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Tyler County News - Breakout

Lions host ‘Bikers Against Child Abuse’

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072822 bikers against abuse

By Michael G. Maness

WOODVILLE – Woodville Lions heard Ms. French of BACA, Bikers Against Child Abuse, at their Thursday evening meeting at the Lions Den on July 14.

BACA is in most states and several countries and dedicated to supporting children from 5 to 17 who were victims of child abuse. They work with District Attorneys, Child Protective Services, CASA, and more.

“Ms. French” is her biker name, has been at this for years and is president of the Beaumont chapter that has about 25 members covering several counties. Because of her age and size, she just transitioned from a Harley to a Trike—she is less than five feet, yet large in spirit.

One must go through a lot of checks, including an FBI NCIC background check and over six months of training to get a patch on the back of their “kutte,” pronounced “cut.” The kutte originated from the club leather jackets that were “cut” in the summer to be cooler, the collar and sleaves removed, so the members could still wear their earned patches and other emblems. They look like a vest, only broader in the shoulders.

Like many biker groups, they are a family. Ms. French admirably outlined how they bring the child into their family: “once a BACA child, always a BACA child.”

When a child is adopted, BACA gives the child his or her own kutte. They are also given a special BACA teddy bear. One little girl wore her kutte to school and play and all around; she felt like she belonged, like part of a big family—and she was. She was BACA now.

One little 10-year-old boy was scared to come outside. After a few meetings with BACA, playing, crafts, support—listening, affirming—the little one ventured outside. Always having someone to listen to and “be there” for him, the life-giving affirmation invigorates.

BACA’s first-class brochure and website BACAWorld.org outline the history, vision, and teamwork with local law enforcement and the court social services. They are on-call, too. They confidently publish: “We do not condone violence or physical force in any manner, however, if circumstances arise such that we are the only obstacle to preventing a child from further abuse, we stand ready to be that obstacle.”

A child has to have gone through the legal process and be in legal custody. As all know, abuse is a life changer. Law cannot protect 24/7, and many children cannot afford therapy. A primary goal of BACA is to help the child feel safe, protected, because then they “are more capable and likely to tell the truth regarding their abuse. Threats made by an abuser are offset by the presence of dedicated and protective bikers that have now become family.”

Their code of honor includes standing with the child at their home or in the court or anywhere needed. As Ms French said, there was a sight to see with a little girl’s hand wrapped around the beefy finger of a big hairy biker—safe!

Not long ago, a young girl who was a victim in her early teens had to go to court when she was 22. Often, feelings regress to the trauma, the fear, the torment, and nightmares return. The now young woman struggles to gather her courage. No problem!

BACA backed her up in court, even willing to stand by her side as she was on the witness stand—once a BACA child, always a BACA child.

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Colmesneil council discusses check pay service

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072822 colmesneil check pay serviceCouncil moved on to discuss the suspension of the Check Free Pay service at city hall, as it doesn’t produce enough profit to continue offering it.

By Mollie LaSalle

COLMESNEIL – The Colmesneil City Council held its monthly meeting last Tuesday after moving the meeting time from the second Tuesday to the third Tuesday of the month.

In order to have a quorum, the meeting started with councilmember Bubba Sheffield attending via speaker phone. Sheffield was delayed, and eventually did make it to the meeting about 10 minutes into it.

Council swiftly approved all minutes from the previous meeting and began addressing agenda items for July. The first item was the adoption of the addition of Columbus Day and Juneteenth to the employee benefit plan for the city, as these are both federally recognized holidays. Council voted to approve the item.

The assistant city secretary tendered her resignation, and council approved it in short order. Council also approved the ordinance declining the change in rates requested by Entergy; they do this every year, and the city always opts to decline the rate changes.

Council moved on to discuss the suspension of the Check Free Pay service at city hall, as it doesn’t produce enough profit to continue offering it. City Secretary Wendy Bendy also said that” since the local bank closed, we have large amounts of money we have to hold onto until it can be deposited at the bank in Woodville”.

The local hardware store has approached the mayor with the intent of taking this over, in effort to get more business in the door. Some coordination with the hardware store and a 30-day notice that the city will no longer offer the service are required to make the change. Council has agreed to work with the owner of the hardware store to make this happen.

Council members wanted to express their gratitude to the Colmesneil 4H members who volunteered to put out the flags along the highway and take them down for the July 4 holiday. Council members approved sending a letter of thanks to each student who participated. With all agenda items discussed and voted on, council adjourned at 7:30. Colmesneil City Council meets on the third Tuesday of the month at City Hall at 7 p.m.

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Teen Police Academy shows students realities of police work

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072822 Teen Police Academy OnePolice investigator Steve Drumm, of the Ivanhoe City Marshal’s Office, shows students of the Woodville Teen Police Academy some police prodedures.  Photo courtesy of Arin Dees

By Chris Edwards
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WOODVILLE – A group of teenagers got the chance recently to see what it is that police officers do on a day-to-day basis, and to receive some training in law enforcement procedure.

Woodville Police Department’s annual Teen Police Academy drew a group of 12 students, officer Arin Dees said. The students who attended were mostly from the county’s summer work program.

Dees, who has been involved with the annual academy since around 2014, said she is thankful that her department is able to host and support such an effort. Dees and Woodville PD officer Steven Hoke, who is also the Woodville ISD School Resource Officer, are the facilitators of the program.

A big part of the program, she said, is to show a different side to police work that young people often do not see or envision.

“Most of them are seeing and thinking about the bad things that are part of our job,” she said. “Taking people to jail and fighting with people is a very small portion of what we do.”

Dees said that all of the “rough and ready” tasks that police officers are faced with is offset in part during the training by the presence of other law enforcement agencies, as well as officials, such as Woodville Municipal Judge Judith Haney, who presented on the first day of the academy.

Some of the topics addressed through the four-day academy include the use of force, which is taught by Woodville PD Captain Jathan Borel; crime scene investigation; EMS and fire department protocol and a class on “Shoot/Don’t Shoot.”

The students are able to see, Dees said, that police work can be “90% boredom and 10% chaos.”

“We put the students through a variety of situations, from traffic stops to mental health and domestic violence calls,” she said.

Woodville PD, according to Dees, makes a big effort to put all of the students who attend through hands-on learning experiences, which she said is paramount to most teenaged students’ ability to learn the concepts.

The age range for the students is 16-18. They must be high school age to attend. Dees said that prior to the pandemic, the academy used to service a full class of 25 students, but in the past couple of years, has capped at 12.

“We want to have a bigger class and are trying to figure out how to do it,” Dees said of the future for the Teen Police Academy.

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Drive to benefit local food pantry

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072822 food driveVolunteers load boxes of food donations up at the Heavenly Blessings Food Pantry in Colmesneil. Photo by Chris Edwards

By Chris Edwards
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WOODVILLE – A local faith-based food pantry is looking for donations to help provide for those in the area who might need a helping hand.

Heavenly Blessings Food Pantry, which is based out of Colmesneil, will be the beneficiary of an upcoming food drive in the parking lot of Brookshire Bros. in Woodville, on Saturday, July 30, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The event is sponsored by the Southeast Texas Food Bank, and all donations received will go to Heavenly Blessings.
The work of Heavenly Blessings has benefitted Tyler County since 2019, when Bro. Bill Massey, and a crew of volunteers, began distributing produce in front of the City Hall building in Colmesneil.

The donations the group received came from the Southeast Texas Food Bank, based out of Beaumont, and according to Massey, in 2020, with the pandemic setting in, the availability of produce slowed down.

“We partnered with the SETX Food Bank and officially opened a pantry in 2020,” Massey said. “We purchase food items for 16 cents per pound from (the food bank).”

The pantry is located at Massey’s church, Tejas Road Baptist Church, in Colmesneil. Before the produce distribution and the food pantry, Massey was called to outreach by way of “blessing boxes,” which he and his brother-in-law, along with Raymond Baker, built, and placed in Colmesneil. One of them is in front of City Hall and the other at the church. The boxes, vertical wooden cabinets, encourage anyone who might be down on their luck to “Take what you need, give when you can.”
Heavenly Blessings has been able to provide dairy items, as well as a variety of produce items, fruits, rice, pastas and other foodstuffs, and even limited amounts of frozen items.

Massey said the outreach ministry serves more than 100 families each month from Doucette, Rocky Springs, Rockland and Colmesneil. Heavenly Blessings distributes its food boxes on the second and fourth Fridays of each month, and uses a small base of volunteers, eight to 10 people, whom Massey said generously donate their time to work, based on their availability.

Massey said the group currently receives small monetary donations from three different churches in Colmesneil and Woodville, as well as occasional donations from various residents.

For volunteering opportunities or to make a donation, Massey can be reached by phone at 409-429-8639. Teri Haddad, who serves as the assistant director for Heavenly Blessings, can be reached at 713-907-7494.

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County extension agent bids adieu to position

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072122 extension agent retires

By Jacob Spivey

There are moments in life, where everything changes. From that moment on, nothing is the same. Like everyone, I’ve got a lot of those moments, the second Melanie Watkins walked around the corner, and in my smooth debonair manner I fumbled out something to say and managed “ I like you cause your tall” , when seemingly seconds after my oldest child was born, when the nurse took us back to the room and just left me alone with a minutes old baby like I was supposed to know what to do, and some twenty-five years ago, when I was just in the fourth grade, when this gray-headed man got out of his pickup to talk to me about the show-pig I was going to raise.

While my family, of course knew Mr. Cauthen, my first memories of him interacting with me, was him driving an hour out of his way to offer me advice about raising a pig for the Trinity Valley Exposition (a pig we stuck eighth in the sale by the way), a fair and a kid that he had no reason to care about, changed my entire life, From those first moments that he got out of his truck and made his way to a show pen I knew that I wanted what he had. I wanted to be whatever he was. In the last 25 years a lot of things have changed. I eventually got to be in his class, and he and Mr. Currie changed the trajectory of my life in 1000 different ways. I remember being a sophomore, and I had done something a stupid teenager would do, and Mr. Currie chewed me up one side and down the other, telling me that it didn’t matter how smart I was or how badly I wanted to run things, a real leader was someone that people would want to follow, that’s another piece of advice that changed the way my life was going.

Eight years ago, I had another set of moments, when a county commissioner called me and asked me if I wanted to come home. After college I had managed to do what I thought I’d wanted since I was nine years old, and I’d become an Ag teacher, working a few hours north of here advising the Timpson FFA, but he knew and how right he was, that my heart was in Tyler County, even if I was doing a job I enjoyed. From that phone call, and the proceeding few months lead me to taking the job of Tyler County AgriLife Extension Agent for Texas A&M University. In the time that I have had this job, we have grown the 4H program from three county fair projects to over 60 last year, we have seen this office change to become a force for education and change in the community. When I first got here, seemingly every phone call or conversation, was about how no county agent stayed for long, or cared about the challenges Tyler County faced.

When I took this job, there were a million different challenges, my first fair board meeting, men, and women I respected and cared about, asked me if I was here to do the job, or to keep letting 4H be where you enrolled if you didn’t want to follow any rules. I spent countless nights wondering what I had gotten myself into.

In time, this has become a job I absolutely love, I have fallen deeper in love with my community and county, I have met thousands of people, and hopefully, I have helped them. I’ve had every problem in the world come thru the doors of my office, from identifying weeds and grasses, to caring for a set of orphaned armadillos, drought, floods, freezes, people who just needed an ear to listen as they talked about the transitions of life they were going thru because they’d moved, or retired, or lost someone. There have been times this job has become absolutely one of the hardest things I have ever done, and now, I am doing one of the hardest things I can imagine, I’m leaving it.

A little over a month ago, I was standing on a porch in Kennard after working a field day with some fellow county agents, and I got a phone call asking me if I knew anyone that might want to teach Ag in Warren. At that time, I was absolutely thrilled in my job with A&M, but sometimes you have those moments, and I knew that I was in one almost immediately. Every summer since 2015 I have been called and asked about going back to teaching high school. In fact, this was the second time that Warren had called me, but somehow this time I knew it was right.

While taking the job at Warren is an extraordinary joy, and a little bit of trepidation and intimidation, leaving the extension office is without a doubt full of sadness. I have grown to love agriculture, Tyler County, and her people in deeper and more meaningful ways than I could have ever imagined. I am not moving to Egypt, I will still be around, but now I will be officing just a little further south and somehow, thru divine direction, I will be sitting at a desk that was once held by the man who inspired me to fall in love with agriculture 25 years ago, Mr. Cauthen. I couldn’t have written my story this way if I’d tried, in high school I dressed up as Mr. Currie for hero day, and now I’ll be working across the room from him. Matt Swinney and I have been friends for nearly 30 years, and now we’ll go back to teaching together. I’m excited about the future.

But my heart breaks for leaving the office of Tyler County Agent. I have loved every minute of it, and I have always been so proud to serve you, my number is still the same, my love for this county is still the same, and this will certainly not be the end of my time serving you, in one way or another, I’ll always love my time here, and I’ll always love Tyler County.

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