All posts by Joe Snell

Joe Snell studied film and business law at the University of Southern California. He has worked for a number of film and television companies including 21st Century Fox, Starz Entertainment, Creative Artists Agency, and Brillstein Entertainment Partners.

Irving ISD welcomes Hall of Fame members

Old embraced new during the Irving ISD Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremony, as Brad Knouse, Hobart Lytal, Duane Miller, and Thomas Uhr joined 28 other Hall of Fame members at the 6th annual event held on Saturday evening, June 17.

“It’s evident what it does to bring the community together, and it connects the old with the new,” said Clint Roddy, Irving ISD director of athletics. “It’s a great opportunity for those from the previous generations of students to come back and see all of the great things that Irving ISD is doing now in addition to celebrating things that happened in the past.”

The event, held for the third straight year at the Sheraton DFW Airport Hotel, honors athletes, coaches, and community supporters who have contributed to Irving ISD athletics.

LOOKING FOR EXTRAORDINARY INDIVIDUALS

The selection committee, made up of the athletic director, the director’s immediate supervisor, the director of communications, and two Irving ISD Hall of Fame members, made their final decisions at the end of February.

The bottom line, Roddy said, is they are looking for individuals who have made a positive impact.

“You’re looking at people who have done extraordinary things as a player, as a coach, and as a community member,” he said. “Who have made positive contributions to the school district and have gone above and beyond.”

Anyone can nominate an individual, but to be considered, an athlete has to have graduated at least ten years ago and a coach can no longer be with the district. Community supporters can be nominated at any time, but no current Irving ISD employees may be considered. Also once an individual is nominated, they stay in a nomination binder and are reconsidered every year.

Honorees are usually introduced by a former coach or teammate. In Brad Knouse’s case, he was introduced by his former wrestling coach and father, Terry Knouse.

“Brad’s always been an overachiever and a leader,” Terry said.

In one example of Brad’s tenacity, Terry recalled a national wrestling tournament in Florida. Brad was wrestling for his third national title and hurt his arm. Refusing to forfeit, Terry told him to get the match over as quickly as possible.

“He went out and pinned the kid in a couple seconds,” Terry said. “His arm swelled up and come to find out, he broke his arm in two different places. That meant that freshman football looked pretty poor.”

Not wanting to miss the season, Brad talked the team into letting him play with a pad over his cast. He moved up to playing for the varsity team by the end of the season.

At Saturday evening’s induction, Brad thanked his father and mother for the sacrifices they made which allowed him to compete.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” Brad said. “There are so many people that help you to succeed, but the biggest people that help you to succeed in athletics are your parents.”

The first year that Terry and his family moved to Cleveland, Texas, the school did not have a wrestling program.

“My dad was not only my coach, he was my training partner, and in some cases, even my mother was my training partner,” Brad said. “There were no high schools around the Houston area that wrestled at that time. My dad called around and found some people that practiced at a boys club in Houston about 40 minutes away, and we’d drive there a couple times a week.”

SAME FACES EVERY YEAR

In 2012, the Irving ISD athletic director at the time, Joe Barnett, did research among school districts in the area and came up with guidelines to host an Irving ISD Athletic Hall of Fame.

The first year, eight individuals were inducted. That ceremony was held at one of the Irving ISD campuses and included a private dinner for the families before a larger ceremony.

The next two years, the athletic department transformed the event into a combined dinner and ceremony. In 2014, the school board decided to set aside budget money for the event, which allowed the athletic department to explore larger venues.

Beth Hindman, athletic office manager, contacted the Sheraton DFW Airport Hotel in 2014 and was told the hotel did not book a year in advance.

“I told them I want to book every June,” Hindman said. “Up until that time, we’d had it at a different place every year, which is not ideal.”

According to Hindman, working with the hotel has built a great relationship and allowed the ceremony to grow naturally.

“I predict the hotel is going to have to open another section for us,” she said.

Nominations for the Hall of Fame are accepted throughout the year. To be considered for this year’s class, nominations had to be in by Feb. 15. From there, the selection committee moved quickly and decisions were made by the end of February.

Knouse is joined by Hobart Lytal, who served as athletic director for Irving ISD for 13 years, Duane Miller, a three-sport standout who played football for the University of Texas and signed as a free agent with the Cowboys in 1991, and Tom Uhr, a coach across track, football and basketball.

The reason for choosing the class months before the ceremony, Hindman said, is because the Hall of Fame rings take about 12 weeks to come in. The rings are sponsored by the Irving Schools Foundation and are presented to each honoree after their acceptance speech along with a plaque.

One of the reasons for the event’s continued growth is a bond between former and current inductees. Roddy gives complimentary tickets to past inductees every year to encourage them to welcome the new class.

“I want that group to be a special fraternity,” Roddy said. “We’re starting to see people make it a point to be there every year, because they want to support the event. They want to celebrate the past but also be a part of the great things that are currently going on.”

Juneteenth: A story that lives on

History and community came together at the Jackie Townsell Bear Creek Heritage Center, as Irving leaders and city supporters gathered to celebrate Juneteenth on Saturday, June 17. Juneteenth, also known as Juneteenth Independence Day, celebrates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas. That announcement, made on June 19, 1865, came years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Sept. 22, 1862.

Although roughly half of the U.S. states acknowledge Juneteenth, Texas is the only state that has issued the event a legal state holiday. The 1865 announcement affected roughly 250,000 slaves in Texas, and the date has been celebrated every year since.

“It’s just one of those lessons that need to be taught each year,” said Jackie Madden, special events supervisor for the city of Irving. “You want it to always be at the top of a person’s mind. You always want to create awareness about it, so it doesn’t get lost.

Most celebrations happen on the local level and are a chance for communities to come together and reflect on the past and think about the future. The city of Irving has been sponsoring the event for over 20 years.

“It’s usually communal,” said Crystal Williams, a mentor at DVA Productions, Inc. “Your families are getting together, and you’re getting together with neighbors just celebrating freedom. It’s kind of a precursor to July 4th.”

DVA Productions, Inc., a non-profit theater company based out of Fort Worth, performed “The Magic of Museums” as part of their young artists mentor program.

“Every year we mentor young artists from our community who are interested in writing, acting, singing, musical theater, directing, whatever,” said Sheran Goodspeed Keyton, founder and artistic director of the organization. “We give them opportunities to perform in a professional realm with other professionals.”

Rev. Dennis Webb led a welcome prayer, and Tony Grimes, President of the Irving Carrolton Branch of the NAACP, helped sign up young men and women to vote. Ms. Mature Irving, Marilyn Wolford, offered the official welcoming and was thankful for the communal spirit surrounding the day’s festivities.

“We’ve got good people, good food, and great weather. God is good,” she said.

The event included a complimentary community picnic sponsored by In-N-Out, games, line dancing, and a musical celebration by VIBE The Band Concert. People could also join one of the ongoing tours of the Black History Museum.

“We really want them to take advantage of visiting the African American museums that we have on the property, because it’s just one of the vehicles of education throughout the world that’s telling a story of Black history,” Madden said. “We have that tool right here in our community and we want people to always remember this is a resource for Black history.”

The Bear Creek community in west Irving is one of the oldest African-American communities in Texas. The Jackie Townsell Bear Creek Heritage Center is comprised of three museums that tell the history of the Bear Creek community and the African-American experience from the time of emancipation through the Civil Rights movement. Ongoing Black History museum tours are conducted by the Irving Museum Board.

“The story needs to go on for generations,” Madden said. “This is the way to keep the story going.”

Stop and smell the fishes at Irving Family Fishing Day

Shawneta Jordan braved scattered thunderstorms to attend the annual Irving Family Fishing Day in hopes of catching her first fish. She did not want a repeat of last year’s event, where she watched her son Michael Williams Jordan catch fish after fish as she went home empty handed. This year, Shawneta used the fishing pole…

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Ramadan dinner discusses inclusion, shared community values

 

Sharib Haroon, an executive committee member of the Irving Islamic Center, quoted Henry Ford as an example of inclusion, kicking off the Islamic Center of Irving’s annual Outreach Ramadan Iftar/Dinner on Thursday, June 7.

“Coming together is the beginning,” Haroon said. “Keeping together is progress, and working together is success. That’s the reason we are here.”

Ford lived over 70 years ago, but his message still resonated as the Irving Islamic community welcomed city leaders, law enforcement officers, the fire department, as well as other religious and community leaders to the Islamic Center of Irving to celebrate Ramadan with a large feast.

Ramadan is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad and is regarded as one of the five pillars of Islam.

The Islamic Center of Irving’s director of outreach Imam, Nick Pelletier, says fasting is important to adhere to God’s commands, the most important of which is character.

“Fasting, we believe in Islam, is something that isn’t new, but is something that has been practiced by the Christians and Jews who came before us,” Imam Nick said. “The reality is that fasting is for the purpose of increasing our righteousness or our god consciousness or our connection to God.”

Mayor Rick Stopfer was among the many city leaders in attendance to celebrate the end of outreach dinner.

“We are so fortunate to have the diversity we have within the city of Irving,” Stopfer said. “It’s something we should celebrate. It should not be something that divides us.”

Stopfer joined guests including Police Chief Jeff Spivey, Fire Chief Victor Conley, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Commissioner Elba Garcia.

Jenkins condemned political forces trying to separate the Irving community.

“It should not be controversial that we are one community,” Jenkins said. “We see these threats to try to separate our people for political gain and to try to make our neighbors into the enemy. That is an evil we must stand against just as we stand against other evils.”

Minister Russell Frantz of the Grapevine Church of Christ, and Rabbi Frank Joseph, who serves at Temple Beth Israel in Harlingen and Temple Beth El in Corsicana, also spoke on the importance of fasting and fellowship among community religious leaders.

“Fasting for the early church fathers was inexplicably tied to giving by opening themselves up to the presence of God,” Frantz said. “Fasting seems to bring us to union with an experience at the very heart of God.”

Imam Nick presented a handful of awards to organizations that typically do not receive the recognition they deserve serving the community, including the City of Irving, police department, fire department, Parkland Hospital, CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), and MLFA (Muslim Legal Fund of America).

“We’d like to recognize those organizations that oftentimes do thankless work,” Imam Nick said.

Imam Nick also recognized Irving ISD for work he characterized as at the foundation of establishing a sound society, and Irving Cares for making sure we take care of those who are less fortunate.

Harking back to Ford’s quote, Haroon said each of Irving’s religious and civic circles share the same values.

“We all believe in values like honesty, integrity, caring for the poor, the sick, the homeless, the elderly; the list goes on. These are all the values shared by all of us,” he said. “It is important at this point of time to remind ourselves about our shared values, as we are living in really challenging times where extremists from all sides seek to divide us by exploiting our differences.”

Byron Nelson tournament move triggers memories, impacts economy

Nostalgia marked this year’s AT&T Byron Nelson, which will be the last hosted in Irving, as players and tournament officials fondly remembered the historic golfer’s contributions to the tournament during its time at the TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas.

“What hurts me most on a personal level is the connection to Byron and working for him for ten years,” Diana Pfaff of the Irving Conventions and Visitors Bureau said. “He would sit on 18 and greet every player during every round as they come off the hole. He would sit there, even in his last year which was 2005. He was an amazing person. His tie was completely to this course.”

In the summer of 2013, it was officially announced that the Byron Nelson tournament would be moving to South Dallas, but talks of the tournament moving outside of Irving had been going on for years as outside clubs began pushing to win the event. Sponsors cited player concerns about the course as one reason for leaving Las Colinas.

“We’ve been hearing it for years,” Pfaff said. “We thought it would be Craig Ranch [Golf Club], because they’ve been trying to woo the tournament, but this took us completely by surprise.”

In 2013, Dallas City Council authorized a 40-year lease with the new golf course in a deal that involves the City of Dallas, AT&T, the First Tee of Great Dallas, and Southern Methodist University, whose school golf program will also use the course. That lease was contingent on the course entering into a 10-year agreement with the Byron Nelson.

The TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas had a contract to host the Byron Nelson Championship through 2018, but late last year both sides came to an agreement to end the contract a year early. The move prompted Irving officials to act quickly to make this year’s event special.

“We just found out this October that this was going to be the last one here,” Pfaff said. “We thought it would be next year, so we’ve had to really scramble to find funding, to reallocate funds, to be able to do what we wanted to do for a sendoff.”

Some of this year’s funds went to higher-end gifts for staff, media, and players. The most money was spent on Irving Live, a social-media activation area.

In 1997, the Irving Conventions and Visitors Bureau, in an attempt to keep the Byron Nelson in Irving, created a host city committee branded as “Irving Welcomes the PGA TOUR.” The initiative was aimed at enhancing the visitor experience around the event and involved staff and player housing, credential pick up, placing dinner reservations, and providing tickets to Stars and Mavericks games to the players.

“We were worried about the field dropping once Byron died, so we started a volunteer group called Irving Welcomes the PGA TOUR,” Pfaff said.

In 2005, ICVB had to disband the committee because of the economic downturn, but a lot of the services to the staff and players remained part of their responsibilities.

Trinity Forest Golf Club, the new home course of the Byron Nelson, is a 400-acre course built on land owned by the city of Dallas just five miles south of downtown. Formerly the site of an old landfill, the course was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw as a links style layout with no trees and little water. It is also only about ten miles away from AT&T’s downtown Dallas headquarters. Ironically, Crenshaw was the first winner of the Byron Nelson tournament when it moved to Las Colinas in 1983.

The city estimates that the tournament leaving will have a $40 million economic impact for the area. The absence of the tournament will also be felt among the players and staff, as this year’s sendoff included a party for volunteers and staff that had worked for 20 or more years with the event and a large number of party attendees had worked all 35 years at the Irving club.

The Las Colinas course also holds special meaning for the players. Jason Day, who finished second at this year’s event, earned his first PGA Tour victory at the 2010 Byron Nelson at the age of 22. Sergio Garcia shot a 62 at only 19 years old in his first round as a pro at the 1999 Byron Nelson. And Dallas-native Jordan Spieth regularly attended the tournament with his dad before teeing off as a 16-year-old junior in high school when he was just an amateur in 2010. 

“Mr. Nelson saw the greatness in these guys and gave them exemptions,” Pfaff said. “I know that they’re going to miss it. We’re going out on top as classy as we can possibly go out.”

Byron Nelson finishes final round in Irving

A one-hole, sudden death, playoff against one of the world’s best golfers, Jason Day, was needed for Billy Horschel to win the 2017 AT&T Byron Nelson golf tournament on Sunday, May 21. The suspenseful win marks the tournament’s 35th and final year in Irving

“I’m sad that it’s now leaving, unfortunately,” Horschel said. “I was not a fan of this golf course the first two times I came here. Then I was like, ‘wow, why did I not like this course?’ This course really fits my game from tee to green.”

The PGA TOUR event took place from May 15 – 21 at the Four Seasons Resort and Club in Las Colinas. The tournament began in 1968 when Byron Nelson lent his name to the Byron Nelson Golf Classic and moved to Las Colinas in 1983. That year, Ben Crenshaw won in front of a record crowd of 45,000. This year, 280,000 fans attended throughout the tournament week, with nearly 80,000 fans attending on Sunday’s final round.

Horschel missed the Byron Nelson cut in his two previous starts and snapped a 30-month winless streak, virtually mirroring Crenshaw’s 31-month drought when he won the tournament in 1983.

All proceeds from the tournament benefit the Momentous Institute, a nonprofit operated by the Salesmanship Club for over 95 years ago. Last year, the Byron Nelson raised $5.8 million for the organization that serves more than 6,000 kids and family members directly each year through mental health and educational programs. In total, over $155 million has been raised for the institute since the tournament’s inception, more than any other PGA TOUR event.

“We have hundreds of thousands of winners because of this event in raising money for Momentous Institute and we’re thrilled to be a part of that,” AT&T Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Global Marketing Officer Lori Lee said.

In addition to education and therapeutic services for kids and families, the Momentous Institute provides training and research to education and mental health professionals. In 2016, the institute trained over 10,000 professionals, with over 80 percent residing in the DFW area. The annual PGA TOUR event is Momentous Institute’s primary fundraiser.

The Salesmanship Club of Dallas, which has hosted the tournament since 1968, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to transforming kids’ lives. The club began in 1920 and owns and operates the Momentous Institute as well as the AT&T Byron Nelson. AT&T took over as the title sponsor in 2015.

“We were blessed 49 years ago to become good friends with our namesake Byron Nelson,” said Alan Friedman, president of the Salesmanship Club of Dallas. “He really fell in love with our charity and the work we were doing. We continue to be blessed by the volunteer work in support of Ms. Peggy Nelson. In fact, she finished her 30th year as a volunteer this week.”

Over 11,000 volunteers helped at this year’s final event in Irving. The Four Season’s hopes to continue Byron Nelson’s legacy by keeping his over 9 foot statue, which sits near the first tee, watching over the course.

“The 9 foot 6 inch statue of Mr. Nelson that is the center point of our golf operation will continue to stand there and remind us every day of the kind and generous spirit that Mr. Nelson had,” said Paul Earnest, Director of Golf for Four Seasons.

The Nelson legacy began in 1945, when he finished his professional golf season with 18 victories, including 11 straight, and established a record for the lowest scoring average (68.44), which remained untouched for 55 years. During his career, Nelson won 52 PGA tour-sanctioned tournaments.

“It’s just so astonishing to realize how blessed I have been to have been married to an amazing man for twenty years and to be part of this starting back in 1987,” said Peggy Nelson, the widow of Byron. “It’s been such a wonderful ride. I’ve met so many amazing people and worked with so many people packing lunches and walking scores or doing whatever we needed to do to make the tournament as good as it could be.”

Jordan Spieth inspires at AT&T Byron Nelson Youth Clinic

During the trick shot portion of the annual AT&T Byron Nelson Youth Golf Clinic presented by Under Armour on Tuesday, May 16, it became obvious Jordan Spieth is a Dallas native. Kids started chanting his name as he took on Dan Boever, a long-driving specialist and full-time golf entertainer. Spieth and Boever competed in a number of friendly golf challenges including tic-tac-toe, target practice, closest to the pin, and smashing the coke can.

“Don’t you sit at home and go, ‘I wonder how I would do if I got to play against Jordan Spieth?’” Boever said in front of the hundreds of gathered kids and their families. “Well let me tell you how you would do, it wouldn’t be very good.”

Hosted at the TPC Four Seasons Practice Range, the event allowed kids a chance to get a picture and autograph with Spieth.

Dallas resident Patrick Carver and his sons, Langdon and Nathan, enjoyed watching Spieth lead the event.

“[The boys] have gotten really into golf because of him,” Carver said. “They’re interested in seeing what he does out here.”

Carver and his sons, who attended the youth clinic last year, look most forward to the event because of Spieth as well as its interactive nature created by Boever.

Boever hosts a half-hour show for the Golf Channel and encouraged Spieth to give advice to the kids during the competition, including the tic-tac-toe game where both Spieth and Boever were set up roughly twenty feet from a ply board and had their names written in each square they hit with their ball. Spieth gave tips on how to hit the ball differently to aim for the lower squares versus the higher ones.

Afterwards, Boever gave Spieth one minute to hit ten balls at a larger ply board set up further in the distance, with each ball making contact adding $100 to Jordan’s charity, the Jordan Spieth Family Foundation.

Spieth then answered questions from the kids, including how he got involved in golf.

“My parents started me out with a plastic set of clubs when I was really young, but it was with a soccer ball, a football, a baseball, anything,” he said. “They let me go have fun and figure out what I liked to do, and I just fell in love with golf. I wasn’t pushed into it at all.”

This will be Spieth’s 7th start at the AT&T Byron Nelson, with his best finish being a tie for 16th place. As a kid growing up in Dallas, Spieth attended the same AT&T Byron Nelson youth clinic. With this being the last year at the current course and the same course he hosts his foundation event, Spieth said it’s a very special place for his family and friends.

“It’s very bittersweet,” he said. “Obviously fantastic memories and I’m looking forward to creating new ones this week and hopefully the best ones yet.”

The Salesmanship Club of Dallas, a service organization founded in 1920 that runs the tournament, says the logistics behind the youth clinic are especially unique.

“There’s a lot of behind the scenes work,” said Robert Engstrom, member of the Salesmanship Club. “We’re using a live range where the pros are practicing getting ready for the tournament, so you can’t really set up until right before the event starts.”

The Salesmanship Club of Dallas focuses their efforts to support Momentous Institute, a group they own and operate which builds and repairs social emotional health for kids and families through education, therapeutic programs, research and training. The AT&T Byron Nelson is the Salesmanship Club’s primary fundraiser.

Jim Doherty helped with the youth clinic as part of The First Tee of Greater Dallas, an organization that has been volunteering with the youth clinic since 2004.

“It’s just an awesome experience for [the kids], to invigorate them and encourage them in the game of golf,” Doherty said. “To meet an icon of the game that’s really coming up and is still young, youth like this is just awe inspiring.”

The First Tee of Greater Dallas, one of many chapters across the country, seek to help kids and teens learn to play golf along with life lessons and leadership skills through programs that place a positive impact on participants, families, and their communities.

The organization’s managing director of programs Chuck Walker is encouraged that kids learn not just about golf, but also from a great role model like Spieth.

“We want to see a kid out of The First Tee grow up to be not just a fantastic golfer but a fantastic person,” Walker said. “You heard Jordan mention his family, you heard him talk about his foundation and talk about the way that he just gives back to the community, that’s all you can ask for out of someone with the accolades that he’s received through the years.”

Vigil held in remembrance of North Lake College shooting victim

A vigil was held in remembrance of Janeera Nickol Gonzalez, the victim of the North Lake College shooting.

Friends and family of Gonzalez gathered at Irving High School on Monday evening, May 8.

“She was compassionate, sweet, and really funny,” said Priseyta Ponce, a senior at Irving High School who played on the tennis team with Gonzalez. Ponce translated into Spanish an opening prayer by Christ Church’s Brian Bench and also spoke to the gathered crowd about how she knew Janeera.

“She’d be friends with anybody and was so pure and kind, never mean,” Ponce said.

The shooting took place on May 3 after a man fired shots at Gonzalez before claiming his own life. Classes at North Lake College resumed on Monday as the students worked to return to their normal routines.

Anand Upadhyaya of the Trio program at North Lake College and also an assistant basketball coach, thinks a vigil is an important part of the community supporting itself and also generates a conversation about finding solutions so this does not happen again.

“Although sometimes these names and situations can get lost as part of a larger pattern, I think it’s really important that we honor the individual situations that happen, especially when they’re close to us,” Upadhyaya said. “We don’t want to see these kinds of things continue to happen again and again, so we show support, and we also want to come up with solutions going forward.”

 “I know my sister’s looking down right now,” Johnny Gonzalez, Janeera’s brother, said. “She’s smiling and saying, ‘All of this for me, really?’ As a lot of you know, my sister was very shy and timid and was a great friend to everybody that came near her.”

The funeral was held on May 9, and Calvary Church held a memorial on May 10. A second vigil was held at North Lake College on May 11.

“Schools need to be safe,” said activist Carlos Quintanilla. “It’s a responsibility of all of us here to put the pressure on colleges like North Lake College and University of Texas and others to provide a safe haven for our children.”

Quintanilla asked for the community to continue praying for the Gonzalez family.

“We want you to go home and pray with all of the love and as big a heart as you have for the Gonzalez family,” he said. “They’re going to need your love. They’re going to need your prayers, and they’re going to need to see strength coming from you.”

Newly-elected mayor Rick Stopfer offered support from the city.

“It’s important as a city that we come and we work together and we work to find out how we can move forward,” Stopfer said. “Know that the city of Irving is committed to wrapping our arms around you and working with you through this tragedy. Anything that we can do for you, please don’t hesitate as we work through this process.”

“We don’t want another Janeera to happen a week from now or a month from now, or for somebody else to feel how we feel or go through the pain that we’ve gone through,” Johnny said. “Even now that I’m here, I feel like she’s going to walk out of the crowd and say something. I know she would want us to smile and remember all of the good times we had.”

Rick Stopfer elected new Irving mayor

Rick Stopfer was elected the 24th mayor of Irving on Saturday evening, May 6.

“Rick understands the opportunity that the city of Irving has because of its location and because of what we could do as one of the leading cities,” longtime Irving resident Fran Bonilla said. “We’re right in the middle of the Metroplex, and we can do all these good things. I really think the city will now start to grow in the right direction.”

Stopfer led in early voting by over 70 percent, and unofficial election results put him at nearly 67.5 percent of the vote. He defeated Kristi Weaver Pena (19.71 percent, 1,984 votes), Elvia Espino (8.96 percent, 902 votes), and J.C. Gonzalez (3.84 percent, 386 votes).

In 2014’s election, roughly 7,000 total votes were cast as former mayor Van Duyne won 69.5 percent of the vote. This year, over 10,000 votes were cast.

“If you go back and look at the last two mayoral elections, there were hundreds of thousands of dollars spent to notify the people there was an election,” Stopfer said. “One of the things I did that was a little bit different was I upfront bought 2,500 yard signs, and I bought 100 4×4 signs, because I was afraid nobody was going to spend enough money to get the people energized. I figured the only way to do it was to get signs out there so people even knew there was an election.”

The newly-elected mayor credits his success to a campaign that did not rely on phone banks and mass flyer distribution but instead on personal phone calls and an established relationship with the community.

“We really never set up a phone bank like a lot of campaigns do because people were willing to do it from their homes,” Stopfer said. “Usually people don’t want their names showing up when they do those calls, that’s why they do a phone bank. I found that a majority of my supporters were happy with their name being shown up so their friends would pick up the phones and they could talk about it.”

Stopfer’s relationship with Irving began when he served on city council. He would spend 20 hours a week driving neighborhoods and said he could not believe all of the development that was going on that people were not talking about. That strategy of getting out into the community was one he implemented during his mayoral campaign.

“I tried to go into the neighborhoods and talk to different groups and different people to see if there was some way we could bring them together and bring them out,” he said. “I think the numbers show that we got people excited about coming out to vote.”

The new mayor has also developed a relationship with Irving businesses through his service as president of the board of the Valley Ranch Association, working as a member of the Irving Planning and Zoning Commission, the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Board and the Irving Flood Control District Board among other organizations.

“My management style has always been that I bring the people I work with together and ask what do they want to do,” Stopfer said. “As a mayor, I’m just one of nine people. You’ve got to have the other eight people excited about what they’re doing. Whatever that issue is that pulls at a council person, then that’s what they should be working on so they feel fulfilled and they need to feel they’ve accomplished something.”

According to Stopfer’s campaign website, among some of his top priorities are addressing the condition of our roadways, water and sewer lines. He says our corporate sector continues to grow and we need to turn our attention to redevelopment opportunities and beautification projects in South Irving. He also will champion reinvesting in ICTN and focus on digital communications.

Other results on the evening included Oscar Ward (83.6 percent, 1869 votes) defeating Abdel Elhassan (16.3 percent, 365 votes) for the City Council District 5 seat.

Nell Ann Hunt won the Irving ISD School Board District No. 2 race with 66.7 percent of the vote.

In Coppell, Mark Hill defeated Maggie Lucas (49.5 percent, 1,348 votes) in the race for Place 7 of the Coppell City Council. Hill was behind in early voting, but ended election night narrowly winning with 50.5 percent of the votes (1,374 votes).

In the Coppell race for Place 5, David Caviness (66.4 percent, 2,277 votes) defeated Vara Kuppam (33.6 percent, 1,150).

At Coppell ISD, Thom Hulme (52.5 percent, 1,778 votes) defeated Ron Hansen (47.5 percent, 1,609 votes) in the race for Place 4 on the CISD Board of Trustees.

Luncheon turns lemons into lemonade

Thirty-one years ago, League of Volunteers member Bettye Davis began bringing slices of lemon cakes to council meetings. Every year since, Davis has been providing her prized cakes to help raise money for the community.

So it was no surprise that this year’s annual Soup, Soap, and Hope Ladies’ Luncheon, an event organized by The Salvation Army of Irving’s League of Volunteers, likened the Salvation Army’s work to turning lemons into lemonade.

“As we picture the work of the Salvation Army, we usually picture Christmas, and bell ringers. If you watch the Hallmark movies, you see them all of the time,” said Kay Heldman, volunteer with the League of Volunteers. “But in our own community, we have many people, adult and children, that have been dealt some lemons in their everyday lives. This is where our local unit is making lemonade.”

Funds raised at the event, which took place on April 4 and raised money through efforts like Bettye’s cakes as well as donations, will go toward sending children to summer camp.

Founded eight years ago by Bonnie Kelley, the League of Volunteers aids The Salvation Army with both its ministry and mission. Today, the group has 22 members that meet every month and assist the corps through events such as food distribution and funding camp scholarships.

“We hope to touch hearts,” said Debby Kruse, a volunteer with the organization. “We are here for the work of the Irving corps, to become involved and especially to raise money, so we can do more for the kids.”

Bonnie Kelley recognized Christina Winters-Gears, Chief Executive Officer and President of Creating and Managing Wealth, with a special certificate of appreciation.

“I’ve been supporting [The Salvation Army] for 20 years,” Winters-Gears said. “I started doing the Christmas Luncheon and that was 1993.”

Winters-Gears says that reaching out and initiating a conversation are the most important steps for anyone wanting to get involved in their own community.

“Start talking to people in your neighborhood or your church,” Winters-Gears said. “Talk to people and ask them what they doing or what’s happening.”

In honor of the late Merle Heldman, a volunteer who regularly contributed to the League of Volunteers, the organization contributed $5,000 to the Boys and Girls club for scholarships. Kelly also announced that a special venue would be named the Heldman Performance Hall on behalf of Merle and his wife Kay.

Each year, a League of Volunteers member is recognized for going above and beyond. This year, Becky Weaver was highlighted for her work arranging flowers every week, passing out food to the hungry, and offering help across multiple activities.

“If you don’t know about The Salvation Army, it’s the best secret we have here in Irving,” Weaver said. “Just get involved. There are a lot of things to do, and there’s a place for all of you. It’s a blessing.”

Charles Hanson was also presented a certificate for his work with the Boys and Girls Club, which will have 190 children participating this summer. For $40 per child, The Salvation Army takes children to places like Six Flags and AT&T Stadium.

Lieutenants Benjamin and Charlsie Godwin, currently appointed to the Salvation Army Corps. in San Antonio, served as the event’s keynote speakers.

“The Salvation Army is a church and a social services agency,” Ben Godwin said. “Our mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and meet human needs in His name. Many people don’t know that we are a church; that’s why we’re doing all of this. We’re motivated by the love of Jesus to help others in our community and help those who maybe don’t have the same resources that we do.”

Kruse reiterated the constant support The Salvation Army provides for the community.

“There are people out there that don’t have any other options,” she said. “They can’t afford to put food on the table, and they don’t have a place to go where they can get help. The Salvation Army opens their doors to everyone.”