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Black History shared with ‘Breakfast and Bible’ students

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Breakfast and Bible students hear learn about black history

By Willa Wooten

CROCKETT – With February being Black History Month, Breakfast and The Bible students took the opportunity to visit a local church for a unique learning experience. Anderson Chapel United Methodist Church, located off Highway 19 South of Crockett, invited the group to attend their Black History Program on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023.

Upon arrival, the congregation personally greeted each student with a warm welcome. In response, the students introduced themselves and presented each member with a Black History Book Marker. Dr. Willia Wooten then called the group to order with congregational singing of several Negro Spirituals followed by the regular order of service. Highlighting the program was a special presentation by the Breakfast and The Bible Students, which included singing, praying, and oral readings to honor the memory of three famous Americans—Rosa Parks, George Washington Carver, and Martin Luther King. Several congregation members were called on to share their stories with the students, adding to the list of contributions made by Blacks,. Speakers included: Robert Wooten, Lawrence Beall, Gwendolyn Scott, Barbara Wooten, Reginald Berry, Donald Wooten, Hunter Watson, Burtis Wooten and Henry Watson. Students heard insight into careers from the military to education and engineering. The common message from each speaker to the students was, “ set your own goals; follow your own dreams and do not let anyone tell you cannot achieve them.”

Pastor Carlton Johnson summarized  Black History Sunday with an inspirational message of courage, hope, and faith. He reminded the congregation of the importance of knowing Black History by sharing the following statement: “He who ignores his history is doomed to repeat it.”

In closing the program, Bro. Hunter Watson and Pastor Robert Johnson recognized guests and extended words of appreciation for completing the program. To further involve the congregation in the Black experience, Dr. Wooten presented foods for tasting, including black-eyed Peas, corn-on-the-cobb, sweet potatoes, hog maws, fried chicken, tea cakes and pound cake.

Breakfast and the Bible is the Youth Outreach Program for the Lovelady Circuit of United Methodist Churches. According to Pastor Robert Johnson, Program Administrator, “ The students meet monthly on the second and fourth Saturday of each month for breakfast, Bible Study, and the development of Social Skills.” “Being committed to the success of  our students in Reading and Math, we have made plans to add a tutorial component to our program going forward.”  All parents/guardians interested in having their children join Breakfast and the Bible, please contact Wooten, Program Coordinator, at (936) 546-4020 for more information.    

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Crockett Bookmobile- a dream realized

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Bookmobile ribbon cutting

By Jan White
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CROCKETT – “My first love was the library,” said Judy Scott, librarian for the J.W. Wootters Crockett Public Library. “Back when I was in college, my major was in library science.”

But life has a way of changing plans. It wasn’t until 1989, when Scott was subbing for school, that Scott had to opportunity to return to that first love. “The librarian at the elementary school decided that she was going to retire. They offered me the job. So I worked for the school library from 1989 to 2002.”

Although Scott explored other employment paths over the years, the love of the library stayed with her. In 2021, the position of library director at the Crockett Public Library became available. “I had a friend of mine come and say, ‘why don’t you apply for the job?’” But Scott had her doubts. “I went home and talked to my husband about it, and he said, ‘What do you have to lose?’ so I applied for it.” A couple of weeks later, Scott heard from the board that she had the job. “I came in running,” she said, “but it’s been great.”

Because she came on board during the Covid pandemic, Scott had some hurdles to cross. “The schools were really put in a bad position because so many children did not have computers or even a way to get to the library. So that’s when I started thinking, Okay, well can we do.”

One of the programs that Scott implemented was the children’s program, a valuable tool for homeschoolers, which gave the children exposure to new teaching concepts and ideas and the opportunity to interact with other homeschooled children. Although the program was recently discontinued for several weeks, Scott said that they had hired a new director for the children’s programming, Courtney Trapp, who will start on March 2. “You know, she only has a little bit under two months to get it going, but we hope to have our summer program up and running soon. I’m hoping that’s going to flourish.”

Scott has high hopes that the bookmobile idea will also flourish. She had spoken to her supervisor, City Manager John Angerstein, who agreed that the bookmobile was a great idea. “So, in one of the board meetings, I mentioned it, and they also supported the idea. My thought was because we had so many kids that were in the disadvantaged communities, it would really help us get the books out there.” Scott said that the school system does what it can, “but so many kids don’t get the opportunity to come into the library.”

One of the things that Scott did was to contact the housing department. Kelley Stotts, Executive Director, thought it was a great idea and said she would get letters out to all of her parents. Another thing Scott had to do was revisit the concept of library cards. “Normally, we ask people to come into the library to get cards. So we ended up creating a paper application to give to her [Stotts] so that she could mail it to her residents. So we’re hoping to get all of that.”

Scott said that one of the library board members suggested that she contact the J.B. and Kathryn Salis Charitable Foundation for assistance. “And lo and behold, they actually gave us enough money that we were able to purchase the entire bookmobile.” Scott praised the Salis Foundation and Jeanne Wootters, wife of the library’s namesake, for being instrumental in getting the bookmobile up and functioning.

On Thursday, Feb. 23, Scott and library board members, employees, Crockett city officials, and other library supporters joined together for a ribbon cutting to officially launch the J.W. Wootters bookmobile, “Books and Beyond.” Be on the lookout for the bookmobile in a neighborhood near you.

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Broadband efforts addressed at DETCOG monthly meeting

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Mickey Slimp shows list of underserved households to a large crowd. PHOTO BY JAN WHITE|HCCMickey Slimp shows list of underserved households to a large crowd. PHOTO BY JAN WHITE|HCC

By Jan White
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KENNARD – The Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) held its monthly meeting on Friday, Feb. 24. Allison Harbison, Shelby County Judge and President of the organization, officiated over the meeting, which was held in the packed dining room at Larry Bruce Gardens.

Several local officials spoke at the beginning of the program, including Judge Jim Lovell and Mayor Dr. Ianthia Fisher. Harbison also recognized other county and district officials - Sheriff Randy Hargrove, Precinct 2 Constable Red Smith, Judge Sarah Clark, and Linda Parker from Trent Ashby’s office. After introducing the board members, special guests, and attendees, Harbison moved on to address the agenda items.

The board approved resolutions in support of the Homeland Security grant applications, which included a) Regional Homeland Security Planning Project, b) Regional Chemical Detection Device,c) Regional Communications Enhancement Project, d) Regional Law Enforcement Training Academy, e) Responder Communications Enhancement Project, and f) Web EOC Upgrade and Enhancement.

Also approved was the 36-page Homeland Security implementation plan. The comprehensive plan outlined topics such as preparedness assessment, implementation concepts, regional maps, hazard matrix, as well as regional training needs.

Mickey Slimp, who is spearheading the push to improve the State of Texas broadband census map, updated attendees with a report of their ongoing efforts to verify and report broadband speed or deficiencies so that underserved rural areas can obtain more government funding to improve broadband service.

Slimp, who serves as the Broadband Initiative Project Manager for DETCOG said “For us to complain about any change, we have to show that 20% of the population from the census is not receiving broadband service. Will we be able to do that? We’re working on it. We’ve got close to 4,000 responses to the survey so far.”  Slimp says that they will use their results to “make some noise” and try to make changes to ensure a more accurate census.

Because DETCOG Executive Director, Lonnie Hunt, could not attend the meeting, there were no updates on programs and operations, so the meeting adjourned.

The April DETCOG meeting will be held at The Shelter in San Jacinto County (Coldspring).

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Local student is honorary “Page for a Day”

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Georgia Cate Calvert with Sen. Robert Nichols Photo courtesy of Kathi CalvertGeorgia Cate Calvert with Sen. Robert Nichols Photo courtesy of Kathi Calvert

By Jan White
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On Tuesday, Feb. 7, Quest Academy student Georgia Cate Calvert had the opportunity to serve as an Honorary Senate Page for Senator Robert Nichols at the State Capitol building in Austin.

Georgia Cate had this to say about her experience. “At the beginning of the school year, Trent Ashby came to our school to donate an American flag.” She was so excited to see him in person that one of her friends suggested she might like to be an honorary Page. Her response was, “Yeah, that would be fun to go to the Capitol building and meet important people.”

Kathi Calvert, Georgia Cate’s mom and Houston County Electric Cooperative’s general manager, is quite familiar with visits to the state capitol. She thought it would be a good experience for her daughter because she likes serving in student government.

Georgia Cate has been on the student council at Quest Academy since the third grade when she became her class representative. “The next year, I was treasurer. I ran for president,” she said, “but 10 kids ran for president, so I didn’t make it.” This year, she is the Student Council Parliamentarian.

The Honorary Senate Page for a Day program falls under the auspices of the Sergeant-at-Arms. Becoming a Page can provide students with insights into the lawmaking procedures for the State of Texas. Students must be at least eight years old and no older than eighteen to participate in the program.

Typically the page responsibilities include delivering correspondence and legislative material in the Capitol and Senate buildings.

Occasionally they carry bills and amendments to the desks and help prepare

 the Chamber for Senate sessions. Pages can also help with rudimentary office duties such as making copies, faxing, or filing.

   Georgia Cate said that her experience as a Page was fun. “I was probably the only elementary-aged kid there. And I was the only girl,” she said. “All the others were teenage boys. We got to walk around the building delivering messages around the offices. We would take letters or notes to different offices. If they had a return message or paper, we’d take it back for them. Then we’d wait until we got another job.”

   Assignments are in three-hour shifts from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Honorary Pages must be accompanied by a senate messenger, and they are expected to stay with that messenger during their service as a Page. Georgia Cate said she was accompanied by a messenger named Nick. She thought that it was particularly cool that she got to hang around college kids, and that “they actually listened to me and didn’t treat me like a little kid.”

   The day Georgia Cate served as an Honorary Page, the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas was recognized as part of the Tribe’s Capitol Day. The Tribal Council, who had traveled from their Reservation near Livingston, was recognized from the floor of the Senate by Senator Robert Nichols and from the floor of the Texas House of Representatives by Representative Trent Ashby. Afterward, the Tribe hosted a lunch on Capitol grounds, where they performed several traditional dances.

   “I got to meet some of the tribe,” said Georgia Cate. “[Lieutenant Governor] Dan Patrick was there. And there were so many people in suits. There were desks for all the senators, and we put the stuff they needed to read on the desks.”

   One of the highlights of the trip was that Georgia Cate got to tour the Capitol. She was particularly impressed by the rotunda dome. “I got to go up to the top floor to look at it,” she said. “Did you know that the big star at the top is surrounded by letters that spell out ‘Texas’?”

   Georgia Cate said that she might be interested in working as a Senate Page full-time if she attends college in the area. “I want to go to SMU or MIT because I want to major in science. But if I went to college in Austin, then yes, I’d probably like to do it.”

   Ms. Calvert said the best way to find out about the Honorary Page opportunities is to contact Senator Robert Nichols’s office, which will schedule a day for your child to attend. The Sergeant of Arms office recommends scheduling your child’s service on days that the Senators will be on the Senate floor. Spring Break fills up quickly, so the office suggests that parents or guardians submit requests for that week as early as possible. The first two weeks of the session, Jan. 10 through Jan. 20, and the last two weeks, May 15 through May 29, are closed, and Honorary Pages will not be scheduled on those days.

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Houston County Hospital District hears audit reports

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Houston County Hospital District LogoBy Jan White
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CROCKETT – At the Houston Hospital District Board meeting held on Tuesday, Feb. 21, Kim Johnson with Todd, Hamaker & Johnson presented the audit report.

Johnson told the board that the report for 2021 is an unmodified or unqualified opinion. “It says that, in our opinion, based on the information we have reviewed, it is a fair representation of the financial position and the statement of the changes in the financial position of the hospital district for the years ending 2021.

Johnson then moved on to the 2022 audit. “As a reminder to the board and to the public, we are hired as independent auditors to audit the financial statements. This letter has gone to great lengths to ensure everyone knows what the auditor does and what the management is responsible for. My responsibility is to review that financial information and supporting documentation in accordance with government auditing standards. This report is also an unmodified and unqualified opinion. A clean opinion, which is, I’m sure, what you are looking for.”

“If there is something that we feel the board may need attention to, we will present it in a separate letter which we call a ‘Management Letter. In this letter is a comment I’ve made for a few years now. I feel that you need to develop a better, more comprehensive capital policy and a policy that states you need to do an inventory of your assets over at the hospital itself. This is out of an abundance of caution. It is my opinion that should there be disputes between the current operator and the district, like Little River, as an example, you need to make sure that the hospital district knows the assets that they have and which are theirs. As I read it, most of the assets are the district’s, even if CMC has to replace them. Up to this point, no inventory has been taken, so I think it’s time to look at that again.”

Dick Murchison told the group that he was taking steps to perform the suggested inventory. “We’re getting a list from CMC of machinery and equipment that they have provided so we can be able to distinguish between what is the districts and what is not the districts.”

After the auditor’s report, board member Rhonda Brown brought up the issue of paying for hospital repairs incurred without prior knowledge or board vote. Johnson stated that ‘best practices’ would be to know in advance and make the budget amendment, but she also said that sometimes emergency situations happen and that it was a matter of the board’s discretion.

During the vote to accept the Feb. 14 meeting minutes, a lengthy discussion was held regarding Agenda Item 4 –  in which a motion was made to form a Special Negotiations Committee. Brown told Murchison, who is responsible for recording the meetings and presenting the minutes, “I want the minutes to reflect that I said it was not stated on the agenda. There was no mention of it on our Executive Session agenda. It may be a gray area, but it wasn’t on the agenda.”

Roy Langford stated that he, too, felt that it was a ‘gray area.’ Brown interrupted Langford saying, “I’m telling you, going forward, after CEIDC, I’m doing everything by the books. In my mind and in my thoughts, I’m going by the books. I’m not going down that path. I’m not getting put in the hot seat.”

Langford then read aloud the agenda rules stating that “The Houston County Hospital District Board of Directors reserves the right to adjourn into Executive Session at any time during the meeting to discuss any matters listed above authorized by Texas Open Meetings Act,” which includes consultation with attorney, deliberation about real property, personnel matters or negotiations. “Since negotiations were one of the things we were talking about, this falls into that [category].”

Crowson defended her position, stating, “Our attorney recommended that I appoint a special committee so that we would have one group dealing with any possible operators that might be interested in this hospital. So that’s what we did.”

Following that discussion, Crowson reported that the Special Negotiations Committee had met and gone over the lease in great detail, asking numerous questions of their attorney in Austin. “We are deep into the specifics of negotiations, and we hope to have a more detailed report in a timely fashion.”

Dinah Pipes, representing the ambulance committee, reported that they had discussed the $8k per year increase request from the current service as well as other topics such as budget and what other increases might be incurred. It was also reported that the executive committee met with Dick Murchison to discuss updating the financial position based on taxing income received at the end of the month.

The board passed on one agenda item: to discuss and take action on the AMR ambulance contract because the contract had not been received at this time.

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