Category Archives: Featured Stories

Texas Workforce Commission updates businesses on employment laws

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) hosted the Texas Business Conference on Friday, June 16 at the Omni Hotel in Fort Worth. The event featured sessions pertaining to employment law.

“We put these on across the state so we can educate employers about employment law, unemployment claims and the appeals process, as well as state and federal laws and regulations,” Ruth Hughs, TWC Commissioner Representing Employers, said. “We are committed to providing employers with the information they need to succeed. The Texas Business Conference brings valuable resources to effectively navigate employers through state and federal employment laws.”

The TWC holds this conference two times a year to reach out to as many people as possible from all over the state.

“We want to give employers the resources they need so they can grow their business and continue to operate and expand and not be worried about whether or not they’re in compliance,” Hughs said. “There are so many laws and regulations they need to stay ahead of, and we’re trying to be a resource to help them so they can focus on their business. We found it to be incredibly helpful to employers to navigate all the myriad rules and regulations that they need to stay ahead of.”

Darla McCuen, co-owner of Kookie Haven, attended the conference before the grand re-opening of her bakery in July. McCuen and her family started a bakery in Mesquite and are now in the process of moving to the Bishop Arts area. She attended the conference because her bakery will soon hire employees from outside of the family.

“We’re trying to learn the rules and regulations, because we want to make sure that we’re in compliance,” McCuen said. “We want to make sure we’re following the rules, and it’s just a world of information.”

Between sessions, McCuen spent some one-on-one time with one of the guest speakers, William (Tommy) Simmons. One of the main topics Simmons talked about during the conference was wage and hour law.

“That topic is always on our agendas at every Texas Business Conference because pay related questions are the most frequently asked,” Simmons said. “We get more questions about wage and hour law than probably any other topic.”

During the conference, TWC provides attendees with a copy of a reference book, Especially for Texas Employers. The book provides information on employment issues.

“I think the main benefit from being at a conference like this is employers have a chance to find out that there are actually people available at the workforce to help them as employers and who want to help them and make sure all their questions get answered,” Simmons said.

The workforce receives about 1,200 calls a month. Employers can call Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1-800-832-9394.

“I think one of the greatest things is that we have access to them,” McCuen said. “We can call them and they’ve given us their phone numbers. The way it’s presented makes it feel like we can reach out to them. We can call them and they’ll answer our questions. I think that’s going to be the greatest benefit that I leave with today, because there’s so much information.”

Non-profits join forces for Irving Kids Charity Golf Classic

CORRECTED: The golf classic was postponed due to weather to Friday, July 21 at 12:30pm.

Local charities teamed up to support kids during the 5th annual Irving Kids Charity Golf Classic Kickoff Party, hosted at the Cool River Club in Irving on Thursday, June 8.

Originated by David Pfaff and Andy Nadel, the event is a collaboration between five different Irving charities: Irving YMCA, Irving School Foundation, Irving Healthcare Foundation, Irving-Las Colinas Rotary Club, and the La Buena Vida Foundation. Attendees raised funds for these charities by participating in silent and live auctions throughout the evening. The proceeds from the event and the golf event will be divided equally between all five organizations. Last year, the event raised over $200,000 and this year the goal is $250,000.

Crystal Scanio, executive director of the Irving Schools Foundation, feels this event is unique because the charities are working towards one common goal instead of competing against one another.

“Usually charities compete for money,” Scanio said. “Asking five charities to work together to raise money for one great cause was very different. But it’s completely worked out, and it’s a great partnership between these different charities to raise money for one great product, which is our children.”

For some organizations, the Charity Classic is their biggest fundraiser of the year. John Munoz, executive director of the Irving YMCA, explained that his charity’s portion of the funds will be used to ensure everyone can participate in YMCA programs.

“The money we raise from this event goes to help us provide scholarships and financial aid to individuals,” Munoz said. “That way, they can take part in the YMCA programs, whether they are kids getting free swim lessons, or cancer survivors coming to the Y for a free 12-week program so that they can find their new self, or members who need help because times are tough for them. We provide scholarships so they can all be part of the Y and the community.”

Joy Goodrum, executive director of the La Buena Vida Foundation, hopes the funds will go a long way toward providing new housing for young at-risk women in Irving.

“Irving Schools are telling us that there are female students who have no place to go,” Goodrum said. “As of right now, we don’t have the funds to be able to start a new apartment for them. This [event] could mean the start of a new apartment, which could change the lives of at least four young ladies who are enrolled in our Irving high schools.”

But it is not just one night out of the year that these five charities work together. Many of them collaborate on events year-round. Laura Manning, senior officer of the Irving Healthcare Foundation, said her organization has been working with the Irving Schools Foundation to help fight childhood obesity and this event will be a big help.

“We need the money to help support programs to fight childhood obesity,” Manning said. “Our main focus right now is diabetes. We’re trying to catch people early when they’re young, learn healthy eating habits, learn about fitness, and try to keep that from being a problem later in life.”

John Munoz of the YMCA said collaborating with these other non-profits throughout the year is part of what makes Irving so unique and it is the kids that matter most.

“Irving is really one of the most unique places in that all of the non-profits all year long work together,” he said. “We’re not very territorial. We all know that we’re here to service the kids and the community, and so we all band together to do whatever we can to help each other.”

Crystal Scanio added other cities can learn from Irving about how non-profits co-operate and not just compete.

“I think this could be a really great case study for other cities to see that you can work together, as long as you have a common cause,” Scanio said. “We’re all working for the best that Irving can be.”

Young men graduate high school with a little help

They could have easily been forgotten. Instead, a group of four young men celebrated a milestone at the La Buena Vida High School Graduation Party held at the Irving Hispanic Chamber of Commerce building on Monday, June 5th.

“All four were looking at having to drop out because they had no way to get to school,” said Joy Goodrum, executive director of La Buena Vida. “They had nowhere to live to get ready for school, and they had no transportation to get there.”

La Buena Vida is an Irving-based non-profit organization that helps homeless and at-risk students by providing transitional housing as well as skills to succeed in school and life.

The organization also operates La Buena Vida House, the first homeless shelter specifically for teens in Irving, which opened its door back in 2015.

La Buena Vida has provided over 17 students with transitional housing. This year’s graduating class consists of three young men from MacArthur High School and one from Irving High School.

Members of the Irving Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, as well as members of the community all came out to congratulate the graduates, many bearing graduation gifts. J.C. Gonzales, chairman of the board for the Irving Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, explained how the chamber became involved with La Buena Vida.

“Joy serves on our board and last year there was not one dry eye in the board meeting when she was sharing what her experience was with two of the young men graduating,” Gonzales said. “Those two young men were on the telephone trying to find relatives and trying to get a hold of someone so that they could attend and watch them cross the stage, but no one answered the phones. The only person there was Joy.”

Gonzales personally wanted to help the kids out, as he understands a little bit about the situation these kids face.

“I come from a challenging background and sometimes growing up, I felt alone and no child should feel that way,” Gonzales said. “When we see these young men go through those challenges, I want to help them out and be the person that I needed when I was growing up.”

Marquis M. and Brandon D. were two of the four graduates of this year’s class. Both graduated from MacArthur High School. Marquis is currently working at Tom Thumb and wants to compete in the Special Olympics, while Brandon is planning on studying to become an electrician.

“It’s really a blessing,” Marquis said. “I’ve just met a lot of people like Miss Joy and her friends and they really helped me to get there. It’s changed my life forever.”

“It’s meant a lot to me, because they helped me get through some tough times throughout high school and they help me finish it when the time came down to it,” Brandon said.

Michael W. graduated from Irving High School last year and is currently working at Whataburger while looking at attending classes at North Lake College. He talked about the challenges he faced that led him to La Buena Vida.

“Me and my dad, we had some problems,” Michael said. “He had to kick me out of his house, and I ended up homeless on the street. But then, the rec center told me, ‘We’d like for you to join this program.’ They gave a call to La Buena Vida, and I met Miss Joy and Mr. Ben. They gave me a talk and they said I was in.”

He added that finally getting to walk across the stage was a surreal experience.

“It was pretty crazy, seeing everybody congratulating you,” Michael said. “High school was a great experience, but you got to move on from it. It’s just part of life.”

Wounded warrior race supports veterans

 

More than 3,000 runners from all over the Dallas-Fort Worth area woke up early Sunday morning, June 11, to race around the Urban Center as part of the ninth annual Wounded Warrior Military Miles half marathon, 10K, and 5K.

A post-race party followed the race with food, drinks, and live music. The race is put together by Dallas Athletes Racing and the money raised goes to three military charities: Wounded Warrior Project, Fisher House and Team Red White and Blue (RWB).

“There’s not a singular purpose, there are multiple purposes for this event,” said executive producer for Dallas Athletes Racing (DAR) Tom Ryan.

“If you look at one, it’s the whole energy that surrounds the military support here in the United States that’s the glue, but at the same time we’re heavy into health and fitness,” he said. “You combine high profile, active, benefitting charities along with health and fitness in a very active city; it’s a great recipe.”

DAR has partnered with Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) since the beginning of this event.

“Our original partner is Wounded Warrior Project, and then we added Fisher House, and last year added Team RWB,” Ryan said.

WWP provides a variety of services, programs, and events for wounded veterans of the military following 9/11. Fisher House helps military families by providing them a place to stay at no cost while a loved one receives treatment. Team RWB is the newest partner charity to benefit from this event. They supports veterans making the transition from military to civilian life.

Members from all three of the organizations actually ran the course and participated in the race. Jim Theisen, a member of Team RWB, ran the race before Team RWB became a partnering charity.

“I’ve run this race ever since its inception,” Theisen said. “I do this race every year because it supports the military and I’m a Vietnam veteran. I run it for the people overseas who cannot run it.”

The race grows bigger each year and brings more awareness to the partner causes. For the first time, Exeter Finance, a subprime auto finance company, gathered a group of their employees to volunteer and participate in the race.

“We have a program in our company called Xvets, so we recruit a lot of veterans to come work for our company,” said Hart Jackson, executive assistant for Exeter Finance. “When we found out about this run, we wanted to make sure some of our veterans and our employees got out here and participated.”

Jackson said it is important to show support for the veterans and military and he hopes to participate in all future Wounded Warrior races.

“I hope this is definitely something we continue doing, because this is who we recruit to work for us, our veterans,” Jackson said. “We are really big on recruiting veterans in our company. It’s just a great cause to support.”

Next year, the Wounded Warrior race will celebrate its 10-year-anniversary and Ryan is glad that the event continues to grow.

“This year we had more runners, the most vendor support we’ve ever had, and we’ve raised thousands and thousands of dollars for our three charity partners,” Ryan said. “The event is a win-win because it helps the charities, it helps the athletic community, it brings awareness to the charities, and it brings awareness to health and fitness in the community.”

The city of Irving will once again host the race next year for the 10-year-anniversary. Ryan said he hopes to go ‘big’ to celebrate the milestone.

“I don’t know what ‘big’ means today, but it will certainly give us more of an opportunity to celebrate 10 years,” Ryan said. “It has its own kind of buzz, so we have to support that buzz somehow.”

Irving police department honored with barbeque

Just in time for summer grilling season, the Open Door Church in Irving hosted a barbeque to show their appreciation for the Irving police department on Tuesday, June 6.

“Last year, we had our first event after the police shootings in Dallas,” Open Door Church Pastor Phil Durham said. “We wanted a way to honor the police here in Irving.”

Food and drinks were donated to Pastor Durham’s group. A dozen volunteers passed out meals to the officers to show the church’s support for everything the officers do for the community.

The church is only a year and a half old. One way they have started making an impact is by having a strong youth group presence. The barbeque is another way they hope to bring the community closer together.

“We wanted to not forget,” Durham said. “Just because there’s no tragedy going on, we’re not going to forget the police. We really want to serve those who serve us, and certainly let the officers know that we care about them.”

Mark your calendar!

Celebrate Coppell – Party In The Park
July 1, 2  – 10 p.m.

Coppell’s annual Independence Day celebration returns to Andrew Brown Park East, 260 E. Parkway Blvd. Park bigger and better than ever.


5k for Coppell Special Olympics
July 1

The Get You In Shape Coppell 5K benefiting Coppell Special Olympics is a community event with a 1-mile fun run and a timed 5K Race on July 1st and is a part of Celebrate Coppell. This will be the first 5k in the newly updated Coppell Parks. For more information and to register for this family-friendly, community event visit: www.Coppell5K.com.


Irving Heritage House
July 2, 3-5 p.m.

Recognizing the 75th anniversary of the Little Golden Books, a special exhibit of vintage books from the collection of Heritage Society member Karen Jackson will be on display at the Irving Heritage House. The Heritage House is located at 303 South O’Connor and monthly tours now include Mary’s Playhouse in the garden area as well. Admission is free. Guest will receive a complimentary copy of the history book Irving, Texas: From Rails to Wings by Norma Stanton.

Little Golden Books were created in 1942 for children. Some of the first books included Three Little Kittens, Bedtime Stories, Prayers for Children, The Little Red Hen and the all-time favorite and the top seller The Poky Little Puppy. The books have been colorfully illustrated with distinct styles from such artists as Richard Scarry, Eloise Wilkin, and Garth Williams. The books sold for 25 cents and you were even allowed to write your name in them.


School Supply Drive
July 2-August 6

Help Irving ISD students start the school year off right by donating school supplies. All Irving Fire Stations are collecting school supplies July 2 through August 6. Supplies needed include:

Backpacks
Composition books
Crayons (24 count)
Rulers (standard and metric)
2-inch binders with dividers
Plastic folders with brads and pockets
No. 2 pencils
Small scissors
Spiral notebooks
Washable markers (8 count)
Erasers (large, bevel)
Glue sticks
Notebook paper (wide and college ruled)
Colored pencils (12 count)
Pencil box or pouch
Financial donations are also being accepted. Contact 972-600-5018 for more information.


Irving’s Star-Spangled Parade
July 4, 9 a.m.

The parade begins at 9 a.m. July 4 at Sowers Street and Irving Boulevard, near Millennium Park, and concludes about 10 a.m. After the parade, a reception at Heritage Park, 217 S. Main St., will include free watermelon, airbrush tattoos, balloons and a concert by Leo Hull and the Texas Blues Machine.


Celebrate Coppell – Parade Down Parkway
July 4, 9 a.m.

Parade Route – Samuel To Parkway Blvd., West On Parway To Town Center

Celebrate Independence Day with a patriotic parade! Put on your red, white and blue and head over to the parade route early for the best spot.


Irving’s party and fireworks
July 4, 6 p.m.

The celebration continues along Lake Carolyn, 601 E. Las Colinas Blvd. Entertainment includes live music by Downtown Fever, DJ Chris Brown and the Las Colinas Symphony Orchestra’s Brass Quintet. The 20-minute fireworks display begins at 9:30 p.m. More than 20 food vendors will offer hot and cold treats.

Other activities include airbrush tattoos, photos with Uncle Sam and both wet and dry inflatable rides. Swim attire is not required; towels are recommended. Attendees are encouraged to bring blankets and lawns chairs; outside food and beverage is permitted.


Memorial Event for Police
July 7, 11 a.m.

The first anniversary of the Dallas police shooting brings memories of a tragic night for the Dallas Police Department, DART and El Centro College. El Centro has scheduled a memorial event to honor the officers who died that night, those who were wounded (including two El Centro police officers, Cpl. Bryan Shaw and Officer John Abbott) and all of those officers who responded.

The event will be held in the Student Center. 


Memorial Event for Police
July 7, 6:30 – 10 p.m.

Tribute 7/7, an organization led by the Dallas Police Department and other law enforcement associations, is to thank the community for its support of law enforcement and to encourage more communication between them. 

Tribute 7/7 is planning an evening of remembrance at City Hall Plaza for the community to gather and share memories of the 2016 events; show support to officers and their families who attend; and celebrate the officers who were lost that night.

Challenge Air hands controls to youngsters with special needs

As his son took over the plane’s yoke, Brad Forsthoff leaned toward the window and pointed at landmarks he has been flying over for years.

Forsthoff and his son Christopher’s fourth flight in five years took place as part of the McKinney Challenge Air Fly Day, an event that allowed special needs kids to fly real airplanes alongside a pilot at the McKinney Airport on April 8.

“The whole purpose of this is to show these kids who have special needs that if they can control a plane up in the air, then they can really do anything in life,” Forsthoff said. “The whole goal of this entire gathering is to show the kids there are things out there that they can do. Christopher has enjoyed every minute of every time we’ve come.”

The event, which has been going on for over 20 years, begins with a quick briefing before kids are led to airplanes, each with a pilot and a flight team. Every one of the 143 kids who participated could take a 20 minute flight and after they landed, each received a certificate, had wings put on their shirts and walked across a red carpet lined with local high school cheerleaders.

“When a little brother and sister brings their siblings down the red carpet, they’re all smiling,” said event volunteer K. Lyle Froese of the McKinney Sunset rotary club. “All of them, and that’s just worth an awful lot.”

Challenge Air was founded by Rick Amber, who became a quadriplegic when his plane crashed in the Vietnam War. When he came back to the states, Amber learned to fly general aviation with hand controls and took up wheelchair tennis. After winning the U.S. Open National Wheelchair Tennis Championship and going on to teach wheelchair tennis lessons, some of his tennis students asked if they could fly with him.

“They met in this grass field,” said April Culver, executive director of Challenge Air who has been with the company for nearly seven years. “The transformation he saw on the kids faces from being in a wheelchair, and then being in the airplane and actually flying was just so phenomenal, he thought that ‘I need to make sure I can do this for all kids.’”

That first flight in 1991 watered the early seeds for what is now known as Challenge Air, a group whose mission is to build confidence and self-esteem in kids with special needs through the gift of flight.

“Our motto is if you can fly an airplane, what else can you do?” Culver said. “A lot of these kids can’t play on team sports, and there are not a lot of extra activities, so they get to come here and be normal.” She estimates they’ve flown almost 40,000 kids in 23 years in almost every state in the country.

Challenge Air puts on 12 to 15 events a year for kids between the ages of 7 and 21. Each event hosts roughly 150 kids with special needs and tends to attract the same volunteers year after year.

“This is our third or fourth year to do this,” volunteer Steve Wintory said. “I used to work in special ed, so I know what it means to these kids to get a chance to do something a little out of the box.”

Wintory’s job for the day was escorting students along with pilots from the hangar to the plane, helped them get on board safely, and making sure they got off the plane safely and onto the red carpet.

 “This is an opportunity to break some boundaries that they might have preconceived and just let them know that there’s a lot out in the world to be experienced,” he said. “A lot of them will be able to go beyond here and this will be a big highlight for them.”

This was Froese’s fourth time attending the event and he’s seen the event grow a lot.

“The rotary clubs here in McKinney have supported Challenge Air for a number of years,” he said. “It’s bigger. We have more pilots and more planes. The amazing thing is these pilots give their time, they pay their own fuel, they give their Saturday, and it’s just amazing.”
Eighteen pilots volunteered their Saturdays to fly all 143 students, so each pilot and their flight team took around seven to eight flights.

“We couldn’t do this without our pilots,” Weaver said. “We can’t pay for their fuel, we can’t give them the fuel, so really they make the magic happen. They’re the ones that talk to the kids, tell them what to do, tell them how cool this is that they’re flying the plane.”

The pilots agreed it is a thrill to see a kid’s reactions in the air.

“[These kids] get such a thrill out of it, because you tell the kids nobody has a disability,” pilot John Couzelis said. “You can do anything if you can fly this airplane. You can do anything in your life, there’s no challenge that you can’t overcome.”

Couzelis first heard about the event from a friend in 2008 and has been volunteering with Challenge Air twice a year since then. He says doing the event is his way of giving back his gift of flying.

“God gave us this talent,” he said. “So we’re trying to give back to God what he gave us.”

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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