A luncheon at Victoria Country Club Wednesday kicked off the 40th annual Bluebonnet Youth Ranch Celebrity Golf Tournament that will take place Oct. 10-11. The event, which attracted more than 100 supporters, also served as a platform for an announcement that the ranch is beginning a partnership with South Texas Children’s Home (STCH) Ministries.
While rumors have circulated about the future of the Bluebonnet Youth Ranch, the fact is that the partnership will help the organization continue to serve children.
For the last few years, it has been difficult for a facility the size of Bluebonnet Youth Ranch to operate in a legally compliant and economically efficient manner because of federal and state regulations, said Claud Jacobs, a member of the board of directors of the Bluebonnet Youth Ranch. The laws lump all Texas children’s homes, large and small, under the same umbrella, which makes operations too costly for Bluebonnet Youth Ranch.
The number of children who can be cared for has reduced from 40 to 18.
“We have a beautiful facility that can certainly take care of more than 18 children, but we do not have the resources of a large facility to provide the services that are being required by law,” Jacobs said.
An all-night observer is required, which adds four new employees to the staff. In the future, the ranch will be required to have a nurse on staff 24/7. And case workers will be required to be on staff as well, among other challenging requirements.
“While we do not disagree with some of these rules for larger specialty homes, we know we can’t continue to be good stewards of your money and comply with all these new regulations, which reduces the number of children and increases expenses of staff,” Jacobs said.
STCH’s Homes for Families Program, which serves mothers and their children, soon will utilize the Bluebonnet Youth Ranch campus. Its Marshall Ranch Campus, located just outside of Goliad, serves 11 mothers and 27 children, and there is a waiting list for spots in the program. Homes for Families will expand its Marshall Ranch Campus to encompass the Bluebonnet Youth Ranch campus. STCH will be responsible for programming, including staffing, and will collaborate with the board of directors of the Bluebonnet Youth Ranch on other matters such as the budget and oversight.
“Homes for Families is very successful for us,” said Eron Green, president of STCH Ministries. “We work with moms and children together, so that’s two generations, and we know that the third generation is going to be more healthy.”
The Homes for Families Program has four stages — restoration, equipping, launch and landing. The Restoration Phase helps the families coming out of homelessness or abusive situations understand who they are and who God wants them to be, Green said. The Equipping Phase eliminates barriers that keep families from leading normal lives. For example, perhaps the mother needs help obtaining a driver’s license. The Launch Phase helps the families become independent. For example, the mother might need help securing employment or transportation. During the Landing Phase, STCH continues to work with the mothers and their children in communities across Texas to wean them off the support system so they can be successful on their own.
The goal is for the partnership to be operational in the next couple of months, Green said.
“It’s 100% a partnership,” Green continued. “And we will be involved in the golf tournament.”
The golf tournament’s celebrity co-hosts for 2021 will be songwriter Allen Shamblin and classic country musical performer Moe Bandy. Other celebrities will include Red Steagall and Janie Fricke, and more. About 350 golfers are expected to participate in the tournament.
“We’re super excited. I can remember in July 2020 when we began talking to the board of Bluebonnet,” Green said. “We started talking and this is where we landed.”
Eryka and Tamera Hosey push each other in everything they do.
As sisters, they push each other to be better in sports, in school and in life. Now, the identical twins are the top two of Bloomington High School’s graduating class.
“It’s exciting,” Eryka said. “It just feels good.”
The Bloomington High School students will graduate at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the school’s Mabel E. Wyatt Auditorium.
Eryka, who was born 18 minutes before her sister, is the class valedictorian and Tamera is the salutatorian with .2 grade points separating the two. That wasn’t always the case.
Tamera was the top of the class their junior and most of their senior years, she said. It wasn’t until the last few weeks of the semester that Eryka surpassed her identical twin.
The change in GPA came with remote learning, Tamera said.
“It was difficult to do work when it wasn’t face to face,” Tamera said. “I wasn’t really surprised.”
Eryka had been third in her class, and she set her sights to the top two alongside her sister, Eryka said.
“We were always at the top of our class, and we knew that was going to be our goal,” Eryka said. “It feels like it was supposed to happen.”
The sisters have no hard feelings, though. They saw it as healthy competition.
“Either way it still felt like a win,” Tamera said. “When she passed me up, I wasn’t upset. I just congratulated her.”
It didn’t matter who was valedictorian and who was salutatorian as long as they were at the top together.
“I feel like I’m more excited for her than she is for herself whenever she does good,” Eryka said.
Outside the classroom, the two ran track, played basketball and participated in the National Honor Society.
In all those things, the two made each other better.
“I’ve never felt anything different,” Tamera said. “I think it’s great to have 100% personal hype man.”
Their competitive nature was never seen as sibling rivalry. It was more like having something to strive toward. When Tamera made a better grade, Eryka would push herself to be better on the next test. When Eryka had a fast sprint time, Tamera pushed herself to run faster. It’s a natural back and forth between the two.
“It’s very natural and we are very trusting in each other,” Eryka said.
After graduation, Eryka and Tamera plan to attend the University of Houston-Victoria.
Eryka is eager to attend and study courses that will get her to her dream career of being a marital counselor.
Tamera plans to go into the medical field after getting a bachelor’s degree. She plans to become an OB-GYN.
“Life, even though it’s limited, is precious,” Tamera said. “I want to bring that into the world.”
The two are excited to attend college together and continue pushing each other to their best selves.
“It took me a while to believe in myself,” Tamera said. “It was a fun journey.”
Coming Sunday, a special report from Texas’ southern border. The Advocate looks at life in a shelter for migrants in Harlingen and an immigrant processing facility in Donna.
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Only a half dozen residents came to meet with Victoria city staff and give their feedback on the proposed sidewalk project near O’Connor Elementary School and Stroman Middle School Wednesday evening.
The city is currently in the second phase of an application for a grant from the Texas Department of Transportation for the project. They hosted the town hall Wednesday evening in an effort to get input from residents before submitting the second half of the application on June 14.
The project would put in 6,740 feet of new sidewalk near both schools. Total construction for the project is estimated to be $575,750. The grant would cover 80% of the costs, and the city would be responsible for $114,950. The city should learn whether they are awarded the grant in October, and construction should take about a year, according to city staff.
“This project is a partnership between the city and the school district,” said Mike Etienne, assistant city manager.
He said the effort began eight months ago and grew out of conversations with school district leaders after they had received complaints from parents about the lack of sidewalks around schools.
Although there are other schools that also need sidewalks, Etienne said, they chose this project first because it would be the easiest one to begin immediately. There’s no need to acquire any right of ways before beginning construction.
“Anything that can improve this Stroman Middle School and help our kids be safer, we are 100% supportive of,” said Liz Schubert, Stroman STEM Academy principal. She said many of their students walk to school, and this project sounds like a common sense idea.
Ashley Cano, one of the citizens at the meeting, has two kids who go to Stroman Middle School. She said they will often either walk to their grandmother’s house, which is in the nearby neighborhood, or go to the skate park after school.
“I just love this,” she said. “It’s really a safety issue.”
Part of the reason the city wants resident feedback is that having that input will make the grant application stronger in the eyes of TxDOT, said Katy Connally, grants administrator for the city of Victoria.
“Going forward, even after we apply, the input is still necessary,” said Connally. “Because if we really need to, we can change it before we start pouring concrete. And if that was really necessary, we would do that.”
Law enforcement officials testified that a man accused of killing two people was acting erratically during an unrelated arrest later that same evening in September 2018.
The Victoria officers’ testimony came after the accused man and a member of the audience got into a verbal altercation after the court broke for lunch, said District Judge Eli Garza, who is presiding over the capital murder trial.
Jesus Martinez, 32, is on trial for the deaths of Victoria residents Michelle Johnson, 31, and Dward Kitchens, 34, who were found dead inside a dilapidated home on North Jacker Street in Victoria in September 2018. Martinez is facing two counts of capital murder, which, if convicted, would be punishable by life in prison.
Detective Justin Garcia and Senior Police Officer Sherry Hornstein were called to the stand by prosecutors to field questions about their arrest of Martinez later on the day that Johnson and Kitchens were found dead. The officers were called to a fast-food establishment on Navarro Street in regard to a man pointing a gun at employees.
The officers arrested Martinez and charged him with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon. Body camera footage shown to jurors showed Martinez’s arrest, a search for the firearm and his transportation to a hospital for a checkup. Hornstein, whose body camera captured most of the footage shown, said Martinez’s actions and behavior in the footage were erratic and an indication of recent drug use.
In the video, Martinez said that the firearm recovered by officers is an airsoft gun and not an actual firearm, which the officers testified was not the case. Later, when at the hospital, Martinez seemingly states that is he is “feeling homicidal” when answering questions from medical staff. Martinez explicitly insults the officers in the video throughout.
Both officers testified that they did not know at the time of the arrest that Martinez was connected to the shooting.
During questions by the defense Wednesday morning, Kimberly Hoff, 31, a key witness who said she was in an adjacent room to where the shooting took place, fielded questions about her mental state during the incident, stating she was “very certain” Martinez was the triggerman.
Martinez’s attorney Merri Nichols’ questioned Hoff about her state of mind after the shooting, focusing on inconsistencies between her testimony on Tuesday during the state’s questions and her statements to police after she was arrested. Asked about why Hoff did not contact authorities about the shooting, she testified that she chose not to because of an outstanding warrant for her arrest in Galveston County for probation violation.
Hoff also testified to giving officers her maiden name in an effort to mask her outstanding warrants from officers.
Hoff was originally charged with capital murder in the days after the shooting, but a grand jury declined to indict her on those charges. Instead, Hoff was charged on two counts, which are still pending, of tampering with physical evidence. She is accused of hiding evidence connected to the shooting, including a bag of ammunition, holster and boots.
Hoff said prosecutors did not make a deal with her to modify or lessen those charges in exchange for her testimony.
Before calling the jury into the courtroom after reconvening in the afternoon for further witness testimonies, Judge Garza informed everyone in the courtroom that there had been a verbal altercation between Martinez and someone in the audience in a hallway outside of the courtroom after they recessed for lunch.
Garza reminded Martinez that any further disturbances could result in the revocation of his bond. He also stated broadly to attendees in the courtroom that any further incidents could yield contempt of court charges being filed.
Martinez declined to speak about the altercation after the proceedings concluded Wednesday.
During a court recess, Johnson’s brother, Ralph Rosas Jr., 30, said the altercation was between the defendant and him. Rosas said Martinez stepped in front of him, gave him a “look” and threatened him. Rosas said he did not escalate the situation further because of the pain it would cause his mother, who he said has been taking Johnson’s death hard.
“I thought of my baby girl and my mom ... that is what stopped me,” Rosas said.
Garza asked the families to stagger their exits from the courtroom, with help from the bailiffs, for the remainder of the trial.
Proceedings will resume at 9 a.m. Thursday.