Written by Phil Cerroni
By Phil Cerroni
The Irving Mall was packed on Aug. 18. The parking lot entrance to the food court was filled with a line that snaked around both sides and out into the food court, making its way towards folding tables manned by volunteers who were filling out paperwork and screening clients.
The Back to School Fiesta is the mall's yearly event during which it teams up with Amerigroup and Care Van to give out free vaccinations and school supplies to students starting school in a few weeks. The event focused on children who qualify for Medicaid and CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program) and those who are under-insured. The vaccinations administered by Care Van nurses were the mandatory vaccinations these kids need in order to attend classes this fall.
Irving Mall's director of marking, Liz Barth, was very positive about the benefits and unique scope of their event that was meant not only to provide medical aid to kids, but also to create an event that is truly for the community.
“Other events will give away school supplies, but the school supplies are just the icing on the cake. We want to get the kids out and give them a reason to be immunized. Our goal was to try to service between 300 and 400 kids, and we reached just under 350,” Barth said.
“We didn't want people to just show up at some building, get the shots and leave,” she continued. “We wanted to make an experience – we wanted to provide a fun atmosphere. No one wants to get shots, so we wanted to have more of an exciting event.”
Although the hundreds of attendees made the event look like a logistical nightmare, the fiesta ran like a finely tuned Italian sports car. Barth pointed out that logistics, not the supply of vaccinations limited the number of children they could service. She assured me that they had enough shots to immunize all the children who came, but the lengthy screening process slowed down the procedures.
“We had to do the appropriate screenings and make sure the shots were done medically correct. There's only so many kids you can get in at one time,” explained Barth. “We had a system where we gave colored bands for every hour whenever they first registered, so that if they came a little bit later, they could come back. They wouldn't have to stay in line, they could show their bands when their appointment was.”
Besides immunizations, there were various organizations that came out in support of good health. The Fire Department offered free blood pressure monitoring (for the adults, mostly), and DART had a Wheel-of-Fortune style game where kids could spin and win Band-Aids and other supplies. The Irving Family Dental Clinic embraced the spirit of season, as well, and offered free exams and cleanings to youngsters who qualified for vaccinations.
Beth Stodieck is the lead nurse and area coordinator for the Dallas/Fort Worth area for Care Van, a nonprofit that specializes in providing free vaccinations to underprivileged children.
“There is a population who does not have the means to go to a private physician. Care Van goes one step further than most other providers because we charge nothing for our services. Most providers charge a fee for administration,” Stodieck said.
It is a testament to the community that it can come together to give kids the vaccinations they need. Although most of these kids have some form of medical coverage, none of it is adequate, but Irving's citizens and businesses are stepping in to pick up the slack.
Last Updated on Sunday, 19 August 2012 17:11
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Jason Alderman
On the fun-o-meter, I'd probably rank back-to-school shopping right above getting a flu shot and preparing income taxes. Never mind the hassle of figuring out what our kids need for the coming school year and dragging them to the mall, it's just so expensive.
For example, our son insists that we replace his baseball glove and bat as he enters 7th grade. (He's right – his four-year-old mitt has seen better days.) Also, our daughter is starting soccer and needs cleats – good ones aren't cheap and footwear is one area where we refuse to scrimp.
Many years ago my wife and I learned our lesson and started setting aside money each month for the inevitable – and unexpected – expenses that crop up each fall. By trial and error – and sound advice from fellow parents – we've developed a back-to-school budgeting checklist:
First, calculate how much you can afford to spend on school-related expenses without blowing your overall budget or racking up debt. Scoring bargains won't help your bottom line if you end up paying interest on unpaid balances.
Next, make a comprehensive list of anticipated expenses for each child and build in a cushion for unexpected costs. Try these strategies:
Examine previous years' bills and compare notes with other, more experienced parents.
Ask the school which supplies they expect you to buy. Pool resources with other families to take advantage of volume discounts and sales.
Spread clothing purchases throughout the year so your kids won't outgrow everything at once; plus you can take advantage of off-season sales.
Review school dress codes so you don't waste money on inappropriate clothing.
Before buying new clothing or accessories, look for "gently used" items in the closets of your older kids, friends and neighbors, at garage sales, thrift and consignment stores, and sites like Craig's List.
Find out how much extracurricular activities (athletics, music, art, etc.) cost. Account for uniforms, membership dues, private lessons, field trips, snacks, etc.
Compare the cost, convenience and nutritional value of school lunches and snacks versus food you prepare yourself.
Learn your school's policy on immunizations and see what's covered by your insurance – or which ones you can access free at health fairs or community clinics.
Factor in public transportation, school bus or carpool expenses.
Although shopping online can save money, time and gas, don't forget shipping and return costs, which could undo any net savings. If your kids are old enough, put them in charge of online comparison shopping.
Clip newspaper and online coupons. Many stores will match competitors' prices even if their own items aren't on sale. Plus, many consolidation websites post downloadable coupons and sale codes for online retailers.
Mobile shopping apps let in-store smartphone and mobile browser users scan product barcodes and make on-the-spot price comparisons, read reviews, download coupons, buy products and more.
Some parents wrestle over whether or not to take their kids on shopping trips. I think it's worth the effort, so they can hear and absorb your decision-making process and understand what's available to spend. My kids are probably sick of hearing me say, "I'm going to buy this brand of underwear because it's cheaper, which will give us more money to buy a better-quality jacket."
Bottom line: Back-to-school shopping can be tedious, but if you plan carefully, you can save time, money and aggravation.
Last Updated on Sunday, 19 August 2012 17:10
Written by Phil Cerroni
In an era of negative news, the efforts of people who volunteer in their communities often go unnoticed. Some of those unsung heroes are students in the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) who demonstrate their ability to serve as role models because they are making a difference where they live and go to school.
Some have served as camp leaders, writers and photographers; others have volunteered their time at food books, churches, homeless shelters and other places where their talents help children and adults. They have inspired other students, as well as DCCCD staff; as a result, eight students have been named 2012-2013 LeCroy Scholarship recipients by the DCCCD Foundation for their outstanding leadership and academic achievements.
The program honors DCCCD’s former chancellor, Dr. R. Jan LeCroy. Students selected as LeCroy Scholars receive full tuition and books for up to four semesters. Selected DCCCD students receive full tuition and books per semester for the remaining period of their two-year program. All recipients may attend any one of the district’s seven colleges: Brookhaven, Cedar Valley, Eastfield, El Centro, Mountain View, North Lake or Richland.
The scholarship recipients, the colleges they attend and their chosen fields of study are:
Cornelius Allen of Irving, El Centro College, computer science;
Laura Anne Farmer of Dallas, El Centro College, English;
Erica Furgeson of Garland, Brookhaven College, biology/radiology;
Tonychris Nnaka of Garland, Brookhaven College, nursing;
Fabiola Resendiz of Dallas, Eastfield College, criminal justice;
Tina Tip of Carrollton, Brookhaven College, human resources;
Annie Ruth Warth of Irving, El Centro College, art; and
Cody Wells of Rowlett, Eastfield College, architecture.
One other DCCCD student is a returning 2011-2012 LeCroy Scholar: Christian Ramirez.
Source: Dallas County Community College District
Last Updated on Sunday, 19 August 2012 17:09
Written by Phil Cerroni
Splash and play
Staying cool on a hot summer’s day, Jorge (5) and Gebriel (4) Sanchez enjoy playing with action figures. Photo by John Starkey
Last Updated on Saturday, 11 August 2012 12:51
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Amanda Casanova
The Las Colinas Group filed a lawsuit against the City this week after the Council voted down a resolution that would have extended negotiations for a $252 million entertainment center.
The lawsuit came just a day after the Council vote, the same day as a contract deadline with developer TDI Real Estate Holding and the Las Colinas Group.
TDI, which is not part of the suit, will continue to work with the City to close a deal on the controversial facility.
The lawsuit, filed in the 193rd Judicial District Court, claims that City Manager Tommy Gonzalez and “others, acting on behalf of the City, have stalled, stone-walled and delayed, purposefully allowing the contract to expire.”
Also, the City “refused to mediate in good faith” and possibly violated the Texas Open Meetings Act by “orchestrating a boycott” of the Aug. 2 special council meeting, according to the suit.
The City has not responded to requests for comment.
The Las Colinas Group is requesting that the court issue an injunction to keep the city from “destroying, falsifying, tampering with or hiding any documents” related to the entertainment center and to prohibit the City from using hotel occupancy tax revenue to pay for lawyers.
“Monday’s vote means the City will have to start over on plans for the center. Voters approved the entertainment center in 2007, and since then the City has spent about $35 million on the development,” Santoscoy said.
Under a new proposal for the center presented last week, TDI Real Estate Holding and the Las Colinas Group would havefinanced the project with $210 million in private funds and required only $17 million in new City funding.
The new proposal would have made TDI the lead developer.
At one point, the City was expected to pay about $170 million of the project. However, a multi-million bond package earmarked for the project failed to receive a AAA Standard & Poor’s rating earlier this year, jeopardizing the city’s plan to raise the funds.
The entertainment center, touted as a facility that would bring in jobs, has divided the City Council.
Last week, a special City Council meeting to hear the new presentation was canceled when only four of the Council members attended the meeting.
Still, Las Colinas Group and TDI presented the new proposal for the 550,000-square foot center to the attending Council members.
Last Updated on Saturday, 11 August 2012 11:58