Medical hearts of gold

BY SANDRA SANCHEZ
Assistant opinion editor

Sunday August 26, 2012

At the Family Abuse Center’s Waco shelter, where hundreds of women and children go to escape domestic abuse, a woman with the kindest of faces stood shaking before me on Tuesday evening. She was visibly distraught and scared.

She and her child had been whisked to the shelter a few nights ago by police. They had fled an abusive home life with just “the clothes on our backs,” she told me. Her child was ill with a respiratory infection and other conditions and needed medications. Medicines that they had hurriedly left without.

And so she was extremely grateful for an on-site urgent care clinic — operated Tuesday evenings at the shelter by local volunteer physicians — that gave her child free prescriptions that very day.

I’m purposely not revealing her name, the gender or age of her child, nor the center’s location. The domestic abuse victims who find their way to the center’s bullet-proof doors are literally running for their lives and could be endangered if found by their attackers.

That’s why having a medical clinic on site is so important in allowing these women to stay hidden. Yet it seems to be a rarity among shelters, Family Abuse Center executive director Kathy Reid told me. In fact, Reid explained the success of their clinic before 100 people at a national meeting held in Washington, D.C., earlier this week by the nonprofit organization Futures Without Violence. She said it is possibly one of only six shelters in the nation and three in Texas to offer such on-site medical care. It appears to be among the most successful and so far has served 55 clients.

It really is quite an impressive operation that relies on the generosity of the community; in particular the nonprofit Family Health Center. And remarkably, the idea originated three years ago with a meager $10,000 federal grant that center administrators have prudently managed to stretch and build upon.

“It really is a great partnership,” Reid said as she gave me a shelter tour. “This is a critical facility, as some of our clients are actually stalked when they try to visit their doctors.”

The clinic is held in one room of the 55-bed shelter facility that serves seven counties. The urgent care clinic opened in November and was initially run every other Tuesday. In June it began operating every week. An average of five families seek free medical care, tests and medicines there each week.

The Family Health Center donated a medical exam table for the clinic, said Dr. Dianne Sawyer, a retired OB/GYN who oversees the clinic and draws in doctor volunteers. Most of the volunteer physicians work or have worked for the Family Health Center, which itself treats low-income area patients. “Most physicians are interested in helping out,” Sawyer said. “They and local nurses really have hearts of gold for this very good cause.”

Most of the original grant paid for prescriptions and tests, like pregnancy, blood pressure, diabetes and HIV test kits. They have been able to get additional grants from other local businesses, like Allergan Inc., which has given prescriptions.

All follow-up care is done free at local Family Health Center clinics. Patients are driven to the clinics by shelter staff. Likewise, shelter staff give all new intakes information on the Family Health Center and help them set up wellness visits and aid them with indigent-care card applications.

Reid, a former pastor who worked helping the homeless in Austin, says many abused women aren’t used to the attention. The special care the Family Health Center affords them lifts them up during dark times in their lives.

This is but one small outreach program the Family Health Center operates in our community. They serve 50,000 of our area’s poor. I suspect that not many people know about the shelter’s urgent care clinic and how Family Health Center gives of its services to help out there. I wonder if McLennan County Commissioners are aware of it as they prepare to vote on a $79,000 reduction in county funds to the Family Health Center in the 2013 fiscal budget.

I wonder if they know that reducing funds could prevent another kind-faced woman fleeing for her life from getting follow-up care for her child?

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at 757-5723 or ssanchez@wacotrib.com.

Shoring up our fiscal future by investing in it

BY SANDRA SANCHEZ
Assistant opinion editor

Friday August 24, 2012

Kris Collins, director of business retention and expansion for the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, offered a bit of hard truth while walking me through the process of how new companies might consider relocating to Waco — a major component of economic development.

“It’s not necessarily the sexiest thing in the world or headline-making,” she told me, “but it’s very interesting how companies make their decisions.”

And important. Extremely important. For every new job added to our area, there’s a multiplier effect that spreads far and wide, leading to the creation of other jobs and much-needed tax revenue for our community.

For every 100 jobs added, 168 additional jobs are created. That relates to new housing construction, increased retail sales and new banking deposits, chamber data indicates.

“Economic development is an investment in revenue,” Sarah Roberts, senior vice president of economic development for the chamber, told McLennan County Commissioners on Aug. 17. “The best way to keep future tax increases at bay is really growing the tax base.”

To her credit, Roberts deemed the issue so critical she spoke before the court while on maternity leave, a scant few days after giving birth. She was among a barrage of chamber and civic leaders who have spoken out recently about this somewhat mundane, misunderstood subject, seeking to convince commissioners not to cut $1.25 million that the county typically allots for economic development. This all comes as the court tries to balance the county’s unwieldy 2013 budget.

Elected officials need to realize how far behind our community will be compared to similar-sized cities if we fail to fund for future business incentives.

Since 1997, the county and city have pooled money into the Waco-McLennan County Economic Development Corp. It has a balance of $6.5 million. The fund started with both contributing $500,000, and each has been giving $1.25 million annually for several years. That may sound like a lot, but it really isn’t compared to what other cities in Texas devote to economic development. We rank a dismal 28th of 29 Texas cities. Harlingen’s annual fund contribution exceeds $40 million. Amarillo’s is $20 million and Abilene’s is more than $10 million.

Granted, all of these cities have a sales tax, perhaps a half-penny or a quarter-penny, devoted to economic development. But adding taxes is a toxic proposition here these days and this fund seems to suffice for Waco.

So far it’s been successful. The chamber, which serves as administrator of the fund and provides investment recommendations and client relations, says $29 million in grants have been awarded to 43 projects to date. These projects have leveraged $504.4 million in private capital investment and have created 4,353 new jobs and retained 5,413 jobs.

And these are relatively high-paying jobs. To qualify, businesses must pay at least $12-per-hour wages, health benefits and take root in the county.

The funds are scrutinized by a three-member board consisting of City Manager Larry Groth, County Judge Jim Lewis and a Waco Industrial Foundation representative. After that, projects must still pass muster with the Waco City Council and county commissioners.

Meanwhile, chamber officials are busily working to attract new businesses and spur existing companies that might want to expand. Convincing businesses to invest in our community is what they do — and they do so with the incentives provided by the $2.5 million paid into the economic development fund by the city and county each year.

The city on Tuesday voted to continue contributing $1.25 million to the fund. And they have quite rightly been outspoken about concerns that county cuts could set back local economic development. Mayor Malcolm Duncan Jr. told Tribune-Herald reporter J.B. Smith: “Once you take a sum like that out, it’s very hard to get it back.”

Considering the hoops and hurdles and competition we face from other Texas cities, states and even countries to attract and retain businesses here, we need every dollar we can get.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at 757-5723 or ssanchez@wacotrib.com.

Texas lawmakers should stand up for our kids’ health and consider soda tax

BY SANDRA SANCHEZ
Assistant opinion editor

Friday August 17, 2012

While at a movie theater recently, a portly boy stumbled into the row in front of me as the film began and spilled the largest soda he could buy, splashing its 52-ounce, caramel-colored contents onto me.

I wasn’t upset. I was secretly celebrating that he wouldn’t be consuming up to 585 calories in one sitting.

But to my surprise, the female adult he was with told him to “go get a refill,” which he quickly did. Then he proceeded to finish the entire drink.

I halfheartedly watched the movie (with sticky feet). I don’t even remember the title. I was preoccupied by the scenario and disturbed by the effects sugar is having on today’s youth and society.

I readily admit my evaluation of the lad’s faltering is riddled with judgment. But I believe children today need to be protected from the harmful and “toxic” effects of sugar, as Christine Sinatra of Texans Care for Children puts it. If that adult had truly been concerned, she would have given him a cup of water.

I’ll go even further, and likely take flak for it, and publicly endorse New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s controversial proposed ban on large sodas and other sugary drinks. I’m also grateful for first lady Michelle Obama’s push for increased exercise and better nutrition for our youth.

Something has to be done. Our society cannot continue to consume vast amounts of sugar and remain in our comfortable, sedentary lifestyles without significant health and financial consequences to our country and communities in the not-so-distant future.

In Texas, 20 percent of children ages 10 to 17 are obese — that’s above the 16.4 percent national average. These children face an 80 percent chance of staying obese their entire lives, as well as significant health issues, like diabetes.

Obesity costs Texas businesses $9.5 billion per year and could rise to $32.5 billion by 2030 if the issue goes unaddressed, the state comptroller reported in 2011. Yet, many people still balk if lawmakers even hint at recommending changes to their lifestyles. They scream their rights are being violated and accuse the government of trying to take over their lives. But if citizens won’t take initiative, then outlawing or restricting access to certain food or drink is a solution.

I grew up in the 1970s when sharing a 12-ounce can of Coke (or Sprite) with my brother was a treat we got only a few times a year. If I was really lucky, it was paired with a hamburger from Burger King that had me licking my lips for weeks. Nowadays, parents readily have liters of soda for children on hand, or worse, they buy them supersized 64-ounce soda Big Gulps — equal to almost six Cokes that I used to split. Six!

I was sickened by photos of parents picketing outside the New York City Board of Health’s July 24 public hearing on Bloomberg’s plan to ban large-size sodas and sugary beverages from city restaurants, sports arenas, movie theaters and food carts. Protesters had young children in tow drinking Big Gulps for emphasis and press attention.

Former Coke executive Todd Putman told public health officials in Washington this summer he had been part of an industrywide trend to campaign for what the company called “share of stomach.” He warned youth and minorities of an “intense” strategy beverage companies used to attract consumers.

That includes a $2 billion industry-wide marketing campaign, Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, testified at the New York hearing.

The New York health board is expected to vote Sept. 13. If the ban passes, I hope it will trigger other states to act.

During the 2011 Texas Legislature, a penny-per-ounce soft-drink tax was considered. It was backed by the Texas Pediatric Society, Children’s Hospital Association of Texas, Methodist Healthcare Ministries and Texans Care for Children. “A soft-drink tax could do to childhood obesity what the tobacco tax did to smoking, which would be to turn around a harmful, growing trend,” Kris Kaiser Olson, of Waco, who is on the Texans Care for Children board, wrote in a 2011 Tribune-Herald column.

The effort failed, but I urge lawmakers to bring it up again and seriously consider it when they convene in January. Our children’s health is at stake.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at 757-5723 or ssanchez@wacotrib.com.

Don’t dare cancel DARE drug program

BY SANDRA SANCHEZ
Assistant opinion editor

Friday August 10, 2012

As McLennan County commissioners waded deep through reams of paperwork this week looking to cut any and all excess county spending from next year’s budget, one particular program came under scrutiny that has special meaning for many of us parents.

Despite the obvious need to cut the county’s $121.7 million annual budget in light of proposed tax rate increases, gutting the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program — which sends officers to area schools to bond with and mentor youth — is a bad idea.

True, cutting DARE would save $199,528 from the county’s 2013 budget, which is more than $3 million over. But sometimes a program that can teach lasting values to impressionable youth is money better spent today rather than later, when these same youth might end up in our criminal court system. Then it could cost us taxpayers plenty to incarcerate them as prisoners in our jails.

“A DARE workbook costs 89 cents; to house a prisoner costs $40,000 per year,” McLennan County Sheriff’s Deputy Will Stevens, who runs the DARE program, told county commissioners Wednesday. “Do we want to do it on the front end, or do we want to wait till the final result and try to make it up later? Once they’re there (behind bars), that’s too late.”

Good point.

After the hearing, Commissioner Lester Gibson told me his daughter, who is now 32 years old, went through DARE as a youth. McLennan County Chief Sheriff’s Deputy Randy Plemons was her DARE officer.

“I had no problem with my daughter, and she still remembers the contact she had with the program. She still remembers Deputy Plemons,” Gibson said. “It’s had an impact on my kids. And the communities who have it are being impacted by DARE, no question.”

So then the obvious question is why cancel the program?

County Judge Jim Lewis has proposed eliminating DARE and moving its three sheriff’s deputies to courthouse security or other needed security posts. At a budget work session Monday, Lewis said DARE is a good program that may have “outlived its life.”

I don’t think so. In fact, I have been looking forward to my daughter taking DARE this coming school year as a fifth- grader in Midway ISD.

Both of my boys went through DARE and, regardless of the eye-rolling and snickering that come with being an adolescent, they learned plenty. They had to write essays on the effects of drug abuse, they learned ways to avoid peer pressure and, most importantly, they learned to trust a peace officer who was a constant in their lives one day a week for several months.

Officers develop a rapport with these kids that not only benefits the children but our entire community. They are plugged into this generation, and their guidance helps youth to steer clear of bad decisions that could have costly and life-altering consequences.

“It’s rewarding to know we are changing these kids’ lives,” Sheriff’s Deputy Amber Aguirre, a DARE officer, told me. “It’s not about our job as a county employee. It’s about bridging a gap between law enforcement and our youth.”

If the program continues, Aguirre would be assigned to my daughter’s school. Having a woman officer mentor my emerging preteen daughter — who has a phobia regarding officers — might positively impact her.

DARE operates 143 classes in 20 area schools and teaches 3,575 children per year. Stevens has graduated 36,000 youth from the program in the past 18 years. He’s president of the Texas DARE Officers Association and has served 12 years on its board. Next June he is bringing a statewide DARE conference to Waco that should attract some 200 DARE officers plus their families.

It certainly would be embarrassing if Waco hosted that conference, yet had no local DARE program.

Aguirre, who has worked with DARE for two years, says Stevens can’t go anywhere locally without being recognized by someone who took his class.

That’s quite a distinction and a compliment accenting the enormous good this program brings to our community. Don’t dare cancel it.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at 757-5723 or ssanchez@wacotrib.com.

Helene Neville delivers health, happiness on foot

Helene Neville delivers health, happiness on foot

By Sandra Sanchez

Thursday February 23, 2012

When nurse and cancer survivor Helene Neville set out in the blistering summer of 2010 to be the first woman to run across the South from the coast of California to Florida, she thought she’d be delivering a simple message of health and hope to others.

“My run was not to realize my own dream, but to inspire others to realize their dreams,” she said.

Little did she realize, however, that her 93-day journey — in which she ran 2,520 miles often in 100-degree-plus heat — would end up inspiring her. She was moved by the hundreds of people she met — including many in Texas — the hardscrabble, desolate and barren landscape they overcome, and the abject poverty of the South.

Helene Neville, keynote speaker for Waco’s Miracle Match Marathon banquet, spent the 2010 summer running across the country through the blistering South. She shared her message of health and fitness a
Helene Neville, keynote speaker for Waco’s Miracle Match Marathon banquet, spent the 2010 summer running across the country through the blistering South. She shared her message of health and fitness along the way.
Photo by Jose Yau

As she told about 100 people in Waco at a January banquet for the Miracle Match Marathon — where she was the keynote speaker — her tale of a runner became much more than she ever imagined.

It led to her publication of one book and the release of a second book in April. She’s been written up in several newspapers and magazines, and will appear on the Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show this spring. In April she’s planning to take off on another run across the country, this time due south, from Vancouver, B.C., to Tijuana, Mexico, to promote her newest book.

Sound a bit incredible? It does to the 51-year-old Neville, too.

In an exclusive interview with Waco Today before her Miracle Match banquet speech at the Waco Convention Center, she relived her trek across the South, which included a new cancer scare 17 days into her run, a broken-down RV, and profound enlightenment that has impacted how she will spread her message of health and fitness.

 

Water and determination

Neville began her historic run across the South on May 1, 2010, at Ocean Beach, Calif., outside of San Diego.

Lathered with white zinc oxide on her face and covered with a big, white hat that extended past her shoulders, she took off carrying three bottles of water, a few morsels of food and a lot of determination.

She quickly found out why no other woman had successfully completed this route. Temperatures soared well into triple-digits and the landscape seemed endlessly boring and void of people.

But that didn’t stop her, because Neville had a lot to think about on her run. She was on a mission to change others’ views about exercise and fitness — primarily those in the health care industry.

“I felt if we were disseminating health information and trying to inspire patients to be healthy, shouldn’t we be that ambassador of health and lead by example?” she said. “So I set out to make a difference.”

Neville’s motivation can be traced to July 1998, when she was released from a hospital and told to go home to get her affairs in order. She was suffering from Hodgkin’s lymphoma cancer and was given bleak odds of survival. She had already battled through chemotherapy, radiation and three brain surgeries that decade and doctors said her chances of kicking this latest cancer were slim.

She was living with her sons, ages 13 and 11, in Des Moines, Iowa. She recalled not allowing herself to give into the news.

“Instead, I went running,” she said.

Rather than prepare her will, Neville said she stopped at a local outlet mall and purchased a neon running suit, shoes and shorts, and promptly signed up for the Chicago Marathon.

Her first attempts at distance running proved futile; she lasted only a few blocks. By the time she showed up to compete in Chicago that October — her first-ever marathon — the farthest she had run was six miles. She was woefully unprepared for the 26.2-mile distance, and perhaps her ignorance was bliss. As others stood at the starting gate comparing training styles and techniques, she thought about how good she looked in her neon outfit.

She finished the race in 4 hours and 28 minutes — an outstanding marathon time, especially for someone who had never run that distance before.

After that, she got on a tear to eat healthier and exercise as much as possible. She entered 24 more marathons. She climbed mountains. She founded the Des Moines Marathon in 2002. She entered body-building competitions. And in 2009 just before she turned 50, she got the idea to run across the country.

At the time, she had been writing a motivational health and fitness book aimed at other nurses. The book, “Nurses in Shape,” (at right) was published in April 2010 and the next month she took off on her historic run.

“I thought, ‘How can I get the book out there and be a living, breathing example of health?’ I wanted to make a huge impact,” she said.

When Neville told people she was running across the South in the summer heat, she elicited stares and skepticism.

“They said, ‘There’s nobody there to buy your book, nobody has the money and there’s no people.’ And I said that’s exactly why I want to run there,” she said. “When I came up with the idea, I really felt like a calling to deliver happiness on foot. Because there is so much poverty and devastation, and all they want is to be a part of something and to be recognized.”

 

Day after day of running

The idea was to run to every hospital, hospice, nursing home and school that she came upon on her trajectory across the South. She wanted to run about 25 to 27 miles per day.

What she hadn’t factored in, however, were the vast spaces of emptiness along Interstate 10. And an old 1988 RV that she bought with her friend Lisa Zarate on craigslist didn’t handle the journey very well. She also didn’t realize that the punishing heat would fry her radio, melt the soles of her shoes and limit what she could carry.

She spent nights at RV parks. In the morning, scheduled RV drivers would drop her wherever she had left off the day before and she would pick up running from there. The driver would proceed to the next RV park, set up camp, prepare dinner and wait for her to call for a pick-up when she completed her distance. But in parts of Texas and New Mexico, the RV parks were often 60 to 75 miles apart. They were spending far more than planned on gas and time driving back and forth.

So Neville began running longer distances. Some days she ran 60 miles.

Although 17 days into the race she was diagnosed with a lump in her thyroid that potentially was malignant, she opted to continue running and not stop for additional testing.

All told, she visited 30 hospitals, 40 schools, a few nursing schools, some sporting goods stores and fitness centers. She would show up, often sweaty, and discuss nutrition, the importance of exercise and healthy living.

“I remember working at hospitals and seeing patients throw out lists suggesting how to work out and eat right,” said Neville, a nurse for 30 years. “But then we, as nurses, might not represent the pictures of health, either. A hospital is supposed to be a healthy environment.”

After her spiel, she would refill her water shoulder pack, put on her floppy white hat and hit the road again.

She ran in the westbound lane of the interstate. Often she ran alone. During the 31 days she spent in Texas, she didn’t run with anyone else until she neared Beaumont.

“I figured out why; because it was so hot and desolate and lonely,” she said.

In Beaumont, she was met by a group of runners who ran with her for four days. That greatly lifted her spirits as she slipped into humid Louisiana.

 

Folding clothes

In Baton Rouge, Neville took a wrong turn and wound up in a poor and dangerous part of the city. With her white, zinc-oxide-coated face and sweaty appearance she said it was obvious that she didn’t blend in.

“But a smile is universal,” she said. As she asked for directions, she not only was pointed to the interstate, but she was invited to partake in a July Fourth hot dog roast, complete with a disc jockey and fireworks.

While running near Lake Charles, La., a woman who had been running with Neville called her 75-year-old mother and asked her to be the next driver. Neville’s driver had suddenly been called back to work and there was nobody to drive the old RV.

The woman’s mother, Martha, had never driven an RV. But she showed up with her car and offered to follow if Neville would drive the RV.

“I spent 10 days with Martha and never understood one word she said because of her Cajun accent,” she said, except for one exchange: “One day I called her and said ‘come get me,’ and she said, ‘Well, hon, could you just give me another hour. I’m at the casino and I’m on a roll.’”

Earlier on the run near Deming, N.M., Neville was on the road for 13 hours.

“I crawled into Deming and kicked in the door at the Deming laundromat and I said, ‘I’ll give anybody $5 to drive me to the RV park.’ This woman said, ‘Keep your money, but could you help me fold my clothes?’ ”

Neville did, and was driven to her campsite holding the basket on her lap.

Once, she caught a ride to the RV park in the back of a horse trailer; another time she had to hold a dog on her lap. Several times she caught rides at rest areas from generous drivers.

On Aug. 1, 2010, Neville finished her run at Atlantic Beach, Fla. There, she poured some water she had collected from the Pacific Ocean into the Atlantic Ocean.

She was met at the finish line by friends, media and several nuns from a Catholic school in Philadelphia, where Neville sends all proceeds from her book.

“Helene’s story is an inspiration to us all, a true testimony of mind over matter and the strength of the human spirit,” said Nancy Goodnight, Waco Miracle Match Marathon race director.

Stories about the people she met during her run across America that summer (as well as the Houstonian who bought her broken-down RV) will be in Neville’s newest book, “One on the Run.” It is to be published in April.

Neville since has had two surgeries on her chin to remove cancer. But her thyroid condition was not malignant and didn’t require additional treatments.

After Neville completes her next cross-country journey, there might be a different type of running in her future. She is considering a bid for public office in her home state of Nevada in 2014, possibly for the U.S. Senate seat.

For more information on Helene Neville, visit nursesinshape.com online.

Get fresh! Farmers market blossoms in downtown Waco

Get fresh! Farmers market blossoms in downtown Waco

By Sandra Sanchez
Photos by Rod Aydelotte

Thursday March 22, 2012

The downtown farmers market draws hundreds every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Shoppers can find fresh greens, plants, artisan breads and cheeses, free-range eggs, brick-oven baked pizzas, fluffy cre

The downtown farmers market draws hundreds every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Shoppers can find fresh greens, plants, artisan breads and cheeses, free-range eggs, brick-oven baked pizzas, fluffy crepes, goat milk soaps and more. (Photo by Rod Aydelotte)

 

 

On a recent chilly Saturday morning, local developer Peter Ellis walked to the Waco Downtown Farmers Market pushing a stroller with his 1-year-old daughter, Hazel, to buy some fresh vegetables and an aromatic lavender plant for his wife.

Hazel was bundled up and cozy and didn’t seem to mind the nip in the air. Ellis said he was delighted by the 15 or so growers and vendors who had come out despite the cold to sell fresh farm eggs, artisan breads, homemade goat soaps and organic meats.

“We tell lots of people about the Farmers Market. We want more people to come and be a part of it,” said Ellis, 29, of Ellis Isle Equities, which is developing the nearby Praetorian loft apartments at Sixth Street and Franklin Avenue.

The Waco Downtown Farmers Market helps add to the allure of downtown living, he said. “This is our chance to bring life and vibrancy back to downtown, so it has more of a city/community feel to it. We’re trying to do things to attract more businesses downtown.”

He’s not the only one who believes that.

Since opening last November at 400 S. University Parks Drive — behind the old Waco fire station — the Waco Downtown Farmers Market has quickly grown in size, popularity and offerings. It is becoming quite the bustling place to be on a Saturday morning.

The market’s early success is due in part to steady support from city and local business leaders who believe a thriving downtown farmers market adds to urban appeal. It’s a touch of the big city but with a friendlier, down-home Waco feel.

Kelsey Scherer unloads fresh carrots grown at World Hunger Relief’s farm just outside Waco.
Kelsey Scherer unloads fresh carrots grown at World Hunger Relief’s farm just outside Waco.
Photo by Rod Aydelotte
Katelyn Curran of Co-Town Crepes hands a plate of the fluffy treat to an early-morning customer.
Katelyn Curran of Co-Town Crepes hands a plate of the fluffy treat to an early-morning customer.
Photo by Rod Aydelotte

“Creating activities for all of Waco in the downtown area is a priority for the city, especially when we can enhance the livability and add a venue of goods and services not previously available in town,” said Waco City Councilman Malcolm Duncan Jr., who serves on the 10-member farmers market board.

Duncan has backed the creation of this market since last summer, when he served on an ad hoc market planning committee. Representatives included leaders from the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce and HOT Urban Gardening Coalition. Their goal was to find a central area that could spur an interest in locally grown foods and healthy products. They also wanted to entice more people downtown.

“This is incredibly important. It’s been a priority to bring a farmers market downtown that drives businesses and promotes business opportunities and brings people here,” said Chris McGowan, director of urban development for the chamber. McGowan also was on the ad hoc committee and has worked for four years to get a downtown market open. And he believes they’ve found the perfect spot.

Overlooking the picturesque Brazos River west of Interstate 35 and within walking distance of Baylor University, the market is easy to access, full of variety and sometimes offers entertainment.

“We have a special emphasis on broadening this type of local participation in the greater downtown area,” Duncan said. “We have been very encouraged with the market’s success over the winter months, and look forward to accommodating more customers and vendors in the spring.”

With warmer months approaching, Farmers Market President Terry Vanderpool anticipates more patrons, as well as a greater selection of the earth’s bounty, more local art products and even open-air concerts.

The market draws 500 to 2,000 patrons each Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dozens of vendors rotate weekly, bringing different products to sell depending upon the season and previous sale successes.

“It’s going really well,” said Zacary Bryan, development coordinator for the Urban Gardening Coalition. “Even on the rainiest of days there have still been 500 people and many vendors.”

New vendors are arriving weekly, and inquiries about vendors happen all the time, said Vanderpool, a garlic grower from China Spring.

“Everyone seems to be happy with how the market is going,” he said. “There is nothing equivalent between Dallas and Austin that offers the same variety of meats and produce locally grown unless you travel pretty far.”

 

Economic benefits to all

In a time of lingering recession, this spot of 5 acres offers hope and opportunity to those with the desire to sell items they either grow or make by hand, supporters say. It’s an outdoor business incubator of sorts that inspires ingenuity, hard work and creativity.

Vendors pay $25 per day to operate a booth and an annual $50 fee. All agricultural products for sale must be grown within 150 miles of Waco. Only 20 percent of products for sale may be nonagricultural local products.

Neal Curran of Round Rock Honey plays his mandolin to draw customers to taste his honey.
Neal Curran of Round Rock Honey plays his mandolin to draw customers to taste his honey.
Photo by Rod Aydelotte
Grace Glueck of Artisan Oven makes homemade pizzas in a brick oven she brings on a trailer. She is at the market most Saturdays.
Grace Glueck of Artisan Oven makes homemade pizzas in a brick oven she brings on a trailer. She is at the market most Saturdays.
Photo by Rod Aydelotte

Organizers say the objective is to tout local goods and promote healthier products.

“We’re putting money into the local economy not only by bringing people downtown, but by supporting local producers and local farmers and that’s a win, win, win for Waco and McLennan County,” said McGowan, who serves as an adviser to the market.

By drawing visitors downtown early on Saturdays, local merchants and city leaders hope patrons will stick around throughout the day and shop and enjoy a meal out, further increasing the market’s financial impact.

It’s also a venue where smaller farms and merchants can hang their shingle and sell their wares without having too much overhead cost.

The Urban Gardening Coalition runs a booth from which smaller growers and community gardeners can sell for just $5 per day, Bryan said. The coalition operates two after-school gardening clubs to teach students the benefits of working the land. Collard greens and Swiss chard grown at Tennyson Middle School have been sold at the farmers market this winter. In the spring, they hope to grow and sell carrots, tomatoes and sugar snap peas as well. Sale proceeds from Tennyson greens are being put in a special account that students want to donate to a charity, possibly one that serves cancer victims, Bryan said.

Such unforeseen benefits from the market seem to come about every week. An unemployed laborer builds a chicken coop and sells it at the market for a few hundred dollars. An early-rising egg farmer collects thousands of eggs to bring.

Ingenuity and hard work definitely pay off here.

Miranda Tucker, 17, leaves her Caldwell home by 6 a.m. on Saturdays carrying 150 dozen brown, cage-free eggs from Yellow Prairie Farm, which her father owns. Originally, the Tuckers bought the 5,000 chickens to naturally fertilize 30 acres of soil to grow plants. But they soon noticed that their hens were quite fertile and they had more eggs than they could handle.

“The hens have gone crazy laying eggs,” said her booth partner, Rhonda Johnson, who works at the farm.

When the Waco farmers market first opened Nov. 19, they packed their egg cartons in large white coolers, unloaded stacks onto long white plastic tables, put up a handmade sign that read $3 per dozen and watched the cash roll in.

That first day vendors sold out and the public response was more than organizers had hoped for. Some growers had to return to their farms for more bounty, while patrons delighted with all the local, healthy options and didn’t seem to mind the delay at all.

Opening day seemed to uncover a demand within the community that this market fills.

“It’s probably going to be great in the summer,” Tucker said with an optimistic grin.

“Many people who come are in search of a more natural lifestyle,” Johnson added.

That’s what brings Amanda and Brad Pierce every week.

“This is the biggest farmers market Waco has ever had,” said Amanda, who was buying big bunches of carrots and bottles of sarsaparilla (similar to root beer, without artificial colors) one recent morning.

“We used to go to the HOT Fairgrounds to buy fresh produce. This is so much better,” she said.

Nearby, Betty Flowers was picking through turnips. “I come every week. I haven’t missed a single week,” she said as she dropped healthy greens into a plastic laundry-like basket draped over her arm. “Waco needs to support this. We complain that we don’t have anything to offer downtown, but now this is open and more people need to come out and shop.”

 

Spring expansions

This spring the farmers market seems headed for several changes and expansions that could make it even better.

Councilman Duncan said city officials “are currently reviewing the farmers market permit to allow more local food-related activities, like food truck rodeos (a gathering of trucks and trailers with prepared meals) or food and entertainment options in their space on a more frequent basis.”

Fresh-baked artisan bread and cheeses, specialty oils and bottled condiments from the Texas Cheese House in Lorena draw shoppers every Saturday.
Fresh-baked artisan bread and cheeses, specialty oils and bottled condiments from the Texas Cheese House in Lorena draw shoppers every Saturday.
Photo by Rod Aydelotte
Gerald Pruitt of Pruitt Farms in Teague shows shoppers his fresh turnips, carrots and greens.
Gerald Pruitt of Pruitt Farms in Teague shows shoppers his fresh turnips, carrots and greens.
Photo by Rod Aydelotte
Ron Schocke and his son sell goat milk soaps at his Dairy Meadow Farm booth. The tri-fold poster on the table describes how the soaps are made.
Ron Schocke and his son sell goat milk soaps at his Dairy Meadow Farm booth. The tri-fold poster on the table describes how the soaps are made.
Photo by Rod Aydelotte

The market operates under a 2011-approved city ordinance that dictates operation hours. But it seems the market might soon be able to open other days and could offer additional amenities.

Vanderpool, the board president, said his group would like to open the market on Friday nights and offer prepared meals made from locally grown foods, like brick oven-cooked pizza from Artisan Oven, and freshly made crepes from Co-Town Crepes. These vendors draw some of the biggest crowds on Saturday mornings and he believes this could bring in more families who are looking for a healthy end-of-week meal out.

Board members also want to open a community booth for local artisans to sell more artwork without charging each artist a vendor rate. And they want to increase weekly concerts and other exhibits and workshops offered on site, Vanderpool said.

“When the weather is good, people can really spend several hours there,” he said. “It’s a community-safe environment where you can bring your children and look at the various booths and enjoy life.”

 

Touting wares

Teen egg vendor Tucker already has a keen salesperson’s eye. She’s noticed the most successful market vendors are those who prepare food in front of patrons, like Co-Town Crepes, which makes delicious paper-thin crepes with fresh ingredients such as spinach and mushrooms.

Round Rock Honey booth vendor Neal Curran, 26, dips cut-up blue straws into locally grown honey and hands out samples. The honey — which many people believe combats local allergies because it’s made from area plants — is harvested from 4,000 bee hives between Round Rock and West.

“When the market first started, everybody sold out in the first couple of hours and that was great motivation,” he said. “Although it tapered off some in the winter, I think it will pick up in spring.”

Curran sells about $500 worth of honey each Saturday. One day he sold more than $1,000. His honey ranges from a half-pound jar for $6 to a 12-pound jar for $50. When sales are slow, he gets out an electric keyboard or mandolin and plays tunes. “If I get desperate, I tell folks that they’ll get a free song with a purchase,” he joked.

That’s part of the good vibe one gets at the Waco Downtown Farmers Market. It’s an eclectic blend of vendors and patrons, taking their time to stroll through a beautiful plot of land. No one seems rushed. Everyone has time to chat.

On chilly mornings, Artisan Oven pizza owner Grace Glueck offered people a place to warm up in front of her brick oven where she makes homemade pizzas.

Glueck and her family haul the oven to market on a trailer. She knowingly kneads the homemade gluten-free dough, prepared from their own millery at Homestead Heritage. Once flattened into a circle, she spreads a homemade organic fire-roasted tomato sauce on it and tops it with shredded cheese. Then she places the pie on a long stick and slowly puts it in the oven to bake. In three minutes the bubbling pizza is out and sells for $3 a slice or $11 whole.

The market atmosphere is casual and upbeat. Pups and children are welcome. Vendors are chatty and laid-back. Many customers are environmentally savvy and provide their own recycled bags.

Silver-haired 64-year-old goat farmer Ron Schocke isn’t rushed as he patiently explains the different types of handmade goat soaps at his Dairy Meadow Farm booth.

Some are made with pungent herbs, like anise and lemon grass; some bars are for washing pets and ridding them of fleas. He even explains the science behind the benefits of lower-alkaline handmade goat soap products via a colorful tri-fold display board akin to a student’s science fair project.

Each soap takes 45 minutes to make at his Homestead Heritage home and sells for around $6.

Like many here, Schocke believes in the mission of the market in promoting more natural living.

“If we all could eat more naturally, we’d all be healthier and it would be great for our world if we were all self-sustaining,” he said with a wink.

 

Downtown Farmers Market

400 S. University Parks Drive

(look for the old fire tower)

9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays

Check Facebook page or website wacodowntownfarmersmarket.com

Starr dentists, father and sons, know the drill

Starr dentists, father and sons, know the drill

By Sandra Sanchez

Thursday May 24, 2012

The Starr dentists — Martin (left), dad Kent (center) and Taylor (right)

The Starr dentists — Martin (left), dad Kent (center) and Taylor — share a practice on Cobbs Drive. The boys grew up at the suite of offices, shooting golf balls on the field outisde and pretending they were dentists while waiting for their dad. (Photo by Jerry Larson)

 

 

When brothers Martin and Taylor Starr were growing up, they often shot golf balls in the grassy field outside their father Kent Starr’s dental practice in Waco to bide their time.

Occasionally some of the balls smacked the building where their father has practiced for 38 years, the brothers confessed recently as they recalled some of their antics.

The pair seems to have been just as mischievous inside the offices, as well. They used to play with equipment and fancied sitting on the dental chairs and raising the devices up and down and up and down.

“We pretended like we were dentists,” said Taylor, now 34. “And we for the most part couldn’t figure out how everything else worked. But we enjoyed coming here.”

Their curiosity turned out not to be just child’s play. It has morphed into lifelong careers for both brothers, who are now dentists and partners with their father at that same practice at Fish Pond Road and Cobbs Drive.

Their father couldn’t be prouder, and as he nears retirement age, the elder Starr optimistically wonders if the practice, Starr General Dentistry Inc., might one day be turned over to yet a third or fourth generation.

“I love dentistry and the boys being here makes it even neater,” Kent said.

The three enjoy endlessly ribbing one another and know each others’ faults and secrets — as any family does. But they trust and depend on one another. Their lifestyle harkens back to a time when sons routinely followed in their father’s footsteps.

Close-knit family

Taylor and Martin say they have always looked up to their father, a former football player for Baylor University and a distant cousin of Baylor President Ken Starr. Their dad not only was their family’s breadwinner, but he was their soccer coach, baseball coach and quintessential cheerleader while they were growing up in Waco, they said.

Both sons attended Vanguard College Preparatory School, and although their father operated a busy practice, they said he always made time for them, attended their basketball games and emphasized the importance of family in their lives.

Dr. Taylor Starr with his wife Sarah and sons Carter, 3, and Henry, 8 months. 
Dr. Taylor Starr with his wife Sarah and sons Carter, 3, and Henry, 8 months. 

“Our dad never missed a thing when we were in high school — even when he wasn’t coaching,” Taylor said. “He never missed any of our extracurricular activities, no matter what it was. He was always there and always cheering and I think that’s how it is here now.”

For Kent, the father-son bond has only grown stronger over the years. He said he’s delighted to have them working beside him and loves going to work each day knowing they will be there.

“When they were growing up, I called them ‘my buddy, my pal and my partner,’” Kent, 64, said. “I was just saying that to them. Sure enough. That’s more than true now.”

Kent said Martin and Taylor are different and unique in their own ways. He didn’t urge either into dentistry and says each son decided it on their own and in their own time.

Martin, 32, said he knew early on he wanted to be a dentist like his dad.

“I realized at a pretty young age,” Martin said. “We have such a close-knit family and I was the same way as my dad — science-minded and wanted to do something with my hands. I realized dentistry was such a neat profession because it does allow you to spend time with your family.”

Taylor explored other options, such as being a physician, psychologist and even a “wildlife photographer in Africa,” he said as his brother and father chuckled nearby at the thought — not trying in any way to hide their amusement.

Both are young fathers themselves. Martin has three children, two girls and a son, ages 5, 3 and 1. His wife is expecting another baby in November. Taylor has two boys, ages 3 and 6 months.

Both also are one-third owners in the practice.

“The boys actually bought into the practice. They came to me and each paid me. They didn’t feel it was something I should just give them,” Kent said.

But it was something Kent felt they had earned. Both sons received their undergraduate degrees from Baylor University, and four-year dentistry degrees from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Kent also is a Baylor graduate and studied at Baylor College of Dentistry in Dallas.

Although they romp around and bicker like brothers do, they have each other’s backs. When Taylor was a junior and Martin was a freshman in dental school in San Antonio they even lived together for a year. After completing their dental studies, each son returned to Waco and soon joined into the practice. Taylor came in 2004 and Martin followed in 2006.

Complementing one another

All three Starrs bring something different to the office, which sees hundreds of patients and keeps them busy on a rotating schedule. Taylor specializes in surgical procedures and implants; Kent prefers not to do surgeries but relishes visiting with patients for checkups and other issues; and Martin has strong interest in restorative and esthetic dentistry.

None hesitate to refer patients to each other.

Dr. Martin Starr with his wife Libby and children Townlin, 3, Cappy, 5, and Sadler, 6 months.
Dr. Martin Starr with his wife Libby and children Townlin, 3, Cappy, 5, and Sadler, 6 months.

“It works out well with us being a family that we don’t try to horde patients. I’m just as happy for a patient to see my brother or my dad and I know they feel the same way. It’s just easy,” Taylor said.

The familial bond and ultimate trust that emanates from their relationships seems to give each a peace of mind not always afforded to all in today’s work force.

Kent and his wife, Suzanne, travel to Colorado several times a year and like to visit their daughter, Katie O’Connor, who lives in Canada with six of their grandchildren. Before the boys joined, Kent said he worried about the practice when he left town. Now he doesn’t at all.

But he does worry about what practical jokes he might fall victim to with his sons.

It seems the Starr men are all pranksters. They’ve been known to shove wadded up toilet paper or pecans in one another’s socks or shoes while at work. Taylor has reversed Martin’s belt on his shorts (that were hanging in his office), while their dad has tied the bottom of their jeans together on multiple occasions. That can make changing out of their medical scrubs and into street clothes a difficult task.

They also are alike in their service of community. All three have taken active roles in Waco.

Kent has served on many local boards and was chairman of the deacons at First Baptist Church of Waco. He also served as president of the Baylor Bear Foundation, president of the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners and president of the Western Regional Examining Board.

Martin is a deacon at First Baptist Church of Waco. He has served on the Waco Symphony Association board of directors, dental chairman of Texas Mission of Mercy, and director of the Central Texas Dental Society.

Taylor also has served as president of the Central Texas Dental Society, and on the Waco Symphony board.

Both sons still enjoy playing golf and most importantly, spending time with their young families. And just as they did with their father, their children like to visit the practice and give the dental chairs a whirl.

Back to school: New tests spark uptick in tutoring

Back to school: New tests spark uptick in tutoring

By Sandra Sanchez

Thursday July 26, 2012

At UpGrade Educational Services in Waco, one student clapped to a computerized interactive metronome on a laptop before her session, trying to keep beat with a giant bouncing blue ball on the screen.

Nearby, a mini trampoline, Swedish exercise balls and other playthings were available for other students taking private tutoring services. Although it seemed to be great fun, there was a method behind what might have seemed like madness: Physical activity stimulates brain cells.

Put in simple terms, brain fluid can be thick “like peanut butter,” said Adrielle Selke, director of instruction and curriculum for UpGrade Educational Services, a locally owned tutoring center. Exercise and movement can help thin the fluid “to become the texture of water” and allows the synapses to more quickly pass an electrical or chemical signal — that is, a thought.

Adrielle Selke and Joel Michaelis of UpGrade Educational Services, a Waco tutoring center, use movement to prepare students for more effective learning experiences.
Adrielle Selke and Joel Michaelis of UpGrade Educational Services, a Waco tutoring center, use movement to prepare students for more effective learning experiences.
Photo by Rod Aydelotte

“Active bodies equals learning minds,” added UpGrade co-owner Joel Michaelis, who has a doctorate in education.

“The more movement you have, the more you will capture that information,” Selke said.

With revised and tougher state standardized testing that took effect last academic year — known as the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) tests — more families are enrolling children in private tutoring services to help them score better, no matter how unconventional the method.

“Yes, I think there are some concerns when it comes to the STAAR test,” said Rachel Landry, center director for Waco Sylvan Learning Center, a nationally recognized tutoring service. “It has definitely brought some anxiety to families, and so they are itching to do something, anything to see how they can help their kids do better.”

Selke agrees.

“The end-of-course exams are a large concern for many high school students,” she said. “The state of Texas did not provide enough information (about what students would need to know to take the test).”

That’s a common refrain heard by parents, students and school administrators. Former Midway ISD Superintendent Brad Lancaster repeatedly lamented that it would be two full years before educators would be able to review the entire STAAR tests.

“How as a teacher are you supposed to prepare a student for a test you’ve never seen?” said Selke, a former Midway High School English teacher who ran a tutoring business from her home for six years prior to the June 2011 opening of UpGrade. “I have very strong feelings about it. But when students come here, we’re trying to do as much as we can on our end to get them prepared and get them ready.”

Aside from helping teach specific academic courses, UpGrade prepares the student mentally and emotionally for the test. Educators give tips for stress management, organizational skills and how to block out sights and sounds while test-taking.

While observing a student clapping to the metronome prior to her tutoring session, Michaelis explained his company’s philosophy toward learning. He then added that the company’s goal is to get students so focused on what they’re doing that they aren’t rattled by visitors or outside noises.

After a bit of invigorating movement — which might include a game of Twister with a tutor or hopping across a long, thin floor pad while clapping to a certain pattern — students are more apt to receive and retain information, Selke said.

Many students taking tutoring at UpGrade and Sylvan want to improve their reading skills, which are essential for taking STAAR.

At both centers, individualized programs are designed for each client and include diagnostic testing, evaluations and discussions with the child’s classroom teachers.

Family participation is essential, and the length of tutoring services required depends upon the frequency of sessions, parental support and enthusiasm a family gives to each improvement — no matter how minute it might seem.

“We test and see what skill gaps need to be improved,” Landry said. “We work very much hand-in-hand with school districts. We work with teachers and make sure kids are on the right program.”

At UpGrade, matching students with the right instructor is essential to stimulating learning, said Michaelis, former vice president of instruction at Hill College and interim vice president of instruction at Galveston College. “There is a difference between knowing math and knowing how to teach math,” he said.

Getting through to that child and instilling the confidence and skill set they will need while enduring hours of STAAR testing requires a strong connection with that child, Michaelis said.

Certified instructors work one-on-one with students. UpGrade’s tutoring prices vary depending upon curriculum, but cost about $50 per hour for academic tutoring and a bit more for specialized reading instruction. SAT and ACT group sessions are available at $45 per hour.

Tutoring rooms at UpGrade Educational Services allow space for physical activity to help stimulate thinking.
Tutoring rooms at UpGrade Educational Services allow space for physical activity to help stimulate thinking.
Photo by Rod Aydelotte

To some parents, that cost may seem steep, but improvements of just a few points on the ACT can mean thousands of dollars more in scholarships for a child. One client at UpGrade recently improved from a score of 25 to 27 and that equated to an additional $30,000 in college savings at Baylor University, Michaelis said.

Others are looking to keep their grade-point average up, despite a state law that could take effect this academic year requiring the tougher end-of-course state standardized exams to count 15 percent toward a student’s final grade in that course.

High schoolers, beginning with the class of 2015, are required to take 12 end-of-course tests before graduation. Students also are required to get a certain cumulative average on all tests or will not graduate.

Applying STAAR scores to 15 percent of a student’s course grade was supposed to be imposed on students last year, but heated backlash from parents, students and educators forced Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott to defer the requirement.

State lawmakers are expected to take up the law when the Legislature convenes in January. Several education-related hearings have been held in the past few months about the issue.

Most contentious is how to convert STAAR scores to a grading figure for report cards. State tests are graded on a different rubric, and education officials haven’t even decided how to grade most of the STAAR tests, much less how to convert to student grades.

Determining official grading standards for high school end-of-course tests is expected to begin this fall. However, that won’t start until January for elementary grades. And this is for the tests that third- through eighth-grade students took last spring.

With so many unanswered questions, it has become clear how much is not known about these new state standardized tests. Students and educators say the new tests are much harder than the previous TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) tests.

STAAR tests utilize more out-of-the-box thinking and some parents and educators fear the tests will be tougher for students to pass.

“Parents are not sure what to do, but want to make sure their kids do well on something like this,” Michaelis said, “especially if it’s going to have an impact on whether they graduate and their child’s chances for college.”

 

Buddy Bostick: Still flying high at 94

 

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Buddy Bostick: Still flying high at 94

By Sandra Sanchez

Thursday July 26, 2012
 

 

Legendary Waco broadcaster and KWTX-TV founder M.N. “Buddy” Bostick raised the blinds in his fifth-floor apartment atop the American Plaza building near the intersection of Highways 84 and 6 to reveal a stunning landscape spanning Richland Mall and Providence Health Center. “That’s a nice world, isn’t it!” he declared.

It has been to him. At age 94, Bostick has been on top of the world as successful media and business personalities in Waco go.

And he earned every bit.

He’s a cotton-picking farmer’s son who worked his way through Baylor University. Afterward, he ran a string of TV and radio stations in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma from the middle of the last century until the turn of the millennium. He managed hundreds of employees by flying his P-51 Mustang from station to station and made history when his Waco TV station became the first in the nation to broadcast a courtroom trial live in 1955.

Once an avid bowhunter, Bostick demonstrates his stance when he interrupted a mean bobcat’s dinner.  “It was him or me,” he said. So, he grabbed his bow and let the arrow fly. The bobcat, preserved in
Once an avid bowhunter, Bostick demonstrates his stance when he interrupted a mean bobcat’s dinner.  “It was him or me,” he said. So, he grabbed his bow and let the arrow fly. The bobcat, preserved in
Once an avid bowhunter, Bostick demonstrates his stance when he interrupted a mean bobcat’s dinner. “It was him or me,” he said. So, he grabbed his bow and let the arrow fly. The bobcat, preserved in an attacking pose, resides in a storage room next to his apartment in the American Bank Plaza.
Photos by Rod Aydelotte

Somehow, he also found the time to take up banking and for 30 years served as chairman of American Bank, eventually building the plaza office building where he currently lives.

A building at Vanguard College Preparatory School is named after him. His grandson, attorney Kyle Deaver, was appointed to the Waco City Council in June. His family is well-known and respected.

At the height of his operations he oversaw a $370 million empire.

“It’s hard to believe that I could live in a four-room shack in Moody, Texas, and put together a multimillion-dollar operation. That’s a tribute to the possibilities in America,” he said with a smile while seated at one of six tables in his octagonal apartment adorned with awards and tributes given to him over the years. “I knew there was a better way of life and I wouldn’t have to work so hard, and so I sought that way of life.”

Bostick has lived in the expansive three-bedroom, three-bathroom apartment since 1986 with his wife of 73 years, Virginia. They own homes near Lake Waco and in Colorado, but it’s from atop this perch next to his beloved KWTX-TV station, from which he retired in 1999, that he seems to enjoy life most.

The apartment was built especially for the Bosticks and they are the only private tenants in what many probably think is a commercial-only building. Amid real estate offices, accountants and title companies, their unassuming private entranceway probably goes unnoticed by the hundreds who come to bank or conduct business there on a daily basis.

How he straddled the spectrum from newsman to banking guru is a tale of persistence, discipline and risk-taking. He eagerly shared it with Waco Today while interjecting several life lessons and political warnings. He is a believer in frugality and urges taxpayers not to expect government handouts in order to get through life. Work hard and success will come your way, he says.

Humble beginnings

“Buddy,” as he is known to most, was born in 1918 and grew up on a 55-acre farm three miles outside of Moody. His parents, Seth and Veda Bostick, worked the hard soil planting vegetables, cotton and oats. They raised pigs for meat and cows for milk for him and his elder sister, Mildred.

His sister, Mildred Brinegar, is 100 years old and also lives in Waco.

Despite the family’s best efforts, “it was impossible to make a living off of 55 acres,” he said. Nevertheless, year after year, they tried to get as much from that small plot of land as possible. And it was while picking cotton and feeling the pangs of hunger that Bostick realized he wanted more out of life and set his sights high.

At age 11, Buddy Bostick was an entertainer, yodeling and strumming his Sears & Roebuck guitar at Harley Sadler’s tent theater.
At age 11, Buddy Bostick was an entertainer, yodeling and strumming his Sears & Roebuck guitar at Harley Sadler’s tent theater.
Buddy and Virgina Bostick were married in 1939 after his graduation from Baylor University.
Buddy and Virgina Bostick were married in 1939 after his graduation from Baylor University.

“He’s very focused and he knew what he wanted to do,” said his eldest daughter, Ellen Deaver, 72, who lives in Waco.

David G. Hicks, president and CEO of American Bank, worked with Bostick during his last years as chairman of the bank. “I’ve observed him and I’ve learned pretty important things from him,” he said. “Buddy focuses and works on things to last.”

That’s not to say that every venture he tried has gone off flawlessly. But it was from his humble beginnings that he realized he wanted more.

When he was about 8, his father bought him a guitar from Sears & Roebuck. “It wasn’t tuned, so I found a boy in the country who could tune it and he showed me a few chords and I learned to play the guitar and sing and yodel. And so I was an entertainer,” he said.

From age 10 to 17 he was the in-between act, yodeling and strumming, whenever Harley Sadler’s tent theater came to town. Once he hit puberty, however, his yodeling days were over.

“So that ended my yodeling, but look at all the experience as a young kid performing in entertainment that gave me,” he said.

After Buddy graduated from high school, his father drove him to the Baylor campus and talked to then-president (and later Texas governor) Pat Neff about the possibility of Buddy attending school there.

“He told him everything good he could,” Bostick said. He also told Neff that the family couldn’t afford the tuition. “But that was not unusual for that time. (Neff) promised I could sign up as a freshman and that he would provide me with enough work to pay for my tuition.”

He was assigned as a typist for the speech department, which he called “like putting the bunny in the briar house.” He already was taking every speech class available — since there was no broadcast degree at the time. Working there augmented his skills and honed his broadcast delivery and technique.

His second year at Baylor, Buddy exhibited one of his most courageous and defining moments. He wheeled and dealed with Neff and got his last two years of school tuition, fees, books and boarding for free in exchange for offering to host a statewide radio program featuring the musical and artistic talents at Baylor. He told Neff that he also could go on-air to tout the attributes of attending Baylor.

“I assured him I could make such an event happen,” he laughed, recalling his gall.

Baylor did not have a radio station, but the school was able to set up remote broadcasts inexpensively by installing a telephone line from the Baylor campus to the ALICO Building, where Waco’s only 100-watt radio station operated and had an antenna on the roof.

Making such early and important connections and getting hands-on experience in the growing and expanding radio industry proved fruitful for his later career.

After graduating from Baylor in 1939 with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, he began working as a radio announcer in Little Rock, Ark. Unfortunately, the Ethiopian War (which lasted from 1935 to 1941) was under way and Bostick’s Texas twang tripped him up when he tried to pronounce foreign names. Eventually, he was fired from his first real job. Virginia was pregnant with their first daughter and times looked bleak.

Bostick, however, wasn’t one to mope or fret. He called that merely a “bump in the road.”

“Mother says he would stand in front of the mirror and practice saying words so he wouldn’t have that Texas twang,” his daughter Ellen said.

Her father wrote to every radio contact he knew and one day drove to WREC radio in Memphis and talked the station’s manager into hiring him. The station didn’t need another announcer for a few months until it moved into a new facility. “But I talked him into hiring me that day at $25 a week, working seven days a week,” he said.

Looking back on it, even he wonders where he got the tenacity and arrogance to tell his superiors what to do.

This wasn’t the first time in his life he would do that, and it certainly wasn’t the last.

He convinced that particular manager that if he was proficient at the station, then when it went on air from its new facilities in the Peabody Hotel, he would be ready to go from Day 1.

“I think he was a little cocky,” Ellen said.

His crisp and clear voice and intriguing news stories earned him a reputation. Within a few years, a station manager at KLRA radio in Little Rock, Ark., asked him to be their program manager. That was his break into management.

His next job offer came at his sister Mildred’s urging. She called KRLD Radio officials in Dallas and told them they needed to hire her brother. And they did.

“That’s pretty gaudy, aint it?” he admitted.

Head in the clouds

Buddy Bostick’s beloved King Air carried him to and from his radio and television stations in Texas and Louisiana until it was retired in the 1960s.
Buddy Bostick’s beloved King Air carried him to and from his radio and television stations in Texas and Louisiana until it was retired in the 1960s.

Then World War II struck, and like many young men, Bostick volunteered for the Army Air Corps. He was sent to Arizona for fighter pilot training.

Although he never went overseas, his flying skills proved useful. He kept one foot on the ground and one in the air, and was often seen flying his P-51 Mustang over Central Texas.

In fact, No. 29 on a 2007 Waco History Project website list reads “You’re ‘Old Waco’ if ‘You can remember Buddy Bostick’s Mustang.’ ”

An oil painting of his P-51 still hangs above the computer desk in his apartment next to a bookshelf filled with favorite selections.

He flew a King Air until four years ago when, at age 90, he finally gave up the reins.

His feisty and adventurous spirit is still evident. For years he was a bowhunter and fly-fisherman. He has slowed down some but still bass fishes, always looking to catch the “big one,” Ellen said.

In a side room, he has a stuffed bobcat that he shot with an arrow as it readied to attack him from a rock wall. “It was either him or me. Only one of us was going to make it out,” he said — an apt metaphor for his life in which he was the top dog at several TV and radio stations.

Deadly tornado coverage

Buddy Bostick was on the fifth floor of the ALICO Building when the deadly tornado hit Waco May 11, 1953. He first called a Dallas radio station to report what happened; then he flew his Bonanza plane
Buddy Bostick was on the fifth floor of the ALICO Building when the deadly tornado hit Waco May 11, 1953. He first called a Dallas radio station to report what happened; then he flew his Bonanza plane above the destruction, describing what he could see. For the next several days KWTX Radio broadcast messages from people looking for missing relatives.
Photo by David Reagan

Throughout the war, Bostick wrote to request a government license to start a radio station in Waco. In 1946, it was granted and KWTX had a permit. Bostick began work as station manager, a position he held when the skies over Waco turned black on May 11, 1953, and one of the deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history killed 114 people in a swath through downtown.

He was in the radio station’s offices on the fifth floor of the ALICO Building when the twister hit. After the noise subsided, he ran outside to see brick and debris, and the sign for the R.T. Dennis Building, site of the largest concentration of tornado deaths, in the middle of Austin Avenue.

He ran to a phone and called a Dallas radio station to report what happened. Then he convinced the airport tower to let him fly his Bonanza aircraft above Waco and broadcast live on KWTX Radio, describing the destruction he could see from on high.

“He was a broadcast visionary in the true sense of the word,” said his son-in-law Ray Deaver, Ellen’s husband, and later KWTX-TV station manager. “He got with his chief engineer and figured out how to rig up the airplane so he could broadcast as he flew over the path the tornado took.”

Deaver credits his father-in-law’s creativity with giving the radio station a leg up in weather coverage that KWTX Radio and TV still boast today.

For several days following the tornado, KWTX Radio canceled all commercial broadcasts “and on a 24/7 basis broadcast emergency messages for families seeking loved ones and family members,” Bostick said.

“Opportunity often presents itself to you and it depends upon how you can apply it and what skills you have that can help you,” he said.

Dawn of TV era

In 1955, he convinced KWTX Broadcasting Co. shareholders to start a TV station in Waco.

And shortly after KWTX-TV went on the air, the new station made national history. It became the first TV station to broadcast a U.S. trial live.

This was a risky maneuver, and costly. From Dec. 6 to 9, 1955, the station broadcast continually the murder trial of Harry Leonard Washburn at the McLennan County Courthouse. The Houston man was accused of killing his former mother-in-law, Helen Harris Weaver, 51, in San Angelo with a car bomb.

The new Waco television station KWTX, headed by Buddy Bostick, made national news in December 1955 when it became the first TV station to broadcast a murder trial live from the courtroom.
The new Waco television station KWTX, headed by Buddy Bostick, made national news in December 1955 when it became the first TV station to broadcast a murder trial live from the courtroom.

Excessive media attention in San Angelo moved the trial to Waco and under the watchful eyes of Bostick. He broadcast from the balcony of the 54th State District Court with 100-watt light bulbs and microphones hidden at the witness stand, judge’s bench and prosecutor’s table.

How did he get such a gig?

“We asked for it,” he said matter-of-factly, slapping one of the tables in his apartment. “It was not feasible for them to go to the expense of broadcasting a murder trial, but I thought it was of enough personal significance that I decided we dedicate the cost of doing that and we went on the air.”

From jury selection through closing statements, KWTX-TV broadcast gavel-to-gavel coverage unedited and commercial-free for four days. Newspaper reports from the time said one could have “shot a cannon down Austin Avenue and not hurt a soul because the normally frenzied Christmas shoppers were all inside watching the trial” on TV.

It became a civic lesson for school classes and it garnered the fledgling station headlines in newspapers from New York City to London, he said. “It was all over the nation: Station in Waco, Texas, broadcasts the first murder trial!”

Broadcasting the trial cost about $10,000 (equivalent to $80,000 today), but Bostick said it was worth it. The publicity immediately made the station a name for itself.

And what if it hadn’t worked?

“It had to work because if we couldn’t recognize a marvelous opportunity to let the people know that KWTX-TV would bring them outstanding television, then we’d missed the boat,” he said.

Ray Deaver said his father-in-law required what he called the “two A’s” from prospective employees: attitude and ability. “It’s teamwork. You can’t have somebody out on the island saying, ‘I’m going to do it my way.’ His attitude and ability were big factors throughout his tenure at the station,” said Deaver, who retired in 2001.

Bostick said it was important to treat his workers fairly.

“I had a goal that I made with myself that I would treat all of the employees fairly and when we part company they will say ‘he was fair to me,’ ” he said.

Managing an empire

Buddy Bostick (left) visits the construction site of television station KWTX on Bosque Boulevard, its home for several decades.
Buddy Bostick (left) visits the construction site of television station KWTX on Bosque Boulevard, its home for several decades.

In 1957, Bostick expanded his television operations with a new station, KBTX-TV in Bryan. Shortly thereafter, he purchased a TV station in Ardmore, Okla., renaming it KXII-TV. He later moved its main studios to Sherman, Texas. In 1965, his broadcasting group added KLFY-TV in Lafayette, La.

At one point he oversaw four TV stations and a few radio stations simultaneously. He flew to meetings in his P-51 Mustang or other aircraft, which he convinced shareholders to purchase.

But his daughter says he wasn’t a workaholic. She says he paced himself and put key people in important management roles.

Ray Deaver says Bostick was instrumental in updating local TV coverage by flying to Japan in 1975 and purchasing two Ikegami HL-33 portable color cameras (early mini-cameras) for on-scene shots.

“This was very new technology and ABC and CBS networks had them, but most TV stations did not,” Deaver said. “KWTX and the Lafayette station were the first in the nation to have this, even a year before any Dallas or Houston stations had them.”

Under Bostick’s leadership, KWTX-TV in 1962 built a 1,080-foot high tower in Lorena and in 1979 built a 1,679-foot tower in his hometown of Moody — the highest tower in Texas at the time. Installation of that tower gave the station regional broadcast coverage as it expanded to serve Temple and Killeen.

In 1999, Bostick retired as chairman of the board of KWTX Broadcasting Co.

“He became more focused on the bank,” Ellen said. “He wasn’t working any less. He was just differently focused.”

Local bank leader

Buddy Bostick and his partner, W.W. Callan, chartered the American National Bank in 1982 and merged it with Bellmead State Bank, which they’d owned since 1976, becoming American Bank NA. He’s holding
Buddy Bostick and his partner, W.W. Callan, chartered the American National Bank in 1982 and merged it with Bellmead State Bank, which they’d owned since 1976, becoming American Bank NA. He’s holding an artist’s rendering of the American Bank Plaza, where he and his wife Virginia have lived since 1986. Son-in-law Ray Deaver, then-general manager of KWTX Broadcasting, is on his left.

While building his broadcasting empire, he and financial partner W.W. Callan bought Bellmead State Bank on May 19, 1976. In addition, they chartered the American National Bank in December 1982 with Bostick named chairman of the board. In November 1987, the banks merged to become American Bank, NA (National Association) with Bostick serving as chairman.

“Building an institution that will last multiple generations is much more of a priority for him than the profit mode,” American Bank CEO Hicks said. “He’s really in tune with the customer experience and he somehow rationalizes that if you have a strong foundation and focus on customers’ experience, then the profit will take care of itself.”

When Bostick stepped down as board chairman in April, the bank’s assets totaled $370 million, Hicks said.

Bostick still serves as chairman emeritus and said he is proud of his bank’s 60 years of success.

On the 65th anniversary of KWTX-TV, a proclamation was issued declaring April 29, 2011, as “M.N. Buddy Bostick Day” in Waco by then-Mayor Jim Bush.

And what about his initials M.N.? Well, they stand for Milford Nelson. But nobody calls him that “unless they want a fight,” he said.

And at age 94, he has a lot of fight still in him.

How to live well in Waco: New project aims to encourage good habits

How to live well in Waco: New project aims to encourage good habits

By Sandra Sanchez

Thursday August 23, 2012
 
 

Increasing exercise habits, promoting healthy nutrition and workplace environments, and improving mental stability will be touted at a free kickoff party Sept. 15 on the banks of the Brazos River. The new Live Well Waco Project is a yearlong effort to encourage all these good habits.

Planning has been in the works for several months for the project, a collaboration among officials with the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District, YMCA of Central Texas, local medical professionals, representatives from Baylor University, area school districts and several nonprofit groups.

Fashioned after get-fit campaigns in other cities such as Tyler, Live Well Waco aims to educate, empower and aid Central Texans to have healthier lives.

Kayaking will be among the activities offered during the Live Well Waco kickoff.
Kayaking will be among the activities offered during the Live Well Waco kickoff.

Live Well Waco has five components:

 Work Well — improve workplace health.

 Be Well — reduce chronic illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure.

 Eat Well — encourage healthy nutrition to promote better health.

 Think Well — improve mental stability and spiritual wellness.

 Play Well — increase physical activities to lower weight, reduce illnesses and enjoy life more.

Several of the categories overlap but put together, the message is clear: improve all-around health in Waco for adults and children.

“We do realize that the choices that we make at home sometimes don’t overlap at the work site, so using this five-prong approach, we’re hoping to be able to reach people everywhere in Waco,” said Tiffani Johnson, lead health services coordinator and Live Well Waco Project co-facilitator for the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District.

That’s easier said than done, however, which is why collaborators are relying on a communitywide effort to take on this task.

“We need everyone’s input and expertise to reach the community,” said health district spokeswoman Kelly Craine. “We want this to be not a health district thing, but our community coming together to make ourselves better.”

This campaign was initially started by the health district-sponsored Power of Prevention Coalition, which focuses on improving area health disparities. The coalition organizes healthy public programs, such as a summer empowerment camp for preteen girls called Bounce, and local cooking classes. The Live Well Waco Project this past year became an offshoot of the coalition and includes several other organizations after the project was approved for federal funding.

“We are joining forces,” Armando Galindo, the district’s health services coordinator, told about 25 people assembled for a May 24 planning meeting. “This is a win-win for all.”

Aerobic exercise is considered a great way to improve a person’s health. Doing more physical activities is one aspect of the Live Well Waco Project that kicks off this month.
Aerobic exercise is considered a great way to improve a person’s health. Doing more physical activities is one aspect of the Live Well Waco Project that kicks off this month.

The Live Well Waco Project strives to challenge and encourage residents to improve their health, Johnson said.

In Waco, 37 percent to 40 percent of children are overweight, according to a 2010 community needs assessment conducted by the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District. In McLennan County, 60 percent of adults are overweight and more than 50 percent suffer from high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol levels, the study found.

“We want to emphasize and give to everyone — not only those who can afford it — the ability to get healthy,” Johnson said.

Managing weight can be difficult in this struggling economy, health officials concede. It’s made even harder when two-parent working households take on extra jobs and families struggle to buy healthy ingredients or to find time to cook healthy meals.

Free cooking demonstrations will be among the activities offered at the Sept. 15 Live Well Waco kickoff party from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Brazos Park East on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The event also will include games for children, lots of physical exercise and informative material.

“There will be lots of healthy eating tips, cooking demonstrations and educational tools. Experts will talk about portion control and portion sizes,” said Margo Shanks, health services coordinator for the health district and Live Well Waco co-project facilitator.

The health district hopes to reach all ages with its message of living better.
The health district hopes to reach all ages with its message of living better.

Massage therapists will be on hand to offer calming techniques. Aerobic classes, Zumba and kickboxing will be offered, as well as kayaking and paddle boarding.

“We want this to provide people the opportunities to think about exercise and play and positive psychology activities in a free and open setting,” Craine said.

Funded by a $235,000 federal Community Transformation Grant approved by the state, health officials hope this project will spur a new attitude in Waco toward living well.

Several activities will be planned throughout the next year, and hopefully for the following four years, Craine said. Locations and dates are still being worked out, but a website will be launched in September and maintained to update and encourage residents to seek a healthier lifestyle, she said.

Examples of website postings might include dates and locations for group walks, free cooking demonstrations, city-sponsored 5K runs, and bicycle or watercraft clinics.

Officials hope this project will gain popularity like Tyler’s Fit City Challenge, which is promoted by the Tyler Morning Telegraph newspaper. The Tyler newspaper’s website has a Fit City Challenge tab that highlights local participants, gives nutritional tips and discount coupons, and advertises upcoming activities.

Johnson said the idea to start Live Well Waco occurred after the head of the Northeast Texas Public Health District came to Waco and gave a talk to local health officials about how well Tyler’s program is working.

“That encouraged us to find something here, and that is what started the Live Well Waco Project,” Johnson said.

 

Live Well Waco kickoff party

When, where: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 15 at Brazos Park East

What: Party to highlight Live Well Waco Project. Activities for children and adults include cooking demonstrations, healthy eating tips, massage therapy, aerobic classes, Zumba and kayaking.

More information: Call 750-5450 or visit online at waco-texas.com/cms-healthdepartment/

 

 

Billboards like this one encouraging physical activity  will go up around town as part of the campaign to promote Live Well Waco.
Billboards like this one encouraging physical activity will go up around town as part of the campaign to promote Live Well Waco.

Billboards part of campaign to promote Live Well Waco

The Live Well Waco Project will use a variety of media to promote healthier lifestyles in the community.

The image of a billboard (left) encouraging physical activity is one of nine different billboards that will go up around Waco, said Tiffani Johnson, Live Well Waco Project co-facilitator for the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District. Other billboards will address themes on healthy eating, heart health, obesity and smoking, she said.

The project also will use radio commercials and television spots to reach residents, she said. Another component is the Live Well Waco website, which will be online in mid-September.

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