“Betterment” the operative word for MLBA
By Stephanie Parker
In 1969, concerned citizens met with then-county judge Roy H. Adams to advance Medina Lake property owners’ quest to stop water waste from the irrigation lake and abolish unsanitary conditions. The same citizens obtained a charter for the Medina Lake Betterment Association.
Using a boat, MLBA members ferried county and state officials around Medina Lake, pointing out sanitation violations. That boat trip prodded Bandera County Commissioners into adopting a sanitation code and specific rules regulating the installation of septic tanks.
Dedicated to enhancing the lives of the citizens in the Medina lake area, MLBA addressed a variety of social, recreational and educational activities for residents of all ages. By holding monthly dances, members raised funds to construct a small civic center, pouring the slab in 1973. A galvanized Medina Lake community supported the project, adding a kitchen and restroom. When the roof went up in 1975, the civic center became viable. For a small fee, anyone could rent the building for special occasions.
Over the next several years, a variety of events, talent shows and costume dances were held to fund payments. Even with all the community enthusiasm and support, by 1981, the civic center faced foreclosure. Big bucks were needed - quickly.
Lakehills attorney Bob Caswell, who had recently moved to the area from Louisiana, was asked to help. Caswell had noted the failure of chili cook-offs and barbecues to raise sums of money. Drawing on his background, he and wife Barbara Engel organized the “Great Gumbo Cookoff,” which evolved into the present and wildly successful Medina Lake Cajun Festival, held the fourth Saturday in September.
The Great Gumbo Cookoff of 1981 secured the Lakehills Civic Center for the community and cemented MLBA membership and involvement, presenting a common goal and rewarding that shared vision with the ever-growing Cajun Festival.
“Chili cook-offs were popular fundraisers at the time,” Engel explained. “We wanted to do something unique and different. Thanks to the volunteers, the Cajun Festival continues to work year after year because they work to make it happen.”
Caswell and Engel remain pivotal in both the MLBA organization and in scheduling the annual Louisiana-styled event, with the help of a small army of volunteers. Ray White, who serves as chairman for the event, is aided by many additional committee heads. Thanks to volunteers, all proceeds from the Cajun Fest benefit the Lakehills Civic Center, funding improvements from the addition of air conditioning to a new stage, kitchen and ADA-accessible restrooms.
MLBA facilities now include a 4,700-square-foot masonry building, which is available at no cost for voting, public meetings, low-cost pet vaccinations, church act ivies and other community-benefiting events - a 3,900-square-foot pavilion, a large gazebo, recently acquired land for parking and expansion and numerous booths used during events for food and beverage sales.
The American Red Cross has designated the civic center as a disaster preparedness site.
Currently, the civic center is used for free square dancing lessons and to provide Meals on Wheels and entertainment for senior citizens. Starting in January, it will also be used for youth nights.
The center regularly hosts Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s Eve parties and a community Easter egg hunt for children. Summer youth programs have sent children swimming and provided them with lunch, all at the MLBA’s expense.
Even with all these accomplishments, MLBA members look forward to assisting with future community improvements. They envision more programs for seniors and youth. As well as serving Lakehills residents, MLBA provides programs for Mico and Pipe Creek residents.
Dedicated to enhancing the well-being and quality of life of citizens in the Medina Lake area, the MLBA is comprised of 15 board members and approximately 100 members. For more information on joining MLBA, call 830-612-2700 or 830-751-3130.