Free and reduced-price meals at MMISD

Martin’s Mill Independent School District today announced its policy for providing free and reduced-price meals for children served under the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program.  Each school/site or the central office has a copy of the policy which may be reviewed by any interested party. 

Starting on Aug. 24 we will begin distributing letters to the households of the children in the district about eligibility benefits and any actions households need to take to apply for these benefits.  Applications also are available at Martin’s Mill ISD, 301 FM 1861, Ben Wheeler, 75754.

Criteria for Free and Reduced-Price Meal Benefits

1.  Household income that is at or below the income eligibility levels

2.  Household receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or Food Distributing Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)


Hensarling covers local, nationwide topics at town hall meeting

U.S. Congressman Jeb Hensarling (TX-05) held a town hall meeting Aug. 7 to update the citizens of Van Zandt County on his continued efforts to hold Washington accountable to the American people and to hear from them about the issues that are most concerning to them.

Hensarling discussed topics ranging from Obamacare, the Supreme Court, Planned Parenthood and the export and import fight. 

The meeting was opened by County Judge Don Kirkpatrick thanking the people for showing up and introducing Hensarling, “he’s a friend to Van Zandt County, East Texas and he serves us well in Washington.”


Crisis Center golf tournament set for Sept. 18

The East Texas Crisis Center will present the fifth annual ETCC Golf Tournament at Van Zandt Country Club Sept. 18.

Funds raised by the tournament will go toward helping victims of domestic violence and sexual.

Entry fee for a team of four costs $400 and includes green fees, golf carts, a team photo, range balls, goody bags and lunch. 

Registration and check in is from 7 to 8 a.m.  Shotgun start is at 8 a.m. 

Lunch and an awards ceremony will follow the tournament.

There will be great prizes and awards for closest to the pin and longest drive along with door prizes and first, second and third place trophies for each player, tourney organizers said.


Community kids invited to Back-to-School Bash at Turner Baptist

Turner Baptist Church is having a community-wide Back to School Bash from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Aug. 15.  The church is located at 1802 VZCR 3412, Wills Point.

Children from grade school to high school are invited for an old-fashioned field day, church officials said, and parents are also encouraged to attend.  At the end of the event, school supplies and refreshments will be distributed to all children who joined in the fun.

Registration is at 10 a.m. 

Field Day Events will occur from 10:30 to 11 a.m. 

A video will be presented from 11 to 11:30 a.m. in the sanctuary and school supplies will be distributed from 11:30 a.m. to noon. 

Children should bring their school supply list.


Austin Bank names new chief financial officer, controller

Jeff Austin Jr., chairman of the board of Austin Bank, recently announced that Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Keith Chambers has retired.  

Todd Burton, the bank’s deputy chief financial officer, has succeeded him and Sandy Rayburn has been named to serve as controller.

Chambers began his 40-year banking career in 1975 as the chief financial officer with Texarkana National Bank in Texarkana. He joined Austin Bank in September 1997 in the role of the bank’s first chief financial officer and remained in that position throughout his 18 years with the Bank.

“Keith, a friend and valued member of the Austin Bank family, has provided excellent leadership and service to the Bank,” Austin said.  “His commitment to excellence has defined his reputation as a loyal and trusted leader in the banking community.”


Marijuana grow farm found near 859, I-20

Alejandro Avrego

A citizen’s tip led Van Zandt County law enforcement officials to a 10-acre marijuana grow operation located near FM 859 and Interstate 20 Aug. 3.

According to Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Sgt. Heath Burton, sheriff’s deputies, officers from the Van Zandt County jail, Canton Police Department, Wills Point Police Department and troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigation Division raided the location which was “concealed from the public.” “The owner of the property did not know of the marijuana operation,” Burton said.

A citizen saw some pumps moving water from a pond and reported the suspicious activity, he said.

More than 1,400 marijuana plants estimated to be worth more than $2 million were seized from the property and subsequently destroyed.

Alejandro Avrego, 27, of Canton, was arrested.

Another suspect escaped, Burton said, and the investigation is still ongoing at this time. 


Precinct Watch Program earns state honors

The Van Zandt County Precinct Watch Program recently received honorable mention recognition in three categories from the Texas Crime Prevention Association in three categories.

The crime prevention group held its summer training conference in San Antonio last month.

The association, established “to encourage the prevention of crime through coordinated and concentrated efforts, and though programs and functions that encourage citizen involvement and participation, to preserve safe environments and communities for the citizens of Texas,” celebrated its 40th anniversary at the event.


Artist hopes work inspires others

Photos by Jennifer Fulgham Singer Michael Morse performs at the opening of Kerian Babbitt-Massey’s art show at the Ben Creative Art Center in Ben Wheeler last week.

Kerian Babbitt-Massey’s career began when she was a teen on the beach of San Juan, Puerto Rico. 

“I was on the last few days of a trip and being a typical teenager, had already depleted my funds,” Babbitt-Massey said. “Sitting on the beach and sketching, I was approached by someone and they asked me to make them a sign. I made $40 that day.  That money not only made my life a bit better for the remaining two days but it also showed me that I could do what I love and make a living at it.”

Babbitt-Massey returned from her trip, graduated college at 21 with an advertising art degree, “picked up a paintbrush at 25 and have been creating ever since,” she said.

“Being an artist is like projecting your thoughts and visions onto a canvas where everyone can see,” Babbitt-Massey said. “It’s one of the purest forms of being an extrovert, even if you are secretly introverted or you are too afraid to tell your story any other way. “ 


County Blotter

The Van Zandt Co. Sheriff’s Dept. reported the following arrests for July 28 – Aug. 4, 2015

Alejandro Avrego, 27, was arrested on site for possession of marijuana.

Jackie William Ballard, 62, Canton, was arrested on a warrant for injury to a child, elderly or disabled.

Jolyn Rene Baugh, 36, Fruitvale, was arrested on a warrant for unauthorized use of a vehicle.

Tory Dean Begnaud, 35, Wills Point, was arrested on site for theft of property.

Daniel Brown, 28, Wills Point, was arrested on site for driving while intoxicated.

Logan Dwayne Bundrick, 26, Wills Point, was arrested on a warrant for stalking, and on site for possession of a controlled substance.


Scattered to the wind, group helps find the lost photos of Van

Professional Organizers Cita Sue and Linda Glasscock of Van sort through hundreds of photographs as volunteers during the National Disaster Photo Rescue day.

Snuggly photographs of newborns, black and white photos of marriages and old, sepia shots of people doing everyday activities were strewn about tables during the National Disaster Photo Rescue day in Van Aug. 4.

The NDPR focuses on the preservation and return of lost photos after a disaster, thus building renewed strength and hope by reuniting communities with treasured memories thought to have been destroyed.

But the haphazard mess was slowly being organized into neat, little heaps of photographs that depicted special moments of lives. The process is a slow one, with each photograph rigorously cleaned and dried, cataloged and then finally put in a folder to be scanned into a database.

The photographs are then organized into folders on Facebook for people in Van to come and see if the photographs are theirs.


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