February 2023

Texarkana Magazine


TEXARKANA MAGAZINE February | 2023 | Volume 4 | Issue 2

52. LIFE Have a Heart 58. LIFE My Drift 62. TXK 411 King Cake Candy

10. BUSINESS Where the Wild Things Are 18. POLITICS An Even Greater Tomorrow



36. CULTURE Taste Buds 40. SPORTS Athletics for All 48.



22. cover/CULTURE “Nothing Better” 30. COMMUNITY A Pillar of Perseverance

64. THE MONTHLY MIX Get Organized 66. TXK ROOTS June Williams Davis



If you came with a warning label, what would it say?


TERRI SANDEFUR Brutally honest!

SHELBY AKIN Needs a nap!

KARA HUMPHREY Likely to say too much through facial expressions and eye rolls!

LEAH ORR Talks at accelerated speeds!


BRITTANY ROBLES Easily distracted!

MATT CORNELIUS Access limited to authorized personnel only!

SHAWN EDMONDS I am a hugger who is silently critiquing your outfit!

BAILEY GRAVITT Too ADHD to function!

TERRI GRAVITT Beware: I ask lots of questions!

MEGAN GRIFFIN Crabby when hungry!




KAILYN WILLIAMS Fragile! (I’m super injury prone.)

PATSY MORRISS I’m judging your grammar!

PAULA SHANKLES May talk excessively

Full of bad dad jokes!

about gardens and grandkids!




txkmag.com letstalk@txkmag.com 903.949.1460 OFFICE 911 North Bishop Street Building C • Suite 102 Wake Village, Texas 75501 MAIL 2801 Richmond Road #38 Texarkana, Texas 75503

Publisher CARDINAL PUBLISHING Staff CASSY MEISENHEIMER cassy@txkmag.com TERRI SANDEFUR terri@txkmag.com SHELBY AKIN shelby@txkmag.com KARA HUMPHREY kara@txkmag.com LEAH ORR leah@txkmag.com BRITT EARNEST britt@txkmag.com BRITTANY ROBLES brittany@txkmag.com MATT CORNELIUS matt@txkmag.com Local Sources CLARE ANGIER JOHN LUKE ANGIER MARY CAROLINE ANGIER

I was working at my computer one day when I received a notification on my phone that a photo memory slideshow had been created just for me. I clicked on the memory suggestion, and the highlight reel of my life began scrolling across the screen. I was immediately overwhelmed with gratitude. These were not just vacations and Instagram-worthy moments; these were real life. I was reminded of moments cooking dinner with my kids, the time I got the lawn mower stuck in the pond, and lazy moments lounging around the house with our dog. It was a collection of the simple things we do every day: eating, doing chores, and resting. I have heard the saying, “For in the mundane is usually where the extraordinary takes place.” I think it is easy sometimes to take those daily life highlight reels for granted, when in reality, those ordinary activities are actually an extraordinary gift. Over the holidays, we took a vacation to Dubai, and it was terrific. It was the first time my kids had ever ventured outside the United States, and it was an incredible way to kick off their international travel journey. We logged almost twenty hours in the air going one way! Dubai is a place we knew nothing about, but we knew we were in for a unique experience. While it was nice to unplug (which is easy with a ten-hour time difference between us and the rest of our normal world) and make once-in-a-lifetime

memories, I remember that dreaded last day of vacation feeling creeping in, bringing with it the daunting reality of returning to responsibilities and “the real world.” It was so conflicting when, on one hand, I found myself ready to sleep in my own bed, get back to work, and get back to my everyday life, but on the other, I wasn’t quite ready to leave. I realized I wanted the best of my daily routine, coupled with the best of my vacation. Our time in Dubai was extraordinary, but I knew it would only be momentary; it was never meant to satisfy me completely. That one week was not meant to cause me to question the other 51 weeks of the year, but to refresh and renew me and to help me move forward with a new perspective. What makes life spectacular is not transcendent experiences that are here one day and gone the next. The extraordinary comes from our ability to recognize and experience magnificence, even in the mundane moments of everyday life. This month’s issue shares the stories of incredible people accomplishing extraordinary things simply by walking through their normal routines. Take time to read their stories and be inspired. We hope you enjoy all we offer in this month’s issue!





Texarkana Magazine is a multimedia publication showcasing the Texarkana area and is designed and published by Cardinal Publishing, LLC. Articles in Texarkana Magazine should not be considered specific advice, as individual circumstances vary. Ideaology, products and services promoted in the publication are not necessarily endorsed by Texarkana Magazine .







WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE BY KARA HUMPHREY PHOTOS BY MATT CORNELIUS M any in Northeast Texas and Southwest Arkansas consider themselves animal lovers, but when you move beyond the realm of dogs, cats, and the occasional bird, you step beyond the day-to-day experiences of most in this area. It is hard to believe you are still in Bowie County when entering the property of Tara and Brian Whelchel in Redwater, Texas. The electric gate slowly opens revealing the beautiful hidden habitat of a multitude of exotic animals that somehow seem to be exactly where they were always meant to be, surrounding the Whelchel family’s newly built home. The views are beautiful everywhere you look, and with each turn of the eye, a fascinating creature captures your attention.




Introduce us to your family. We are the Whelchels. Brian is 43, I am Tara, and I am 34. We have one son, Maxus, who is seven and one adult daughter, Jordan who is 22. Jordan has one son, our grandson Kylen, who is one. We own Brian Whelchel Construction, where he builds metal buildings and farm and ranch fencing. Maxus attends Redwater Elementary and is in first grade. I stay home and take care of things around the ranch. List all the animals you have on your property and their native homes. Red Kangaroo (Australia), Bennett’s Wallaby (Australia), Black and White Ruffed Lemur (Madagascar), Red Ruffed Lemur (Madagascar), Ring- tailed Lemur (Madagascar), White Bearded Wildebeest (Africa), Addax (Africa), Blackbuck (India), Alpacas (South America), and African Spurred

Tortoise “Sulcata” (Africa). What inspired you to turn your home into a place full of exotic animals? How long have you been doing it?

Brian has actually dealt in buying and selling exotics for many years. We have always known we eventually wanted our own place to raise our animals. We got the chance to purchase property that has been in Brian’s family for many years. We built, moved, and started buying animals at the end of 2020. We grew very quickly, and we continue to do so. A lot has happened in the past two years. How have you learned about these animals—their care and their needs? I do a ton of research and reading. I have met a lot of great people through Brian who also raise exotics. They have been a wealth of knowledge. Brian already knows so much about the hoofstock, but there was a lot to learn about kangaroos and lemurs. Everyone requires certain needs to be met, and husbandry is very important in the care of these animals. I learn new things every day.

The Whelchels: Maxus, Brian, and Tara.




Are there special licenses required to own and raise exotic animals?

Yes, to breed and sell them, you need a USDA license, which we have. To own as a pet only, there is no license needed. Some animals, like the lemurs, are critically endangered and cannot be sold across state lines. Being licensed and knowing these things is very important.

How did you find a veterinarian who is knowledgeable about the animal species you have?

We actually work with a couple of vets. We have one vet who comes here occasionally for routine checks, and he is always a phone call away. I have a vet I can take the kangaroos and lemurs to if we need to be seen that day. I am actually now able to do fecal checks on my own, and that’s a pretty big deal to me. Who are your customers? Who buys kangaroo and lemur and the other animals you raise? And for what purpose? Our customers consist of private owners, other breeders, drive-through parks, educational programs, as well as other ranches like ours.




Where do you purchase the right food for the animals since they are not native to this area?

For our hoofstock, we order a custom-made pellet feed. The kangaroos and lemurs get a species-specific kibble that I order through Miller Bowie Supply. The lemurs also get fruits and veggies daily. Brian always jokes about how I make them fancy salads.

How does our Texas climate and landscape compare to their natural environments?

During the warmer months, everyone is great. All of our animals naturally come from a warmer climate. During the winters, we feed them extra, and we put out a ton of bedding hay, and they have shelters. The lemurs all have heaters in insulated boxes and rooms. During the really low temps, the kangaroos also get a heater, and we go check everyone multiple times a night. I don’t care for the winter months.

Do you have a favorite animal or type of animal on your property? If so, what makes them special?

The lemurs are my favorite; I love how interactive they are. They are my babies. Brian likes the hoofstock, especially the addax. We all love the kangaroos. When we have babies, they hop around the house in diapers and sleep in bags hanging up. They are really sweet. A few of the lemurs also come in and wear diapers and hang out for a while. I bottle feed all of our kangaroos as babies. What are your plans for the future? Do you have plans to expand or add other species of animals? We are always looking to add more to what we have and to adding other species. We are frequently asked about opening to the public, but that isn’t something we are interested in. I have thought about maybe doing some educational things—maybe at local schools. What roles do each of your family members play in the care of these animals? Brian and I are a team around here. There is a lot to do: feeding daily, cleaning enclosures, and just checking on everyone’s well- being daily. There’s always something to be done around here.




T exarkana citizen Libby White recently filled the vacant Ward 5 Council seat in Texarkana, Texas. Libby and her husband, Brad, have lived in Ward 5 of Texarkana, Texas, since November 2009. Libby hopes to help lead Texarkana into an even greater tomorrow by serving on the city’s City Council. After graduating from Pleasant Grove High School in 2003, White achieved a psychology degree from Texas A&M University-College Station. During her time there, White was elected president of the Chi Omega sorority, which ignited her desire to lead and serve in the community. “While executing the role of president, I developed leadership, management, and speaking skills that have influenced my career and service paths,” White expressed. “My dream has always been to help people, wherever I am in life and however the opportunity arises. I thrive in social settings, making connections with people and looking for ways to improve situations.” Upon graduating from Texas A&M University- College Station, White worked for Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, before marrying her husband and moving back to Texarkana in 2008. White has continued to work in church environments and use her psychology degree by raising four boys over the last 11 years. White’s oldest son is in the STEM program in the 6th Grade Center at Texas Middle School, and her younger three children are in 4th grade, 2nd grade, and kindergarten at Red Lick Elementary School. Since her boys started public school, White has also served in multiple roles in the Red Lick School District, including her most recent appointment as secretary for the Parent Teacher Community Organization (PTCO) board. White is also active in the Pleasant Grove Youth Association (PGYA) sports organization. She has been a head coach for youth basketball teams for three years, and she served as a head coach for PGYA T-ball this spring. In addition to coaching for PGYA this season, White is also helping as an assistant coach for the Trinity Youth Basketball League in the kindergarten age division. “People are my passion, and wherever my kids have been plugged in, that is where I have given my time and attention,” White said. White and her family have been active members of Heritage Church for the past eight years, and since 2018, White has volunteered as the director of women’s ministry for the church. In addition to leading Bible studies, White has also been a guest speaker for the main church service, organized meetings, planned multiple events for 200+ women, and worked as part of the staff team at Heritage to fulfill a goal in partnering with churches in the community to transform Texarkana.





“While serving my family as a stay- at-home parent, I realized I also needed a creative outlet for my talents,” White stated. “In 2019, I embraced the opportunity to co-host a multi-media show called Table Talk with the KLFI TV station in Texarkana.” Over the next two years, White interviewed multiple leaders in the area and helped share the goals of the community and leadership. In 2021, White had the opportunity to interview Sarah Huckabee Sanders at one of her Town Hall appearances in Texarkana during her campaign for Governor. Working for KLFI sparked White’s interest in speaking on camera and interviewing individuals in the community. “My eyes were opened to so many nonprofits and organizations in our city that are doing amazing work,” White said. “Through that experience, I was able to meet people in the community I never would have otherwise, so when an opportunity presented itself to work with Texarkana Magazine and meet even more people, I took the challenge!”

During 2021-2022, White hosted on- camera interviews for Texarkana Magazine’s digital platform and also wrote stories in the monthly publication. White had the opportunity to interview Judge John Tidwell, former Mayor James Bramlett, and many business leaders in the community during her time with the magazine. “In the interviews, I was able to dig into the inspiring stories of these amazing leaders, and it stirred a desire in me to follow in their footsteps in serving our community even more,” White said. “While writing a story on James Bramlett in December 2021, I realized that I was one of the ‘young ones’ he refers to who grew up here, moved off, but then came back home and wanted to make Texarkana the best it can be.” When White’s youngest child started kindergarten, she took a step toward making Texarkana the best it can be by earning a personal training certification through the National Council on Strength and Fitness in July 2022. White also completed the process of starting her own LLC in the State

of Texas—Fueled & Fit, LLC—and she has been training men and women at the Wacha Resolutions Training Center in Downtown Texarkana for the past five months. “This new venture has allowed me to tap into another area of my skills and develop new relationships in the community,” White said. As White begins her term on the Texarkana, Texas City Council, she expressed that she is, “ready to dive into public service in order to hear the needs outside of my daily bubble, to form new and lasting connections, and to set an example for my kids of giving sacrificially and making a difference in the lives of others.” “It is an honor to serve on the Texarkana, Texas City Council and give back to the same community that has given so much to me,” White said. “I hope my love for people, speaking abilities, ambition, and positive mindset will be an asset for our Council and the future of Texarkana.”







Z ach Yeldell, head worship pastor at Church on the Rock (COTR)-Texarkana, places great value in leading not only adults, but children and youth into what he feels is the foundation of Christian faith: worship. “It has radically changed my life,” Zach said. “It’s the one thing we get to do that blesses the heart of God. Our culture says that everything we do is about us, but worship is the opposite of that. True worship is an opportunity to bring a grateful and thankful heart to God with absolutely no strings attached.”

Even though he had little to no musical background, Zach was only in seventh grade when the church where he grew up allowed him to join their worship team. They created a safe place for him to learn; playing with older and more skilled musicians created an environment where his talent quickly blossomed. With this same mindset, Zach had the desire to create something for the students of Powerhouse. The original COTR Powerhouse youth building was built in 1996, where services began with adult-led worship. However, in 2008, when Zach started leading worship,

Lindsay Smith, Andy Tye, Bethany Hughes, and Jack Humphrey




he assembled the first all youth-led worship team. “Our main objective,” he stated, “is teaching our students to be worshipers first and foremost. We want to create a place for students to come and learn how to worship and grow in their instrument. We’ve had a lot of students over the

In 2018, Bethany Hughes took over leadership of the Powerhouse worship team, where students from seventh to twelfth grade are now involved. They have student musicians playing acoustic, electric, and bass guitars, drums, and piano. There are also 12 vocalists. Students

supposed to? Do they hear the dynamic changes of a song, and can they play it?” While all of this is important, of course, what holds the most importance to Bethany is the spiritual side of the selection process. “I make sure that students understand being a part of the team is

years start from scratch who had little to no musical background, but we have seen huge transformations as they grow and learn.” Besides his COTR duties, Zach also teaches lessons on different instruments to students during his personal time. However, his primary goal is to connect the younger students with the older, more seasoned student musicians, allowing them to challenge one another. He believes this allows every student to grow. “It is a win- win,” he shared. “My f i r s t thought,” he went on, “is that children and students worship the same God that adults do. I want to empower them to understand this from the youngest age possible. It would be

not just a group of kids who play music together, but we are a group who pursues the Lord not just on stage but in our time alone.” She continued, “I believe our private worship fuels our public worship. I encourage each of the students on the team to make their time with the Lord and reading His word a priority in their daily lives. Our time with the Lord prepares our hearts to worship and helps to set our focus on Who we’re worshiping.” Jack Humphrey, a 17-year-old Pleasant Grove High School senior who plays guitar and piano for the team, started having problems with his handwriting in the second grade. His mom suggested it might help develop his fine motor skills if he started playing

Lindsay Smith

Bethany Hughes

Landon Prejean

Zach May

easier to put a team of adults together to lead worship for youth, but it is irreplaceable when students lead their peers in worship. I think it makes it more relevant as well. The students on our Powerhouse team know which songs would be more engaging with their peers than I do.” Zach believes this revolves around the verse in Proverbs 22:6, which reads, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

join the team through trying out. “For vocalists,” said Bethany, “I listen for a few different things. Can they sing on pitch, and are they able to find harmony? Can they hear and feel when they’re supposed to start singing? Can they stay on rhythm, not fall behind, or get too far ahead of where they’re supposed to?” The process for musicians is a little different. “Can they stay on rhythm? Can they hit down on the chord they’re supposed to when they’re

the piano, so he began taking lessons. It was then his true love for music began, so when he entered middle school band and found out they were offering a beginner guitar class, signing up was an easy decision. “Mr. Colquitt was my teacher and became one of my favorite teachers ever. He taught me so much. I have loved guitar ever since,” Jack said. With his newfound love of guitar, he was eager to join the Powerhouse worship team. “It has




Wednesday night worship service at Powerhouse Church on the Rock-Texarkana.

been one of the most important influences in my life. My spiritual walk has gotten so much deeper because I recognize how big the responsibility of leadership is. If people were going to see me worshipping on stage, I knew I needed to have a deep and meaningful understanding of the One I was worshipping. The more I know Him, the more I want to worship Him.” Jack believes that, in some capacity, he will lead others in worship for the rest of his life. “Leading in Powerhouse showed me it was more than just a talent or a hobby. For me, it’s a responsibility.” Andy Tye, a 16-year-old Pleasant Grove High School sophomore, started as a drummer when he was 13 years old. Greg Adams, a Powerhouse youth leader, introduced him to the drums, and Andy immediately fell in love. You cannot help but see that love when you watch him on stage. Andy’s parents are both very musically talented, so with their encouragement and instruction, support from Greg, and Andy’s innate talent, he has become an incredible drummer in just three short years. He loves being part of what he calls his “second family.” “I love all of them. We make stuff work even if we don’t have a clue what we’re doing.” Lindsay Smith, a 17-year-old high school senior, has been a vocalist for the worship team for a year and a half. “I feel like the most meaningful part of being a vocalist for the worship team is being able to do the thing God is calling me to do with my friends by my side.” In order to reach people beyond the four walls of Powerhouse, the team was encouraged by COTR’s youth pastor, Cole Yeldell, and his brother, Zach, to create an album. A large group of students has been playing together since seventh grade and

Andy Tye

Jack Humphrey



The group involved with the worship band: (L-R) Top: Zach May (17), Chance Tutolo (17), Lindsay Smith (17), Bethany Hughes (27), Landon Prejean (17), Jack Humphrey (17), Nash Orena (16), Andy Tye (16); Bottom: Andrew O’Neal (16), Lexi Allen (17), Marissa Winner (15), Anna Grace Ballard (14), Sophee Wyatt (14), Meghan Epperson (12), Caden Rounsavall (14), Ethan Reddin (13), Allie Edwards (15). SCAN HERE TO LISTEN TO WILDEST PRAISE ON SPOTIFY

will graduate from high school this year. Before going their separate ways to college and beyond, they challenged themselves to complete this project. “We don’t take for granted the students we have and the gifts and anointing God has given them,” said Bethany. They began work on the album in January 2022. Two weeks after their first discussion, Jack and Bethany finished writing their first song, “Worthy.” According to Bethany, “We really wanted the first song we finished writing to just be about Jesus and who He is. So many songs today focus on us rather than God; we wanted our first song to be about worshiping Him for who He is and not what He can do for us.” When Bethany was struggling and couldn’t find the words she was looking for, she would reach out to Jack for help. “I would bounce a lot of ideas off him as he does with me when he’s writing. Wildest Praise wouldn’t have been able to be completed without him and his writing.” One song, “Nothing Better,” holds a very special place in Bethany’s heart as it comes out of a place of heartache for the youth she leads. “There was a season,” she shared, “when it seemed like every conversation I would have with a student was about their struggles with anxiety, depression, and fear. I would do and say all I could as a youth leader to them. I would

give them scripture and speak and pray over their struggles, but I knew I wasn’t the one who could heal them from what they were going through. Only Jesus could.” As she prayed for these students, her heart continued to break for them. From this, she wrote “Nothing Better.” It is a love letter from the perspective of Jesus and is based on Psalm 27:8. The message she wanted to get across to the students was that there is nothing better than Jesus and spending time with Him. “Jesus longs for every one of us to spend time with Him and just talk to Him… There is nothing better than Jesus, and nothing will ever satisfy your heart like Jesus can.” The team recorded everything live in COTR’s main sanctuary, and Zach edited the songs. Zach also helped get the songs copyrighted and submitted the album to the music streaming services Apple Music and Spotify. The album, Wildest Praise , was released in September 2022, and the collaborative process took nine months. It is normal to walk into Powerhouse on a Wednesday night and find more than 100 young people expressing the delight C.S. Lewis was referring to, led by teenagers, in true worship. As Bethany emphasized, “It’s not about the lights, or the crowd, or the stage. We’ve come together to simply worship Jesus,” and there really is nothing better.

Texarkana Magazine cover photo by Matt Cornelius







TEXARKANA MAGAZINE A s February celebrates Black History Month, it is important to recognize and reflect upon individuals who have given back to their community and share their passion for Texarkana with others. June Williams Davis, a former Texarkana citizen and recent distinguished Texas High alum, boasts an impressive amount of accomplishments. After graduating from a newly integrated Texas High School, Davis continued the growth and development of her career, bettering the lives and environments of students around her. Growing up in Texarkana, Davis led a simple life in elementary school and through most of high school. She grew up in the community of Sunset, where she attended Sunset Elementary School and Dunbar High School from grades seven to eleven. In 1968, Davis was a senior and Texarkana ISD began the integration process by closing Dunbar High School and transferring all students to Texas High School. For students like her, the newfound integration was a time of both excitement and fear. “My emotions surrounding the integration were between apprehensive, yet excited and cautiously optimistic.” Sadly, the joining of Dunbar High School and Texas High School did not come without backlash. “[Dealing with backlash,] I had to take it one day at a time,” Davis said. “Each day was a new day and an opportunity to be better.” In addition to her skin color, Davis was marked with a negative connotation based on the fact that she was the daughter of a single mother. “A difficulty growing up for me was that I was the child of a single parent, and some viewed that as a handicap, which could be true in some situations; [however] that was not the case with my mother,” Davis said. “She instilled a great work ethic and always told me if I work hard, I could be anything I wanted to be in life.” In 1969, Davis decided to attend East Texas State University and experience life outside her hometown. She knew she wanted to be a teacher, and pursued this dream. After her graduation, she found jobs teaching all over east Texas and multiple opportunities to aid in the betterment of

June Davis Williams stands in the entry-way of her namesake in Crowley Independent School District, the June W. Davis Elementary School. The school was named after Williams in 2019 for her service to education and the Crowley ISD Board of Trustees.




Pictured with Texas High School students Ally Moore and Monika Garcia, Williams receives the Distinguished Alumni Recognition from Texarkana Independent School District.

Williams, a 1969 Texas High School graduate, in her senior yearbook photo.

Williams on the Texas High School Homecoming Court in 1969.

the lives of the students she taught. Davis returned to Texarkana in 1973 to work as a social worker for the Texas Employment Commission. From 1976-1977, she taught for Pleasant Grove Independent School District, and from 1977-1978, Texarkana Independent School District before moving to Dallas. She taught in multiple schools in the Dallas area and acquired multiple positions after teaching. “When I moved to the Dallas area, I became a teacher in the Lancaster Independent School District where I taught for three and a half years. [Then] I moved and taught in the Wichita Falls Independent School District for three years,” Davis said. “I moved [again] and began teaching in the Fort Worth Independent School District, later becoming a counselor and a liaison. I retired from Fort Worth Independent School District as director of special programs in 2019.” Davis built a life of helping those in need, so the decision to become a volunteer and continue helping others came easily to her. She is currently serving on the Crowley Independent School District (CISD) Board of Trustees and has since 2003. “I was elected to the Crowley Independent School District School Board of Trustees in 2003, and I am still serving in that capacity,” Davis said. “I chose to volunteer and run for the school board to give back to the district that provided a good education for my daughter and to be a voice for the voiceless.” Davis operates in a profession that directly impacts the life, and even the well-being, of students and children on a daily basis. Her decision to run for school board came from a place of passion. She wanted to advocate for children—not only her child, but others, too. “It’s important to be engaged in the education of your child. I found myself not only advocating for my child, but other children as well,” Davis said. “I wanted to ensure that all students were represented, and I was also the first African American elected to the CISD Board of Trustees.” Davis continues acting as a voice for those children who do not necessarily have a “voice,” or influence, in the things that go on

at the higher levels of the school board. This voice is what drives her to continue in her career path. She sees, when it comes to a child’s life, that there is a difference when someone who truly cares about the outcome of students is in a position of power. “I [will] continue to serve and impact children’s lives,” Davis said. “I understand the difference it makes when there is a genuine concern to see all students thrive!” In addition to serving on the school board, Davis also mentors a group of fifth-grade girls in her free time and volunteers at the Tarrant County Food Bank. Despite her many career-based accomplishments, her most significant accomplishment comes from a family-oriented heart. “My biggest accomplishment in life so far is being the mother to my daughter,” Davis said, “and grandmother to my five grandchildren!” An elementary school located in Fort Worth, Texas, the June W. Davis Elementary School, also took Davis’ name to honor her and all of her past accomplishments. As a decorated graduate of Texas High, Davis was asked to return to Texarkana to be honored on the field before the football game, along with other alumni. “I must admit I was very surprised to be recognized as an alumna at the game,” Davis said. “It was almost surreal, especially when I was among other honorees who have achieved great accomplishments.” As her life continues, with a multitude of accolades under her belt, June wishes to continue serving as a community volunteer. “I will continue my current volunteer activities,” Davis said. “However, for now think I’m going to enjoy my family, especially my grandbabies, the youngest being three months old.” Over the years, June Williams Davis has, and will continue to, serve as a pillar for perseverance, kindness, and success, as well as a sign of hope for children and students everywhere.

To read more about June Williams Davis see TXK Roots on page 66.




W hether your status on Valentine’s Day is “single,” “taken,” or “hangry,” the Taste Buds have the perfect dinner spot picked out where you and (optimistically) your significant other can enjoy a marvelous meal, high-quality cocktails, and fresh, homemade desserts this upcoming February 14. Look no further than Twisted Fork, Grill & Lounge, at 5522 Summerhill Road on the Texas side of our Twice-as-Nice city. Twisted Fork was a much-needed addition to the lineup of private dining establishments when it opened in the Four States area. The lounge and dining room each have a comfortable ambiance accented with vibrant colors and wood finishes. The cuisine is a combination of American and Southwestern influences—with a Twist, and weekly specials and seasonal menu updates elevate the regular menu’s flare! You can expect to enjoy dishes including fresh seafood, high- quality farm-raised beef and chicken, wood-fired pizzas, and a variety of scratch-made side dishes, all of which make Twisted Fork the perfect spot to spoil your significant other (or eat your lonely heart out) this upcoming Valentine’s Day. Not only does Twisted Fork offer high- quality appetizers, pizzas, and entrees, but Chef Bri Flanagan’s homemade desserts are not to be ignored. Chef Bri graduated from the Texas Culinary Academy in 2009 with a certificate of Le Cordon Bleu Patisserie, which is French for “you’re going to want to eat these desserts.” She utilizes her skills to create and customize beautiful cakes, pastries, and other delectable sweets that are available daily for a nice treat following your hearty meal. Seriously, you must get dessert because, is it even really Valentine’s Day without a little sugar? (wink wink) Given the vast, carefully constructed menu of available dining options at Twisted Fork, we (you can call us the Taste Buds) took to the streets (Summerhill Road) and made our way to Twisted Fork to enjoy our own pre-Valentine’s Day meal, and let’s just say, even Cupid would be proud. COCKTAILS Andrew —I started with a Twisted Fork original, Witchy Woman, comprising lemon juice, simple syrup, lime, and the key ingredient, “magic” vodka. If you are familiar with the Eagles’ 1972 hit, of the same name, this drink definitely makes a connection with that song... “sparks fly from her fingertips.” Kyle —I began my meal with a classic old fashioned from the cocktail menu, consisting



Steak Crostini with Horseradish Cream and Balsamic Reduction




of Bulleit Bourbon, simple syrup, ice, and bitters, garnished with muddled cherries and an orange slice. APPETIZER The steak crostinis were not your ordinary appetizer and were an unexpected treat from the kitchen. Three perfectly marbled, thick slices of ribeye resting perfectly on crostini with a house made horseradish sauce and balsamic reduction were topped, in true Twisted Fork fashion, with a fiery pico that led us right back to our wonderful cocktails. As one of the highlights of our meal, each bite was savory, sweet, salty, and spicy, with a nice kick of acidity to round out this perfect appetizer. ENTRÉES We are firm believers that when dining out, a person should try new things. Variety is the spice of life! So, with that in mind, we pursued a route untraveled. We chose menu items neither of us had ordered before, but both of which we will have again!

Andrew’s V-Day Meal APÉRITIF Witchy Woman

APPETIZER Steak Crostini with Horseradish Cream and Balsamic Reduction ENTRÉE Beef Short Ribs with Parmesan and Mushroom Risotto

DESSERT Apple Pie Bread Pudding

Kyle’s V-Day Meal APÉRITIF Old Fashioned with Bulleit Bourbon APPETIZER Steak Crostini with Horseradish Cream and Balsamic Reduction

Andrew —As a red meat enthusiast, I tend to stick with grilled, seared, or smoked, but the satisfaction resulting from the braised short ribs was second to none. It tasted like what you would get if a ribeye and a brisket were to have offspring. It was the tenderness of the brisket and the marbling of a prime ribeye. After the first bite, I tried to put on my best poker face hoping I might be able to finish my meal in peace, but once Kyle glanced over seeing the satisfied look on my face, it wasn’t long until his fork was coming in for a taste (or two). A parmesan and mushroom risotto accompanied the dish, which was equally gratifying. Parmesan was a perfect choice for this side dish and, combined with the mild taste of mushrooms, it left nothing to be desired. The longer it sat (which was not long thanks to Kyle), and the more au jus that soaked into the bottom, the better it was. Let’s just say this will be a repeat dish for both of us in the future. Kyle —I decided to go a little lighter with my choice of the Baja tacos. They were refreshingly amazing! Just one bite of the three small flour tortillas, lightly toasted, filled with blackened redfish, a chilled coleslaw, fresh cilantro cream, and jalapeno slices transports

ENTRÉE Baja Tacos with Grilled Okra

DESSERT The S’more




Right from top: Apple Pie Bread Pudding, The S’more, Beef Short Ribs with Parmesan and Mushroom Risotto and Baja Tacos with Grilled Okra.

you and drops you off beachside. Having grown up fishing off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana, I am no stranger to preparing redfish dishes. Redfish is a firm, mild-flavored fish perfect for blackening in a pan with butter. Twisted Fork, however, takes this dish to the next level by balancing the rich, spicy redfish with a refreshing coleslaw and cilantro cream. The Baja tacos come with your choice of one side dish. They all sounded phenomenal, but I chose the grilled okra. The smoky and charred grilled okra paired perfectly with the light, refreshing redfish tacos. And yes, I did let Andrew have a taco to repay him for the “one or two” bites I took off his plate! DESSERTS When it came time to order dessert, we really had to dig deep after making happy plates with our entrees, but we were willing to make the sacrifice. (You know… for research purposes… the readers need to know!) Andrew —I am VERY particular and consider myself an expert when it comes to bread pudding, so it made sense for me to try Twisted Fork’s Apple Pie Bread Pudding, and it did not disappoint—this dessert was AMAZING! Technically, one person could eat this monumental thing, but I would highly recommend sharing it with your Valentine (especially if your plans when you

get home do not consist of putting on your stretchy pants and passing out in your recliner to an episode of Gilmore Girls). The portion size was generous, to say the least, but if you happen to find yourself alone in Twisted Fork on Valentine’s Day, eat away, my friend! It was a mix of Grammy’s Apple Pie and a phenomenal bread pudding made by someone who might ask you to “geaux” out on a date. The brown sugar cinnamon ice cream, apple caramel sauce, and cookie crumbles will leave you questioning how in the world it tastes even better than it sounds on the menu! Kyle —I consider myself an expert on dessert in general, so I just wanted an awesome dessert—this is not a time to play games! I saw the first thing listed on the dessert menu and looked no further. With “The S’MORE,” a “graham cracker crust, fudgy-chocolate filling, topped with a toasted homemade marshmallow, served with graham cracker ice cream” on the menu, why would you look any further!? It was marvelous. End of story. Get it! Overall, and as expected, the Taste Buds were extremely satisfied with our pre-Valentine’s Day meal at Twisted Fork and would definitely recommend it to each of you. The service was excellent, the staff was friendly and attentive, and the atmosphere was cozy and welcoming. All in all, it was a fantastic dining experience!.







A s 2023 resolutions continue into February for many, it is common to focus on health and fitness goals for the new year. Texarkana presents two viable physical fitness options for individuals with special needs, from organized sports to personal training opportunities. All Abilities Adaptive Fitness, owned by Whitni Allen and Chase Livingston, and TOPSoccer Texarkana, run by Hillary Cloud, serve those with varying abilities in Texarkana. All Abilities focuses on functional fitness exercises to help prepare individuals of all ages with autism and other special needs for real-life movements such as walking up stairs, carrying heavy objects such as grocery bags, and many other daily life skills. The goal is to create a comfortable, supportive environment for the athletes. Whitni Allen and Chase Livingston formed All Abilities to bring inclusion and success to everyone. “We have both been in gyms for the better part of our adult lives,” Whitni said, “and we have

Chase Livingston coaches All Abilities athletes during a workout class.




noticed that not all gyms/fitness classes are inclusive. Our classes include a social component that makes it more than just a fitness class.” All Abilities classes incorporate social skills such as turn-taking, partnering with other athletes, and general communication. Many athletes enjoy and appreciate the group conversations and friendships formed during the classes. Lastly, all sessions end with a fun group activity to conclude positively. Whitni Allen and Chase Livingston bring experience and passion to All Abilities. Allen, a certified fitness and nutrition specialist, is a personal trainer and adaptive special needs instructor focused on individuals with autism and other special needs. Livingston is a certified personal trainer, behavioral change specialist, and certified nutrition coach. “We accommodate a wide variety of challenges, including Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and stroke recovery,” Allen stated. Allen and Livingston tailor workouts for individuals’ needs to boost confidence, independence, and socialization in an accessible and safe environment. With a similar mission of providing physical fitness opportunities to all, TOPSoccer is a soccer program for kids with intellectual or physical disabilities, ages 5-19. With TOP standing for The Outreach Program, TOPSoccer is a nationwide program formed under US Soccer. TOPSoccer Texarkana is led by local soccer enthusiast and former Texas High Girls Soccer Coach Hillary Cloud. TOPSoccer was formed to perpetuate the US Youth Soccer mission statement, which is, in part, “to foster the physical, mental and emotional growth and development of America’s youth through the sport of soccer at all levels of age and competition. “My mission for TOPSoccer Texarkana is to make the beautiful game accessible for children with diverse abilities,” Cloud said. “I volunteered for this program as a college athlete in Mississippi,” Cloud continued. “There were hundreds of kids involved. The kids didn’t have the same opportunity to join a soccer league as kids without disabilities. It’s an incredible experience being able to normalize that for them.”

Whitni Allen coaches an All Abilities athlete during a workout class at the Southwest Center.




All Abilities athletes pose during a workout class.

All Abilities co-founders Whitni Allen and Chase Livingston.

TOPSoccer Texarkana participants are paired with a buddy for the season. The buddies assist them during soccer practices and games, and the coach/coaches lead the practice and a scrimmage. Sessions consist of 30 minutes of practicing soccer skills and 30 minutes of a soccer game. US Soccer granted permission to bring this program to Texarkana. With the help of local high schools, Cloud has had exceptional volunteers and facilities at her fingertips. “I think one of the ways this program is unique is the bond that these volunteers and athletes form,” Cloud explained. “The athletes show up eager to see their buddy. Being able to have a consistent person for the athlete is something special for both the athlete and the buddy.” TOPSoccer Texarkana has its eyes set on the future. With two sessions in February and four in June, the TOPSoccer athletes will have the opportunity to finish their season at a National Symposium in Kansas City.

“I hope our current athletes continue in the program,” Cloud remarked. “We currently have 17 kids registered, and I hope we attract more athletes. We’ve had an incredible group of volunteers, and I want to continue growing that group and being able to have consistency with our buddies for our athletes. We aim to continue offering this program for free to our athletes and their families.” All Abilities is focused on finding their “home” as they have numerous programs and classes that they want to bring to the Texarkana community. All Abilities meets at the Southwest Center every Thursday from 4-5 pm. “All Abilities has the ability to bring inclusive fitness and programs to our community and to offer jobs to individuals with special needs,” Allen stated. “Upon finding our new business home, we hope to offer jobs including personal trainer, group fitness instructors, front desk work, and more.”






TOPSOCCER Texarkana Director Hillary Cloud explains the day’s plans to participants and families.

Texas High School volunteer Braden McKinnon with a TOPSoccer Texarkana athlete.

Trent and Kellan Chambers

Texas High School volunteer Wendy Gabriel with a TOPSoccer Texarkana athlete.

While physical fitness for all abilities is essential, it is encouraging to understand the emotional impact and sense of community these offerings have on the participants. “I love working out with Chase and Whitni at All Abilities,” participant and athlete Kayla said. “I really look forward to each workout and cannot wait to go. They encourage you to do your best, and it is fun! I also love working out with all my friends and meeting new people.” An avid TOPSoccer Texarkana volunteer, Trent Chambers, gets to experience TOPSoccer with his son, Kellan. “I feel like every parent, and maybe selfishly so, wants their child to be interested in the same things as they were growing up,” Chambers expressed. “Having grown up in Texarkana and playing soccer from grade school to the college level, I was thrilled when my youngest child decided to play soccer. When Kellan, my oldest, wanted to play, too, I was gutted when I told him he could not play. When Kellan asked why he could not play, I really did not have a good answer. A few months later, Hillary Cloud explained TOPSoccer, and I was sold. It has allowed my son and me to bond over something we would not have otherwise. Bigger and more important than that, the project fills a void in our community.”

All Abilities Adaptive Fitness and TOPSoccer Texarkana provide the community with additional services and opportunities that would otherwise be unmet. TOPSoccer Texarkana February 12 and February 19 Location TBD, 4-5 pm topsoccertxk@gmail.com TOPSoccer Texarkana All Abilities Adaptive Fitness Southwest Center Every Thursday, 4-5 pm www.allabilitiestraining.com All Abilities Adaptive Fitness







A couple of months ago, I was standing in my mom’s bathroom talking to her while she was fixing her hair in the mirror, and she was just LAUGHING! I’m not talking about giggling—little chuckles here and there—I am saying uncontrollably laughing out loud while telling me about a little joke her boyfriend John made on their date the night before. She was laughing so hard that I was trying to hold back laughter myself even though I could not understand a single word she was saying because that’s how hard she was laughing. I did not say anything; I just stood watching her grin from ear to ear, BEAMING with joy. It was truly contagious. This was one of those moments that life is all about—uncontrollable laughter, the honeymoon phase of a new relationship, and uncontainable joy found in the first chapter of a new love. I gravitate towards those emotions that make up the human experience. It’s so fascinating to me. We all hope to experience it, with my mom being no different. But there’s another side of the coin when it comes to that same human experience. My mom has been hurt, manipulated, lied to, scarred, physically, mentally, and emotionally abused by men for years of her life, before and after I was born. I’ve watched and prayed and hoped she could find someone who would see in her what those other men were too blind to see. If anyone in this whole wide world truly deserves THIS man, it’s my mom. If there even is such a thing as happy endings, where can I put in a request that my mom receive one? My mom and John have only been dating for a handful of months. Sometimes new relationships fizzle out. Even though that’s a possibility, that’s not the point. The point is that I have a mom who was brave enough to allow herself to try love again despite every past mistake and heartbreak telling her she should run the other way. It’s about the example she is setting for my brothers and me. It’s about the message—don’t allow fear to hold you back from love. We know the Bible tells us that perfect love drives out ALL fear. Human love will never compare to the connection we share with our Creator, but I would personally like to believe this love we experience here on



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