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July|August 2020

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Hello East Texans,

Let me begin by saying thank you to so many of you who reached out after the prior CONNECT issue went to print to let us know how uplifting and encouraging you found the previous issue. Our team works very hard to make sure you have the most up to date information for your health, both mental and physical, and we were honored to show how we as a community continue to be “Better Together.” Throughout history, there have been many famous women leaders in our world. Personally, I think of Mother Teresa, Maya Angelou, Condoleezza Rice, Hilary Clinton, Laura Bush—the list goes on and on. It does not matter what color your skin is or whether you are a republican or democrat, as women, it is our responsibility to help guide and encourage others to be the best that we can be. In this issue of CONNECT, we salute those women who dared to step up to the plate and become a leader in their chosen field. As the first women President/CEO of the Lufkin/Angelina County Chamber of Commerce in over 100 years, it is my honor to celebrate women in our community who have risen to the occasion and have proven themselves to be a leader in Lufkin and Angelina County. Strong leadership should always be a priority for any organization, but it’s especially important to have a unified, consistent leadership front during a crisis. As leaders, we have all recently endured that initial wave of panic and concern among our employees and Investors. The Chamber has tried to maintain a steady flow of communications to reassure you, our Investors and Community, and help guide you through this pandemic. Over my lifetime, I have had incredible leaders, both male and female, that have encouraged, mentored and challenged me. If it were not for them, who knows where I would be today. As the mom of a six year old little girl, it is my honor to lead by example and to encourage her to dream big. I want her to know that anything is possible with hard work and dedication. Serena Williams once said, “The success to every woman should be the inspiration to another. We should raise each other up. Make sure you’re very courageous: be strong, be extremely kind and above all be humble.” It’s time to rise to the occasion.


The mission of the Lufkin/Angelina County Chamber of Commerce is to continuously improve the economic prosperity, the business environment and the quality of life in Angelina County. Lufkin/Angelina County Chamber of Commerce 1615 S. Chestnut, Lufkin, Texas USA 75901 phone (936) 634-6644 fax (936) 634-8726

2020 EXECUTIVE BOARD Brian Cyr Board Chairman

Christian Dempsey

David Flowers Incoming Chair

CHI St. Luke’s Health-Memorial

Commercial Bank of Texas Huntington ISD

Terry Morgan Intermediate Past Chairman Morgan Insurance

Roger Lindsey Vice Chairman

Oncor Electric Delivery

Scott Skelton Vice Chairman

Skelton, Slusher, Barnhill, Watkins, Wells


Monte Bostwick Keven Todd

Lufkin Daily News

Lynn Torres Lufkin ISD

William Price Bancorp South

Kevin Pratt Etech

Forest Griffen Edward Jones

Taylor Haney Vice Chairman

Trey McWilliams

Will Alvis Vice Chairman

William George

Lufkin Coca Cola Bottling Company Merrill Lynch

McWilliams and Son

Randy George, Jr. CHAMBER STAFF

Jackie Polk Secretary

Tara Watson-Watkins

Melinda Moore Treasurer

Events & Engagement Coordinator

Lee Trans

Cascade Health Services, LLC


Tara Watson-Watkins President / CEO

Connecting Business to Community


President & CEO

Tara Hendrix

Jill Roberson

Chief Financial Officer

Megan Whitworth

Marketing & Communications Director

Southside Bank

Amanda Crocker

Brookshire Brothers


Brian Tyler

Yana Ogletree Georgia Pacific

Director of Membership

Megan Buckley Creative Director

Connect is a publication in partnership with

for advertising information call (936) 631-2630


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Leading the Helpers


No Trash Bags


Teaching East Texas


Exploring Lufkin



Angelina Arts Alliance

Angelina Beautiful Clean


Junkin’ For Treasure


Here For The Community



For Her Love of Business

Engaging Employees to Achieve Business Results


Ribbon Cuttings




On the Scene


Master Chef




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No trash bags Written by Megan Whitworth “Say no to trash bags for foster children” is a message that East Texas woman, Kay Kizer is spreading through her nonprofit organization, Kay’s Carry-On. Two black trash bags. That is what a foster child is given to pack their personal belongings in when they travel to their next foster home, Kizer said. Since January 2019, Kizer has donated rolling luggage for children ages 4-25 in the foster care system, replacing the two black trash bags. The luggage is filled with daily essential items such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, conditioner, shampoo, comb, brushes, a journal, Bible, pen and more. Children ages 0-3 receive a diaper nap filled with necessities. “It is important for a child to have their own luggage piece,” Kizer said. “It’s all about the sense of having a safe place to store their cherished items. Many children have their items thrown into a black trash bag or any color trash bag, which is degrading. It causes a child to feel worthless and empty. Having luggage elevates their self-worth and brings about dignity to their precious young lives. It offers hope.” Kizer is a 22-year foster care survivor and she can remember the trash bags that held her personal items. “When I saw those black trash bags, I knew I would be 4

leaving the home I was currently living in preparing to go to a new home,” she said. “It let me (know), number one: that I’m moving. Number two, the items in that bag are of no value, which are my personal belongings.” Even years later, the thought of trash bags still causes negative memories for Kizer. “After the many years of being in the foster care system, my thoughts on trash bags really trigger just negative thoughts about my personal belongings and self worth,” she said. “Children should not have to continue to live in that. “It is of great importance for every child that their personal belongings are placed in a loving way before a child leaves the home they are currently living in,” Kizer added. “It just makes you feel really invaluable, worthless. It really makes you look at your own life like it’s trash. No child should ever have to experience their life belongings in a black trash bag.” In 2019, Kay’s Carry On donated 120 pieces of rolling luggage. Kizer said the COVID-10 Pandemic has placed a damper on collecting and distributing luggage, but the organization was able to donate six pieces of luggage in June 2020 to a ministry. Luggage donations are accepted. Kizer said they prefer new or gently used luggage with wheels. Wheels are a “must,” she said. J U LY | A U G U S T 2 0 2 0   CONNECT

“Children need to feel independent by rolling their own luggage which provides elevated self-esteem and confidence,” Kizer said. Blankets, stuffed animals, books, writing items (colors, pens markers, pencils), personal items, Bibles and journals are all appreciated. Donations can be dropped off at Fairview Baptist Church in Lufkin “My hope for Kay’s Carry-On is to have a warehouse that holds every donation that children need and to touch as many young lives with our services, whether it is with filled rolling luggage, scholarships to attend a much needed camp, small home appliances for those aging out of the system, gift cards for groceries, … or a laptop for school or personal use,” Kizer said. “We want to be the very first organization that comes to mind. I see myself as the ‘Go-to Girl’ when those important needs arise and they will arise. I also see foster youth wanting to volunteer and give back in ways that will be fulfilling to them personally. Internships for young people and listening to their input and perspectives on what additional services that we can offer to foster youth.” Kizer’s goal for 2021 is to place 1,000 pieces of luggage into the hands of foster children and 500 diaper bags, all filled with daily essentials. She also wants to donate 1,000 laptops with cases to those who are aging-out of foster care to prepare them for their educational journey whether it is for college, technical or vocational schooling. “This goal is to ensure that all children affected by the system no longer have memories of worthlessness, instead instill positive recollections of their youthful experiences,”

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she said. Here are three ways to get involved with Kay’s Carry On: Volunteer. Volunteers are needed for luggage pick up; advocates are needed, and families are needed that will spend and share loving time with children in the foster care system. Donate. All contributions are tax deductible and all funds go to support children in the foster care system and their needs. Sponsor a drive. Host a Rolling Luggage Event on the behalf of Kay’s Carry On or become a storage site for luggage and a distribution outlet. “A reason that Kay’s Carry-On was birthed into existence is the fact that I was born into the foster care system and was rejected by my mother even before I was born,” Kizer said. “I was a newborn abandoned and left into the hands of strangers. I was then moved to many foster homes with trash bags. I want no children to experience what I did. “(I want them to know) that their young lives matter,” she added. “To Christ, they matter and are of great importance to him. Children are a gift from God and they need to hear that. God will turn what they would consider to be a mess into a message for them to share with the world. I want these precious souls to know that they have a voice and they need to speak whatever God places on their tender heart.” For more ways to get involved or to donate, visit kayscarryon.com. Follow along with Kay’s Carry On on Facebook @ kayscarryons and on Instagram @kays_carryon3.


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Exploring Lufkin Written by Taylor Commiato Photos by Clay Bostian COVID-19 has really changed the way people think and socialize. Which in turn, has also changed the travel industry. The Lufkin Convention and Visitors Bureau is excited to say that even if you don’t feel comfortable traveling far, we have plenty to offer right here in Lufkin. Of course, as restrictions are loosened, we are looking forward to all the ways we can join together again. Whether it is large events and gatherings, enjoying a live performance at one of our local theaters, a rodeo at the expo center, walking through the streets of Downtown Lufkin, or just simply enjoying one another’s company (without six feet of social distancing). With the current situation and fear of catching the virus, people are looking to the outdoors for their entertainment and travel needs. Lufkin is a center point surrounded by national forests, hiking & biking trails, camp sites, lakes and so much more! If you are looking to get out of the house, you certainly don’t have to go far. Here at the CVB, we have an allinclusive outdoors guide that lists every park and trail within Lufkin, as well as some surrounding Lufkin. We encourage you to come by and snag one. Take the family on a day trip and explore all that Lufkin has to offer in the 8

great outdoors. Other great ways to get the family out and about is to visit the Ellen Trout Zoo. There is so much to explore there. Watch the animals in their specially designed habitats, take a ride on the Z&OO Railroad, enjoy some fishing and walk the trails at Ellen Trout Park, and don’t forget your picnic lunch. Admission into the Zoo is just $7 for adults and $3.50 for children ages 4-11. On July 18th, visit Downtown Lufkin from 4-8 p.m. and enjoy dinner from a food truck in the streets. We close part of First Street off from through traffic and local food trucks serve dinner right there in the street. Do some shopping with our local merchants and support local business while you are there. Even with restrictions on events there are still so many ways to have a great time with your family. Sometimes you just have to think outside the box. For more upcoming events go online and check out the event calendar at www.visitlufkin.com, and be sure to “Like” us on Facebook @VisitLufkin for the most recent updates and fun! The Lufkin Convention and Visitors Bureau is excited to say that even if you don’t feel comfortable traveling far, we have plenty to offer right here in Lufkin. J U LY | A U G U S T 2 0 2 0   CONNECT

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Announcing 2020-2021 Performing Arts Series 20th ANNIVERSARY of world-class live entertainment in East Texas

Written by Ginger Trotter The Angelina Arts Alliance is thrilled to present the 2020-2021 season, bringing exceptional live theater to you, and celebrating its 20th year of presenting world-renowned performing arts in Lufkin. The season line-up contains a diverse range of performances, providing high-quality entertainment to the citizens of East Texas. Make this season extra special, by becoming a season ticket holder. You will enjoy having the same seat – guaranteed – for all eight performances within the Temple Theater Performing Arts Series, and never having to wait in line hoping to get tickets only to discover the show is sold out. “We are very excited to celebrate our 20th Anniversary with an outstanding line up of world-class performances and educational opportunities. We hope to share this new season with everyone because there has never been a better time to enjoy and experience the magic of live performances. More than ever, the arts will be part of recovery and the success of our community going forward,” said Jennifer Allen, Angelina Arts Alliance Executive Director. “We are also carefully monitoring state, local and CDC recommendations, so that we will be properly prepared to receive our patrons safely in October. We will be ready to present our East Texas neighbors with the world-class entertainment they have come to expect from us. We want folks to feel well-taken care of, and well-entertained!” For 20 years, the Arts Alliance has built an impressive history of presenting the very best of the performing arts and arts education programs and the 2020-2021 season does it again, with exceptional family friendly DISCOVERY SERIES events and arts education programming. The 2020-2021 Schooltime Series and Outreach Series have the potential to reach 10,000 children or more during the coming school year. For more information, ticket prices and video clips, visit angelinaarts. org. ANGELINA ARTS ALLIANCE – DATES TO REMEMBER June 5 - Taking requests for new season ticket subscriptions July 7 - Start processing new season ticket requests July 31 at 5 p.m. - Last day to purchase season tickets, based on availability, inperson and by phone August 3, 11 a.m. - OPEN SEASON begins. Tickets on sale for every show, online, in-person, and by phone August 4, 6-8 p.m. - Annual Volunteer Orientation & Sign-up: For more info or to RSVP, call 936-633-3220 10

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‘Here for the community’

Helping People Succeed

Written by Burt Hairgrove Photo by Joel Andrews What a start to the spring season here at the Expo. We have been caught-up in this whole COVID-19 event like the rest of the nation. Normally, the staff and I are working 50-65 hours per week during this time. We are all on a part-time basis now. With the Angelina County Fair, Premier Equine Auctions, Angelina Benefit Rodeo and the Expo Party becoming victims of this situation, needless to say we have been doing lots of spring cleaning. At the very least, it has certainly thrown us off of the regular rhythm of things at the Expo. However, we are thankful to be working and to have a place to report for work each day. Our thoughts are with those whose livelihood has been interrupted by this. Though we may not have our regular events scheduled, we are still here for the community. Being able to adapt has worked well, as we transformed the Expo into a transport terminal for our neighbor, Brookshire Brothers. With the strain put on the grocery supply chain, Brookshire Brothers needed to bring on more trucks, more trucks than their parking space or loading docks could accommodate. We were happy to provide a staging area for the extra rigs needed to keep things moving. With the demand for commodities high, more space was also needed for the Texas Food Bank’s distribution of goods. We were able to answer the call and provide plenty of space for a smooth and orderly operation. As this goes to press, we are anticipating getting back to normal and rescheduling some events, while some others are already planning for 2021. Personally speaking, the change in pace has not been totally unwelcome. I have been able to spend time at home with my wife and son, doing some projects at home together. My yard has never looked better! See you at the Expo!

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936.634.6621 1307 South First Street Lufkin, Texas Tax, Audit, Accounting and Business Advisory Services Volunteers load up groceries into a car during Texas Food Bank’s distribution of goods in March 2020 at the George H. Henderson Exposition Center. The Expo center was able to give plenty of space for community members to come out and get groceries during the COVID-19 pandemic. CONNECT  J U LY | A U G U S T 2 0 2 0

One Firm - Four Locations Lufkin, Livingston, Nacogdoches, Jasper 11

Her love of business Written by Megan Whitworth Eighteen years ago, Jackie Polk made her way to East Texas from Wisconsin as she took a job to work for Gene Lee of Lee TranServices in Lufkin, which provides custom regulatory compliance and risk management solutions to the transportation industry. “After meeting Gene, understanding his values and discussing the vision he had for his company, I made the decision to relocate to Lufkin to work for (him),” Polk said. When she first joined Lee TranServices, Polk was tasked to work on special projects with Lee, but that quickly evolved into director of operations, then vice president of operations and now executive vice president. “I have learned so much about being a leader from Gene since coming to work with him: how important it is to be yourself at all times, to get to know your team, truly know them and their family, and to believe and empower your team to do their job,” Polk said. Her journey into business started long before she started working for Lee. It began when Polk was a young girl working in her grandmother’s restaurant. Her grandmother was the cook, while her mother and two daughters, Polk’s sisters, worked as the wait staff. While her mother worked 12 hours days, Polk said she frequently ran the cash register, washed dishes, peeled potatoes and helped her grandmother clean the grill at night. “Growing up, both sides of my family owned small businesses, so I am fortunate to have been raised with a strong work ethic and a desire to serve,” Polk said. Her father owned a heavy construction business as well as a medium-sized dairy farm. Polk was often found riding the “lowboy,” a family name for the semi and trailer used to haul equipment. She would ride on the machinery while her dad operated it tossing hay bales and feeding calves. Polk graduated high school from Tomah, Wisconsin, where she said she continued to develop “my love for all things related to business.” “I had a teacher, Mrs. Clarice Franke, that saw something different in me,” she said. “So, when contacted by the local telephone company to see if she had any students that could fill a secretarial position they had open, she recommended me and that was the start of my business career.” 12

After graduation, Polk obtained a full-time position with the telephone company in their data processing center and attended technical college at night. She moved to the eastern side of the state where she worked for the cellular arm of the company and attended courses at Lakeland College until 1995 when she went to work for J.J. Keller & Associates, which like Lee TranServices, J.J. Keller works with companies involved in transportation, Polk said. While working at J.J. Keller, Polk served as client service manager. She also served in a consultant capacity and was the speaker for their nationwide Fleet Tax Compliance Workshops for approximately six months. After working there for nearly eight years, a mutual friend connected Polk with Lee. The rest is history. “I am honored to work for and with the team we have at Lee Trans and for Gene and Annette Lee. I try to lead by example and implement the important teachings I have learned from Gene,” Polk said. “I enjoy the interaction I get to have with our team members on a regular basis, getting to know them individually, making sure we are setting them up for success and celebrating with them as they achieve their goals, and ultimately, our organizational goals.” As executive vice president, Polk strives to know her employees, just not on a work-level but also on a personallevel. She meets with them often so they can discuss what is taking place in their departments and brainstorm how to overcome challenges and celebrate successes. “I work to equip them to find solutions, instead of just giving them the answers. I keep an open-door policy so that anyone, in any position within the company, feels comfortable to sit down with me and know that I will hear them out with an open mind and that I genuinely care. Whether it is about work or home, I care and want them to know we are in this together. We are a family, and as a family, we celebrate wins.” Each month they have an Employee of the Month, along with Gene’s OCD (clean desk) Award, Polk said. Together J U LY | A U G U S T 2 0 2 0   CONNECT

as a team, they celebrate birthdays and work anniversaries. If there is something going on that will impact the team, they get together as a “family” and they talk about it, Polk said. “I want them to know that it takes our entire team to be successful as a company. I can’t be successful without them, nor them without me,” she said. “We all need to be invested in each other’s success. I share with all new team members that we need to look for people’s strengths and step in and help where we find a weakness, instead of exploiting it. I truly believe we will never make ourselves look good by trying to make someone else look bad. That is what I want our team to remember – build each other up, don’t tear each other down. I want everyone at Lee Trans to love coming to work each day as much as I do.” Polk is married to her husband, Rodney and together they have a son, Austin who attends St. Cyprian’s Episcopal School. When she is not working, Polk enjoys spending time with family, traveling, photography and scrapbooking. “When I look back at the crossroads, I faced 18 years ago, I am so glad that I decided to take a chance and move to Lufkin, Texas,” she said. “It truly is a great place to live, work and raise your children. What is that saying? I wasn’t born a Texan, but I got here as soon as I could.”

When I look back at the crossroads, I faced 18 years ago, I am so glad that I decided to take a chance and move to Lufkin, Texas. It truly is a great place to live, work and raise your children. What is that saying? I wasn’t born a Texan, but I got here as soon as I could.” Jackie Polk

Lee TranServices, Executive Vice President

Need assistance with a new business or existing business?

Contact the Small Business Development Center! Larry Cain, Director lcain@angelina.edu | (936) 633-5394 3500 S. First Street | Lufkin, Texas CONNECT  J U LY | A U G U S T 2 0 2 0



Master chef

Master chef, business owner and follower of God are words to describe Britany Vinson. Over 10 years ago, Vinson had a dream to create her own catering business. So, she did just that with a team of people who believed in her craft. What started as a catering company, Tomé Catering has since grown to include: a drive-thru, meal prep, feeding kids at schools daily, a venue and the list goes on. Keep reading to learn more about how Vinson took her dream and turned it into a reality that grew into so much more. C: What inspired you to be a Chef? B: I truly enjoy making people happy with food. The opportunity to serve people with the creative art of cooking, seeing them smile, and feel less stressed because of a meal or service we provided is truly a blessing. I believe in leading by example and I will never be the type of person to watch as my team works. I cook almost every day to ensure everything that goes out the door is to my standard. I also enjoy writing so please also check out our “Food for Thought” page as I strive to feed people physically and spiritually. Giving all glory to God, because I wouldn’t be where I am without his grace, love and guidance. C: How does it feel to have your own small business in Angelina County? 14

B: It’s an honor and very humbling to have the support as a small business that we have had here at Tomé. Our community is very supportive. I love being creative with food and coming up with extraordinary menu ideas, and our community embraces it. I strive to treat people the way I want to be treated from sanitation, service and food quality. We make 98% of all of our food from scratch, and so it does cost a little more and our community is okay with that. 90% of all our meat is hormone, antibiotic, and all natural. My goal is to be at 100% soon. I am excited about the future. I am a visionary; so, I have lots of ideas. I consistently pray for God to open the doors for me and close that are not. I am excited to see what God has in store for us here at Tomé for the future! C: What is the hardest and most rewarding part of your career? B: The hardest part is long hours and it is rough on my body. The most rewarding is seeing people enjoy eating our food. We are blessed with an opportunity to serve and feed people all over East Texas. People trust us to help make their events special and that brings so much joy to me. C: What is your favorite dish to make? B: My favorite dish to eat is tacos. I love any kind of taco, but it has to be on a crunchy shell. My favorite dish to cook is anything new; I love being creative with food and coming up with new ideas. C: Is there anything else you would like to add? B: I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for the people I have around me. I have been very blessed to have some loyal team members who have been with me from ranges of three years to 14 years. I do not take that for granted. Tomé is bigger than I ever imagined. Tomé is bigger than me. Tomé is filled with my team or my family who strives to cook and serve with excellence every single day.

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Grace Juarez is a storyteller - through words and photographs. Since 2018, she has been sharing those stories in the Lufkin Daily News. She is on the scene of wrecks, breaking the latest COVID-19 updates, writing stories of 2020 graduates, sharing the next big thing an East Texan has done, and covering the latest Angelina County news. With hundreds of interviews turned into stories, Juarez has become a voice of the people in an ever-evolving world. Keep reading to learn how the East Texas reporter began her journey in the news world. C: Why did you become a journalist in East Texas? G: I found journalism by accident. When I started attending college, my dreams for the future were getting upended, and I wasn’t enjoying my English classes as much as I thought I would. A professor at Angelina College invited me to try her journalism class because she thought I would be good at it, and I ended up loving it. A number of years later, I was hired by The Lufkin Daily News as an education reporter. I began by reporting on the schools, teachers and students in Angelina County. Since the pandemic hit, our job descriptions have become looser, and we all tend to write about a wide range of topics. C: What is the hardest and most rewarding part of your career? G: The hardest part of my career is dealing with the public. Journalists are subject to a constant stream of public opinion, CONNECT  J U LY | A U G U S T 2 0 2 0

and it is common for someone to hear our name once, never read any of our work and decide we are bad at our job. It is impossible to please everyone, but there’s an old saying in the profession that if you’re not making someone mad, you’re not doing your job. The most rewarding part of the job is knowing that I’m making a difference. I try very hard to make sure that difference is a positive one, but in the nature of the business, sometimes that’s not the case. It is hard sometimes to deliver the truth, but it is necessary. C: How has the coronavirus affected your job? G: The coronavirus pandemic took a large toll on the newspaper. We lost several wonderful people, including a reporter and a community editor in the newsroom. Beyond feeling like we lost two dear friends, our department had to figure out how to operate with the additional responsibilities. Additionally, it has felt incredible to be a journalist during this time period. I feel like much of what we are documenting will be remembered by history and important for people to look back on. It has made me appreciate my profession more and value things I’m sure many like me previously took for granted. C: What advice would you give to young people who are interested in journalism? G: The best possible advice I would have to anyone interested in journalism is to try it out. If there is a program at your high school or college, get involved. The most informative classes I had were the practicum classes where I was able to pursue stories, conduct interviews, layout pages, take photos, etc. Another thing I would say is to be an effective journalist you have to be willing to learn and utilize multiple skill sets. The days of media outlets having a dedicated photographer or editor are slipping away, and many employers will expect you to be able to write, edit, photograph, find your own stories, develop sources and more. It is a great profession for people who dislike mundanity.



Law & order

The oldest of three girls, Maira Carrillo wanted to be an example to her sisters, Patricia and Mirella. She wanted to show them what you can do when you set your goals and work hard to obtain them. So, she did just that. After graduating from Diboll High School in 2006, the future attorney went on to attend Angelina College, Stephen F. Austin State University and Baylor Law. She worked as a paralegal at Law Office of Kaye M. Alderman, and then continued to work there after she became licensed. Carrillo gives her parents, Maria and Teofilo, credit for raising three determined daughters. Keep reading to learn more about the East Texas attorney. C: What inspired you to become an attorney? M: I wish I could tell you there was a pivotal moment in my life that brought on the idea to become a lawyer, but there isn’t. What I wanted more than anything as a young girl was to do something that would make my family proud and that would pave a path for my sisters. In high school, I set the wild goal that within 10 years, I would be a lawyer. I label it “wild” because there were moments when I doubted whether I would be able to accomplish this. I knew that my goal would require me to overcome several obstacles as a first-generation high school graduate. While the road to becoming an attorney was not an easy one, I am thankful for my unique experience because it taught me perseverance, but more importantly, it allowed me to show my sisters that they can accomplish whatever their mind and heart desires. While it was no doubt a challenging journey, and it took me a bit longer than the time frame I had set for myself, I 16

know that I could not have achieved this goal without the numerous individuals God placed along my path. C: What is the hardest and most rewarding part of your career? M: I practice family law which includes divorces, custody suits, child support suits and adoptions. As you can probably guess, more often than not, the people who come in to meet with me are not there because everything is going well in their lives. Not only does my job require me to provide individuals legal advice, but also to be empathetic and understanding to what a person is experiencing. Every person who walks in our office is unique and responds differently to the events that brought them into our office. Luckily, I have been blessed to work with an office who cares for each one of our clients as if they were a family member. The most rewarding part of being a family law attorney typically comes at the end of a case when a client turns to me and gives me a hug and thanks me and our office for helping them navigate through their unique journey. C: What advice would you give to young people who want to become an attorney? M: Write your goals down along with a set time-period to achieve them. Work hard to reach your goal. It may not always be easy, but you can overcome just about any obstacle. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. School counselors are a great resource, and if there is something they cannot answer, they will direct you to someone who can. You can call any one of our local attorneys as well. I am certain that any one of them would be more than happy to meet with you to answer any questions you may have. Call one of our Angelina County Courts to sit in on a hearing or trial. Our judges hear a variety of cases. Find one that sparks your interest and watch a couple of attorneys in action. Now, you can even stream hearings across the state by going to streams.txcourts.gov/. You may learn that you like a specific area of law over another. You will learn a lot in law school, and you don’t have to be certain of what type of law you want to practice when you start, but if you find you like a certain area of law, you may want to take more classes in that specific area.

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become diverse to be successful in the position. The most difficult part of the job can vary from day to do, but for me and for most people, any time there is conflict between individuals, a crisis situation, or a staff/volunteer problem, just put it this way: those are never fun. Thankfully, those days are very, very few and far between! The most rewarding part: A lot of times, rewarding moments come from the little things. However, knowing that CASA places a crucial part in keeping families together, that is always our goal, and our staff and advocates work very hard to achieve it. C: What advice would you give to those interested in becoming a CASA? Beginning in the summer of 2009, N: If someone is interested in Natalie Thornton began serving as becoming a CASA, contact our office executive director of CASA (Court at 936-634-6725 or visit our website Appointed Special Advocates) of the at casapines.org. The first step is an Pines, which is a volunteer organization online application that can be found that is court appointed to give a voice to on our web page. abused and neglected children. Under C: Anything else you would like to Thornton’s leadership, CASA of the Pines add? has grown from serving 136 children to N: When I look back, I think I over 400 children. Keep reading to learn have like every job I have ever had. more about Thornton’s journey and what I like to work, it keeps my mind led her to work for CASA of the Pines. busy, and I have never dreaded M: What inspired you to become a part Monday. However, working at CASA of CASA? and having such a great staff and N: Before I worked for CASA, I had volunteer group, that makes it all been an educator and the director the better. This job is a village, and I for Junior Achievement. When the would fail if it wasn’t for the awesome opportunity to work for CASA came CASA team. along, it was a great fit because I had been managing a non-profit and already had experience in grant writing, event management and volunteer recruitment. I really didn’t have any experience with the social work side, or staff management, but I was willing to learn. M: What is the hardest and most rewarding part of your career? N: Because I have been with CASA of the Pines for over 10 years, a lot of the harder days, I hope, are over. This type of position has an incredibly long learning curve, I would possibly say a two-year learning curve, because every day is different, and your skill set must be very diverse. If it is not diverse, it needs to

Leading the helpers

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WoodlandHeights.net *Medical professionals may include physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners. Woodland Heights Medical Center is directly or indirectly owned by a partnership that proudly includes physician owners, including certain members of the hospital’s medical staff.


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12/18/15 12:13 PM

Spotlight Photo by Liya Guerrero Photography

Teaching East Texas

Because she had wonderful teachers growing up, Angela Duncan became a teacher in Angelina County. She will be going into her 30th year of teaching this upcoming school year. She was also named Teacher of the Year at Dunbar Primary School for the 2019-2020 school year. For her, teaching allows Duncan to make the world a little bit better - with one student at a time. Keep reading to learn more about Duncan and her passion for teaching. C: What inspired you to become a teacher? A: From as early as I can remember, teaching was on my mind and in my heart. Growing up in Lufkin, I had incredible teachers who inspired me to be my best, even when I was at my most awkward and uncertain. Seeing that somehow these teachers could make such an impact on me, just sealed the deal. C: What is the hardest and most rewarding part of your career? A: The hardest part of being an educator is not the time spent on lesson plans or grading papers. The most difficult part of teaching is knowing the terrible situations that some of our students face on a daily basis - knowing and realizing that your classroom is the best part of their day. Almost every teacher takes this burden home. Our students become part of our lives and our prayers. While giving 100% and praying to make a difference in the lives of our students is hard, when that connection/relationship 18

with students and family is made it is also the most rewarding part of being a teacher. I feel that I can say this for all teachers, not just myself. Educators not only love sharing knowledge, we all love our students. C: How did the COVID-19 Pandemic affect your role as a teacher? A: What made distance learning the most difficult was losing the daily face to face connection with my students in my classroom. You cannot hug a student via a Zoom session, although I did give some air hugs. Those students who we worry about as they leave our classroom are now in that uncertain situation 24/7. COVID brought a lot of fear and uncertainty, for everyone. All educators were wondering even more, “Are we doing enough?” While there was so much uncertainty, I also feel that COVID brought out the best in humanity. I watched my district, Lufkin ISD pull together to serve students and families almost immediately. Everyone was adjusting but doing so together. I am looking forward to being back in my actual classroom with my students in the new year. As a matter of fact, all educators are counting down the days until we have our students “with” us. I think that we all know that things will not be the same. Teachers are going to have to be flexible. We are all going to be working to find a “new normal.” What I do know is that I am so excited to see my student’s faces in person so I can take what I have learned during COVID and make their classroom experience even better. C: What advice would you give to those interested in becoming a teacher? A: My biggest advice for anyone wanting to become a teacher is simple: Love the students. Love them all regardless of their situation, behavior, skin color, etc. Make sure that each one knows they have unlimited potential and that you respect them. When they feel that you love them and their emotional needs are met, the learning falls into place. Teaching is the most rewarding career that you can choose if you keep your heart and mind open.

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NE W ANG E L I NA BEA U TI FUL / C L EA N E XE C U TI VE D IR E CT OR - EMI L Y TH ORNT ON Emily Thornton was recently named Executive Director for Angelina Beautiful/Clean (AB/C). Prior to joining AB/C, Emily worked in advertising as both a graphic designer and content strategist. She has a Bachelor of Science degree from Stephen F. Austin State University and studied Mass Communications with a focus in Public Relations and Advertising. Emily loves spending her free time with friends, traveling, and has a strong passion for art and design. Â Emily is an East Texas native with a strong passion for public service and is proud to call the Piney Woods home. She will make every effort to help make Angelina County a clean, green, and great place to live, work, and play.

AB OU T ANG E L I N A B E A UTIF UL / C L E A N Angelina Beautiful/Clean's main focus is on education programs, litter prevention, beautification projects, solid waste disposal tools, and many other types of outreach. AB/C works alongside other organizations to help educate, empower, and help the East Texas environment.





Be sure to turn the lights off once you leave a room, and utilize energy or power saving appliances.

Utilize reusable materials, and make them a part of your daily routine. Also, always recycle paper and plastic material!

Help beautify Angelina County, & make a donation today! Visit our website at angelinabeautifulclean.org for more information!

If you are interested in supporting the efforts of Angelina Beautiful/Clean, please contact Emily Thornton at ethornton@lufkintexas.org or call 936-63CLEAN (936-632-5326). CONNECT  J U LY | A U G U S T 2 0 2 0


Made in Angelina County

Junkin’ for treasures The above photo shows where Treasures Events & Wedding Rentals started in the summer of 2013.

Written By Megan Whitworth Junkin’ is a slang term for antiquing or shopping at thrift or second-hand stores. One Lufkin woman made her passion for junkin’ a full-time job to help brides and partygoers throw the grandest celebration in East Texas. “I come from a long line of flea marketers,” said Stacy Brown, owner of Junk’n Treasures Events & Wedding Rentals. “I have always loved craft shows, garage sales and the like. I have had craft booths and booths in antique shops many times over the years. With antique booths, you must always be hunting for awesome treasures to put in it. “I saw a need for the market of unusual and one of a kind décor,” she added. “Not everyone enjoys the hunt for treasures, but they want them. I’m happy to oblige. No one has to twist my arm to go hunting for new treasures.” Late summer of 2013, Brown launched her business after a friend requested to rent a piece of furniture that Brown had. She renovated and turned an old building on her 20

property into a showroom. That was her first location for over five years. “I wanted to move the business uptown,” Brown said. “I wanted more exposure as people were learning about Junk’n Treasures. I was scared to death to make the move but kept looking.” Then in May 2019, Brown moved into a building downtown on Lufkin Avenue, but six months later she outgrew the property and moved her shop into Abrams, a venue space for weddings and parties located at 110 S. 1st Street, Lufkin. She also operates Abrams. “We outgrew that building while moving into it, but I felt safe after taking such a huge step. Finally, I was brave enough to tell the property manager that I needed a larger space. So, I took another leap of faith with fear and moved into Abrams. I never intended to operate a venue, but here we are.” Brown said seeing her clients happy is what inspires her to open her doors every day. J U LY | A U G U S T 2 0 2 0   CONNECT

“Some clients enter the venue/ shop and are so stressed out,” she said. “We visit; I show them around, make suggestions, help them with visions and their face lights up. The light bulb goes off. More times than not, I have clients who say, ‘I feel so much better now after coming in.’” Brown said Junk’n Treasures serves venue rental clients and offsite clients with their “unique, one of a kind rental décor” and also carries many décor basics. “Each client is important to us,” she said. “We deliver décor rentals offsite for clients who choose outdoor venues or other locations. We have delivered and/ or decorated from here to Beckville to League City, Texas. We are not a cookie cutter business. We work with our clients in the best way possible to meet their event and décor needs.” Typically, the spring is a busy season filled with weddings and parties in the dozens, but when the COVID-19 crisis hit Angelina County, Junk’n Treasures also took a hit, Brown said. Realizing that her business was in jeopardy, the Lufkin woman knew she had to do something to keep her business afloat during the pandemic. “This was seriously a flight or fight situation. I chose to fight,” she said. She collaborated with several sources on how to save her business. She watched trainings and webinars. She worked with her software team to merge the shop’s inventory online at junkntreasurestx.com. She added a Wishlist to

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1201 W. Frank Ave. | Lufkin | 936.634.8111 CHIStLukesHealthMemorial.org CONNECT  J U LY | A U G U S T 2 0 2 0


Made in Angelina County her website, which allows clients to add products to a list that they want to buy and save them in their user account for future reference. Brown also worked with Nettles Venture to add a virtual tour of Abrams to the website so potential clients can tour the venue from the safety of their home. “This is an awesome feature that I am so thankful to offer,” she said. Brown said she is ready to get back to celebrating weddings and parties again after months of downtime. “Although the COVID pandemic will forever change our society and the ways in which people socialize,” Brown said. “I look forward to our community entering back into living life, bustling around downtown and of course, celebrating events with Junk’n Treasures.” As Brown predicts a busy fall as life slowly returns to normal and with events on the calendar, she looks back at the start of it all and never could have imagined where she is today - running a successful business doing what she loves in East Texas - junkin’ for treasures. “At times I’m in disbelief that I actually have a business in Angelina County,” Brown said. “It was so unexpected. I never told myself that one day I’m going to own a business, but here I am and I love it.” For more info on Junk’n Treasures Event Decor Rentals, visit junkntreasurestx.com. Follow on Facebook @ junkntreasureslufkin and on Instagram @junkntreasures for the latest.

At times I’m in disbelief that I actually have a business in Angelina County. It was so unexpected. I never told myself that one day I’m going to own a business, but here I am and I love it.”

Stacy Brown Owner, Junk’N Treasures Event & Wedding Rentals


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Made in Angelina County

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Engaging employees to achieve business results Written by Michael Dobert Many successful businesses and organizations achieve business results due to their diligent annual business planning including specific Organizational Goals and Strategies in areas such as: 1. Employee Effectiveness 2. International Operations 3. Customer Satisfaction 4. Financial As businesses and organizations continue to navigate the current landscape and revisit, change, and leverage annual and long-term goals and strategies related to achieving specific business outcomes, it is important to ensure clear communication and employee engagement. The objectives of the business plan including specific goals and strategies may not be fully realized if your employees are not aware of those goals and understand their role, particularly amongst change and opportunity. 5 Simple Steps to Engaging Employees as Business Partners achieving Business Results: 1. Communicate – If you’ve taken the time to develop a business plan with goals and objectives, communicate and share those with your employees. This 24

is often a missed opportunity and your employees may be key to meeting your business objectives. It all starts with good communication. 2. Solicit Feedback – Most business owners and leaders would agree the best ideas come from those doing the job. It is important to create an environment of openness and trust engaging your employees to solicit their ideas and feedback as to goals and their role. If you want your employees to contribute to business results, we need to treat them as business partners. 3. Employee Performance Appraisals and Individual SMART Goals – Consider ensuring written individual goals aligned with organizational goals as part of the performance appraisal process. If there are specific business goals related to cross selling products and services, how do your employees play a role and do the individual goals equal the aggregate. Do you have specific skills, knowledge and abilities you need your employees to gain and is there a specific goal to achieve? Make sure the goals are well defined, measurable and you meet with employees throughout the year to ensure outcomes and gain feedback. 4. Driving Employee Behavior – Know what motivates your employees and create tangible and intangible J U LY | A U G U S T 2 0 2 0   CONNECT

incentives tied to individual goals and business outcomes; e.g.: bonus, commission, and other reward and recognition programs such as peer recognition. 5. Leadership - Lead by example, enable others to act, encourage the heart – It all starts with good leadership. Communicating your business and/or organizational goals to employees and other stakeholders, ensuring individual goals are aligned with organizational goals, and managing for outcomes will help ensure the success of your business or organization. For more information or ideas and all your Human Resource Consulting needs, email mdobert@hrinalignment. com. Michael J. Dobert, SPHR, SHRM – SCP, is Owner &

Principal of HR in Alignment, LLC; Providing Strategic Human Resource Consulting Solutions. More information may be found at hrinalignment.com Michael is a proud graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University with over 28 years of Human Resource and Business Strategy experience. Having begun his career in Lufkin, Mike remains part of the East Texas community. Mike earned his Senior Human Resource Professional certification(s), as well as additional professional certifications in Diversity, Leadership and Change Management. Mike is honored to serve various non-profits as a board member, as well as donating time and services for free to non-profit agencies and the Chamber community. Mike is also a proud Investor of the Lufkin/Angelina County Chamber of Commerce and served as the 2016 Chairman of the Board for the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce.

Join Michael Dobert on Friday, July 17 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for Chamber University in the Chamber Community Room. His presentation as titled: “Moving Forward: Strategically Aligning your Organization for Business Outcomes.” He will discuss: Managing Change: Trends in the Workplace, Engaging Employees to Achieve Business Results, and HR Compliance Update: Navigating COVID 19 & Beyond. The cost to attend is $35. To reserve a seat or for more info, email RSVP@LufkinTexas.org or call 936-6346644. Thank you to Presenting Sponsor, McWilliams & Son Heating & Air Conditioning, Gold Sponsor – Lufkin Economic Development Corp., and Bronze Sponsor – Etech for supporting Chamber University.

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Anchor Behavior Consulting and Counseling Services Welcome to the Chamber, Anchor Behavior Consulting and Counseling Services! Owner, Cyndi Gamble has been a counselor for over 15 years working with a cognitive behavior approach. She offers counseling services for ages 4-100 and special education advocacy for families new to the special education/504 process. You can learn more about Anchor Behavior Consulting and Counseling Services by calling (936) 215-6464 or visiting anchorbehavior.com.

Kay’s Carry On Welcome to the Chamber, Kay’s Carry On! Founder, Kay Kizer launched the nonprofit in January 2019. The mission of Kay’s Carry On is to collect and donate rolling luggage for children in the foster care system. To donate new or gently used rolling luggage, visit KaysCarryOn.com. Follow the nonprofit on Facebook @ kayscarryons and Instagram @kays_carryon3. 26

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1st Choice R&E General Contractors Brittany Hall Certified Personal Training and Health Coaching LLC

RENEWING INVESTORS A Pineywoods Home Health AAA Trophy, T-Shirts & Sport Shop ASAP Roofing & Construction Acadian Ambulance Service of Texas, LLC. Ace Paint Contracting Align Midstream Partners II American Real Estate - Liz Jeffrey American Real Estate - Savannah Haney American Red Cross Angelina American, Inc. Angelina County Service Company B & L Prosthetics BP Media Group Bentley’s Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Billy Lee’s Locksmith Service - #B11411 Blue Bell Creameries Brookshire Real Estate Century 21 Cota Realty- Michael Bryan Century 21 Cota Realty- Sandy Bryan Chance Law Firm, PLLC Charanza Law Office Chili’s Grill and Bar Company Name Connections Counseling and Psychological Services Custom Designs by Melinda DP Solutions, Inc. DP Solutions, Inc. Deena & Co. Commercial Cleaning East Texas Asphalt Company, LTD. East Texas Monument Company Edward Jones - Forest Griffin, Financial Advisor Edward Jones - Jay Schwartz, Financial Adviser Edward Jones - Vince Treadwell, Financial Advisor Express Employment Professionals Falco Media Services Fenley & Bate, Attorneys At Law Fenley & Bate, Attorneys At Law First United Methodist Church Lufkin Floors N More GENCO Federal Credit Union Gibraltar Construction HR in Alignment, LLC Haglund Law Firm

INVESTOR ANNIVERSARIES 30 Years La Quinta Inns #581 25 Years Angelina College Small Business Development Center Cook Tire & Service Center

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Castleberry Services, Inc. Sydney Loggins, American Real Estate

APRIL/MAY Harmony Products Company Healy’s Frameworks KSA Engineers, Inc. Kaye M. Alderman, Attorney at Law Kingham Dalton Wilson, Ltd. Kwik Kopy Printing Landmark Pest Control Langston Construction, Inc. Lee Trans Legacy Real Estate Group Little Caesar’s Pizza Lopez Pressure Wash LufTex Gears Lufkin Federal Credit Union Lufkin Industries LLC (a Baker Hughes Company) MSGPR Ltd Co. McCleskey Enterprises Merle Norman Cosmetics Millenia Water & Ice Museum Of East Texas Physicians Of East Texas, L.L.C. Physicians Of East Texas, L.L.C. Principal Financial Group Regional Physical Therapy Center S.Y. Distinctive Homes, LLC Schlotzsky’s Socia Septic Systems Southwood Drive Animal Clinic Stephen F. Austin State University Sterling Site Access Solutions Strickland Plumbing Suddenlink Communications Texas Farm Credit Texas Metal Casting Company The Blood Center East Texas The Coalition The Crawfish Shop The Joseph House The Kiwanis Club of Lufkin Todd, Hamaker & Johnson, LLP Trudy Giddens Patrick, CPA, PC U. S. Rep. Louie Gohmert Visiting Angels Windco, Inc. Wishing Well Antiques & Gifts Woodland Heights Medical Center


10 Years Alzheimer’s Association Hammer Equipment William C. Royle


First Friday Luncheon, presented by Lufkin Coca-Cola Bottling Co.


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ADVANCE’D TEMPORARIES, INC. 1411 E. Lufkin Ave • Lufkin (936) 632-8204 Medical • Clerical • Industrial 31

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July/August 2020