures. So far, the town has been fortunate to avoid incidents in which an unwary buyer or seller gets ambushed when meeting someone with criminal intent.

“I can’t think of a single instance in Flower Mound where online transactions had gone wrong,” he said.

Craigslist transactions go flawlessly 99 percent of the time. It’s just one nice person trying to sell an object, and one nice person buying an object, Griffin said.

“If you’re someone who’s thinking about doing harm to someone else, hopefully you’ll think twice before trying to attempt that at the police department,” he said. “But I’m not going to say nobody would be brazen enough to try something in front of the police station.”

In February, Denton police Officer Orlando Hinojosa proposed the idea for online safe zones for Denton residents — also for precautionary measures. The safe zone in Denton is also at the police station.

“It wasn’t because we were having issues. Anybody will feel safe doing a transaction at the police department,” Hinojosa said. “If they don’t want to make the exchange at the station, I wouldn’t make a deal with that person.”

Online transaction zones have become popular because of several high-profile cases in which a buyer or seller went to meet someone and ended up getting robbed or killed.

A Dallas County state district judge recently declared a second mistrial in the capital murder case of Christopher Howard Beachum, according to a Dallas Morning News report. Beachum was accused of killing Gerald Canepa, 68, a man he met through Craigslist.

A post on the Richardson Police Department’s Facebook page mentions two robberies in which Craigslist sellers lured potential buyers to two homes in Richardson and robbed them at gunpoint. Similar crimes have occurred across the country, such as the case of Philip Haynes Markoff, the so-called “Craigslist Killer,” who is accused of one murder and two aggravated robberies in Boston.

Dan Rochelle, a captain with the Lewisville Police Department, said his station doesn’t have any designated safety zones. But residents are always welcome to do their exchanges at the station, he said.

“We’ve had plenty of reports filed that they didn’t get the merchandise they paid for,” he said. “But I don’t know of any that are violent in nature.”

The Flower Mound zones have received positive feedback on social media.

Greg Decker, a Flower Mound resident, said safe zones represent an improvement in services.

“I have done quite a few Craigslist deals, and I would never go to [someone’s house] or ask the other party to my house,” he said. “I used a public lot near a restaurant I patronized where I knew employees. I parked in sight, told my buddies what I was doing and to watch, and also had my own defense if needed.”

Brenda Stiles Johnson, another Facebook user, wrote the safe zones are also a great place for a divorced parent to drop off children with the other parent. Johnson said her divorced daughter is more comfortable now when she drops off or picks up her child.

“My daughter loves that Flower Mound has a place,” she said. “She has been meeting her ex in front of Denton PD, but both of them are in our town a lot as both work here.”

Griffin said his department hadn’t envisioned that the safe zones could be used by divorced parents.

“For years and years, our police department has been used for custody exchanges, and we encourage people to do that too,” he said. “It’s always good if there’s any ill will there.”

Griffin said the benefits of buying or selling items at the police department is that the station is staffed 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Additionally, the spots were chosen to be close to security cameras as possible, which would make it easier to identify suspects and vehicles.

Officers had not considered the possibility that some may use the safety zone for nefarious operations — essentially hiding in plain sight, Griffin said. For example, some drug dealers could think that conducting business in front of the station may prevent them from getting shot by potential buyers.

“I’d hope the safety zones would act as a deterrent, but you never know,” Griffin said. “We caught a guy stealing a bottle of hand sanitizer from our lobby on camera.

“If my dealer wants to meet me in the police department parking lot, I’m probably not going to show on that one. But you never know. Stranger things have happened.”

ADAM SCHRADER can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @schrader_adam.

barbecue, flower mound, ribs, cooking

Couple opens barbecue joint in Lewisville catering to public safety officers

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Published in The Dallas Morning News on Oct. 9, 2014

Badgers BBQ, a new restaurant in Lewisville, has a mission.

Owners Emilee and Erich Klein serve family-style barbecue, but they also want to use their restaurant to honor “the badge”: law enforcement, firefighters and soldiers in the community.

Hence the name Badgers.

The restaurant opened in August and had its grand opening last Saturday.

Emilee runs the restaurant with Erich’s help. He is a full-time federal law enforcement officer.

Starting out

Erich, 43, has been with a federal agency in the area for almost seven years. He chose not disclose which agency.

When he was 16, he snagged his first job in law enforcement as a cadet at a California police department. At 21, he received his California police officer certification. He moved to Texas in 1999 and received his new certification in 2001.

“I decided not to pursue it for various reasons,” he said. “An opportunity rose up to get with my agency now, and here I am.”

Emilee, 43, has been in retail management since high school. After moving to Texas, she took a short break to blend the couple’s families before returning to work as a general manager for a fast-food chain.

The Kleins talked about opening their own place for years. Finally, they decided to stop talking and do it. Emilee left her job to start planning the new venture in December of 2013.

They shopped for space, but none felt right. One day, their insurance agent called to tell them the restaurant next to her office was going out of business.

The location on Lewisville’s Main Street, just east of Flower Mound, fit. It’s close to Lewisville and Flower Mound police stations. Attracting law officers to dine with them is part of their business plan.

“The landlords were open to everything. They were really trying to work with us,” Emilee said. “It was time, and everything fell into place, so here we are.”

Erich said they couldn’t have done it without support and input from his friends and co-workers. The Kleins said their two 15-year-old daughters Danielle and Shelly, who are in ROTC, and Lilly, 10, were instrumental in their success.

“They’ve really stepped up and helped put in sinks, scrub nastiness off the floor before we moved in,” Emilee said. “They learned how to cook barbecue and are our primary waitstaff.”

The Kleins suffered hiccups on the road to completion. Renovating the space was difficult and money was short. They feared failing to meet their deadline for opening.

“Because of a significant loss of money and having to pay someone to come back in and rebuild, we had to open very quickly,” Emilee said. “So we were not able to decorate like we wanted to, but we’re getting there.”

In the end, they orchestrated a successful opening with assistance from Helping Our Heroes in Lewisville.

Helping Our Heroes

Lewisville Helping its Heroes was formed by a group of friends who decided to help a military family in need. Their goal is to formally incorporate as a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization. And they are raising money to get that done.

The Kleins came across the group on Facebook as they were scheduling Badgers’ grand opening.

“Michelle, one of the officers of the organization, came in, sat down and talked to us about how we can have a mutually beneficial relationship,” Erich said.

Lewisville Helping its Heroes board member is a carpenter. He helped with the restaurant renovations. Then, in return, Badgers let Heroes use its banquet space to pass out fliers and information about their mission during the grand opening.

“They [Helping Our Heroes] have been wonderful and believe in the same things we believe in,” Erich said.

Among the scheduled events for last Saturday’s grand opening was a raffle with proceeds going to the Heroes group.

Honoring the badge

The main dining room had not been fully decorated for the grand opening, but the Kleins decided to walk their guests through the planned decor so they could envision how it might look when finished.

A vinyl blue sign decorated with police shoulder patches from around the world greets customers as they enter Badgers. Soon, a red sign with firefighter patches will decorate another wall.

On the back wall, the Kleins will hang printings of the police officer’s prayer, the firefighter’s prayer, the soldiers’ prayer and the EMT prayer. They also plan to commission a mural dedicated to fallen heroes. A formally set table underneath the mural will always remain empty to remind guests of fallen soldiers who are not forgotten. Emilee said sugar and lemon on the table symbolize the bitter-sweetness of their sacrifice.

“When my customers come into my building, I want them to feel that overwhelming sense of pride that this is their country,” Emilee said. “People fight for their freedom to safely come to restaurants like mine.”

The restaurant also hosts a table reserved for on-duty, uniformed officers and firefighters. Its location allows officers a full view of the restaurant, the entry points and their cars.

Emilee said when the restaurant held a fundraiser for the Lewisville High School baseball team, all the tables were full and people were waiting. One group asked if they could sit at the reserved table.

“I had to tell them ‘no,’ and explained that the table is reserved specifically for on-duty officers. You don’t know when they will get to eat because they are always working. I want to make sure they get fed and have a place to kick back,” she said. “Once I explained that to them, they were like, ‘Absolutely, we will wait.’”

“It’s very cool that I can do that through my restaurant,” she said.