Yoakum museum director accepts new challenge

Sonny Long

Aug. 23, 2013 at 3:23 a.m.

Geri Mehan, executive director of the Yoakum Heritage Museum, sits in the parlor room of the house that is home base for the museum.

Geri Mehan, executive director of the Yoakum Heritage Museum, sits in the parlor room of the house that is home base for the museum.

YOAKUM - The floor fan pushed the warm air across the pile of papers on Geri Mehan's desk in her office on the second floor of the Yoakum Heritage Museum.

"I'm working on a grant application right now to replace the air conditioning," said the 65-year-old Mehan, who took over as the museum's executive director in May.

A native of Ohio, Mehan lived in Houston for more than 30 years before moving to Hallettsville with her husband, Jim Mehan.

"We lived in Hallettsville about six months; then the house we were in got sold," she said. "We moved to Yoakum in 2004.

"We've loved it here," Mehan continued. "My husband had a hard time thinking he could take a city girl and put her in the country, but it worked out great.

"I love the country life."

And she's fond of the museum.

Semiretired with a secretarial background, Mehan had been a volunteer at the museum, logged time at H&R Block and worked for a Yoakum law firm before the museum director opportunity.

"I have loved the museum for a long time," she said. "Some board members encouraged me to become the director when the position came open."

The part-time position came open because former executive director Brenda Coleman's personal training business took off, and she stepped down.

Coleman thinks highly of her replacement.

"She was an exceptional volunteer, always eager to help in any way," Coleman said. "She is very diligent and a crackerjack at any and all office work."

Mehan knows there is a learning curve going from volunteer to executive director.

"I've never worked for a nonprofit before, and I'm learning how to write grants and working a lot with the public," she said.

Mehan is excited about some of the changes taking place at the museum, including a revamped Military Room and Yoakum Room.

"We have also received a $2,000 grant from H-E-B for the new Tom Tom Room," Mehan said.

The Christmas Tree Forest, the museum's popular annual exhibit, is also coming together with a "Christmas at the Beach" theme this year.

"Every year I've been here, it's gotten bigger and better, and this year will be no exception," she said.

Mehan hopes to add a Black History Month exhibit in February and a Cinco de Mayo exhibit in May.

"I want to reach out to all segments of our population," she said.

Mehan said the museum's volunteers are its biggest asset.

"I'm really proud of them all," she said.

Taking over leadership of the museum hasn't been Mehan's biggest challenge in recent years.

In 2011, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"It's not an easy thing to go through," she said. "Luckily, other than the chemotherapy, I didn't have any problems and am now cancer-free."



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