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Helping young mothers in need

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071722 house of maryBoard members and directors take part in the ribbon cutting Thursday afternoon. Photo by Brian Besch

By Brian Besch
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A group of approximately 70 people joined founders and board members at the House of Mary just off North Houston Avenue Thursday afternoon to open the new shelter for pregnant women.

The idea started in motion August of 2015 and ground was broken on the project in March of 2019. The organization was able to pay cash for the existing building through its donations.

“There were too many times that we thought this day would never come,” House of Mary Founder and President Rusty Garcia said before cutting the ribbon. “I will say that it was God’s Army beside us that kept reminding us the purpose of what we are here for, what we are doing, and what He has placed here in Polk County.”

Garcia asked those in attendance to keep praying and spreading the word.

The House of Mary is a maternity home and can house up to eight residents at a time. Four residents will share each of the two bathrooms and each bedroom has enough for two residents per room.

“They can stay for the duration of their pregnancy and up to eight weeks postpartum,” House of Mary Co-Founder and Vice President Cyndie Schmidt said while giving a tour of the home. “While they are here, they will learn life skills like financing, meal planning, how to budget and opportunities for continuing education — whether that is finishing their GED or college degree or any short training program.”
The group is always looking for sponsors for events and monthly donations. Ladies’ Tea, an annual event, will occur each April to fundraise. General donations will go to operating expenses to keep the lights and water on, and pantry full.
The house includes a laundry room, kitchen and living room. Bible studies and family dinners will take place every night in the home. Each of the residents will take turns planning, shopping and cooking meals.

There is a house mother that will remain on duty 24 hours a day, along with other house mothers who will come in and relieve her on occasion. The home is for those 18 and older, and the house mother will serve as a mentor to offer guidance.

House of Mary is a program and not an emergency placement center. The hope is that those successful in the program will leave with housing, skills to manage and maintain a home, and a job that will support the mothers and their child.

071722 house of mary twoThe George Baily Learning Center will be used for education and research. Each mother will be responsible for meal planning and has access to laundry facilities. Bedrooms in House of Mary have space for two expecting mothers. Photos by Brian Besch

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Houston teenager drowns

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071422 houston teen drowning

From Enterprise Staff

An investigation by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office into the Sunday drowning of a young man from Houston is ongoing.
“We received a 911 call in reference to a 15-year-old who went under water and did not resurface while swimming with family in the Trinity River, just below the Lake Livingston Dam,” Captain Dave Sottosanti said.

Polk County Sheriff’s Deputies, along with Texas Game Wardens, immediately arrived on the scene and began attempts to locate the youth.

“On Monday, first responders were able to recover the body of the 15-year-old, approximately 400 yards from where he initially went under water,” Sottosanti said, adding, “If anyone has any information in reference to this case, please contact the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at 936-327-6810.”

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State drops fight against Naskila Gaming

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071422 naskila wins over state

From Enterprise Staff

The State of Texas has ended its longstanding effort to shut down Naskila Gaming, the electronic bingo facility that the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas operates on its Deep East Texas reservation.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office formally notified the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week that it would not appeal a lower court’s 2021 ruling that the tribe is legally operating electronic bingo at Naskila Gaming. The state’s decision to drop the case comes after the U.S. Supreme Court, in a separate but similar case, ruled last month that the tribe and the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo in El Paso can operate electronic bingo on their lands because state law does not prohibit bingo.

The Supreme Court ruling and the state’s decision not to appeal the 2021 ruling represent major victories for the East Texas economy and the 700 Texans whose jobs are tied to Naskila Gaming.

“The families that depend on Naskila Gaming for their paychecks are breathing a sigh of relief,” Ricky Sylestine, Chairman of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas Tribal Council, said. “For years, the state’s efforts have created uncertainty for our tribe, Naskila Gaming employees, and our East Texas neighbors. Now we can put those threats behind us and look to a brighter future.”

The state’s efforts to prevent electronic bingo on the tribe’s lands go back decades. In 1994, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court sided with the state and ruled that the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo could not offer any form of gaming, which impacted the tribe as well. Many years later, a decision by the National Indian Gaming Commission allowed the tribe to open Naskila Gaming, which has remained open for more than six years while the state’s efforts continued to work their way through the courts.

Along the way, the East Texas community rallied in support of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe. More than 80 business and community groups have approved official statements and resolutions in support of Naskila Gaming, and elected officials from both parties have voiced support for the facility.

“The Alabama-Coushatta Tribe are our East Texas friends,” State Rep. James White said. “I am elated that the federal courts have provided a level of clarity in order for the state to decide not to further pursue litigation. This is a win for the local prosperity for the tribe and for Deep East Texas.”

While recent legal victories have removed the short-term threat of closure, the Alabama Coushatta-Tribe of Texas is still hopeful that the U.S. Congress will provide further certainty by passing a simple law that would put the tribe under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, better known as IGRA. This change in federal law would prevent the state from seeking new legal avenues to shut down Naskila Gaming in the future.

Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation by unanimous consent to put the Tribe under IGRA, but the U.S. Senate has not acted on the matter. Sens. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Jon Tester of Montana have introduced S. 4196, which is identical legislation to what the House has already approved.

“The Senate can and should provide our employees, visitors and community partners even greater certainty by passing this legislation before the end of this year,” Sylestine said.

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50s and 60s music coming to Huntsville

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071022 july concert

From Enterprise Staff

Sting Ray Anthony’s “Juke Box Rock” with special guest Shake Rattle & Roll will be in concert at 4 p.m. July 17 at the Old Town Theatre located at 1023 12th St. in Huntsville.

Do you remember saddle shoes and poodle skirts? How about jukeboxes and cars with fins? Sting Ray Anthony does–although in the 1950s, he wasn’t even a gleam in his father’s eye yet. But for Trinidad-born, Canada-raised Anthony, it was love at first listen. His mother, as it happens, was a bit more modern than his father (who favored the standard bearers of the previous era, such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin). She was into rock and roll.

“When I was around eight or nine, my mom turned me onto the rock and roll stuff,” Anthony said.

He then proceeded to buy and listen to every Elvis Presley recording he could.

Anthony turned his love of music into a passion for playing. He began playing rock and roll music around town and was doing quite well. Then, the movie La Bamba came out. It was a biopic of the late young California musician who was hitting the charts in the early 1960s with songs that touched a generation, Ritchie Valens. The movie starred Lou Diamond Phillips, and changed the course of Anthony’s career.

“I was already out there playing, and when the movie came out, people started saying, ‘hey, you look like the guy from La Bamba,’” Anthony said.

With his uncanny resemblance to Lou Diamond Phillips, Anthony literally brings Valens’ music and more back to life. There are cover artists. There are tribute artists. There are even look-alike impersonators. But if you want to see the real thing, there is Sting Ray Anthony and his Juke Box Rock show. For those who long to relive the 50s and 60s music of their own youth, and those who are discovering it for the first time, Anthony presents a legendary line-up of songs of the era.

“I’ve been very fortunate to help keep Ritchie’s memory alive and play all kinds of rock and roll,” Anthony said. He has been able to meet and work with several performers of the era and help introduce them to a new generation of fans.

“I’ve gotten to play on the biggest stages and befriend my heroes. Just last week I met James Burton (famously known for working with Elvis). I’ve met and played with and befriended just about everyone who played with Elvis and in that era, including Chubby Checker, Bill Medley, Peter Noone, Frankie Avalon and even Valens’ sister, Connie,” Anthony said.

Perhaps the most touching meeting, though, has been Anthony’s encounter at a show in York, Penn. Gil Rocha, the only surviving member of The Silhouettes (Valens’ original band), was moved to tears of gratitude to Anthony for keeping Valens’ music alive. “The bottom line of this whole thing that we do here is to keep the music and the memory alive. The music is dying out, the radio doesn’t play it anymore,” Anthony said.

He said his show is old school and entertaining. He talks to the audience and encourages them to sing along. “You wanna get up and dance. That’s why I’m here–to entertain you. It’s not a serious show. I like to have fun. That’s why I keep playing this music. By the time you leave this show you’re gonna be rock and rolling out the door, bringing out the spirit again.”

Special guest performers will be the all-girl doo-wop band, Shake Rattle & Roll. These internationally known, award-winning ladies will quickly have you dancing and laughing and loving the music of an era gone by. Made up of band leader Tavie Spivey, her sister LeAnn Bemis, avowed funny girl Brenda Spencer and relative newcomer Debi Comis, the band is on a mission to bring the fun of the 50s and 60s to both those who were there and those who came after.

“It’s a real family show. People bring their kids and grandkids to the show. We cater to those people,” Bemis said.
Achieving the level of success that the band currently enjoys did not happen by magic though. Tavie Spivey was freshly retired from 27 years in the army and had always wanted to have an all-female show group. She had begun singing when she was 15 and quickly discovered that she could make more money singing on weekends than she could in a whole week at work.

Spivey’s husband, Tom, was getting ready to call it a day as well, and entertainment was needed for his retirement party. Bemis recalls the event.

“They wanted her to bring entertainment for the show, and it ended up being just me and her. We didn’t have a group, so we had to put a group together. It went well and the phone started ringing,” Bemis said.

The group has been together for 16 years now, and although Spivey admits it was a bit difficult to find the perfect blend of harmonies and personalities for the show, she said, “Things are trucking, comin’ back and we’ve got a lot of people interested. We do male and female so it’s not all just women’s songs.”

She describes some of the stars that they pay tribute to, “Roy Orbison, the Four Seasons, Elvis … we do everything from Lollipop to Little Darlin’. A big draw on our show is that we get the audience involved with us, we do singalongs, and we’ve got some gals who love to work the harmonies.”
Bemis agreed.

“We’re there to have fun and love entertaining other people to make sure they have fun. Our show isn’t just singing, it’s a show. We have choreography, jokes, we go out into the audience, we try to get everyone involved. It really is an interactive show.”

As it happens, all four members of the group used to sing gospel, and that love of music and harmony shines through whenever they perform. While some of the support from their husbands is more of the cheering from backstage kind, Spivey’s husband, Tom, is their sound engineer, and Bemis’ husband, Doug, handles their merchandise sales, photography and security.

“So many of the fans follow us from show to show, they’re almost like friends, they call out from the audience and say ‘we’re here, we’re here. It’s really neat. We’ve (also) become friends with the bands and other entertainers we work with,” Bemis said.

In addition to the satisfaction of winning awards, including a recording contract at a doo-wop contest in Las Vegas and Vocal Group of the Year by Valley Star Awards, it’s the love of the music that keeps them working hard to continue to hone their skills and bring their show to as many fans as possible.

“We’re excited about coming to Huntsville. We haven’t entertained there before. I think my favorite thing is the friendship that the three ladies and I have together, and we love entertaining other people. We’ve been together so long it’s almost like we’re sisters,” Bemis said.

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Shooting under investigation

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071022 shooting investigation

From Enterprise Staff

The investigation into a local shooting that occurred Wednesday night continues. Javius Smith, 22 of Goodrich, suffered a gunshot wound and was transferred by ambulance to St. Luke’s Health Memorial Hospital where he was later airlifted elsewhere.

The Livingston Police Department received a call at 8:04 p.m. Wednesday of an altercation in the parking lot of the Livingston Plaza Apartments located in the 1000 block of Forest Hollow.

“There are multiple different stories,” Livingston Police Chief Matt Parrish said, adding that investigators are still collecting and reviewing witness statements and evidence from the crime scene.

Parrish said that according to witnesses, Jaylen Washington, 20 of Livingston, began shooting at a truck and then Jarquavious Nickson, 25 of Livingston, took the gun and began shooting.

Washington and Nickson fled the scene but were located by officers shortly thereafter near the intersection of East Mimosa and Thicket where they were detained. Parrish said that during a search of the vehicle, officers found several firearms including two semi-automatics and a rifle. They also observed blood in the vehicle, he said.

Nickson has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, tampering with physical evidence and unlawfully carrying a firearm. As of press time Friday, charges were pending against Washington as officers waited for him to turn himself in.

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