Volunteerism a calling for the Marshalls

Tara and Rick Marshall, two service-minded Liberty Hill residents and longtime couple, are all smiles as they discuss their civic involvement. (Christine Bolaños Photo)

Tara and Rick Marshall, two service-minded Liberty Hill residents and longtime couple, are all smiles as they discuss their civic involvement. (Christine Bolaños Photo)

By Christine Bolaños

Tara and Rick Marshall are the type of people who would rather sing praises of others or each other than themselves. Each has made a huge difference in the Liberty Hill community and hope their calling to volunteerism is carried onto their children.

Mrs. Marshall is serving for the fifth year on the Liberty Hill ISD Parent Teacher Organization Board. Mr. Marshall ran for a place on the Liberty Hill Youth Soccer Association in December 2011 and remains as dedicated as ever to the organization.

Mrs. Marshall started off as a vice president for the PTO and then served as president for three years. The board voted to change the bylaws so she could serve as president a third year. She stepped down from the president position and took on a new role as treasurer this school year.

Mr. Marshall became involved in the soccer association after a longtime board member told him there was a need for someone to take the reins and become its leader.

“It’s just nice to be able to give back to the community,” he said. “Being involved with people who are trying to do something constructive and something positive.”

His wife, who does not feel whole if she is not volunteering, agreed.

“I just wanted to be the kind of mom that was involved in my child’s education,” she recalled. “I think that kids do better the more involved you are in their education whether volunteering at school or serving on a board. I definitely have seen my kids thrive more the more they see me there and the more I am involved in what they’re doing.”

As they recalled their journeys in their respective organizations, the Marshalls looked at each other and smiled.

They just celebrated their 17th wedding anniversary and are proud parents in a blended family. Their four children include William, 24, Christina, 21, who is currently attending Texas State University; Samantha, 15, a freshman at Liberty Hill High School and a dedicated gymnast; and Andrew, 10, a fifth grader and select soccer player.


The Marshalls met through a mutual friend at a seminar in 1997 and learned they were both transplants starting new chapters in the Austin area. Mr. Marshall came to the area from California. Mrs. Marshall moved to central Texas from Ohio to work at her parents’ business in Liberty Hill.

They married on Nov. 7, 1998, and have called Liberty Hill home since 2000. Their two youngest children started attending Liberty Hill ISD as kindergartners. Mr. Marshall works as a consultant in the computer industry while Mrs. Marshall stays busy as a part-time substitute teacher and stay-at-home mom who is beginning a career as a loan processor.

“Liberty Hill is growing at such a rapid rate and more and more people are involved in PTO all the time,” Mrs. Marshall said. “It’s such a positive experience serving in that organization; serving with parents and teachers.”

Teachers and staff regularly express their appreciation for the board’s hard work and commitment.

“They could not meet their budget if it was not for the PTO,” Mrs. Marshall explained. “They use our money for things like playground equipment and field trips and programs they bring for students such as iPads and different classroom materials. Their budgets get cut more and more every year so the money the PTO brings in makes a tremendous difference in children’s education.”

She said the relationships she has built over the years with parents, children and board members are priceless.

“It’s been very rewarding and a great way to give back to the community, which I think is a very important role as a human being,” Mrs. Marshall shared.

Though someone the community recognizes in his own right, Mr. Marshall said he is often referred to as “Tara’s husband,” because “it feels like she knows everybody.”

“But that’s the fun part,” he chuckled.

As life got busier and busier Mrs. Marshall decided to step down from the lead role in the PTO and was succeeded by Deanndra Huddleston.

“She is a very good friend of mine who took over the position,” Mrs. Marshall said. “I couldn’t ask for a better person to come in. She’s doing a phenomenal job.”

For his part, Mr. Marshall said when he first joined the soccer association it was struggling financially.

“So the first year I worked with the board and we came up with a budget that made sure we were able to maintain an operational budget without running out of money,” he said.

The board then put goals in place and with the help of technology, organized its business.

“We got both of them using Google apps for volunteers,” Mr. Marshall said, referring to his and his wife’s work with their respective organizations.

“Getting tech in place like getting email and a good website going and all that stuff,” he added. “But then the progression to where we are now has a lot to do with the people who joined the association and who are actually still part of it.”

For example, Scott Placek, who joined the association a year after Mr. Marshall, and serves as director of coach and player development.

“He defined curriculum for our under 6, 8 and 10 for youth and players,” Mr. Marshall said. “We got a coach’s curriculum in place with his help.”

The association also put up a flag pole and replaced the entire fence in the front of the soccer shed with help from the local Boy Scouts who completed the projects to meet Eagle Scout requirements.

“We purchased some new goals,” Mr. Marshall added. “Most of it has been around developing coaches and players and setting player expectations properly. We built soccer practice walls.”

The association recently started its first select soccer program, which the Marshalls’ youngest son, Andrew, is a part of.

Under Mrs. Marshall’s watch as PTO president, the organization broke record for money made during Rafflemania, which is the group’s biggest fundraiser of the year.

“We actually ran out of tickets so that (last year) was a very successful year,” Mrs. Marshall said.

Her husband said she has done a fine job handling politics and personalities so that everyone gets along very well.

“She has done it so well she has been complimented by several of the teachers on how well they communicate and get along as a board,” Mr. Marshall added.

That focus on positivity is contagious and reached other parents willing to serve on the board. But, the Marshalls stressed, she didn’t do it on her own.

“I could not have done anything without the support of the board members,” Mrs. Marshall said. “I serve on a great team.”

Participation in the PTO offers a sense of community, opportunity to serve on the board or on committees such as for the Rafflemania event, yearbook and for other events; as well as representing the organization by manning booths at various events.

“There is a classroom mom for each basket so there is no way that would run without parents’ involvement,” Mrs. Marshall reiterated.

The PTO started the spirit stick program under Mrs. Marshall’s watch. The spirit sticks are small embroidered patches that can be added to keychains such as those students commonly put on their backpacks. Students can buy each for a $1 or earn them from their principal or teachers.

“The idea of a reward program — they buy some and are rewarded through a school at the end of the school year,” Mrs. Marshall explained. “It raised a lot of money for the PTO. This is the third year we are doing the program. It’s actually surpassed Rafflemania in funds it brings.”

The next Rafflemania is set for the evening of Nov. 20 at the Intermediate campus.

Mrs. Marshall has been instrumental in changing the PTO for the better. Not one to take all the credit, she again stressed the success is thanks to the board as a whole.

“I narrowed the focus down to our mission statement,” she acknowledged. “It is our goal to raise funds for the school so I canceled some of the things we were doing if it wasn’t the exact focus of our mission statement.”

In addition, she stressed the important of staying positive and fixing problems and moving forward as smoothly and swiftly as possible. Communication is also key, she added.

For Mr. Marshall’s part, a huge component of what the soccer association does is creating community.

“Bringing parents and families together that wouldn’t otherwise get to know each other,” he said. “It makes for a better community that we live in and everybody spends time together.”

Another critical component is athlete development, in both skill set and character.

“The development of the athlete touches on a lot of different aspects of personal development, internal drive, ability to handle disappointment and ability to develop the player,” Mr. Marshall shared. “They develop personally and as a soccer player. They’re developing their skills and characters as human beings.”

Mrs. Marshall pointed out that the association was not able to water its field for three years due to the high price of fees for watering.

“The fees they (the City of Liberty Hill) were charging would have caused us to double our fees and so we turned off the water and didn’t water our field for three years,” he said. “Just recently we got a new contract with the City that allows us to water again and in the process we are figuring out the best way to restore our fields to an acceptable condition. It’s in really bad shape right now.”

Volunteerism comes down to giving back to the community for the Marshalls.

“It’s a great way to feel like a part of something that has meaning,” Mr. Marshall emphasized. “I really, really enjoy the people that I work with to make each soccer season happen.”

Mrs. Marshall has been volunteering since she was in high school.

“It’s at my core, at the center of who I am,” she explained. “I don’t really feel whole if I’m not doing it.”

In addition, she feels like Liberty Hill is a unique place to live.

“Rick and I were faced with possibly having to leave Liberty Hill,” she shared. “It was a great opportunity and we couldn’t do it. We couldn’t leave. We feel like it is such a wonderful place to raise your children and we feel like our children have been so blessed to have been given the opportunity to be here since kindergarten, and grow up in this environment.

“I feel like it’s my duty to give back to it and make it better,” Mrs. Marshall said. “I also want my children to see me giving back so they can realize the importance of that and hopefully follow that example.”