Seniors receive holiday "prayer bears"


Hundreds of local seniors will get a special Christmas Day surprise as church volunteers will deliver teddy bears to residents of six Livingston-area nursing homes.

The public is invited to volunteer Sunday morning as members of First United Methodist Church will deliver the Christmas “prayer bears” to senior residents of The Bradford at Brookside, The Gardens at Livingston, Pine Ridge Health, Provident Memory Care, Tall Pines Assisted Living and Timberwood Nursing Home.

“This is our first time doing this and it’s something we wanted to give to the community,” said FUMC secretary Cheyenne Lusk. “Instead of just going home [after church,] we will be out singing and delivering these gifts.”

Church members started collecting the bears on the first day of Advent on Nov. 27 and have made them a big part of worship services at FUMC.

“The bears have all been prayed over, loved and blessed during church each week,” Lusk said.

“This will be special for the seniors because a lot of them won’t have their loved ones with them and they just want something soft to hug,” she added.

The church was able to exceed their original goal of 387 teddy bears, thanks to the generosity of many of its members.

“Because of all the people at our church wanting to bring extra, we now have 400 bears to give on Christmas.” said Lusk.

FUMC invites anyone who would like to volunteer during the delivery, which will begin immediately after Christmas services at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Christmas-BearsA VERY BEARY CHRISTMAS — Members of the First United Methodist Church of Livingston have collected 400 teddy bears to give to the residents of local nursing homes. The public is invited to join the church members in distributing the bears on Christmas Day following the morning services.

Remembrance on Veterans Day (Photo)

Veterans-Day-Celebration640pAs part of a Veterans Day observance, Chaplain John Benoit of American Legion Post #312 remembers a lost loved one on the Vietnam War memorial display as Auxiliary President Jeanette Jackson recites a poem called “His Name on the Wall.” Friday’s event commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War and was a joint presentation by the American Legion Post #312, Daughters of the American Revolution, Daughters of the Republic of Texas, F.A.I.T.H., VFW Post #8568 and American Legion Post #402.

Lake planting at Waterwood Marina


LAKE LIVINGSTON – About 120 area high school and intermediate students propagated and planted 3,500 American water-willow plants in to the Pools Creek area of Lake Livingston on Thursday.
Students from six school districts took part in the Lake Livingston Friends of Reservoirs project which is designed to reintroduce native plant live into the lake.

During the event, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Trinity River Authority provided boats and site planting supervision for the planting, which occurred on the San Jacinto side of the lake. In addition, there were over 40 adult volunteers helping to make the day successful and fun for all.

Goodrich High School hosted the event at the old Waterwood Marina site.

Among the volunteer who helped pickup the plants and transport them to the Waterwood Marina on Tuesday were Deb Burleson, Pam Klouda Ron Diderich, Kimberly Short, John Benesante, Jim Meyer and Tom McDonough.

Schools taking part in the project include Livingston Intermediate School as well as Livingston, Onalaska, Goodrich, Corrigan-Camden, Shepherd and the Coldspring-Oakhurst Consolidated high schools.



PREPARING THE PLANTS – Students in six area school districts worked last week to propagate and plant 3,500 American water-willow plants into Lake Livingston as part of the Lake Livingston Friends of Reservoirs project to reintroduce native plant life into the lake. Above are students from Livingston Intermediate School caring for the plants in the growth tanks while below students from Onalaska High School care for the plants at their growth tanks.

Amario family on path to citizenship

LIVINGSTON - Luis Amario and his family are sleeping better these days, since their extension Visa was approved through Nov. 30 of this year. “We are still waiting on the needed paperwork from the Department of Labor, but things are moving along nicely and we are very positive,” said Amario.

The Polk County Enterprise reported several weeks ago that the Amario family would be facing deportation due to a paperwork mistake by the attorney appointed to his case. Since then, the Livingston Independent School District, where Amario works as a bilingual teacher on a H1B Visa, appointed the school district’s attorney to the case.

“Dr. Brent Hawkins and the LISD are directly responsible for helping to get this problem corrected,” said Amario. He also credits the prayers of his community and church. “I couldn’t be more thankful to the politicians who helped our cause: Congressman Brian Babin, Representative James White, Senator John Cornyn, Senator Ted Cruz, and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. Please continue to pray for our family.”

Amario-FamilyVISA EXTENDED -- Luis Amario and his wife Zaritma are enjoying the school year with daughter Daniela, a third grader at Livingston ISD, and their son Matthew, age two, who spends his days with Mommy. The family is living and working in Livingston on a H1B work Visa, with plans to become American citizens.

Chamber leaders learn about gaming


INDIAN VILLAGE - The Polk and Tyler County chambers of commerce “met in the middle” at a business builders breakfast Thursday, to learn more about the new Naskila gaming center and restaurant located on the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas reservation.

Over a full breakfast buffet, chamber members heard from various tribal leaders including marketing coordinator Yolanda Poncho, tribal council chairperson JoAnn Battise, tribal council vice chairman Ronnie Thomas, tribal councilman Clint Poncho and tribal council secretary Johnny Stafford.

“We just want the opportunity to be self-sufficient,” said Yolanda Poncho. “We can take care of ourselves.”

And they can. In just the short time Naskila gaming has been open, the Alabama-Coushatta have employed 210 people, with 190 of these being full time positions. The annual payroll and benefit package exceeds $7.5 million. Forty-three percent of employees are tribal members and the other fifty-seven percent come from surrounding area in East Texas. The Tribe has spent $9.9 million to develop the venue and operate for the first three months. Of this amount, $7.3 million was spent in Texas and $5.5 million was spent in Polk County.

Quoting the great-great grandson of Sam Houston, John Murray, Yolanda Poncho read, “I know exactly what my great-great granddad would say to the State of Texas… ‘leave my people alone! They aren’t hurting anyone’.”

“My family has been passing down the story of the Alabama-Coushatta’s relationship with my great-great grandfather for generations. I have a deep respect for the Alabama-Coushatta’s…and I love Naskila Gaming.”

The “leave my people alone” comment stems from recent legal action filed by the state of Texas asking the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Texas to find that under the Tribe’s Restoration Act of 1987, the Alabama-Coushatta cannot offer gaming under the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). If the court ultimately agrees with the state’s position, the state further asks the court to issue an injunction prohibiting the Tribe from gaming under IGRA.

The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) regulates Naskila Gaming, which is a Class II Indian Gaming facility offering electronic bingo.

“We are not being fined $10,000 per day by the state of Texas,” said Roland Poncho. Recent reports suggested this, but according to Chuck McDonald, spokesman for the Tribe, the state submitted an amended motion on Aug. 17 stating that if the Tribe is found in contempt of the June 25, 2002 injunction, they should pay any investigation costs associated with this case, as well as any court costs and attorneys’ fees incurred after June 15, 2016. “We will continue to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week until the Court makes its final decision,” said Poncho.

Chamber members on both sides of the reservation were asked to go to and join the many who have signed on in support of the Tribe’s bingo gaming.

“Residents of Deep East Texas who enjoy gaming and want to do it in a friendly, alcohol-free environment are now able to do so on our reservation,” said Battise. “As most of our neighbors know, our Tribe has occupied our tribal lands in the Big Thicket region for more than 200 years. However, what many in the region may not realize, is that our Tribe is a fully functioning sovereign government with a full array of health and human services to support. Gaming offers a stable source of income to sustain and improve these vital Tribal services, while creating jobs for both tribal and non-tribal citizens.” (ENTERPRISE STORY AND PHOTOS BY KELLI BARNES)

Yolanda-Poncho-1CHAMBER REPORT -- Yolanda Poncho, marketing coordinator for Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas spoke to the Polk County and Tyler County chambers of commerce Thursday morning, explaining the positive economic impact Naskila gaming has made to the East Texas area and the Tribe itself. She said the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe wants to make its own money and support itself.


CASA fundraisers to benefit local children

logo-texas-casaThe Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of the Pines are holding two events in the upcoming weeks to benefit local children. All proceeds from the happenings benefit CASA of the Pines, which serves Angelina, Houston and Polk County.

On Thursday, Sept. 22, the 11th annual “Justice is Served” fish fry will take place in the back parking lot of First United Methodist Church. The church is located at Highway 190 West in Livingston.

Those in attendance from 4:30–6:30 p.m. can enjoy farm-raised catfish, slaw, potatoes, corn and a dessert for $10. The fish fry will be drive through and carry out only.

A few weeks later, on Saturday, Oct. 8, the Polk County Commerce Center will host “A Girl’s Night Out” for ladies 18 and over. Exciting games of bingo will be played to win accessories from Kendra Scott, Pandora, Michael Kors, Swarovski and many more.

The $40 ticket that also goes to benefit CASA is available at Coats Jewelers at 509 North Washington in Livingston. No tickets will be sold at the door and there is limited seating to this first-time event.
These two events are the only fundraisers in Polk County for the year to help CASA, with three others planned in Angelina County.

Every year thousands of abused and neglected children in Texas are in need of safe, permanent, nurturing homes. They are more likely than other children to face homelessness, unemployment, even prison as adults.

That’s where CASA of the Pines steps in.

When a child enters the foster care system because his or her home is no longer safe, a judge appoints a committed volunteer from CASA of the Pines to help them. CASA was created in 1995 to make sure the abuse and neglect these children suffered at home did not continue as abuse and neglect at the hands of the system. In 1999, CASA expanded to Houston County and to Polk County in 2003.

Since 1995, CASA of the Pines has served more than 1,000 abused and neglected children in Angelina, Houston, and Polk Counties.

For additional information about sponsorship of these events, contact CASA of the Pines at (936) 634-6725.