Whitney businesses unite in effort to promote community

Reporter: Ellie Mahan

July 28, 2021

The Whitney Business Alliance chooses a different business as its meeting location each month, with the owner providing a tour of their location. The alliance’s last meeting was Thursday, July 22, at Buckshot Rustic Furniture and Gifts. The attendees pictured above are Jason Ince, Gordon Rogers, Terry Boyer, Charles Boyer, Allyson Vought, Tami Gardner, Chamber of Commerce President Adam Bain, Mayor Brad Slaten, Teresa Wyatt, Gina Rogers, Konni Spitzer, Anne Chastaine and Carol Eubank.

To draw more traffic to local business, better the community, and promote town spirit, business owners in Whitney decided to come together by creating a Whitney Business Alliance. The alliance was founded in December 2020, and participation has remained consistent ever since.

The mission statement of the organization states, “The Whitney Business Alliance’s purpose is to enhance the shopping, eating, living, entertaining and community experience to make Whitney a preferred destination for vacations, staycations, and locals to come back time after time. We commit to nurturing growth through mentoring small businesses, working together to overcome challenges that may arise while building and maintaining strong alliance with businesses, government agencies and educational systems.”

A resource for both up-and-coming businesses and Whitney’s trademark establishments, the Whitney Business Alliance is recruiting business owners within the 76692 zip code who would like to join in on this networking opportunity. There is no membership fee, and the alliance would like to represent as many local businesses as possible.

After noticing that business owners’ problems were going unaddressed, Carol Eubank, owner of Whitney Family Eyecare and newly elected president of the Whitney Business Alliance, met with other local business owners and decided that creating a strong, unified, collective voice would get more accomplished. Eubank said as someone who has been running a business for more than 20 years, she is aware of the challenges involved with starting a business, and she hopes the alliance can help newcomers in the area who need guidance.

Eubank said, “Our goals are to be mentors to other business owners who are new, to improve storefronts, streets and neighborhoods and to encourage growth in restaurants and entertainment so that there is more for our local families to do.”

To achieve these goals, the alliance’s first order of business is to create a business directory so that all the businesses can stay in contact with each other. Another item on the to do list includes improving the buildings downtown. The alliance has discussed encouraging every business to have a personalized bench. Personalized benches would create a photo opportunity for tourists, and it would also honor Whitney’s history with The Battle of the Benches.

Eubank said, “We will be working really hard on relationships with our leaders with the city council and the chamber, having a representative at each meeting from both parts so that we can encourage the two groups to work together because they’re the most important bodies. We will hopefully be starting a cleanup and improvement effort, starting with downtown. Downtown is where we want to start so that people want to come and just hang out. We believe if the downtown area looks like it is growing, people will just naturally want to open businesses.”

Eubank said she hopes the alliance will improve the longevity of businesses by providing a place store owners can go to when they want to vent or work through their issues.

“We would witness a business opening up and then a year later closing down, then another business going into that same building, opening up for about a year, and then closing down, just over and over again,” she said.

“Maybe these businesses wouldn’t come in and just close in a year if they had people to go to and talk about the challenges and know where to be guided,” she explained.

Eubank is hopeful that the alliance could encourage people to start businesses that supply a wider variety of food and entertainment for the area so that when tourists visit Lake Whitney, there will be a plethora of options for recreation.

Anne Chastaine, owner of Juniper Cove Winery and newly elected vice president of the Whitney Business Alliance, said, “We want to be a destination, whether or not the lake is closed. We love having the lake, but when the lake is closed, does that hurt our businesses? We need to draw traffic so people can come to Whitney and spend the day.”

Chastaine added that supporting neighboring businesses can help her own business too because as one business has an increase in sales, the store next door also gets noticed. Business owners will use a Facebook page called Whitney Connection to promote their business and others in the community.

“As the tide rises, all the boats float. The more people we can get downtown shopping and looking, the greater potential for each one of the stores to make more sales,” Chastaine said.

Another reason to improve the downtown area is to prevent locals from resorting to traveling to larger cities like Waco when they want to enjoy a night out. Shopping local benefits the Whitney business owners, and the tax dollars that residents pay when they shop local go toward bettering their own community.

The officers for this term, elected Thursday, July 23 are: Crystal Stewart, director of marketing, Allyson Vought, sergeant at arms, Carol Eubank, president, Anne Chastaine, vice president, Terry Boyer, secretary and Tami Gardner, treasurer. Chastaine said, “She’s got so many of the talents that have been part of this since day one, and that’s why I nominate Carol as president.”

Eubank said, “The money that is spent here, the taxes stay here. That’s what fixes our roads. That’s what helps with infrastructure on the internet, trash cleanup, all of those things our tax dollars pay for. When you buy in Waco, the tax dollars go to improve Waco, and when you buy in Bosque County it goes to help Bosque County. People don’t realize that tax you pay when you shop local, that stays here and goes straight into our schools and our infrastructure.”

Eubank said she has noticed lots of rapid growth in the Whitney area and wants to uplift the local businesses so that chains and franchises don’t take over the town.

“We would like to see our local businesses grow so fast and so strong that if chains come in, it doesn’t matter. It’s just a bonus. It’s not killing local businesses,” Eubank said.

The members of the Whitney Business Alliance have a diverse range of knowledge and skills, and they use their different experiences to help each other. Current members who are active leaders in the organization include: Carol Eubank of Whitney Family Eyecare, Anne Chastaine of Juniper Cove Winery, Terry and Charles Boyer of home-based business Thrive, Konni Spitzer of Buckshot Furniture, Denise Callaway of Bosque Real Estate, Crystal Stewart of Farmhouse Store, Jay Caldwell of Lake Whitney Liquidation, Teresa Wyatt of A Daughter’s Dream, Ayushi Agarwala of Whitney Urgent Care, Benji’s and Work@Hill, Gordon and Gina Rogers of a home-based business and Julia Eubanks of Project Sanctuary.

Chastaine said, “We’re trying to help the mayor and the city council bring some spirit and pride back into the town. One of the things that we’ve learned is that everyone had different experiences before they started their businesses. What can we leverage from a past life? I used to do event planning, and I did conference planning for AT&T. I’ve done contract negotiations. What can I leverage to help someone else who is having a problem or an issue?”

Chastaine said she can apply what she’s learned while owning a winery to other businesses as well.

“The biggest thing is creating relationships. In a winery, it’s a very personal experience for the winemaker to make wine, and all the winemakers are different,” Chastaine said. “It’s all those different experiences and how you create something that isn’t a one-time shopper but customer loyalty. There’s a lot of stuff you do in a winery to create loyalty that we’d like to transfer over to the business alliance so that all of our businesses can create loyalty, driving new customers and keeping them.”

Eubank was inspired by a town square she saw in Montana. String lights lit up the night and twinkled over tidy buildings. Locals and tourists alike visited to shop, dine and stroll on the sidewalk. She said this image was her vision for Whitney’s future.

“Their buildings weren’t fancy. They were just well kept, and people were traveling in and supporting them. When people are coming into Whitney, I don’t know where they’re going, but they’re not coming downtown. If our downtown is strong, then the rest of the businesses will just grow like crazy. We’re starting here and then branching out,” Eubank said.

The Whitney Business Alliance meets every third Thursday of the month and is looking forward to growing its reach.

Descendants of town’s bench sitters sought for celebration

Editor: Shannon Cottongame

July 28, 2021

A celebration based on Whitney’s 1949 claim to fame dubbed “The Battle of the Benches” has been planned for August, and the organizer is looking for descendants of the “bench sitters” of that time to participate.

Whitney was featured in the August 15, 1949, edition of Life Magazine after a special election was called to determine whether the elderly men in town would be able to keep their downtown bench, which had been removed at the request of a group of ladies in Whitney.

The men were victorious in their bid to keep their favorite spot for “whittling, spitting and passing judgment on everything that passed” (as one of the opposing ladies described the situation).

A bench and historical marker can still be found in the same location, at the corner of Brazos Street and Washington Avenue in downtown Whitney.

Anne Chastain, who now operates Juniper Cove Winery out of the building at that location, decided to celebrate the town’s history with a special event on Saturday, August 14.

More details about the event, and historical information about The Battle of the Benches for those who may not know the story, will be featured in upcoming editions of The Lakelander. For now, the focus is on finding descendants of the bench sitters who were featured in the 1949 Life Magazine article.

The descendants will be invited to attend the dedication of the refurbished bench at the site and have their picture taken on the bench.

Those who would like to participate are invited to contact Chastain at info@battleofthe bench.com or 254-266-5351.

Businesses located in the 76692 zip code are also being invited to enter the Battle of the Bench challenge and decorate their own bench to reflect Whitney’s spirit, history and the personality of their business. Deadline to enter the contest is 5 p.m. Wednesday, August 11.

More information will be released in The Lakelander and at http://battleofthebench.com in the coming weeks. See page 5 for historical reporting from The Whitney Messenger on The Battle of the Benches.

City Council holds meeting, mayor requests feedback

Editor: Shannon Cottongame

July 28, 2021

The Whitney City Council heard monthly reports, received comments from citizens and approved special event permits in a meeting held Monday evening, July 19.

At last month’s meeting, Mayor Brad Slaten encouraged council members to attend events and be visible to represent the city and visit with the citizens they represent. This month, the mayor stressed the importance of citizens communicating with the council. He asked residents and business owners to express their ideas and goals with council members and invite them to events.

“No member of the city council nor the mayor of this great city can reasonably be expected to know the thoughts and priorities of the citizens that we represent without those same citizens communicating with us,” the mayor said.

“Without communication of goals and ideals to the council members it is unreasonable to expect city council members to support those goals,” he said. “While your elected representatives have a certain degree of autonomy in making decisions that they believe are in the best interest of Whitney and its citizens, I firmly believe that each member of this council wants to understand the will of their constituents.”

The mayor said that citizens can contact members individually or leave a message with staff at City Hall. He said that he can also be reached through his email address: brad.slaten@cityofwhitneytx.org.

In departmental reports, Whitney Fire Chief Wayland Price said that Texas A&M fire training is resuming in September after being paused due to the pandemic, and fire classes will once again be offered locally. Price said that the fire department is also heavily involved in Emergency Services District (ESD) 1 fire department training sessions that will begin in September.

City Administrator/Police Chief Chris Bentley reported that the department’s remaining five police officers who have not completed emergency medical services training will begin training with CareFlite in August. By cross training police officers to be emergency care attendants, they can assist ambulance crews when needed.

He added that staffing on the ambulance is doing well, with a new paramedic added to the crew.

Bentley said that with the help of the department’s K-9 unit, officers recently made four narcotics arrests during traffic stops.

Public Works Administrator Billy Pribble said that his department is actively working on issues brought up by citizens, including concerns about storm water drainage. Work is currently underway in the area of North Guadalupe and North San Marcos between Hayes and Roosevelt streets, which Pribble said is one of the major tributaries to the creek. He said that crews are clearing out overgrown areas, noting that work has to begin at the lower end and work its way up to get water flowing.

In public comments, Sharon Weeks Harper requested that the field in front of her house at the corner of North Colorado and West Wilson be mowed. She stated that she has been requesting that the property be addressed since April and has been informed that the city is awaiting a response from the property owner. Harper requested that something be done about the property, which she said affects 17 dwellings and a senior living facility.

Moving on to the regular agenda, the council discussed the drainage issues brought up by Martis Ward at last month’s council meeting. Bentley reported that the city engineer is assessing the issue to determine the best course of action. Action was tabled pending that report.

The council authorized Bentley to accept an application for a variance to the ordinance regarding long-term habitation of a travel trailer from Glen and Jeannie Koons. Bentley said that they plan to live in a travel trailer for a brief period of time, not to exceed 90 days, on property that they own while their home is being built.

A special event permit was approved for Lake Whitney Chamber of Commerce ahead of this year’s Pioneer Days festival on Saturday, October 2. The permit will allow the chamber to block off Railroad Avenue for the carnival from Wednesday, September 29, through Sunday, October 3.

Another special event permit was approved for the “Battle of the Bench” event scheduled for Saturday, August 14, in downtown Whitney. Anne Chastain of Juniper Cove Winery is planning the event to rededicate the refurbished bench outside of her business, which was the site of the historic “Battle of the Benches” in Whitney. A small portion of Brazos Street between Washington and Railroad Avenue will be closed for the event. More details about this event will be featured in upcoming editions of The Lakelander.

A zoning request was approved for five acres of land at J Greer Abstract A-320 Tract 27D from agricultural use to business district 2 use. The applicant is planning to construct a motel and small restaurant in the city.

No action was taken on another rezoning request to change zoning for property located at Y Addition Block 2 Lot 12 from single family to mobile home. Bentley said that the issue cannot be taken up by the council on the advice of the city attorney, as it would be a zoning change that would create a “spot zoning” issue.

The council convened in closed session to discuss the sale of property containing the old tennis courts on Cleveland Avenue, but no action was taken when open session resumed.

COVID-19 numbers rising, remain below peak levels

Editor: Shannon Cottongame

July 28, 2021

While the local area and the state remain in much better condition than they were earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent rise in case numbers and the increasing spread of the highly contagious delta variant indicate that the virus remains a threat.

Numbers received at the county level Friday, July 23, showed that there had been 40 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Hill County over the previous month, and County Judge Justin Lewis said that there seems to be a general upward trend in the numbers that is expected to continue into the fall.

As of the weekend, the statewide positivity rate—the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive—had climbed to 14 percent, which is a rate unseen since winter and above the 10 percent rate that Governor Greg Abbott identified as a red flag earlier in the pandemic. Daily confirmed new case totals and hospitalizations are also increasing but remain well below their winter peaks.

The number of people hospitalized for the coronavirus in the state climbed from 1,591 on July 1 to 4,320 on Sunday, July 25.
The highest number of pandemic hospitalizations in Texas occurred on January 11, when 14,200 people with COVID-19 were being treated in hospitals.

Locally, 35 percent of Hill County residents and 39 percent of Bosque County residents over the age of 12 are now fully vaccinated. Vaccination rates are highest in the over-65 age group, which has proven to be particularly vulnerable to the effects of the virus. Over 61 percent of Hill County residents and 62 percent of Bosque County residents in that age group have been fully vaccinated.

State health officials say that vaccines have been shown to be highly effective at preventing new coronavirus cases. While there have been occurrences of breakthrough infections—when someone who is completely vaccinated contracts the virus—evidence suggests that these cases are more likely to be mild or carry no symptoms.

Vaccines are available from a number of local medical offices and pharmacies. A statewide website is available to help the public easily find vaccines at getthevaccine.dshs.texas.gov.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the state has confirmed 110 Hill County fatalities and 37 Bosque County fatalities.

Court approves agreement with Humane Society

Editor: Shannon Cottongame

July 28, 2021

The Hill County Commissioners Court met in a special session Tuesday, July 20, to consider several agenda items, including an agreement with the Humane Society.

Commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding between the Hill County Sheriff’s Office and the Humane Society of North Texas.

The agreement will establish a team to investigate cases of animal cruelty in Hill County.

The agreement does not involve monetary payment to either party, but the two agencies will work collectively on cases and utilize the resources that they each possess.

According to the information presented in court, the agreement is expected to help ensure that the best case possible is presented to the prosecuting attorney in the event that a case results in criminal charges.

The court also approved moving forward with an environmental study for the warehouse property on Waco Street that the county will be purchasing contingent upon the results of the evaluation.

A replat was approved for High Country Ranch located off of Farm Road 934 to allow the owner to separate one lot into two.

County Judge Justin Lewis reported that the budget process is moving along, and the annual budget hearings with county officials and department heads are likely to be scheduled the second week of August.

Marty Haggard to judge BAC country songwriting contest

Editor: Shannon Cottongame

July 28, 2021

The deadline to enter the 2021 Texas Troubadour Songwriter Classic at the Bosque Arts Center in Clifton is Tuesday, August 3. Marty Haggard, son of country music legend Merle Haggard, will select the winners of the $3,000 in cash prizes and will headline the live concert event on November 6.

The Songwriter Classic, a contest for country music songwriters and singer/songwriters now in its eighth year, awards a $1,000 Song of the Year prize for mp3 or CD entries submitted in the online portion of the competition. Songwriters need not be the singer on the recording to win the award.

Marty Haggard

In the live portion of the contest held in November, Haggard will select his top choice of the singer/songwriter finalists for the $1,500 grand prize for Texas Troubadour, while the audience will vote on the $500 People’s Choice Award. To be considered for the live event, contestants must submit at least three songs and a video performance by 11:59 p.m. CDT on August 3.

For detailed information, those interested can visit BosqueArtsCenter.org or call 254-675-3724.

Entry fees are $15 per song entered online and $20 per song entered on CD. A one-time $15 fee is required for consideration for the Troubadour live performance competition.

Past judges have included Michael Martin Murphey, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Red Steagall and Suzy Bogguss with Doug Crider.

In addition to the prize money, Troubadour winners and finalists have often been hired as openers for major acts as well as headliners for their own events. Carl Hutchens, 2014 Troubadour winner, returned to open for Larry Gatlin, while 2017 winner Brian Barrett opened for Gene Watson in 2018 and has since returned with his band for two Big Event dances. Zac Clifton, winner in 2019, will return to Clifton in September to open for T. Graham Brown.

Scammers claiming to be Border Patrol

Editor: Shannon Cottongame

July 28, 2021

Telephone scammers are constantly changing their tactics, and reports of government impostor scams have been increasing locally.

A new type of telephone scam is targeting residents nationwide in an attempt to gain their banking information. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is receiving reports from residents concerned about unsolicited calls from scammers posing as U.S. Border Patrol agents and CBP officers.

Residents report the calls include a pre-recorded message stating, “A box of drugs and money being shipped has your (resident’s) name on it and it has been intercepted.” The resident is instructed to press #1 to speak with a CBP officer or agent. The resident’s banking information is then requested.

There have also been reports of a pre-recorded message stating that the individual’s passport is being held at the border.

These calls are telephone scams/voice phishing attempts. Residents are urged not to provide the caller with any information.

The Department of Homeland Security and CBP do not solicit money over the telephone. Residents who receive such calls should make a note of the number and any other pertinent details about the call, immediately hang up, and report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission online at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/.

Dorothy Gaines Foundation taking apps

Editor: Shannon Cottongame

July 28, 2021

The Board of Directors of the Dorothy Gaines Foundation recently announced that the foundation is now accepting grant applications for 2021.

The foundation is authorized to make grants to organizations and institutions that are exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code or to governmental entities in amounts of up to $10,000 per grant.

The foundation will make grants for specific projects, building and capital improvement campaigns and general purposes. Grants will only be funded which will serve organizations and the people of Hill County or Tarrant County.

The Dorothy Gaines Foundation was established in 2003 by Dorothy Gaines as a private foundation with the primary purpose to promote the quality of life in Hill County and Tarrant County.

More information about the foundation and grant applications can be found on the foundation’s website: http://www.dorothygainesfoundation.org.

Applications for grants to be awarded in 2021 must be received on or before October

Tickets available for LWA’s Hansel And Gretel

Lake Whitney Arts is heading into final rehearsals for Hansel and Gretel by Vera Morris, directed by Whitney Gant. This show features a cast of very talented youngsters and will run for one weekend only, Friday, August 6, through Sunday, August 8. This wonderfully entertaining version of the classic tale is guaranteed to delight young audiences. For tickets or more information, visit http://www.lakewhitneyarts.org.

Smith Foundation announces opening of grant applications

Editor: Shannon Cottongame

July 28, 2021

The Board of Directors of the George G. and Alva Hudson Smith Foundation has announced the opening of the 2021 grant application process. Applications for grants to be awarded this year must be received on or before September 1. Grant awards will be announced in October.

Applicants can access grant information and required supporting documents at the Smith Foundation website (www.smithfoundationhillcounty.org) under the “Application Documents” tab on the website’s homepage.

These include the application guidelines, cover sheet, publicity plan and the publicity permission form. Applicants will need to provide five copies of their application materials to the address shown in the application guidelines and at the bottom of this news article.

The foundation will consider requests for operating budgets, special projects, building and capital campaigns, research and academic scholarships of organizations that are classified as 501(c)(3) non-profit entities in Texas, a political subdivision or governmental entity; or a corporation organized under the Texas Non-Profit Corporation Act.

The foundation does not award grants to individuals or to organizations outside the State of Texas. The foundation is also prohibited from funding religious organizations or participation in ongoing fund-raising events or activities. In considering requests for funding, the board places priority on organizations and programs serving Hill County.

In 2020, the Smith Foundation awarded more than $108,000 in grants to nine organizations across Hill County. Grantees included Aquilla ISD, Boys & Girls Club of Hill County, City of Hubbard, Hill County and Hillsboro ISD.

Other grant recipients in 2020 were Hillsboro Interfaith Ministries, Inc., Mission Hillsboro Medical Clinic, Texas Ramp Project and Woodbury Community Center. Grants ranged in amounts from $30,000 to $3,000.

Over the past 27 years of its funding history, the foundation has committed substantial support to a variety of Hill County area organizations amounting to over $2.3 million dollars. Grants have assisted qualified entities in improving the quality of medical, educational, cultural, economic, social and recreational services to the citizens of Hill County.

The George G. and Alva Hudson Smith Foundation was established in 1992 by the late Ruth Smith Moorman in memory of her parents for the purpose of enriching the lives of citizens in Hill County.

Information about the foundation is available on its website or from: The George G. and Alva Hudson Smith Foundation, P. O. Box 1245, Hillsboro, TX 76645.

Whitney High School Drill Team earns multiple accolades at camp

Pictured (l to r) are: front row – First Lieutenant Roselyn Villarreal, Captain Eliza Banner, Second Lieutenant Annette Prado; second row – Hannah Jaynes, Social Officer Nayeli Estrada, Sandra Contreras, Jaden Henderson, Katie Davis, Jaden Cashio; back row – Evelyn Figueroa, Raylee Thornton, Elyse Minniear, Jaycee Green, Skylie Jones, Marilyn Hatfield and Andrea Figueroa.

Reporter: Ellie Mahan

July 28, 2021

This summer, the Whitney High School Royelles Drill Team, under the direction of Stephanie Robison and Angel Durham, attended a three-day camp with Danceline at Austin’s Lakeway Resort in preparation for the upcoming season and returned with multiple accolades.

They were honored with Blue Superior Performance ribbons each night for their evaluations on routines learned that day, the Team Perseverance Award, Best Dressed for themed days during camp, and Super Sweepstakes overall on their final evaluation.

Seven Royelles also received special recognition.

Senior Skylie Jones and Freshman Katie Davis were recognized for their positivity and friendly attitude.

Members of the Danceline All-American Elite Team are: Social Officer Nayeli Estrada, First Lieutenant Roselyn Villarreal, Captain Eliza Banner, Second Lieutenant Annette Prado.

Sophomore Jaycee Green, who is the first lieutenant, senior Roselyn Villarreal, and sophomore Nayeli Estrada all received Star Performer ribbons. Second Lieutenant sophomore Annette Prado received the AJC Award.

Senior Captain Eliza Banner, senior First Lieutenant Roselyn Villarreal, sophomore Second Lieutenant Annette Prado and sophomore Social Officer Nayeli Estrada were named to the Danceline All-American Elite Team.

Directors reported that it was a very rewarding week at camp and the Royelles cannot wait to wow the crowds on Friday nights during football season and competition season.

Whitney resident races at Bristol Motor Speedway

Reporter: Ellie Mahan

July 21, 2021

People who have lived in the country for a long time may have friends who made a hobby out of racing on dirt roads, cruising on back roads every chance they get. For Joe Sheddan, owner of Joe Sheddan excavation and a 21-year Whitney resident, it’s not just a hobby anymore. It’s now his way of life. Sheddan races with DFW local late models, and he also won the Last Chance Qualifier in the 604 Late Model race at Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

Sheddan said, “The main thing I really love about racing is, after all the hard work, when you get in that car and you’re going down the back stretch waiting for the green flag, as soon as that green flag drops, you’re not worried about truck payments, house notes, relationships, nothing. Everything goes quiet in my world, and it’s just fast. Everything just slows down. I do my best thinking at 150 miles an hour.”

Because Sheddan’s grandfather was a racer, Sheddan became fascinated with the sport at a young age and began racing when he was about 17 years old. During his first full season in 2003, he won rookie of the year in the Dwarf Car class. In 2013, he competed in 28 races and won 24 of them. In 2014, he competed in 26 races and won 22 of them. Sponsorships with Yount Motorsports and All Plumbing in Dallas gave him the opportunity to compete against some of the best racers in the business by moving up to the late model category.

“They gave us an opportunity, and we’ve done pretty well. We haven’t been in it long, and we’ve already won a few,” Sheddan said. “They said it could be years before we win, and we’ve already won two [late model races], so we’re kind of excited about it.”

When Sheddan was at Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track, he enjoyed hearing the location of his local sponsors announced over the loudspeaker because it brought the small towns in Hill County recognition. Both of his grandparents have lived in Hill County for his entire life, and he has an appreciation for the small community he has spent most of his life in.

“When we raced for Bristol at the national level and beat a bunch of those guys that race every day and are paid millions of dollars to race, it was neat because we’re from Whitney, Texas. When you look at our little camp, and you look at some of those guys, you think ‘how in the world am I even competing with those guys?’” Sheddan said.

Sheddan’s two teenage daughters, who go to school and play sports at Aquilla, both support their father by going to his local races.

“My daughters love it [his racing career] until there’s a wreck. We’ve been pretty fortunate though,” Sheddan said. “By the time it’s all said and done, with the car and the motor, the car is going to be about $70,000, so you try not to wreck it, but when you put 30 cars together, side by side at that speed, it’s almost guaranteed at some point.”

Sheddan said to become a late model racer, you have to have a passion for the sport because it is very time consuming.

“You can’t just like racing. You have to love it because it’s 24-7,” Sheddan said. “Most of the time we’re in the shop or we’re in the garage. A lot of guys have time to go to bars or go fishing with their buddies. We’re in the shop 24/7. We’re working on something, trying to get better. That’s the tough part, but I never miss my kids’ games.”

According to Sheddan, one of the most difficult parts of preparing for a race is finding a track to practice on and finding a time when not many people are at that track. Otherwise, opponents could attend the track to attempt to scope out the competition and learn the driver’s tactics. The day after Sheddan competes, he starts preparing for his next race.

“It’s a scramble. You finish that Saturday night; Sunday is wash day. You strip the car down, wash it, service it, check the fluids in it, check your safety equipment. You start reloading the trailer back up. Monday night is getting the car back going. Tuesday is tire prep. Wednesday is going through your safety gear. Thursday it’s ready to load up,” Sheddan said.

One part of the racing world that Sheddan enjoys is interacting with his fans. Fans have worn his merchandise, asked for autographs, posed for photos with his car and shouted at him to toss his helmet into the crowd.

“It’s pretty neat. We were at Bristol, and I looked up, and there was a kid. He’s probably eight years old, and he’s got my hat on. Sixty thousand people are there, and this little kid has got my hat on,” Sheddan said.

Sheddan enjoys the fans but always remembers where he came from and feels grateful for the opportunities he has been given.

In an interview with KHBR radio station in Hillsboro, Sheddan said, “I get excitement out of seeing the kids and giving out hats, and just giving back because I came from nothing. We didn’t have anything. We got very fortunate to catch a ride with a team like Louie, or we wouldn’t be here having this conversation. That goes to show what I’ve always said, I think some of your best talent in the world, dirt track drivers, they’re racing at your local dirt track every single weekend, and they’re never going to get that opportunity to showcase what they can do because there’s just not many of those kind of rides out there.”

Sheddan’s advice for young racers is to try not to let the ridicule from fans of the opposition get them down. When racers hit another car on the track, the opposing fans will boo and name call both during the race and immediately after the race. The criticism also continues long after leaving the track, due to social media. Sheddan said young racers have to keep in mind that upset fans’ negative comments such as “You’re the worst racer out there,” aren’t based in fact, just anger.

Sheddan also advised, “It’s going to be the most humbling sport you’ve ever been a part of because you could be on top one day, and the next day, you’re struggling to get in the feature. It can bring a grown man to tears in a matter of minutes. You may lose friends in it that get in bad wrecks and end their career.”

Sheddan plans to race his newest car, a 2021 Rocket Chassis XR1, in a $50,000 to win competition at Chattam Speedway in Rustin, Louisiana.

Sheddan thanks his sponsors for their support. Some of those sponsors include Yount Motorsports, All Plumbing, NAPA of Hillsboro, White Rock Ranch, Dirt Defender, 517 Designs and P&W Sales Oil Field Manufacturer.

WISD campuses preparing for registration next week

Registration dates for Whitney elementary school, intermediate school, middle school and high school are set for Tuesday, July 27, through Thursday, July 29, at each campus. The first day of school for Whitney students is Wednesday, August 18

Whitney elementary school

Elementary school registration will be Tuesday, July 27, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday, July 28, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Thursday, July 29, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. To register elementary school students, parents and children can pick up or print their packets, fill out their packets in their car or at home, and then return with filled out packets and required documents.

Required documents for returning students include proof of residency, such as a utility bill or a rent or lease agreement, and a parent driver license.

Elementary school students who are new to the district are required to bring a Social Security card, birth certificate, shot records, proof of residency and a parent driver license. Parents who are registering their children for pre-k must also bring a proof of income or SNAP/TANF.

Whitney intermediate school

Intermediate school registration will be Tuesday, July 27, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday, July 28, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Thursday, July 29, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Returning intermediate school students must bring current proof of residency with physical address listed, such as a utility bill or a lease agreement, driver license of parent or guardian registering the student and any documents that may be missing from previous years.

New intermediate school students must bring current proof of residency with physical address listed, such as a utility bill or a lease agreement, student’s birth certificate, student’s Social Security card, report card or withdrawal record from previous school (if available), shot records and a driver license of parent or guardian registering the student.

Whitney middle school

Whitney Middle School registration will be Tuesday, July 27, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, July 28, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursday, July 29, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Registration packets for the middle school will be available Monday, July 19. Packets can also be accessed and printed from the Whitney Middle School website.

Returning middle school students need to bring current proof of residency with physical address listed, such as a utility bill or a lease agreement, driver license of parent or guardian registering the student and any documents that may be missing from previous years.

Middle school students who are new to the district need to bring current proof of residency with physical address listed, such as a utility bill or a lease agreement, driver license of the parent or guardian registering the student, student birth certificate, student Social Security card, last report card, or withdrawal paperwork from previous school (if available) and student shot record.

Procedures on the high school registration had not been released as of press time and will be published in the next issue of The Lakelander. The information will also be posted on the school’s website.

To access a returning student registration form or a new student registration form for elementary, intermediate or middle school students, visit https://www.whitney.k12.tx.us.

Whitney high school

High school registration will have in-person registration Tuesday, July 27 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, July 28 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Thursday, July 29 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

High school students who are new to the district must register on campus during the dates and times listed above. New students need to bring the following to registration: proof of residency showing physical address such as a utility bill or a lease agreement, social security card, birth certificate, shot records, valid driver’s license or state issued ID of the enrolling parent/guardian and report card or transcript from previous school, if available.

High school students who are returning to the district, including incoming freshman, will register online. Devices will be available on campus for those who do not have access to a computer or the Internet.

Returning high school students can access registration forms in the parent portal after Thursday, July 22. This link is available under the parents’ tab on the website. A parent or guardian will need to login with the email used to create the account. The system will not allow the email to be changed for an active account. If a parent/guardian does not have a parent portal account, one can be created. After logging in, student will complete the online paperwork, upload a photo of valid driver’s license or state ID, and upload the proof of residency showing physical address such as a utility bill or a lease agreement.

After returning high school students complete registration Online, they may come to campus during the days and times listed above to pay fees, register for parking, and see counselors for scheduling. Students must pay all fees and dues prior to receiving a class schedule. The following fees are required: an activity fee of $20, an ID fee of $5 and a parking permit for $5.

The activity fee is collected in lieu of holding campus fundraisers. This fee will carry over each year with and will be used for prom, graduation, and activity expenses.

To purchase the $5 parking permit, students must have a valid driver’s license and proof of insurance. Students will be able to choose a parking space after the fee is collected.

High school students will need pens, pencils, notebook paper or spirals, and a folder for each class. All other supplies will be announced by individual teachers at the beginning of the year.

Lockers are available for each student to use at the high school, but the student will need to supply a lock.

Contact the high school office at 254-694-3457 with any questions.

Sentences handed down in 66th Judicial District Court

The office of District Attorney Mark Pratt prosecuted felony criminal cases in the 66th Judicial District Court of Hill County, presided over by District Judge Lee Harris, in June.

The following Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) sentences were handed down:

Ignacio Rafael Cazares, online solicitation of a minor, eight years prison

Mercedes Dawn Clemons, possession of methamphetamine under one gram, 15 months state jail; bail jumping and failure to appear, three years prison

Tina Moody Harris, theft of property between $2,500 and $30,000, 18 months state jail; credit card or debit card abuse, 18 months state jail

Joanna Barrientos, harassment of public servant, five years prison

Randle Lee Morriss, driving while intoxicated, third offense or more, 28 years prison

Michael Dwayne Byars, unlawful possession of firearm by a felon, three years prison

Derrick Shawn Holmes, possession of methamphetamine under one gram, 12 months state jail

Scott Jody Cooper, possession of methamphetamine under one gram, 16 months state jail

Oscar Padilla, aggravated robbery, 15 years prison

Keith Martin Sandlin, possession of gamma hydroxybutyrate between 200 and 400 grams with intent to deliver, 20 years prison; possession of THC oil less than one gram, 15 months state jail

Dustin Lee Adkins, possession of methamphetamine between four and 200 grams with intent to deliver, 15 years prison; possession of LSD less than 20 AU, 18 months state jail

Ashton Laron Haynes, evading arrest or detention with a vehicle, four years prison; assault of peace officer or judge, eight years prison; possession of cocaine under one gram, 12 months state jail; tampering or fabricating physical evidence with intent to impair, four years prison; possession of methylenedioxymethamphetamine between one and four grams, four years prison

Angi Marie Fowler, possession of heroin under one gram, 16 months state jail

Julie Ann Miller, attempt to tamper or fabricate physical evidence with intent to impair, 12 months state jail; prohibited substance or item in a correctional facility, two years prison

Juan Antonio Lopez, bail jump and failure to appear on felony charges, three years prison; possession of THC oil less than one gram, 15 months state jail

Christopher Brian Goss, possession of methamphetamine under one gram, 14 months state jail

Charles Robert Helms, criminal mischief between $2,500 and $30,000, 21 months state jail

Sonya Marie White Cortez, theft of less than $2,500 with two or more previous convictions, eight years prison

Jeana Margaret Harkins, child endangerment and criminal negligence, 15 months state jail; possession of cocaine under one gram, 15 months state jail; possession of methamphetamine between four and 200 grams, four years prison

Richard Glenn Ray, possession of methamphetamine less than one gram, 13 months state jail
Trevion Tyron Riggs, manslaughter, 12 years prison

Carolyn Yvonne Hilton, possession of methamphetamine under one gram, 13 months state jail

Summer Activities Continue At The Library

The Lake Whitney Public Library has worked to keep the area’s young people occupied and learning throughout the summer with a number of virtual activities, including Zoom classes. The next opportunity will be a Zoom class on computer programming set for Friday, July 23, and Friday, August 20, at 3 p.m. In this class, instructor John (pictured above) will provide resources on computer coding apps and demonstrations on their use. Registration is required. Stop by the library at 602 East Jefferson Avenue or call 254-694-4639 to register. Future classes will cover science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities and cooking lessons. A complete list of all upcoming activities for children and adults is available at www.whitneylibrary.org.

HC students earn All-Texas recognition

Hill College Phi Kappa Theta (PTK) chapter president Marites “Thess” Mitchell and chapter member Abigail Sympson were recently honored at the 2021 All-Texas Academic Team Virtual Medallion Ceremony, hosted by The University of Texas System and the Texas Association of Community Colleges.

Nominees were evaluated on several criteria, including academic achievement, community service, leadership and expression.

“To be recognized for outstanding academic achievement as top community college students is an honor because only a very few from 34 Texas community colleges are selected,” said Hill College PTK advisor and psychology instructor Jim Williamson. “We are very proud of Thess and Abigail.”

Sympson plans to attend Texas Christian University (TCU) in Fort Worth and major in biology after graduating from Hill College this spring. In her free time, Sympson volunteers to clean up the city and helps her church with childcare.

“I joined PTK because not only is it a fun way to meet more people, but it also makes you feel proud that you’re doing well in school,” she said. “PTK has impacted my life in a major way.”

Mitchell will graduate in the fall with her Associate’s degree and plans to continue her education in nursing at Southwestern Adventist University in Keene. Mitchell became chapter president last year and has volunteered for numerous campus events. Most of her volunteer efforts are focused on the Rebel Resource PTK Pantry, where she assists with restocking, weekly inventory, making connections with donors and sponsors, and teaching students how to utilize pantry resources.

As an immigrant student, Mitchell said PTK has provided her with scholarship, leadership and service opportunities, as well as with a great sense of belonging.

Millions of dollars are lost to government impostor scams

Government impostor scams have caused costly headaches for many victims as callers claiming to be from agencies like the Internal Revenue Service, Social Security Administration or others scam innocent people out of money.

A recent study from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) shows that reports on government impostor scams have decreased, but the pandemic has allowed for these scams to take new forms that may be more difficult to recognize. From posing as CDC officials to preying on CARES funds, impostors are once again taking advantage of trying times.

A recent survey from AARP showed that 44% of people in the U.S. have been contacted by someone posing as a government employee. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also reports $450 million dollars lost to government impostor scams since 2015. Last year, reports of scammers posing as IRS agents dropped, while scammers posing as Social Security Administration (SSA) employees quadrupled.

In 2019, Texans submitted 10% of BBB Scam Tracker reports on government impostor scams. And while reports are decreasing nationally, Texas reported an increase of 35% in the first six months of 2020 over all of 2019. Recognizing these scams can be crucial to Texans’ financial safety.
Different versions of this scam may include promises of a fake government grant, and the grant “winner” simply needs to pay a fee or provide personal information. Then, the scammer disappears, and the grant never arrives.

In other versions, the scammer calls victims pretending to be from the IRS or SSA, claiming there is unpaid money and the consumer will be arrested until they pay off the debt in full. Government impostors often use fear tactics to pressure people into acting quickly, and spoof caller ID to appear legitimate.

Government impostor scams can be costly and reporting them is an important factor in preventing them for others. Use this information from the Better Business Bureau on how to properly report government fraud:
• IRS: The Internal Revenue Service advises people to fill out the “IRS Impersonation Scam” form on the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Impersonation’s website, tigta.gov.
• Social Security: The Office of the Inspector General, Social Security Administration (SSA IG) has its own online form to take complaints about frauds impersonating the SSA.
• Federal Trade Commission: Contact the FTC at 877-FTC-HELP or ftc.gov.
• Internet Crime Complaint Center: Reach the FBI’s IC3 at ic3.gov/complaint.
• Cellphone carrier: which may offer free services such as scam call identification and blocking, ID monitoring, a second phone number to give out to businesses so you can use your main number for close friends or a new number if you get too many spam calls.
• BBB Scam Tracker: File a report on BBB.org/ScamTracker to let others in your area know to watch for this scam.

Visit the Better Business Bureau at BBB.org/FakeGov to view the full report.

Services for longtime Whitney teacher scheduled for Saturday

Graveside services have been scheduled for a longtime Whitney teacher who passed away Tuesday, June 15, after battling COVID-19 at an area medical facility.

Middle school teacher Dana Kay Howard, 72, had been an educator in the district for 35 years. Her service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 26, at Bethlehem Cemetery in Whitney with Reverend Eddie Booth officiating.

“The entire Whitney ISD family was heartbroken when we heard about Mrs. Howard,” said Superintendent John McCullough.“She had a tremendous impact on the lives of many children during her 35 years at WISD. Mrs. Howard had a passion for teaching children and helping them learn. She was loved by everyone and we will miss her. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family.”

Mrs. Howard is the second Whitney ISD staff member lost to COVID-19 during the pandemic. Grounds worker and special needs bus driver John Suiters also passed away in January at the age of 58 from COVID-19 complications.

Marshall and Marshall Funeral Directors is in charge of arrangements.

Drivers must “Move Over/ Slow Down” near workers

The side of a highway may be a chaotic environment, but it’s also the daily office space for law enforcement, first responders, utility workers, tow truck drivers and TxDOT workers. That’s why TxDOT is calling on Texas drivers to keep these roadside workers safe.

TxDOT’s “Be Safe. Drive Smart.” safety initiative is urging motorists to follow the state’s “Move Over/Slow Down” law. This law requires drivers to move over or slow down when approaching law enforcement, tow trucks, utility vehicles, emergency responders and TxDOT vehicles stopped with activated overhead lights on the side of the road. Drivers who fail to give emergency and work crews space to safely do their jobs face fines up to $2,000.

Unfortunately, police officers, tow truck drivers and other roadside workers are hit, injured or killed on the side of the road every year. TxDOT is calling on all drivers to respect these workers who are vital to keeping our roads clear and safe.

The Move Over/Slow Down law requires drivers to:
• Take safety precautions when they approach roadside law enforcement, emergency vehicles, tow trucks, utility vehicles and TxDOT vehicles with flashing lights on.
• When possible, move out of the lane closest to these vehicles.
• Slow down to 20 mph below the posted speed limit if safely switching lanes is not possible or the road doesn’t offer multiple lanes.
• Reduce speed to 5 mph on roadways with posted speed limits of 25 mph or less.

The state’s Move Over/Slow Down law was first passed in 2003 and applied to police, fire and emergency medical service vehicles. The Texas Legislature has since extended the law’s protections to TxDOT vehicles, tow trucks and utility service vehicles.

“Be Safe. Drive Smart.” is a key component of #EndTheStreakTX, a broader social media and word-of-mouth effort that encourages drivers to make safer choices while behind the wheel, such as wearing a seat belt, driving the speed limit, never texting and driving and never driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

November 7, 2000 was the last deathless day on Texas roadways. #EndTheStreakTX asks all Texans to commit to driving safely to help end the streak of daily deaths on Texas roadways.

Caritas offers assistance to area veterans

Each week, a case manager with Caritas Veterans Case Management Program visits Hillsboro, and he wants to get the word out that veterans who are struggling have access to help.

Jason McCarty, who is a veteran himself and served as an Army combat medic, is in Hillsboro every Thursday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. at 108 West Paschal Street and is accepting appointments to assist low-income veterans.

“We’re really hoping to build a long-term relationship with them over a course of a year to help them achieve self-sustainability,” McCarty said.

Caritas of Waco is working under a grant from the Texas Veterans Commission to implement a case management program specifically for low-income veterans.

The purpose of the program is to provide guidance for veterans living at or near the poverty level through a process to help them overcome financial, emotional, educational, employment and other barriers they face.

Veterans can receive help obtaining food, paying rent and deposits, paying utilities and purchasing furniture. They can also get help obtaining job training, childcare and clothing for employment.

Previously, classes on budgeting and financial planning were offered, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, those classes are not being held. However, McCarty said that the information can be provided in a one-on-one session.

The program’s goal is to assist these veterans in moving out of poverty by becoming more self-sufficient and less reliant on emergency assistance programs.

Caritas case management staff will offer a variety of direct and supportive services that veterans need to reach individual goals.

To make an appointment, call 254-640-0906, ext. 207, or email jmccarty@caritas-waco.org.