By Barbara Davis
As concerns surrounding the global pandemic COVID-19 continue to increase, county and state officials are busy putting together plans to address concerns locally.
We spoke with Jasper County Judge Mark Allen Monday morning, March 16, as he was en route to meet with Region V Superintendents. “I am strongly considering a local declaration of disaster for Jasper County, but at this time, I am not leaning toward mandatory closure of schools or prohibiting large gatherings unless an active case appears within our county or a contiguous county, which would present a greater risk of infection within our area,” said Judge Mark Allen.
Judge Allen has the authority to issue an Emergency Order to prohibit large gatherings and or curfews as needed, but at this time, he does not deem an order necessary. “This is a very fluid situation, and we are constantly monitoring information, and making decisions that will keep the people within our county as safe as possible.” The Disaster Declaration opens up the ability for the county to receive state and national resources in the event of an emergency, and is merely the first step needed should additional precautions become necessary.
Luckily, Buna ISD is on Spring Break this week, giving officials a bit more time to make an informed decision regarding school closures.
“If our district is shut down for an extended period of time, Buna ISD will have a plan in place to provide distance learning opportunities for all of our students,” said BISD Superintendent Dr. Donny Lee. “We will provide breakfast and lunch to those that are currently on the free/reduced program. My leadership team will be meeting this week to develop a plan moving forward.”
All Region V Superintendents met with their County Judges Monday afternoon, and expected to have a clearer picture of what to expect in the coming days following their meeting.
At approximately 5pm it was announced that following a Presidential Address, all Superintendents agreed to close campuses throughout the region, until April 3, and evaluate ways to provide flexible learning and resources as needed.
The UIL has suspended all interscholastic competition March 16-29, which includes baseball and softball, as well as the State Powerlifting meet, which has been moved to May 2 for the boys, and to April 16 in Corpus Christi for the girls, according to Coach Keaton Baker.
As far as churches are concerned, locally, non of the Buna Churches have cancelled worship services as of Monday afternoon, and will continue to monitor the situation, and plan to follow recommendations from government officials as is expected.
Sunnyside Kampus and Cub Academy, Buna’s two childcare facilities, were open for business as usual Monday, taking every precaution possible to keep their spaces clean, as they typically do. “We are receiving emails through childcare licensing regarding safety requirements,” said Sunnyside Kampus owner Natalie Bruce. “Whether it becomes longer days or schedule changes, we should be able to continue serving our Sunnyside families. We have made special arrangements to cover Spring Break, and can do so going forward if needed so that those children have a place to go. If it comes down to it, Texas Health and Human Services will provide mandatory instruction to us.”
Additionally, Texas District Courts 1, 1A, and 273rd have cancelled all jury trials and major docket calls until April 1st. The Jasper County Jail has banned all visitation until further notice, as has the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
We can expect limits on certain items and possibly limited hours as well, as our merchants attempt to keep up with demand. In Buna, Brookshire Brothers and both dollar stores are working to keep shelves stocked to ensure needs are met, but with desperation growing, members of surrounding communities are often traveling to rural areas to stock up. There will be families out of work, both paid and unpaid, which will undoubtedly cause a severe strain on fragile financial situations.
The Buna Beacon will do its best to keep readers apprised of local changes both in print and online, and encourage citizens to take care of themselves and heed the warnings of the CDC and local officials.
By Diana Askew
Despite nation-wide uncertainty regarding the looming pandemic, the 48th annual Redbud Festival went off without a hitch, followed by tiaras, pomp and circumstance Saturday night. The stunning BHS Sophomore Makenzie Latham was crowned Miss Buna 2020, and is all set to serve the small town with a big heart alongside newly crowned Little Miss Fireman 2020 Josie Smith.
Now in its 63rd year, nine gorgeous and poised Buna High School ladies graced the stage of the BHS Activity Center, in hopes of being crowned Miss Buna, and representing the community they love dearly.
Held in conjunction with the Little Miss Fireman Pageant, now in its 48th year, a stunned Josie, the three-year old daughter of Ashley and Justin Smith, accepted the title of Little Miss Fireman 2020.
BVFD Chief Todd Walters, pageant director, along with coordinator Geneva Wright, facilitated the event with the help of numerous department volunteers. Miss Buna 2011 Haylee Whitehead served as emcee for the evening, alongside BHS Senior escorts Carter Baker and Walker Withers, who took to the catwalk as if they’d been modeling in ‘GQ’ their entire lives.
The evening began with a short address from Walters, as well as an invocation, thanking attendees, and God above, for their support of the pageant, which has served as the department’s main fundraiser for years.
The excitement was underway as nine Miss Buna contestants took turns introducing themselves, thanking their sponsors and parents, before expertly navigating the runway in their sportswear.
Far beyond beauty, participating in the Miss Buna Pageant offers an opportunity for young women to gain experience and knowledge of the professional interview process, public speaking, poise and composure, as contestants were scored based on their interview, sportswear and formalwear. New this year, all entrants were gathered on a single float in the Redbud parade, rather than separate creations.
Immediately following the Sportswear portion of the event, the Little Miss Fireman contestants graced the stage one by one in glittery excellence, sashaying, twirling, and even performing, as they waved to the crowd.
Whitehead interviewed each of the contestants before sending them down the runway for their final presentation, and while First Runner-Up Eliana Joiner wants to be a baker, most of the little beauties intend to be ballerinas, including Kinedy Castle, who will also be “an adult” when she grows up, and demonstrated her best curtsy before approaching the judges. Little Miss Fireman 2020 Josie Smith will be “a singer” when she grows up, and she proceeded to entertain the small crowd with her vocal artistry.
Alleigh Holloway will be “a cop,” and Clancy Jeaux Thomas hopes to become “a horse” when she grows up, yet will settle on being “Anna,” of Frozen. Emerie Tarver was selected Second Runner-Up, while Smith was named Most Photogenic. The 3-year old could not contain her excitement as the trophy was placed before her, and clapped her hands with glee long before she was named the new Little Miss Fireman.
Mom Ashley later shared that Josie loves to put on her “very new big pink dress a lot, and has other fancy ones too,” according to Josie. She was so surprised to win the title in her very first pageant, and as she doesn’t turn 4 until March 21, “it was the icing on the cake to see what goes on in her little mind about it all,” continued Ashley. “She loved the stuffed puppy; said she is so excited over 2 trophies, lots of flowers and a puppy!”
Each of the contestants received a small stuffed dalmation from the fire department, and all of the young beauties were crowned with their own tiara. Josie looks forward to being “with the big queen and throwing candy at parades,” before asking her mom, “what else does the paper lady say?”
Smiles were scattered across the stage as if every tiny beauty had won the honor, and superior sportsmanship in its finest was demonstrated as Kinedy Castle tore away from her family to congratulate Smith on her job well done.
The Miss Buna evening gown competition followed the conclusion of the Little Miss Fireman portion, as Carter and Walker proudly presented each young lady to the audience. The young women were mesmerizing with dresses ranging from brilliant shades of Buna Blue to shimmering emerald green, stunning black to the palest of pink, and everything in between. Alyssa Reddin seemed to flow across the stage, as her beautiful soft yellow dress whispered magnificance, while Makenzie Latham’s bejeweled black gown offered a fluid effect, as did Bria Branch’s gorgeous gown, while it celebrated the softest blush pink.
A trio of judges were tasked with the difficult decision of crowing a winner, deliberating while Chief Walters recogonized the volunteer firefighters of the small town with a big heart, followed by former Miss Bunas in attendance.
Excitement filled the room as the judges made their final decisions, naming Bria Branch Most Photogenic, while Alexandra Mixson was chosen Miss Congeniality by her fellow contestants. Branch was also named 2nd Runner-Up, Mixson was selected 1st Runner-Up, and Makenzie was crowned Miss Buna 2020.
16-year old Makenzie is the daughter of Stacie and Derek Latham, and is excited to serve as a representative of the community. Being crowned Miss Buna as a sophomore in high school is a rare honor in and of itself, and she will be following the lead of an even younger Miss Buna, as Tylee Rawls displayed maturity, grace, and poise throughout her reign, and Makenzie will certainly mirror those same qualities. “I was excited and shocked at the same time,” shared Latham. “ Being crowned Miss Buna by my best friend Tylee was a huge honor and the highlight of the evening. I’m looking forward to representing Buna.”
Congratulations, Makenzie; the community of Buna is very proud of you, and wishes you well during your reign.
By Barbara Davis
A dozen Cougar Powerlifters recently traveled to the Region 4 Division 3 Championships at West Hardin March 12, under the direction of Coach Keaton Baker, claiming First Place with points to spare!
Baker and his boys put on a show as always, claiming three First Place medals and a pair of Second Place medals to advance 5 Cougars to the State Meet, which is now scheduled to be held May 2.
Senior Tanner Hunt brought home gold in the 165 class, squatting 450 pounds, bench pressing 285, and dead lifting an impressive 465 pounds for a 1200 pound total. Classmate Chance Harding claimed First Place in the 220 class with an impressive 560 lb. squat, 345 lb. bench press, and a 500 lb. dead lift for a 1405 pound total. Andrew Platt finished in First Place in the SHW class with an impressive 1615 pound total comprised of a 685 pound squat, a 410 bench press, and a 520 dead lift.
Second Place state qualifiers include Hayden Wilkinson with a 305 squat, 180 bench, and 300 pound dead lift for a total of 785 in the 114 class. This will be Wilkinson’s second trip to State. Jack Broughton advanced in Second Place in the 148 class with an 1130 total including a 450 squat, 275 bench, and 405 dead lift.
Junior Mark Davis tied for Second Place in the 198 class, but was knocked down to third since his opponent weighed 5 pounds less than he did. Mark finished with a 1325 total, while the First Place winner in his class finished a mere 10 pounds ahead. Davis recorded a 545 pound squat, 315 pound bench press, and a 465 pound dead lift.
William Harding placed fifth in the 123 class with a 745 total, including a 270 pound squat, 190 bench press and a 285 dead lift, while Brandon Sarver earned tenth in the same class with a 610 total. Junior Michael Jackson placed fifth in the 165 class with a 1090 total, which included a 390 squat, 240 bench, and 460 dead lift. Classmate Connor Ellison finished sixth in the 220 class with a 1190 total, including a 470 squat, 290 bench, and 430 dead lift.
With 36 points, the Buna Cougar Powerlifting team finished in First Place ahead of Orangefield in Second with 27 points, and Hitchcock in Third with 19.
Congratulations to Coach Baker and his team on a great season, and best of luck to those advancing to State!
The Jasper County Jr. Livestock Foundation and Show has a long history of supporting the 4-H and FFA members of Jasper County that began in the late 1970s. In those days, the livestock show was held a few days before the annual Jasper Noon Lions Club Rodeo in May at the rodeo arena, and the grand champions were featured during the rodeo. The year 1986 saw a significant change for the JCJLF when the Foundation leased land from the county located on FM 777 in Jasper and built a new show barn with donated materials and all volunteer labor and moved the show to April.
The JCJLF moved to the present location across the road on FM 777 in the 2000s and also built a rodeo arena and concession stand. The foundation began giving scholarships to deserving seniors who had participated in the livestock show and who may not qualify for scholarships otherwise in 1995. All proceeds from the concession stand go into the scholarship fund. The foundation also moved the show dates to the last weekend in March.
Exhibitors show a variety of livestock which included steers, heifers, and bulls; pigs, lambs, broilers, and rabbits. Goats were added in the 1990’s as well as an Agricultural Mechanics show for students who were unable to show animals. Commercial heifers were the most recent project addition in 2014 with emphasis on showing Brahman influenced cattle that commercial producers in the area are looking for.
Students may participate in the show by being members of either 4-H or FFA and must reside in and attend school in Jasper County. Jasper, Kirbyville, and Buna have 4-H clubs and FFA chapters include Jasper, Kirbyville, Buna, and Evadale.
The JCJLF is a volunteer organization with members who donate their time and money yearly to ensure that exhibitors have a great experience. Many of the members were themselves exhibitors and have joined the foundation as adults to continue the great tradition of the livestock show for their own children and the current generation of exhibitors. Community support is vital to the livestock show through the buyers who purchase projects or donate supplies and equipment.
This year the livestock will be held on March 27 and 28 at the Jasper County Jr. Livestock Pavilion located on FM 777 across from the Jasper Airport. Friday, March 27, will start off with the market broiler and market and open breeding rabbit shows at 8 am respectively followed by the Ag Mechanics show at noon, the market goat show at 1 pm followed by the market lamb show at 3:30 pm. The market pig show will close out the evening at 5 pm. Saturday, March 28, the commercial heifer show begins at 10 am followed by the market steer show and open junior breeding beef show. All species have junior and senior showmanship contest for the exhibitors to show off their skills following the conclusion of each show.
The concession stand will open at 7 am both mornings and close after each evening’s events end. The menu includes breakfast tacos and quesadillas, and sausage biscuits for breakfast and hamburgers, cheeseburgers, chopped beef BBQ sandwiches, and link sandwiches for lunch and supper. Many people have said that we have the best hamburgers and BBQ around. A new item on the menu this year will be Frito Pie.
The Clover Kid show is one of the highlights of the event and will be held at 3:30 pm. This show is for children 3-8 years of age who are not yet old enough to show an animal project but want to be included. Many of these children have older siblings who are already showing animals. Past clover kids have shown dogs, chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs, steers, and heifers. It is always a treat to hear what these youngsters have to say about their animals.
The scholarship recipients will be announced at 4:30 pm. Many former scholarship recipients have gone on to successful careers because of the lessons learned from participating in raising an animal project for show.
The livestock auction will begin at 5 pm. This year, there will be a BBQ dinner and social hour beginning at 4 pm for our registered buyers before the sale. Door prizes will be available during the dinner. You do not have to be a business owner to participate in the sale. Many individuals and businesses add money on to projects during the sale.
Students use their earnings from the livestock auction to fund their college savings accounts and to use toward the purchase of their next project. Many of these projects are yearlong projects and these exhibitors work hard to present their animal in the best possible way.
The JCJLF would like to invite the public to come out and support our 4-H and FFA exhibitors on March 27 and 28 at the Jasper County Jr. Livestock Pavilion.
By Barbara Davis
Local developers Donald Ball, with Nautical Affordable Housing, and Brown Claybar, who is also the former mayor of Orange, are in the beginning stages of potentially bringing a senior living community to Buna.
The potential develo-pment is located on 15 acres on County Road 835 in Buna, which connects Highway 96 (next to Central Baptist Church) and FM 1004.
“We have an option to purchase the property, but it cannot be purchased until the application is approved,” said Mr. Ball. The developer has submitted an application with the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, which would allow for a 9% tax credit, should it be approved. “It would be affordable housing for seniors age 55 and older,” said Ball.
Ball tells the Beacon that the application is based on a point system, and awards are scheduled to be issued in late July 2020.
Ball spoke before Commissioners Court last week, advising that should the development move forward, it would be managed by ITEX Property Management. Ball’s firm has constructed similar communities in Hardin County and in Orange. Just outside of Lumberton, Ball is credited for developing the modern and beautiful La Belle Vie, a gated senior living community, which offers one and two bedroom apartments, which are handicapped accessible, include a beautiful swimming pool, workout facilities, and numerous amenities.
“Our plan is to develop 80 units, and we will consider expanding by an additional twenty to forty units depending on the need.
“Mr. Ball stated that citizens applying for residency would have to be 55 and older and have a background check conducted for eligibility,” said County Judge Mark Allen. The Court approved the resolution in support of the development, and voted to waive $250 of the floodplain inspection and permitting fee, which Mr. Ball advised would assist with the TDHCA scoring process.
“This would be great for the community of Buna, and we have had people approach us with this need,” said Mr. Ball. As the developers, Ball and Claybar will work the project from start to finish.
The Beacon will report application results once they become available this summer.
By Barbara Davis
The Evadale Volunteer Fire Department held their annual banquet Saturday, January 25, and much to the surprise of local firefighter Terry Faul, his fellow firemen and women selected him as Firefighter of the Year.
"He is a great guy, and is always up there even when he doesn't have to be," said EVFD Firefighter Carrie Fountain.
Faul has been with the department just a couple of years, but has been busy since day one. Known around the department as a hard worker and dedicated servant, Faul was extremely grateful and honored to receive recognition.
EVFD Secretary/Treasurer Jim Love says that Faul is the kind of firefighter every department wants. "His willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty is what earned him this honor," said Love. "He always goes up to the firehouse and takes care of what needs to be done without being asked."
Faul stood alongside Fire Chief Steve Conner and Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Thomas, humbly accepting his award Saturday evening.
Congratulations, Mr. Faul, on this well deserved honor, and a special thanks to you, and the entire Evadale Volunteer Fire Department, for the hard work and dedication you display toward the community.
Organizations that lay the foundation for stronger communities will have more resources to help them help others thanks to Brookshire Brothers. On Tuesday, January 21, the Brookshire Brothers Charitable Foun-dation awarded $123,000 in grants to 36 nonprofit organizations and 4 education foundations across its market area. The grants give organizations the resources they need to continue living out their mission of serving those in need. Trustees and company executives presented funds to the recipients at the Brookshire Brothers’ Distribution Center in Lufkin, Texas.
In making the presentations, Brookshire Brothers President, CEO and Charitable Foundation Board Member John Alston said, “You make things happen in your communities. You change lives. We are grateful to have the opportunity to help you live out your mission. We thank you for what you do every day.”
During the last decade, the Brookshire Brothers Charitable Foundation has given more than a million dollars to a variety of non-profits.
For nearly twenty years, Brookshire Brothers has invited its vendors to play in two Charitable Foundation golf tournaments each year. Vendor partners appreciate the opportunity to network with their colleagues while raising money for non-profits – all which support children and families and align with Brookshire Brothers’ core value of being a community grocer. Each year, the funds are granted based on the organizations’ needs and application requests.
Buna’s The Helping Place was among dozens of 2020 recipients graciously accepting donations.
By Barbara Davis
Thirty five-year-old Buna resident Jonathan Randall Hanlon was arrested Saturday, January 25, 2020, and charged with Burglary of a Habitation: Intend Other Felony, a First Degree Felony.
According to the Probable Cause Affidavit provided by Deputy Leonard Smith with Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, he was dispatched to County Road 812 in Buna, at approximately 5:23 AM, following reports from a neighbor believing the mobile home next to them had been burglarized.
The female neighbor reported to Deputy Smith that when her husband was leaving for work, a white man she did not know came up their driveway, asking for a ride. She said that he husband gave him a ride to the Shell gas station in town. She also indicated to the officer that her husband called her back stating that the man told him he lived in the trailer next door to them, which she knew to be untrue, as the owner is working out of town in Puerto Rico. “She said that she noticed the back door of the trailer was opened, and received a call saying the man was at another residence on County Road 812,” said the Deputy in his report. “The female said her husband told her that the man said he needed to go back to the trailer home and get some guns.”
Deputy Smith located the suspect sitting on the front steps to a nearby trailer home, and identified him as Johnathan Randall Hanlon. “He had some 9mm ammunition on the steps next to him, a gold color compass, a foreign coin, and gold face of Jesus,” said the Deputy. Hanlon allegedly told the officer he had just left a friends home down the street, but was unable to name the friend. He then told the officer he had just met the guy, and that his girlfriend had given him a ride.”
Deputy Smith spoke to his girlfriend, who indicated that they had been arguing all night, and she did not take him anywhere. “I detained Hanlon, and went to the trailer home to see if it had been broken into,” said Deputy Smith.
Upon arrival, the victim’s brother was on scene, and indicated to the officer that he had found several firearms hidden in several places outside the residence. All of the firearms were then photographed in the location they were found. Deputy Smith entered the house, where he found several other firearms, noticed that the dresser drawers were opened, an empty Kel-Tec firearm box, and located a pill bottle with Hanlon’s name on it. “Several of the pills were on the floor. I located a large sum of foreign currency in the living room, which appeared to have the same markings as the paper money in Hanlon’s wallet. I found a small change purse with foreign coins inside and more of Hanlon’s pill’s in the purse.”
Deputy Smith advised Hanlon that he was under arrest for Burglary of a Habitation with the intent to commit another felony, theft of firearms. “Hanlon was intoxicated on his prescription medications, and was transported to Jasper Memorial Hospital for treatment,” stated Deputy Smith.
Swing for the fences at Buna's Little League Park this spring! Registration is now available online! Visit the link below for more information!
JCAD has sent out homestead exemption renewal requests, which are due 30 days from the date they were mailed!
Congratulations to BVFD Firefighters of the year John Williamson and Geneva Wright! See this week's feature article!
Bruce's busts Kirbyville's Joshua Goodsell with stollen materials; detains him until police arrive. See this week's full article!