Ten years ago the Northeast Texas Children’s Museum opened in a vacant grocery store with an uncertain future.
Today the Children’s Museum has moved to the former location of Watson’s Cafeteria on the Texas A&M University-Commerce campus and has a goal of welcoming 20,000 visitors before the year ends.
During the past summer visitors to the museum have represented more than 100 different communities. During the summer months alone, more than 5,000 visitors came to the Children’s Museum. It continues to add new exhibits; the most recent additions have been from Atmos Energy and Lone Star Eatery.
The idea for a Children’s Museum in Commerce began in 1994. After taking his children to visit the Children’s Museum in Seminole, Okla., David Gibson wanted to have a museum in Commerce. He spearheaded a group that studied and planned for eight years before the museum opened. His dream became a reality with the opening at a former Winn-Dixie location at Live Oak and Highway 24 on Sept. 28, 2002.
“The time and energy given by the community to create a museum during those eight years encouraged our group to continue to focus on making that happen,” Mr. Gibson said.
The early years of the museum were filled with financial challenges in keeping the doors open. The support of the local community, church and governmental agencies made the continuation of the museum possible. Expenses exceeded income for the first seven years.
The Children’s Museum moved to its current location at 2501 Highway 24 in 2007, deeply in debt. Closing the doors was a real possibility, but in the last three years the museum’s finances have stabilized. Each of the last three years has continued to see growth in the number of families visiting the museum and total visitors. At this point, all debts have been paid and the Northeast Texas Children’s Museum is maintaining a balanced budget and increasing its services to the youth of northeast Texas.
A celebratory dinner will be Sept. 27 at Webb Hill Country Club.
“This will be an opportunity to thank a group of people who accomplished an extraordinary feat in establishing the Northeast Texas Children’s Museum,” Sharline Freeman, the museum’s executive director, said. “We are looking forward to the celebration.”
Tickets for the dinner are $30 per person and can be purchased at the Children’s Museum or by phone by calling 903-886-6055.