First Graders Bite Down On Good Dental Habits

There typically is an “epidemic” of snaggle-toothness among first graders, and quite a few of these first graders at Latexo Elementary School are no exception.  These newest members of the Fantastic Teeth  Club enjoyed learning from members of Lothrop Masonic Lodge #21 how to take care of those permanent teeth that soon will fill the gaps in their smiles. There typically is an “epidemic” of snaggle-toothness among first graders, and quite a few of these first graders at Latexo Elementary School are no exception. These newest members of the Fantastic Teeth Club enjoyed learning from members of Lothrop Masonic Lodge #21 how to take care of those permanent teeth that soon will fill the gaps in their smiles.

Submitted By
Barbara Simpson
Latexo ISD

The last week of February and first week of March brought members of Lothrop Masonic Lodge #21 to Latexo Elementary on a couple of occasions.

First, they visited with students in grades 2 – 5 to promote the Scottish Rite Hospital's "Take Time to Read" program.

Then, they visited with students in first grade to promote the Masonic Charities' Fantastic Teeth Club program.
As a part of the reading program, students were encouraged to read every day. They were given a calendar to record how many minutes each day they take the time to read.

At the end of the month, the calendars will be signed, collected and returned to Masonic Charities.
Students will then receive awards based on how much time they spent reading.

As a part of the dental care program, students have been taught about dental care in the classroom. This was followed by a visit from members of Lothrop Masonic Lodge #21 and the school nurse, who quizzed the students on what they had learned about taking proper care of their teeth.

At the conclusion of the presentation, each student was presented with a bag from Masonic Charities. In the bag, students were given a new toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, as well as stickers, a game and information about proper tooth care.

In speaking to the lodge representatives present, Tom Murphy, D. C. Williams, Jack Watson and Alan Kepley, it was revealed that Masonic lodges across the state are participating in these programs, as well as with programs through Shriner's Hospital.

In Texas alone, they are able to connect with over 300,000 children, encouraging them to participate in and develop healthy habits.

Lothrop Masonic Lodge #21 in Crockett visits students in the Crockett ISD, Kennard ISD, Latexo ISD, as well as Vista Academy and Torchlight Academy.

The Lovelady and Grapeland lodges provide these services to their schools.

The Masonic lodges also support area high school seniors through their scholarship program, and encourage seniors of 2015 to complete their applications and turn them in.

Campbell Produces Grand Champion

(Courtesy Photo)(Courtesy Photo)

60th Annual Lovelady Calf Show

Ethan Campbell produced the Grand Champion winner of the 60th Annual Lovelady Calf Show on Feb. 28. The calf weighed in at 1,110 pounds. Katelin Stone's calf was the Reserve Champion, weighing in at 1,140 pounds. Stone and her animal also won Rate of Gain and Showmanship awards. In third place was Emily Connell with a calf weighing 972 pounds. Others who placed in the event were Krystal Sutton, fourth place, 948 pounds; Kaylee Campbell, fifth place, 950 pounds; Treyton Wilson, sixth place, 820 pounds; Colton Currie, seventh place, 948 pounds and Trent Thompson, eighth place, 822 pounds.

Cather Woods Recognized For Being First Paid Subscriber To ‘Minority Landowner Magazine’

The “Minority Landowner Magazine” recently recognized Cather Woods of Houston County as the publication’s first paid subscriber.  (Lynda Jones Photo)The “Minority Landowner Magazine” recently recognized Cather Woods of Houston County as the publication’s first paid subscriber. (Lynda Jones Photo)

By Lynda Jones

The "Minority Landowner Magazine" recently recognized Cather Woods of Houston County for being the publications's first paid subscriber.

The magazine presented Woods with a large plaque during its Ninth Anniversary Conference in Houston Feb. 26-28.

The magazine's publisher, Victor L. Harris, said that Woods' encouraging words provided much of the incentive he needed to become successful.

Others from Houston County who attended the conference were Ina McCoo, Mr. and Mrs. P. A. Colter, Mr. and Mrs. Len Wooten, Mr. and Mrs. Franklin Wagner, Korey Hicks, Rosemary McCullough, Pearl Adams and the Katrese family.

The event featured discussions about "Family Farms and Finances", "How I Diversified My Operation", "Crop Isurance and Farm Bill Overview", "NRCS Conservation Programs", "Land, Wills and Estate Planning" and "Faces of American Agriculture".

The conference was dedicated to the memory of Helen Dubose, who was considered the First Lady of African-American Agriculture. Dubose, born in 1919, was a pioneer for minority women in agriculture. She passed awya on Jan. 24.

Minority landowners from throughout the United States attended the conference. Some were from as far away as Montana, Utah and Florida.

The magazine is published quarterly by the Cierra Publishing Company in North Carolina. For more information about the magazine, visit

Lovelady Native Represents Texas Youth

Michaela Gardner of Lovelady was chosen as the 2015 Youth Leadership Conference representative for Texas during her participation in the Government-in-Action Youth Tour in 2014. (Courtesy Photo )Michaela Gardner of Lovelady was chosen as the 2015 Youth Leadership Conference representative for Texas during her participation in the Government-in-Action Youth Tour in 2014. (Courtesy Photo )

Lovelady native Michaela Gardner represented the State of Texas, Houston County Electric Cooperative and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association at the Youth Leadership Conference.

Gardner was chosen as the 2015 YLC representative for Texas during her participation in the Government-in-Action Youth Tour in 2014.

Only one student is chosen as state representative of all the delegates attending Youth Tour.

As the Texas representative for YLC, Gardner gained hands-on leadership and speaking skills as well as in-depth knowledge of the electric cooperative industry.

She most recently represented Texas at the NRECA Annual Meeting and shared the week with electric cooperative leaders from across the nation.

"The board of directors and staff at HCEC are extremely proud of Gardner's accomplishment. She represented her community, her cooperative and her state well at the national level," HCEC officials stated.

Gardner is a freshman at Stephen F. Austin State University and is the daughter of Charles and Rhonda Gardner of Lovelady.

Each year, HCEC sends two local students to Washington D.C. to participate in the annual Youth Tour.

During Youth Tour, students tour Washington DC, visit with national leaders, and gain first-hand knowledge of how our government is run and its interaction with electric cooperatives. Participants are eligible to try to earn the position of Texas representative at YLC during the tour.

Texas DPS Director Praises Houston County

Texas DPS Director Praises Houston County

Steven C. McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety (right) presented Kenneth "Red" Smith Constable Precinct Two (center) and Houston County Judge Erin Ford (left) with plaques of appreciation for their support for the Texas Department of Public Safety on Friday, Jan. 23. McCraw made the presentation at the dedication ceremony for the new DPS offices in Crockett. The offices are located at 112 East Houston Ave., where the former Houston County Jail building was renovated to meet the needs of the DPS. Praising Houston County, McCraw said, "Many places we go, people ask what we can do for them. In Houston County, you ask what you can do for us. We appreciate that." The DPS office includes the drivers license office, the Texas Highway Patrol offices and the Texas Rangers office. (Photo by Kelly McChesney)

Chaplain Credits Faith-Based Programs For Successful Rehabilitation, Re-Entry

By Lynda Jones

After 20 years of utilizing faith-based programs in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) prison system, the recidivism rate has dropped dramatically, according to Dr. Vance Drum, TDCJ's new Director of Chaplaincy Programs.

Vance DrumVance DrumDrum, a resident of Houston County since 1985, has more than 30 years experience as a correctional chaplain within the TDCJ.

He was chaplain at the Eastham Unit for nearly 28 years, which he described as a wonderful ministry. In 2012 he became the regional chaplain for Region 1, which encompasses East Texas, including 14 prisons and 17 chaplains.

He just recently was chosen to be director of the TDCJ Chaplaincy Programs. He now is over 126 chaplains in Texas, including five parole chaplains and six regional chaplains on 109 prison units.

"I believe that good programming, faith-based, rehabilitative re-entry programming has a significant effect on offenders' lives," Drum said. "It makes it better for the wardens because if anybody turns to the Lord in prison, and starts really believing that God's up there and God has expectations for us and the 10 Commandments really mean something, that you really shouldn't kill and steal and all that, it will affect their behavior in a positive way.

"Our aim is to promote positive change in offender behavior; that's our TDCJ mission and also part of our chaplaincy mission."

"Chaplaincy programming is a big part of that in the Texas prison system," Drum explained. "I experienced that at Eastham. Eastham, when I went there, was not a good place at all. It was one of the worst prisons. In fact, the year after I went there, in 1986 Newsweek Magazine came out with a cover story called 'Inside America's Toughest Prison', which was all about the Eastham prison, which was right here in Houston County."

However, Eastham changed over the years, Drum said, and he feels blessed to have been involved in the transformation.

"We got new wardens in, forward-looking wardens who believed in programs, so programs came into that unit and that unit dramatically changed for the better. It was a big prison culture transformation at Eastham," he said.

As Drum discussed the TDCJ chaplaincy programs, he explained that normally there is not much turnover of correctional chaplains, but due to retirements, there currently is a large turnover.

"As of January, five of the six regional chaplains will be new on their job in the last 10 months," he said. "A lot of prisons opened in the early 1990s . . . and a lot of chaplains did 20 years . . . there's not much turnover in chaplains at all. They like their job; they're helping people and that's what chaplains do, but after spending 20 years in prison they can retire, so a lot of them are retiring these days."

Just because of retirements, he said, 10 of the 17 chaplains in Region 1 are new.

The same is true of the regional chaplains, Drum said.

" There are six regions in the whole state so I work especially with them, and with the individual chaplains periodically also," Drum explained.

"What I'm trying to do as director is through the regional chaplains and through them the unit chaplains, is to guide them into providing really helpful rehabilitative re-entry programming for all the 155,000 offenders in the TDCJ, in prison," he said.

Drum stressed that rehabilitative re-entry programming is working.

"It's been working for about 20 years, especially emphasizing it. As a result, the recidivism rate, that is the return to prison after three years out, over the last 20 years has dropped dramatically in Texas from about 75% 20 years ago to the current recidivism rate, which is about 22%," he said.

"I've seen that happen first hand over the years, and I believe in long tenure. If you're doing a good job, long tenure really helps because you sort of become a part of the culture at the prisons, chaplains do. They really can do a lot of good if they stay and work at it in a good way," he continued.

Drum is proud of the success rate of faith-based, rehabilitative re-entry programming within the TDCJ.

"Texas is on a good track with the TDCJ promoting these good programs, and my goal now is to continue that and enhance it by what I've seen and what I know works. I'm really thankful that I was selected to be in this job and we'll just give it the best we have. I believe God helps us in all these things to do a good job and to help many people," said. "Many, many people are in prison because they did not have early guidance or help. A lot of prisoners had good parents, but many prisoners did not have good parents who gave them guidance and direction in their lives. They got with the wrong crowd and they went to prison, sometimes for a very long time . . . For many of these prisoners, we're serving as surrogate dads and moms for them and we're giving them what they may not have gotten early in their lives, so I'm glad we're doing what we're doing."

Drum also credits three major entities for the success of the chaplaincy programs in Texas.

"Right now, in the past three or four years, the three big entities in Texas that govern what we do have all come together on the same page . . . The Legislature, the Texas Board of Criminal Justice and our executive leadership in TDCJ, have all come together promoting good programs to help offenders in a new way, a renewed emphasis on faith-based, rehabilitative and re-entry programming. They all are supportive of the chaplaincy. I'm thankful for it because it means that we're able to do what we want to do which we know works; it's a blessing."

Drum also is excited about the opportunity to lead correctional chaplains across the nation to do what the TDCJ chaplains are doing. Last month he was elected to his second term as president of the American Correctional Chaplains Association, historically the first affiliate of the American Correctional Association which began in 1870.

Unit chaplains can feel isolated from their peers, so it's good to meet other people with the same goals, Drum explained.

Drum concluded, "The good news is a significant number of inmates in prison do have a life direction change. Not all of them do, they have to want it, but a significant number do and that's all the result of good chaplaincy programming. That's what I'm excited about."