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Posts published in September 2007

Head Start Center opens in NE Houston

AVANCE Houston hosted their Board of Directors, elected officials, community members and corporate sponsors at a ribbon cutting for AVANCE’s new Head Start Center at 2702 Aldine Westfield.
Future plans for the center include adult education and job skills classes, tutoring services for youth, and a computer lab—all with the goal to create a hub of learning for the entire family.
Keynoting the ribbon cutting ceremony was Congressman Gene Green.
“I was born in this neighborhood and I am thankful to AVANCE for this oasis of learning. AVANCE educates children and parents together, a vision which will soon materialize in this center as a catalyst for change in the Jensen Drive community.”
Other honored guests included Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, State Senator Mario Gallegos and Dr. Alasdair McDonnell, a Member of Parliament for the United Kingdom.

“I am overcome with joy. Here at AVANCE there is a hurricane of spirit and commitment to education. AVANCE represents the building of confidence and the uniting of families. I am delighted to be a part of this day,” Lee said.
AVANCE’s mission is to improve child well being through family learning and parental involvement in children’s education. AVANCE, meaning “advance” in Spanish, has served the educational needs of thousands of lower income families since 1988.
In addition to a total of 13 Head Start centers, AVANCE provides classes in parenting, adult literacy, healthy marriage, fatherhood, ESL, computer skills and GED throughout Harris County. AVANCE plans to incorporate these adult education programs in its Head Start centers to create comprehensive learning centers for entire families.

Optimist Club sets plans for Chicken Club, Golf Tourney

Golf tourney set
The Aldine Optimist Club is busy with plans for the fall, including the Chicken Club program for 4th graders, and the benefit golf tournament.
Chicken Club is a national program to inform young children of the dangers of drugs, and to set an example to avoid them. In the Aldine district, it is sponsored by the Optimist Club, and involves almost 5000 4th graders, from Magrill, Donn, and Bethune elementary schools. Clarence Johnson of Aldine ISD is in charge of the program, which includes a large rally on Oct. 23rd, with speakers and demonstrations. All participating children will receive a yellow tee shirt as evidence of their participation.
To support the program, the Aldine Optimist club raises money, and solicits donations from local businesses. At the luncheon this week, checks totallying $6700 were presented to Johnson by Steve Mead, club president, for the program. These included $4000 from the Optimist club, $1800 from the North Houston Bank, and $900 from Steve Mead.

Mead noted in his presentation that the Aldine program is the largest one in the state of Texas, and has been very successful in attracting students with the “no drugs” message.
Plans were also announced for the golf tournament, proceeds of which are also used to support the Chicken Club and other community activities.
Golf tourney set
The Aldine Optimist Club’s Tee Up for Youth Golf Tournament will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 3 at Newport Golf Club in Crosby.
The tournament will benefit the Aldine ISD FFA, the C.H.I.C.K.E.N Club, Special Olympics, Aldine Y.O.U.T.H., the Aldine Scholarship Foundation and the Aldine Pathfinder District.
Registration will be held from 10:30 a.m. until noon. The driving range will open at 11 a.m., followed by a putting contest at 11:30 a.m. The tournament will begin with a shotgun start at noon, followed by a buffet dinner at 5 p.m. and the awards presentation at 5:30 p.m.
The entry fee is $500 for a foursome or $125 for an individual entry. Banquet tickets for non-players are $25. Corporate foursomes, which includes a Gold Sign on the course, is $700. Gold hole sponsors are $300 and silver hole sponsors are $150. Mulligans (unlimited) can be purchased for $5 each.
The entry fee will cover all golf fees, use of a golf cart, lunch and dinner for each player, on-course beverages and player gifts.
Checks should be made payable to the Aldine Optimist Club and can be mailed to: 23020 Birnam Wood Blvd, Spring, TX 77373.
For more information, or to reserve a spot in the field, call (281) 449-1800.

Trash Contest winner announced

NORTHEAST HOUSTON– About 100 entries were received in the recent Count the Trash Cans contest, sponsored by the East Aldine Management District and the Northeast News.
Approximately half had the correct count, 48, and the others varied from 28 to 63. The winner was picked in a random drawing from the correct entries, and received a $100 cash award.
The purpose of the contest was to raise awareness of the importance of cleaning up our own neighborhoods, said Maria Espinoza, board member and chair of the EAMD Clean-up Commmittee. She said that other efforts would also be used to get the public’s cooperation in this clean-up effort.

More “Where were you?” questions

It seems I am frequently among the last to know! Such is life!
In the September 13th issue of the Northeast News, my good friend and fellow newspaper buddy, Bobby Horn, Jr. asked the question “Where were you on 9-11?” As with you it brought back some memories, in this case not many years ago but it also took me back many years about other, “Where were You?” questions.
On September 11, I’m sure I was among the last to know about that tragedy. As I recall the first plane hit the New York tower shortly after 9 a. m.( EST). I did not know about the event until just a couple of minutes before noon EST. I’ve been retired from Union Carbide Corporation (a large chemical company of that day) since 1991. A few weeks before 9/11 some UCC officials had asked about 30 of us, all retired, to meet with a couple of company reps and discuss improving communications between UCC and its retirees. We met in a large conference room in a company building but only a couple of people knew we were there. We had entered the facility about 7:30 a. m. (EST).
When reports of the attack began, since no one knew we were there, we were not told.

Not until we emerged a few minutes before noon to go to the cafeteria for lunch did we find out what had happened. As we walked into the lobby of the building it was filled with people watching on a couple of available TV sets. Like you, we were astounded Our work had ended and only lunch was left. Some of us skipped this free lunch and headed for home.
Once there I watched the events on TV for the rest of that day and into the next.
Bobby made me feel old in his written word of the last issue. He mentioned being too young to answer the question, “Where were you when JFK was shot?” I can well remember, as I was sitting in a Workman’s Compensation hearing at the Statehouse with several attorneys dealing with compensation problems. I stepped out of the hearing chambers for a soft drink and got the news. I returned, told the group and the hearing was immediately stopped.
The question “Where were you when Pearl Harbor was attack?” was the first memorable “Where were you,” of my life. That was a Sunday and my mother, dad, a cousin who was visiting with us, and I had all gone to church that morning, had finished Sunday dinner and I was sitting at a table with my mother and cousin playing three-handed bridge. My mother was a bridge player and at eleven I was learning the facts of bridge.
Those are the three memorable historic occasions of my life that are still quite clear. Others “where were you,” questions concerned President Roosevelt’s death while in office, D-Day, the day World War II ended and the day President Reagan was shot but not killed. They still stick in my mind but have less significance than the top three—particularly Pearl Harbor.
Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my West Virginia home!
Don Springer is a writer for the Charleston, West Virginia newspapers, but he and his wife often visit in Crosby & Houston. He can be reached at touchlife@

Aldine’s ‘Reach Out to Dropouts’ campaign proves successful

In the effort to reduce the dropout rate, Aldine ISD mobilized to encourage students to come back to school.
The campaign had two phases. The first part had dozens of volunteers and staff telephoning the homes of approximately 1,500 AISD students who failed to show up during the first week of school. The phone-bank operation on August 30 and August 31 was in advance of the door-to-door campaign on Saturday, September 8 to encourage dropouts to complete their education. Volunteers and staff were able to reach hundreds of students or their families during telephone operation.
The results of the phone calls also provided AISD representatives with data to map out the homes of 900 students who would be visited during the Reach Out to Dropout Walk. The walk proved successful as more than 300 volunteers that participated in the Saturday event reached more than 600 students, their families or neighbors throughout AISD.

To help students register, all of the high school campuses were opened on the day of the walk.
Of the students reached through the door-to-door phase, 15 dropouts enrolled that day while another 61 committed to enroll this week. More are expected to enroll or call to clear up student records.
“Reaching out to dropouts is not a one-day effort,” said Ben Wilson, AISD assistant superintendent of community and governmental relations and one of the organizers of the campaign.
“The school staff has been working since the first day of school to clear up enrollment records. This effort has resulted in finding hundreds of students, encouraging them to return to school, and even clearing up records in the cases where these were not accurate. We believe we will continue to see more students returning to school because of this effort.”
There are many reasons why students dropout of school. In many cases, the families or students have moved away and failed to notify the school, thus leaving records incomplete or labeling the students as dropouts. For others it is a matter of life choices and personal or family circumstances. And even lost interest may have played a role in their decision to leave school.
AISD has counselors, social workers and intervention specialists who can assist dropouts in completing their education. For those who work during the day, the Hall Education Center has a program that allows students to earn their diploma while attending school in the evening. And all of the traditional high schools assist students who are pregnant and want to complete their high school education.
Reach Out to Dropouts receives strong support from district and national leaders. At this year’s event, U.S. Congressman Gene Green encouraged the door-to-door volunteers at MacArthur Senior High School while many AISD administrators hit the pavement including all seven school board members.
For more information on how you can volunteer in this effort, contact Ben Wilson at 281-985-6202.

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren host annual conference

The Aldine Harris County Chapter of Grandparents raising Grandchildren held their fourth annual conference this week at the M. O. Campbell Educational Building on Aldine Bender. Attendees began the morning with greetings from Dr. Wanda Bamberg, Aldine ISD Superintendent and a tribute to Grandparents sung by Sidney Reed, granddaughter of the group’s President Mrs. Shirley Reed.
State Representative Kevin Bailey addressed the gathering saying,
“Grandparents who take on the rewarding but challenging role of raising a child help assure that thousands of Houston-area young people receive the care they need. The Aldine Harris County Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Support Group plays a vital role in helping these families stay together and prosper by providing vital information to the Grandparents.”

Texas ranks second among the fifty states in the number of households with more than 250,000 grandparents raising grandchildren. Frequently the custody arrangements with parents are informal leaving the grandparents with many legal challenges when they try to access needed educational, medical and mental health services for the children.
The annual conference offered events for both adults and children featuring numerous professionals and public-service officials presenting workshops on a wide variety of topics. The group sessions for adults included discussions on legal issues, social service and well-ness programs, Social Security and Medicare benefits. The children’s sessions included topics ranging from “Who Am I’ and “What’s My Name?” to “Man, This School is a Drag” and “Breaking the Cycle”.
“The level of participation by local Grandparents, the school district and government agencies was overwhelming. We received an impressive amount of information from the speakers at the breakout sessions,” said President Shirley Reed. “ It was particularly gratifying to see the level of participation by teenagers in the group discussions led by Mr. Dalbert Galloway.”
Among the other speakers was Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee. Reed said that Jackson-Lee spoke eloquently about the role of grandparents and she appreciated her attendance,
Local sponsors for the event included North Houston Bank, area businessman Steve Mead, Harris County Area Agency on Aging, Amerigroup, Evercare, and Jackson-Lee. Teachers from Hinojosa EC/PK and Head Start Center provided considerable support for the event.

Return of the hummingbirds

The hummingbirds are in migration across Texas on their way to Central and South America for the winter. If you have feeders up, you know what I’m talking about.
A magazine had a picture of a lady sitting and holding a small red container with hummingbirds gathered around on her finger. Great photo opportunity, so yours truly tried attracting the birds. They would hover about two feet from me but no closer. It is amazing to see a hummingbird that close and to hear the small bird with the drone sound of their wings flapping at 15 – 80 times per second.
The hummingbirds paid more attention to me than getting a drink.
While reading about the woman holding the birds, the article said it says it took a few days for them to get used to her hanging around next to the feeders daily for them to land on her finger.
Didn’t know it but hummingbirds are carnivores and the sugar water is just for fuel to power their fly catching activity. They have to fly south to get the bugs that can’t handle freezing weather.

Several years ago, yours truly walked up behind a hummer on a feeder and picked it up. Lil thing must have been sleeping as it was so easy to do and I let the Mrs. hold it for a second before letting it go. That’s bragging rights.
This hot weather has brought my peppers into the production mode if they are picked regular.
Granddaughter was here yesterday so she and the Mrs. picked peppers, bringing in nearly a colander full; mostly Tabasco Peppers by the front door and Cayenne from the back garden.
Having that many peppers, I couldn’t see letting them go to waste so I whooped up a batch of chowchow this morning using one head of cabbage and four yellow onions. No green tomatoes to be found at several supermarkets as they are scarce as hens’ teeth this time of year.
Tried sampling some of the finished product with Frito’s and only took two bites to say no mas. Not sure if allowing this batch to sit for six months or so will calm it down and take some of the heat out or not.
Read an interesting note the other day it says, a person’s true character is revealed by what he does when no one is watching.

North Houston Heights hears progress on water, sewers

Residents of North Houston Heights recently gathered for a community meeting to receive an update on the water and sewer system that will be constructed for their benefit. The project to bring an older neighborhood in unincorporated Harris County a public utility system is the only project of this type in the state of Texas.
“It has taken extraordinary cooperation between Harris County, the East Aldine Management District and the state to undertake this project,” State Rep. Kevin Bailey told the residents. “After the East Aldine Management District was created by legislation I filed in 2001, I went to the Texas Water Development Board and requested a planning grant for the area. It was the very first step in developing a long-range plan to provide water and sewer service in our older neighborhoods.”
The study that was completed in 2004 verified that many neighborhoods lack water and sewer service and have a high rate of septic failure, which leads to contamination of the water in shallow wells. The documentation provided information that is need for grants to pay for the cost of the construction project. When the system is complete residents will pay a water and sewer bill, which covers the cost of the systems maintenance and operation.

Bailey explained that once funding for a study was secured he visited with Harris County Commissioners to explain his long-term goals of providing a public utility in older, low income neighborhoods. “The county is not going to go into the water business, but they have been extremely cooperative and have worked diligently to find a way to achieve the goal of providing water and sewer in our neighborhoods that need service,” said Rep. Bailey
The residents learned that Harris County applied for and received a $395,000 grant to pay an engineering company to design the water and sewer system.
The original plan was changed after groundwater contamination was found on the east side of the Eastex Freeway at the site of the old Aspen manufacturing Company.
The plans had to be changed to get the water from somewhere else. Since Sunbelt Fresh Water Supply District is so close to North Houston Heights, they were asked if they could provide water. They agreed to provide water and sewer treatment, if Harris County and the East Aldine Management District would pay to expand their system so they could supply water and sewer service to the neighborhood.
The expansion to the systems cost $976,000 and is currently in progress.
Construction materials for the next final phase of the project have already been purchased and are in storage but funding for the final phase of construction is still needed.
According to Bailey several changes have been made to state law to enable the project to move forward, the most recent is House Bill 1314 that he wrote that took effect Sept. 1.
The legislation protects projects to install water and sewer infrastructure in unincorporated communities that are either impacted by severe adverse economic conditions or named “superfund” sites that can have a positive impact on the quality of life of community residents. The change in law will allow the project to proceed without securing certification that typically would cost about $100,000 and take a year to complete.

Chamber hears about business with corporations

The North Houston Greenspoint Chamber had their monthly luncheon last Thursday, and heard from Tiffany Walker, from Reliant Energy’s supplier diversity department.
Attendees at the luncheon learned how to approach a large corporation, and initiate contacts that could lead to supplier business. Walker gave advice on preparing your presentation, and having the correct qualifications and references for the work you are seeking. She said it is important to convince the company of your benefits and uniqeness.
The Chamber has moved their monthly luncheons to the first Thursday of each month. The next Chamber event will be a Breakfast on Thursday, Sept. 13 at 7:30 a.m. at the Aldine AFT location at 350 N. Sam Houston Parkway.

Buffalo Bayou cleanup high priority for Port of Houston and partners

Last week the Port of Houston Authority, the Buffalo Bayou Partnership and corporate partner Shell Oil Company launched the Clean & Green Port of Houston program to restore Buffalo Bayou to a cleaner and more beautiful waterway.
The year-round program is an environmental initiative that will use community service workers through the Harris County Supervision & Corrections Department to clean up litter and debris.
Five days a week, a land-based crew will collect litter and debris from the banks of the waterway, while a water-based crew will work from a skimmer boat to clean storm drains, banks and other natural collection areas. The program aims to collect more than 10 cubic yards of debris a day over the next year — enough to fill 83 garbage trucks. The result: a clean and pristine waterway for the community to enjoy.
“As the leading environmental steward of Galveston Bay, the port authority has supported efforts, including the use of the Mighty Tidy boat skimmer, to clean this tide of litter in our bayou system. But it just isn’t enough,” said James T. Edmonds, Chairman, Port of Houston Authority. “Through the initiative of our newest port commissioner, Elyse Lanier, and several partners, including Shell Oil Company as the corporate sponsor, the new Clean & Green Program will tackle this problem head on.”
Sylvia Garcia, Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner, said “The preservation and improvement of the environment of Galveston Bay and the Houston Ship Channel is a welcome gift for my district. I look forward to working with the port authority to help make the Clean & Green Port of Houston Green Program a success for all of us.”

“When I saw the trash littering our bayou, I knew that something had to be done. Lady Bird Johnson taught me that beautification is about more than making things pretty — it’s about taking pride in a place and making it special for everyone,” said Lanier, Commissioner, Port of Houston Authority. “Cleaning up the bayou and the ship channel tells people we care about our city. It says that every part of our county matters. I’m so proud of everyone who came together to make this happen, and I believe it will be the beginning of even bigger and better efforts to clean this region.”
The Houston area storm water drainage system carries street water and debris to curb catch basins that route the runoff through an underground system, which directly empties into the city’s bayous. All discarded soda cans, plastic bags, Styrofoam cups and other litter from the streets enter into this drainage system. After a downpour, a tidal wave of trash flows towards the Port of Houston, and ultimately Galveston Bay, causing severe environmental problems. As the water level recedes to normal in the bayou, trash is left in the water, along the bayou’s banks, and hanging from trees and other vegetation. This recurring litter negatively impacts the environment, neighboring communities and the city’s overall image.
Phase one of the Clean & Green program will focus on restoring a seven-mile area along Buffalo Bayou from Shepherd Drive to the Turning Basin, and the Turning Basin through the Houston Ship Channel to the Highway 610 bridge.
“Shell and its employees have a longstanding commitment to the communities where we live and work,” said John Hofmeister, President, Shell Oil Company. “We are pleased to be able to provide the tools necessary to make the Port of Houston Clean & Green program possible, and we look forward to playing an important role in restoring and beautifying the East End district.”
Kim Ogg, partner McFall, Breitbeil & Shults, PC, said, “Public-private partnerships like the Clean & Green Program are a key to improving our city. A critical first step was enlisting the aid of our criminal judges and the Harris County Community Supervision & Corrections Department. They now assign individuals working off their court sentences through community service to serve as the labor force of the program.”
Belinda Hill, Judge, Harris County 230th District Criminal Court, said, “Community service is one of a variety of alternative sentencing techniques that help probationers give back to the community. Providing services that benefit society is a win-win proposition. It’s good for the offenders, the victims and the community.”
Mike Garver, Board Chair, Buffalo Bayou Partnership, said, “The Buffalo Bayou Partnership has been keenly aware that the Mighty Tidy skimmer boat has challenges with keeping up with all the floating trash that flows through the bayous and the port on its way to Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Through the years, we have made great progress in making Buffalo Bayou a cleaner, healthier, more natural corridor. The new Clean and Green program brings us that much closer to achieving this goal.”
Sonny Flores, Board Chair, Greater East End Management District, said, “We have worked with Harris County Precinct 6 for a number of years on security issues. By maintaining the contract for the deputy constable from Precinct 6 and overseeing that relationship, we can best assist the effort in a productive way. The East End is the historic home of the Port of Houston. Together, we can make the future cleaner and greener.”