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Heart Institute physician nominated for ‘Super Doctor’ honor

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Dr. Ravinder BachireddyDr. Ravinder BachireddyLUFKIN – The Heart Institute of East Texas is proud to announce that Dr. Ravinder Bachireddy has once again been recognized by Texas Monthly as one of the top physicians in Texas. 

Bachireddy has had the honor of being elected to the Texas Super Doctors Hall of Fame for the 15th consecutive year! For being on the Texas Super Doctors Hall of Fame list for 15 years, Dr. Bachireddy has also been listed in the “Legacy Member Hall of Fame”. The number of doctors receiving the Texas Super Doctor recognition is approximately 5% of the region’s active physicians and Dr. Bachireddy is the only Texas Super Doctor Hall of Fame & Legacy Member in our region. 

The selection process for Super Doctors is a rigorous multi-step process designed to identify healthcare providers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Super Doctors is a selective yet diverse listing of outstanding doctors. Dr. Ravinder Bachireddy said “To be selected as a Texas Super Doctor by a panel of my peers is one of the highest honors.” The Heart Institute of East Texas and Dr. Bachireddy are dedicated to transforming Cardiovascular care in Deep East Texas. 

Dr. Ravinder Bachireddy founded The Heart Institute of East Texas in 1982 and for almost 40 years he and his colleagues have brought state of the art technologies to Lufkin and developed it as a regional Cardiovascular hub. He is committed to transforming cardiovascular care in Deep East Texas. The Heart Institute of East Texas was awarded the Texas Medical Foundation (TMF) Physician Practice Quality Improvement Gold Award in 2019. As Cardiovascular Champion, Dr. Bachireddy led the team at CHI Memorial to earn the American College of Cardiology’s highest recognition, “the HeartCARE Center of National Distinction of Excellence” (2018, 2019, 2020, & 2021), “PIONEER award” for being one of the first ten hospitals in the U.S.A to receive the HeartCARE Center of National Distinction of Excellence and highest accreditations in Heart Failure, Chest Pain, Cath Lab with PCI & Electrophysiology.

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Lawsuit filed against Crockett-based childcare center

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Exterior of the Treehouse Academy a daycare in Crockett, Texas (Alton Porter/Hcc Photo)Exterior of the Treehouse Academy a daycare in Crockett, Texas (Alton Porter/Hcc Photo)

By Chris Edwards
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

CROCKETT – A group of Houston County parents have filed a lawsuit in Montgomery County against a Crockett-based daycare center.

The suit, which has 14 named plaintiffs, alleges that incidents of abuse took place within the facility, Treehouse Academy, or Renaissance Treehouse Academy, LLC, as it is named in the suit as defendant.

Earlier in the year, a series of videos were shared to social media, alleging incidents that took place inside the facility and had parents and residents voicing concerns online.

Paola Mendez, one of the plaintiffs, is a former employee of Treehouse Academy, and also had children under the facility’s care.

Last year, an investigation was conducted into the facility, and resulted in criminal charges against three past employees, but was ultimately no-billed by a Houston County grand jury last December.

Mendez shared videos to Facebook, which were not among the evidence presented to the grand jury. She and the other parents hoped to have their cases reopened under a different charge, but the attorney they were talking to did not take the case. 

Initially, Mendez said she did not wish to be part of a lawsuit but decided to join in and pursue it after she was fired from the facility. The plaintiffs are being represented by Bradley Leger, with the Houston area Leger, Ketchum & Cohoon firm. The defendant is being represented by Aaron Pool, of the Houston-based Donato, Brown, Pool & Moehlmann firm.

Leger said that the facility violated the parents’ trust by failing to protect the children. “These parents trusted this childcare center to provide quality care for their children in a safe environment,” Leger said.

A call to Pool was not returned at the time of this story being published.

Mendez, who spoke to East Texas News in May, said that she began noticing her two-year-old son crying and behaving strangely at home, prior to the investigation beginning last year and prior to her viewing the first surveillance video that surfaced.

She noticed scratches on her son’s chin, as well, when he was a baby, but did not think anything of it, and ignored bruises and bumps, which she assumed was from rough play.

Mendez said her son would start crying, shaking and hiding. She said that her son was scared of two of the workers who were charged last year, and said she feels guilt for not recognizing what was happening to her son. “A daycare is supposed to be a safe place for your kids, not their worst nightmare,” she said.

In the later footage that surfaced, all of the individuals’ faces are obscured by emoticons in order to protect privacy, and incidents of alleged dragging and hitting of children are depicted.

In one of the videos, viewed by the Courier for a story on the facility in the May 13 edition, an individual is heard saying “Stop all that whining” and a slapping sound can be heard in another video. The videos appear to be cellphone captures of a surveillance feed.

The lawsuit alleges, along with the physical and verbal abuse, that the facility also was in violation of state-required standards. 

Also of note, corporal punishment is not permitted in daycare facilities in the state of Texas. According to the facility’s handbook given to parents for the year 2020-21, on page 17, Treehouse’s overriding philosophy as to behavior guidance is that “children are important,” and as such the facility’s staff is to protect the safety of the children.

Among the actions forbidden by Treehouse staff members, according to the document are physical or mechanical restraint, subjection of a child to emotional or physical abuse and under the header “Discipline,” it states that corporal punishment will not be used as a form of punishment at the center.

The trial is scheduled for April 4, 2022 in the 284th District Court, before Judge Kristin Bays.

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Extreme weather could still threaten grid

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Capitol Highlights.jpbThe state’s power grid could still be at risk under extreme winter conditions, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, but should operate fine under normal conditions.

The Seasonal Assessment of Resource Adequacy, issued Friday, said the grid can meet normal and even moderately challenging weather conditions but could break down if the state faces winter storms such as occurred last February.

During Winter Storm Uri, much of the state experienced prolonged blackouts.

“We expect there’s a 10% chance that demand will exceed what ERCOT considers to be their extreme peak load scenario,” Andrew Dessler, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M who has been researching the grid, told KUT.org. “In my opinion that’s not a great worst-case scenario. One in 10 things happen all the time.”

The assessment from ERCOT came just days after a similar assessment from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which said Texas is under “extreme weather risk” if winter weather conditions exceed projections, spawning rolling blackouts as experienced last winter.

KUT reported recently that natural gas producers and suppliers can opt out of any mandates to winterize their production facilities, while power plants must do so under a bill passed by the Texas Legislature during the regular session.

Election Audit Division funds allocated

Gov. Greg Abbott and GOP legislative leaders announced Friday that $4 million has been shifted from the state prison system to the secretary of state’s office to pay for county election audits as required under the state’s new elections law.

The Dallas Morning News reported the secretary of state’s office, which is under the governor’s control, would create an Election Audit Division that could conduct random county audits of elections under the new law.

“Ensuring the integrity of our elections is critical to our democracy, and the Texas Secretary of State’s office deserves the resources and support needed to thoroughly complete this ongoing task,” Abbott said.

Abbott said the audit of Dallas, Harris, Tarrant and Collin counties is “the largest forensic audit in the country.” Former President Trump called for a statewide review of the 2020 presidential election despite winning the state by more than 600,000 votes. 

Shipping containers used to create border wall

Abbott directed National Guard and Department of Public Safety troops to place about 20 large shipping containers along the banks of the Rio Grande to form a “steel curtain” to prevent illegal crossings from Mexico.

The Houston Chronicle reported the move came while the world is facing a shortage in shipping containers that is contributing to the supply chain disruptions being experienced as a result of pandemic-related shutdowns.

The shipping containers were placed next to the international bridge at Eagle Pass.

“Large shipping containers, resources, and personnel are being used to protect communities and property owners. Texas is securing the border,” Abbott said in a tweet.

Winter rainbow trout stocking begins

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department begins its annual stocking of more than 350,000 rainbow trout throughout the state this week, a program that continues until early March. 

“TPWD stocks catchable-sized fish during winter months to create angling opportunities throughout Texas,” Carl Kittel, rainbow trout program director, said. “Rainbow trout love cold water, can be caught on a variety of baits and lures and are great to take home and eat. Our winter rainbow trout program has been a favorite with anglers for over 40 years.”

TPWD manages 18 neighborhood fishing lakes in the state’s major urban areas, as well a number of city- and county-managed park ponds. Anglers are encouraged to take their daily legal limit, because the trout can’t survive in the state’s summer heat.

The 2021-2022 Trout Stocking Schedule can be found online at: https://tinyurl.com/8ayk2nbs.

COVID-19 cases steady but deaths drop

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the past week in the state was largely unchanged from the previous week, with 22,976 reported by the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University. A total of 591 deaths were reported, down 30% from the previous week. The number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations in Texas stood at 2,663 as of Sunday, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. That is down just slightly from the previous week.

The number of Texans who are fully vaccinated totals 15.78 million, which is 54.1% of the state’s population, according to DSHS. In addition, 2.42 million people in the state have received an additional dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches and Cedar Park. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Lockhart foundation distributes turkeys

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Eugene Lockhart, Jr. poses with community members. (JAN WHITE | HCC)Eugene Lockhart, Jr. poses with community members. (JAN WHITE | HCC)

By Jan White

This year marks the twenty-fourth anniversary of the Annual Turkey Giveaway Program - an event initiated by Crockett native and former Dallas Cowboy linebacker Eugene Lockhart, Jr. 

Lockhart previously shared how the turkey giveaway came about. “I had a dream. And, in that dream, God gave me a vision. Being from a small country town, I visualized coming back and doing something to let the people know that God and they have made a difference in my life, and I want to let them know I appreciate it. I just want to encourage you to never stop chasing your dreams until you achieve them. And dream big! Don’t let small minds convince you that you can’t achieve your dream. And, if you ever feel like you want to fall, try to land on your back because if you can look up, you can get up.”

Eugene Lockhart Jr.’s story is an inspiration for those who wish to dream big. A true “local boy makes good” tale, Lockhart became a two-year starting linebacker for the University of Houston during the 1982 and 1983 seasons. In 1983, the Cougars named him tri-captain of the football team, and he was named second-team All-Southwest Conference by UPI and voted the team’s most valuable player. 

In 1984, the Dallas Cowboys selected Lockhart in the 6th round of the NFL Draft. He was the first rookie in Cowboys’ history to start as a middle linebacker. Lockhart led the team in tackles in four of his seven years with the Cowboys, where his aggressive plays earned him the nickname “Mean Gene, the Hitting Machine.” 

While Lockhart admittedly has suffered some setbacks, they never kept him from pursuing his dream of giving back to the community where he grew up. With the help of family and friends, Lockhart has provided free turkeys, along with other food items, for local pastors to distribute to families who otherwise wouldn’t have much of a Thanksgiving. 

This year the event was held in front of the Porth Ag Arena on Friday, November 19. A U-Haul truck containing frozen turkeys was positioned in front of the arena, ready to pass out the poultry. 

Jurlinda Lockhart Gentry, Lockhart’s sister and spokesperson for the event, began by thanking attendees for coming. She spoke briefly about Eugene’s vision for the giveaway. Then she introduced Emmitt Horace of New Restoration Ministries Church of God in Christ, who led the crowd in an uplifting version of the hymn “We’ve Come This Far by Faith.” 

Following the song, Mayor Ianthia Fisher shared her thoughts. Recalling the words “A place to call home,” Dr. Fisher referred to the city of Crockett as “home” and its residents as “family.” She then expressed her appreciation to Eugene and the Lockhart family for all they’ve done to make this opportunity happen and for taking care of the “Crockett family.”

Mrs. Gentry invited local pastors in attendance to share a few words, afterward acknowledging Pastor Leon Wallace, Ron Forehand of Good Shepherd Fellowship Church, Dr. Jerome and Mrs. Dorothy Washington, Calvin and Cynthia Neel, and Kenny and Pam Rains from First Baptist Church for their support. Mrs. Gentry also expressed her gratitude to Samantha Wiley and Kim with Walmart management for their help providing the turkeys. Previously, the organization purchased turkeys from the Dallas area and cold-shipped them to Crockett. But last year, because of Covid, they partnered with the Walmart Supercenter in Crockett. Mrs. Gentry concluded by expressing appreciation to her husband, James Gentry, Executive Director for the Crockett Economic and Industrial Development Corporation, for his support.

After a prayer of thanks and blessing, pastors lined up their vehicles to receive the turkeys. 

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Donate safely this Giving Tuesday

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FILL Graphic FTC

Rosario Méndez
Attorney, Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC

Giving Tuesday is a great time to show your gratitude by donating to help others. But you don’t want to give money to a fake charity or scammer (any day of the week).

Before you donate this Giving Tuesday ― and anytime you’re asked to give to charity:

Research the cause or the organization. Search online for the name of the organization or cause with words like “review,” “scam,” or “complaint.” See if others have had good or bad experiences with the charity. Check out what charity watchdog groups say about that organization.

Know that it’s ok to ask questions. If the request for a donation is over the phone, the caller should be able to answer critical questions. For example, how much of your donation will go to the program you want to help? Is the caller raising funds for a charity or for a Political Action Committee (PAC)? (Donations to PACs are NOT tax deductible.)

Slow down. You don’t have to give over the phone, and anybody who pressures you might be someone you want to avoid giving to.

Know who’s making the request. Don’t assume a request to donate is legitimate because a friend posted it on social media. Your friend might not personally know the charity or how it spends money. When you do your own research, double-check the exact name of the organization. Scammers will pick names or use website addresses that sound very similar to legitimate well-known charities.

This Giving Tuesday, and in this season of giving, consider starting with a plan for year-end donations. That way, you have time to do research, make your gifts, and tell anyone who asks that you’ve already given. Learn more at ftc.gov/charity.

 If you see a charity scam, report it at ReportFraud.ftc.gov and to your state charity regulator.

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