"But the thing to realize is that your hometown will always be the first community you know and it watched you grow into the person you are today. If you have a chance to go back and change it or impact it no matter how great or small, you take that chance."
Leslie Johnson, formally Leslie Gebhardt, returned to Tomball with her family in mind and is now successfully reconnecting with her community through her business, Tomball Yard Greetings, as the owner and operator since 2015.
"I started my business as a way to reconnect to our community while also giving me the ability to stay at home with my children after a marketing career," she said.
Her connection to this community dates back to 1993 when her dad's job brought her family to the area. It wasn't long before they landed in Tomball after her mother researched school districts.
"Tomball stood above the rest for what they wanted...smaller district, highly rated and many activities for my brother and I to participate in," she said.
Leslie was extremely active in school, having attended Beckendorf Intermediate, Tomball Junior High and Tomball High School. She is a 2000 graduate of THS and was a member of the Cougar Charms and played an active role in Tomball STAGE.
"I was in theatre production class, enjoyed many different roles in various productions, and also was the stage manager for our fall production my junior year and outreach officer for the drama club by senior year," she recalls. "I also attended the state convention for three years with Tomball STAGE."
Because of her creative nature, Leslie found a passion in the arts.
"My parents considered me their 'free spirit'." She took that free spirit and eventually landed in North Carolina. There, she was tasked with finding her path and it was an information session for the Art Institute of Charlotte that helped pave her way.
Her creative side was explored and the school provided her an outlet with like-minded students and professionals who valued creativity over lecture. She went on to earn a Bachelor's degree in Fashion Merchandising and Management in 2009.
After many "big-city experiences" following her degree, Leslie and husband Josh, decided they wanted a small-town life for their growing family so they returned to Tomball.
"It was important to us to give our kids the same experiences we had growing up," she said. "There is something about a small town that cannot be replaced by big city lights no matter how hard you try."
Despite the growth in Tomball, Leslie and her family have been able to make the most of their reconnection to her once beloved community.
"Tomball is special because you can have those unique small town experiences like a holiday parade, little league, city festivals, mom & pop restaurants but still have the convenience of the city of Houston with their big city fast-paced life."
She admits that she was that kid in high school that couldn't wait to leave and explore the world, but now realizes that returning to a connected community is what life is all about.
"Returning to Tomball also allowed me to teach my husband all the secret backroads and about the Mel's Burger Challenge."
Not only has she returned to Tomball, she has quickly made an impact with her business and volunteering with her son's PTO as Vice President. She looks forward to continuing the same volunteer spirit when her daughter joins Tomball schools in the future.
"I grew up with a mom highly involved in our school. From elementary to high school, if we were involved my mom was right there volunteering and supporting us. I knew that if I wanted my son to succeed and his school to be a place he wants to go, I needed to be there supporting the teachers and staff."
She has a passion for giving back and a passion for actively sharing her creativity with this community.
From welcome back to school signs, happy birthday signs, to events around the community, one can connect those colorful yard letters to Leslie Johnson and her business, Tomball Yard Greetings.
"Every yard greeting we install spreads happiness and cheer in our area while reconnecting me with old friends I haven't talked to since graduating, which was an unexpected bonus."