The Group Text

I have these three friends. We couldn’t be more different. For the past three years, we have had a constant group text.

If millennials and whatever we are calling the youth of today are the most connected generation ever… why is there such an uprise in loneliness, depression, anxiety, and suicide?

We have all heard about the research that tells us social media and communication via our mobile devices is a significant cause of this
loneliness epidemic.

I’m not about to disagree with that data. The negative is there… but is there positive?

A study published in the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction suggested it is how we use technology and social media that
creates feelings of loneliness, not the media in and of itself.

Linda Kaye, PhD, looked at how our phones and social media/group messages affect social functioning in a positive way. (Kaye is a senior psychology lecturer at Edge Hill University in the United Kingdom.)

Her research found, “feeling close to the people in a group chat created sense of belonging.”

I wholeheartedly agree with what this study is suggesting: it is how we use technology that creates a sense of loneliness or a sense of connectedness.

The Group Text

I have these three friends…

We couldn’t be more different. Yet we are all the same. For the past three years, we four have had a constant group text. One that has quite literally been visited almost every day since its origin.

We are all in our early 30’s.
We are all married.
We all have children.
We all love the same coffee shop, The Pinto.
We all listen to the same podcast, Armchair Expert.
Some of us like rap
And some of us hate it…
Some of us love stormy days and dark emotions
And some of us like sunshine and people.
We all believe in Jesus…most of the time.
And when we don’t, it’s ok. We remind each other that truth resurrects itself.

These people make space for me and all my big feelings and emotions.

This past summer I was at a family reunion for my husband’s family. I had been having some social anxiety issues and just kinda wanted to go

Don’t get me wrong, these people are lovely and fun and easy to talk to. It was me… not them.

My husband and I were sitting talking to a relative. Her life sounded cool and exciting and I began to feel self-conscious like I had no interesting antidotes to give her. I am currently a stay at home mom. And sometimes the story I tell myself is that my daily life is boring.

My husband knew I was feeling anxious, so in an effort to help, he mentioned something or other about how I have had this ongoing group text for a few years and how it gives me life.

A group text? How lame. I was embarrassed. Christian… come on…come up with something else to make me sound more interesting… I don’t know how I got myself out of that conversation, but I am sure it was awkward.

As I reflect on that moment, I wish I could go back and tell my anxious self to press on… And expound!

If I have found something in my life that makes me feel connected to other people —- in a place and time where loneliness, depression, anxiety, and suicide are on the rise —- I should be proud of that experience.

I should tell of friends who walk through darkness with me, who engage me in difficult conversations and ideas.

I should tell of the hope they offer me, and of how we have been able to celebrate with one another and mourn with one another.

I should tell of how we press on and communicate and forgive one another when things get weird.

And of the serendipitous timing of our intermingling.

How It Started

The four people in the group text don’t hang out every day and are rarely all together at the exact same time. The text group started because one of us was moving away to another state. At that time, we all knew each other but we were not all close or necessarily in the same friend group. The friend that was moving was our main connector. We were her people. So she created a group text for herself to stay connected to her people.

How About You?

Do you feel unconnected? Do you feel lonely? Do you feel like all the noise is out to get you?! I so often do.

So I say to myself first and then to you: take responsibility for yourself. Do you hate me now? It’s HARD to stop blaming and start owning. It’s 2020 now. The future is here. And we are faced with the reality that technology/social media is an integral part of even our friendships. We are all learning how to integrate this into our lives.

We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking. – Richard Rohr

I will tell you right now that the people who I have seen make complete turn arounds from toxic patterns and behavior to healthy patterns and behavior have been people who started with that simple hard thing: taking responsibility for themselves.

AA step one: “Admit you have a problem.” That is taking ownership. If you go to therapy, any good therapist will help you to start taking the
reigns of yourself. Even scripture says self-control is a fruit of the Spirit.

Of all the awkward people in your house or job there is only one whom you can improve very much. – CS Lewis

Do not mis-hear me: If you have been hurt or abused by the hands of another, that IS NOT your fault. I’ve heard it said that trauma is not your fault, but healing is your responsibility.

To Summarize

Can our phones be a source of unhealth in our lives? Absolutely. We can become addicted to it in very toxic ways. It is all in how we use it. And
how we use it is solely up to us.

So… I exhort you… go find those safe people. BE that safe person. Start a group text. And let us allow truth to redeem us and this technology
that so easily entangles us.

(Disclaimer: This story focuses on three close friends of mine. But the people in my life who I would categorize as healing friends goes way beyond just these three. I see all of you. And you know who you are, and I love you.)

Megan Baxter is a regular contributor on The Oddfellow. In addition to her writing ventures, she also is part of the women’s ministry team at Fellowship Bible Church in Batesville, Ark. She has a degree in Family Psychology from Williams Baptist University, and lives in Batesville with her husband, Christian, and their children.

Is the Ozark Folk Center in danger of closing?

For supporters of the Ozark Folk Center, now is the time to rally. Changes are coming.

In July, the Mountain View City Council voted to abolish the Ozark Folk Cultural Center Commission, surprising both the commissioners and the Arkansas State Parks Department.

The city council said the commission was not in compliance with one of its bylaws, which states two of the commissioners must live in the county.

Brooks Blevins, PhD, has researched and extensively documented the history of the folk center. He was on the commission.

“The abolition of the commission was completely out of the blue, from my perspective. And no one on the commission, as far as I know, has ever received a full explanation,” said Blevins. “I don’t know how the center has been affected by the change. Now that the commission has been abolished, I have no connection with the Center and have received no communication from anyone at the Center or at State Parks.”

Before it was abolished, the commission acted as a legal representative between the city and State Parks, approving the yearly budget and overseeing improvement projects at the park for 55 years.

The move was not the first of problems at the Folk Center though.

The park is not a money maker and administrators admit marketing attempts have failed to fill seats at concerts.

The mayor of Mountain View, Roger Gardner, wants to see the land used for a theme park.

According to an article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Folk Center loses $2 million per year.

Explanations from responsible parties include:

The average concert hosted there costs more than it brings in, with attendees only taking up slightly more than 10 percent of the seats.

The county is dry and city council won’t approve an alcohol permit which would help draw attendees.

History on the center

The 600-acre cultural center opened in 1973 in Mountain View.

According to “A Brief History of The Ozark Folk Center”, published by the Regional Studies Center at Lyon College, the idea originated from John Opitz, who approached Mountain View leaders with a plan.

Mountain View needed a water and sewer system, and Opitz thought the town needed a music venue. He recommended the city apply for federal funds to build the auditorium, which would include funding for a water and sewer system for the venue. The town could then connect to the federally funded system.

After many years of efforts by Bessie Moore, Jimmy Driftwood, and others, the city was able to obtain a $3 million federal grant to build the center.

The park has continued to receive government money to offset expenses ($15.2 million from the state since 1996, which is equivalent to about 5 years of its total yearly budget of $3.2 million).


Additional (Requires a subscription):

Local studio offers yoga instructor certification course

The 8-month certification course is the first of its kind in Batesville, with classes beginning in February and meeting one weekend a month.

Locals will soon have the opportunity to become certified yoga instructors, thanks to an upcoming 200-hour course offered by Yoga7, a Batesville studio.

The course is the first of its kind in Batesville, with training sessions beginning in February. It requires one weekend per month for eight months to achieve certification, and will feature master teachers.

All graduates will receive Registered Yoga Teachers (RYT®s) status from the Yoga Alliance.

“There are certain guidelines Yoga Alliance has if you want to be certified through them, and it’s really the best certification because then you can go anywhere in the world and teach — their certification is accepted everywhere,” Roman Plaks, owner of Yoga7, said.

February is coming up. Has there been any interest?

“I thought if we just got five or six people interested, I’d be happy as can be,” he said, and so far there have been 19 potential yoga students reach out.

Of those enrolled, interestingly, the majority are motivated to learn for purposes other than just to teach, Plaks said.

“There are so many different reasons. Yes, I have a couple that do want to teach, but there are other uses [for the certification],” he said.

Some examples: One enrollee works at a high school and hopes to incorporate the knowledge into the physical education curriculum. Another is a physician who wants to use it to help patients. And yet another is a retiree who wants the training to assist with a fitness group.

“And a lot of the people who have gone through yoga teacher training, it’s just for themselves,” said Jordan Tavernor, one of the studio’s instructors. “They may have no intention of teaching or even bringing it into their vocation. They just learn a lot about their own bodies and work on that mind-body connection. So it can be a personal thing instead of a professional investment.”

Enrolling in the course has no prerequisite for any yoga experience, and Tavernor says that’s a good thing.

“It’s actually cool when you get [students with no experience] in the teacher training because if you have everyone in the room that’s super bendy and super advanced in their practice, then sometimes you forget how to teach the basics and the fundamentals from the beginning,” Tavernor said. “It’s better when you have more diversity and people of different backgrounds.”

Throughout the course of the eight months, students will have hands-on classes, four required course resources, teaching practice, and more.

Why does it take eight months?

“It should take a long time,” Plaks said of the length of the class. Breaking it out into one weekend every month makes it more feasible for people, and also allows students time to absorb the material.

“These folks will be able to teach and lead a group, and they’ll be able to compose their sequences properly,” he said. “That’s the important part — in what order do poses go and why.”

More about Yoga7

Yoga7 recently opened as the first full-service yoga studio in Batesville, and offers 44 classes per week, most taught by the owner himself, to fit various schedules and abilities.

Besides traditional classes, the studio hosts special events like Yoga in the Park, Wine & Yoga, and has even conducted sports yoga to help area athletes including football players, wrestlers, and baseball players with balance and flexibility.

Newly added is Office Yoga.

“I do a 30-minute no-mat yoga class where I’ll go to the business and work with their employees,” Tavernor explained.

“It’s just 30 minutes, you can wear regular clothes. You don’t have to have a mat or anything, and everybody feels super good the rest of the day.”

Upcoming specialty workshops include a knee and shoulder workshop on January 26, and two others in February addressing hip and thoracic spine issues.

To learn more about how to become a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT®) without having to leave Independence County, click here. Or email Roman at

To see a quick overview of Yoga7’s prices, click here.

County says lawsuit against Batesville is easiest way to solve ongoing issues

The issue of who should fund district court is one that the City of Batesville and Independence County have been at odds over for years, with the county currently carrying the whole cost.

Judge Robert Griffin and the Independence County Quorum Court declared that the county’s lawsuit against the City of Batesville–filed on Friday, Jan. 10–is the “easiest way” to solve the disagreement over district court and jail fees.

County Attorney Daniel Haney explained there is “no money” involved in the suit. Rather, it is a declaratory judgment asking the court’s clarification on the state statute regarding the financial burden of local district courts which serve both the city and the county.

The suit’s outcome will allow the county to proceed in determining Batesville’s specific financial obligation to the district court and the jail.

The issue of who should fund district court is one that the City of Batesville and Independence County have been at odds over for years, with the county currently carrying the whole cost.

“District court and the jail have come up in the same conversation over and over again, and in order to figure out one, we have to figure out the other,” said Haney.

He said there is not a court opinion on a district court “solely run” by the county, so the County needs interpretation. 

“Our position is that the district court is not [run solely by the county],” he added.

Griffin provided this statement regarding the suit earlier in the week:

“The suit asking for declaratory judgement in the Circuit Court, is an action to settle what the law says our District Court is, County only or a State Pilot District Court….How could 23 people [Batesville City Council and Quorum Court] decide what the law says when our two attorneys couldn’t come to an agreement?

“This same pathway to settle long standing issues will allow our two governing bodies to move forward in our new partnership with the City of Southside…we will have no reason to speak badly of one another…”

Upon Griffin’s request, the Court approved a motion authorizing county attorney Haney to file suit against the City of Batesville for additional matters that are currently in question as well — shooting sports and recycling.

Griffin explained that the County’s and City’s prior agreements regarding the city’s financial support of shooting sports and recycling were “not being followed.”

Justice of the Peace Jonathan Abbott said the motion was “jumping the gun” and that Batesville was upholding parts of these agreements. He voted against the motion.

Haney stated he would not file suits frivolously and would require approval of the Court.

Additional items at the January quorum court meeting:

1. The Court approved the district court’s and juvenile court’s plans for a 5 percent raise in 2020. The district court will increase ticket amounts, and the juvenile court will cut part-time hours and travel.

2. The Court motioned for County Sheriff Shawn Stephens to move forward with his application for a cop’s grant that would help the Sheriff’s Office replace two officer positions, contingent upon County Treasurer Bob Treadway finding funds to support the rest of the salaries not covered by the grant.

3. Treadway reported that all County funds finished the year in the black except for the Emergency 9-1-1 Fund. However, 9-1-1 surcharge fees of approximately $60,000 brought the fund into the black in January.

4. The Court reappointed David Thompson to the Independence County Library Board. It also appointed Kevin Rose and Brad Cheatham to the shooting range board.

5. The Court nominated and approved Abbott to serve as the Court’s delegate for the Quorum Court Association Meeting in April.

Local headlines

“It takes a small town to keep you humble.” – Bess Aldrich

Apr 24, 2020: Education: Jimmy Hodges named new principal at Southside Charter High School to replace Roger Ried, who is retiring after 29 years.


Apr 18, 2020: Healthcare: There are currently 2.1 million positive Coronavirus cases reported worldwide, and there have been 145,329 deaths reported. A total of 18 million have been tested, according to nCoV2019. In the US, there are 675,640 confirmed cases reported, and 34,522 deaths, 16,106 of which happened in New York (and 226,198 positive cases). Arkansas has reported 1,620 cases, and 37 deaths.

Apr 18, 2020: Healthcare: A beef processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota is the biggest single source hotspot in the United States. Out of 3,700 total employees, 644 tested positive for Coronavirus and one has died so far (as of two days ago). The company started using protection measures “social distancing, extra cleaning, and thermal scanning” on April 9, when they had 80 active cases. To read more, click here.

Apr 17, 2020: Business: Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced his plan to begin reopening businesses on May 4.

Apr 13, 2020: Healthcare: Independence County has one more positive case of Coronavirus, reported today.


Apr 11, 2020: Healthcare: According to the Arkansas Department of Health COVID-19 map, there are five total cases, and four recoveries as of today in Independence County.

In Arkansas, there are 1,228 confirmed cases, 25 deaths and 346 recoveries.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, commended Arkansas on the handling of COVID-19. Governor Asa Hutchinson has continued to thank and applaud Arkansans for adhering to social distancing guidelines (staying 6 feet away in public areas, and not gathering in groups of more than 10 people). He says the guidelines are working, and a stay-at-home order, which has been implemented in most states, is not necessary in Arkansas.

The experts are currently projecting 297 deaths in Arkansas by Aug 4 due to COVID-19, which is much lower than the previous 707 projection made in March.

Apr 11, 2020: Healthcare: The Coronavirus pandemic has now claimed more than 100,000 lives, and more than 20,000 American lives, nearly half in New York State at around 8,600.

The federal government passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package on March 25 to help families and small businesses.

Some celebrity lives claimed by the virus include country singer Joe Diffie, 61, known for his song “Pickup Man” and “Bigger Than The Beatles”, Adam Schlesinger, 52, who wrote “That Thing You Do!”, Alan Merrill, 69, who co-wrote “I Love Rock and Roll”, and Bill Withers, 81, who wrote “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Lean on Me.”

Apr 6, 2020: Education: Governor Asa Hutchinson announced all public schools in Arkansas will remain closed and all learning will be done remotely for the remainder of the school year.


Mar 31, 2020: Healthcare: The Coronavirus pandemic continues its course of destruction. As of now (Tuesday at 11:26 a.m.), the reported data on the John Hopkins data tracking map shows 3,178 deaths in the United States attributed to the virus, and 914 of them are in New York City. Total confirmed cases in the US is 165,874, which is the highest level of any country in the world. Italy is reporting 101,739 cases, and 11,591 deaths. Spain has 94,417 cases 8,269 deaths, and China reports 82,278 and 3,309 deaths. Arkansas has reported 523 cases and 8 deaths. Independence County has reported 3 confirmed cases and one death.


Mar 26, 2020: Healthcare: The United States has surprised all other countries in number of reported confirmed Coronavirus cases, more than 82,000 as of Thursday evening. The cases rose by 14,000 on Wednesday, according to the New York Times.

Mar 24, 2020: Healthcare: Six new medical doctors are coming to Batesville in June. University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences North Central Regional Campus in Batesville announces the names of its newest class of Family Medicine residents: Dr. Tim Baty, Dr. Anita Kisiedu, Dr. Jon Mark Lane, Dr. Christopher Mayfield, Dr. Jonathan Pennington, and Dr. EJ Williams.


Mar 20, 2020 | Education: The special election for an increased millage for the Batesville School District has been postponed from its original date of April 14 to an undetermined future date, due to COVID-19.

Mar 21, 2020 | Healthcare: The Coronavirus – cannot stop talking about this. At this point in Arkansas, there are no deaths, and 118 confirmed cases (two of those are in Independence County). The governor has closed schools, gyms, and dine-in areas of restaurants. The state parks department has closed playgrounds, although campgrounds and cabins remain open. Fishing license requirements in the state have been waived by Arkansas Game & Fish while schools are closed. Wal-Mart, usually open 24 hours every day, is closing at night for extra cleaning. The ACT, a national college entrance exam for high-schoolers, has moved its April test date to June.

Worldwide, as of 3-21-20 at 2:56 p.m., there are 303,505 confirmed cases worldwide, 13,024 deceased, and 93,615 recovered from COVID-19. In the United States, there are 23,126 confirmed cases, 272 deaths, and 26 recovered. We are in fourth place in number of confirmed cases. The places with more cases are China, where it started, Italy, and Spain. The total countries affected are 172 out of 195.

The governor said experts are predicting that at peak, there will be 1000 Arkansans hospitalized for the virus. (Which means the state’s hospitals will need that many ventilators at one time.)


Mar 13, 2020 | Healthcare: The Coronavirus made itself known in Arkansas yesterday, Mar 12, in Pine Bluff. By the next day, there were a total of nine patients in Arkansas who tested positive. Some colleges moved all classes online. Lyon College canceled its Scottish Festival scheduled for April. Little Rock closed its schools. Churches canceled services. City offices closed. The Arkansas Activities Association suspended all spring sports and activities starting Mar 15 until Mar 30. Even the National Collegiate Athletic Association canceled March Madness. Also affected by the virus: the stock market.

Mar 10, 2020 | Education: Lyon College promoted Chris Hill and alum Madeline Pyle this week – Pyle to Director of Communications and Hill to Director of Creative Services. To read more, click here.


Mar 2, 2020 | Business: The owner of the local U.S. Pizza closed his Jonesboro location, but says the Batesville location is secure, according to a regional news source.

Mar 4, 2020 | Business: Bad Boy Mowers will start selling tractors in 2021. To read more, click here. Private equity firm The Sterling Group invested in Bad Boy Mowers in December with plans to help the business grow. To read about other companies The Sterling Group has invested in, click here.

Mar 5, 2020 | Tourism: Danny Dozier hands over the management of Maxfield Park to the City of Batesville. To read more, click here <–requires a subscription.

Mar 6, 2020 | Statewide news with local relevance: The COO of ARcare Joey Miller is the president a newly formed Rural Health Association of Arkansas, announced at the Rural Health Summit in Morrilton. To read more about Miller, check out this interview from one year ago. ARcare has three medical clinics in Independence County.

Mar 4, 2020 | Statewide news with local relevance: Arkansas Insurance Commissioner Allen Kerr announced he is resigning Mar 27. To read more, click here.


Feb 26, 2020 | Business: Someone stole a commissioned owl worth $2,000. Hand carved out of walnut, the owl was returned to the Batesville craftsman this week, per a regional news source.

Feb 28, 2020 | Education: After two seasons as head football coach at Lyon College, Casey Creehan is leaving for Peru State College in Nebraska, which is in the Heart of America Athletic Conference (Lyon College in the Sooner Athletic Conference), per a local news source.

Feb 29, 2020 | Youth: Batesville High School Boys Swim Team won state. You can see their banners displayed at the Community Center.

Feb 28, 2020 | Statewide news with local relevance: UAMS is now offering laughing gas for free to laboring women to reduce anxiety about giving birth, per a regional news source.

March 1, 2020 | Nationwide news with local relevance: A new virus is disrupting the stock market right now, and is widespread news. There are currently no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Arkansas.


Youth: Southside High School Boys Bowling Team won the 3A-4A State Championship, led by Caleb Patterson bowling a 222.

Youth: Batesville High School Girls Basketball Team won the 4A-3 Conference Championship Friday night, Feb 21, defeating Southside.

Education: Social media in Batesville is blowing up with millage talk this past week. Batesville School District is holding a series of public meetings and tours at its facilities to demonstrate why it is asking for a millage increase in a special election on Apr 14. The deadline to register to vote in this election is Mar 16.

Business: A Bentonville man joined Citizens Bank Board of Directors. Mark S. Forbis is a recent retiree from Jack Henry & Associates, where he was Chief Technology Officer. Forbis is also on the board at IncredibleBank in Wisconsin and 3E Software, Inc. in Springdale, according to his public social media profile.

Statewide news with local relevance: A former state representative is trying to find 71,321 registered voters collectively from at least 15 counties in Arkansas to sign a petition to get used cars exempt from sales tax. Currently, buyers have to pay sales tax on any used car costing more than $4,000. The proposal would move it to any used car costing more than $20,000. Read this story in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette (requires subscription).


Healthcare: White River Health System is being sued for alleged age discrimination, according to a news source. Meanwhile, they have been recognized as an “Age-Friendly Health System” participant, according to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. This status is valid for one year. To see the other 270 health systems that have been recognized as participants as of Jan 2020, click here. A quick review of the list revealed WRHS is the only hospital in Arkansas to participate in this program.

Business: Gary Huskey and William Ball (Stellar Sun in Little Rock) say they want to install community solar energy centers in Strawberry, Ark., and Evening Shade, Ark., to provide power to 11 counties, including Independence County, according to a news source. The centers will be paid for by customers, who will lease the land, according to Ball. Customers affected are those of North Arkansas Electric Cooperative and Craighead Electric Cooperative. They are planning a public meeting to discuss the project and answer questions.

Business: A new bank opened in town. The Bank of England Mortgage opened a branch at 1501 Harrison Street in Batesville. The Bank of England was started in 1898 in England, Ark., and according to its website, it is “Arkansas’s oldest and largest lender,” with more than 1000 employees and 99 locations in 39 states.

Business: A local lawyer is now also selling real estate. Johnathan Burgess joined Crye-Leike as a sales associate, according to a local news source. According to Crye-Leike’s website, they have 11 total agents in the Batesville area.

Education: FNBC Community Bankers paid $100,000 for naming rights for the Ozarka College Technical Center in Ash Flat, Ark. To read more, click here. I wonder how this will translate to naming rights for Batesville’s proposed new facilities...

Noted: The County terminated its recycling agreement with the City of Batesville. To read more click here and here. I wonder how many people in town are still recycling, and who is buying the recycled goods...

Youth: The Southside High School Bowling Team, led by Caleb Patterson who bowled a 222, won the state tournament for 3A-4A. To read more, click here.

Lifestyle: Want to know what a local priest has to say about Valentine’s Day? Click here.

Statewide news with local relevance: The closest water park to Batesville is going up for auction on April 14 (same day as the special election for the Batesville School District millage), according to a news source. Starting bid for Wild River Country is the unpaid taxes owed ($282,000). The property is 62 acres in North Little Rock. Another Arkansas theme park is up for auction soon. The 400-acre Dogpatch theme park in Jasper, which last sold in 2014 for $2 million, will be auctioned on March 3 because the current owners owe more than $1 million and are behind on payments. The bidding for this property will start at $1 million, according to an article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette published on Jan 24.

Tourism: In case you missed it –> Currently, state parks do not allow use of all-terrain vehicles on state forest roads. This limits Arkansas’s all-terrain vehicle tourism potential. And affects Batesville, because if that industry grows, so will one of our home grown companies, Intimidator. In 2019, the state legislature passed ACT 671 for there to be a study conducted called the ATV Tourism and Trail Expansion Study, and from the study should come recommendations for a “statewide all-terrain vehicle trails system,” with intentions of using state forest roads as connectors. To read more about ACT 671, click here. To read more about ATV tourism, click here. To see a list of ATV tourism destinations in Arkansas, click here.

Nationwide news with local relevance: The Kansas City Chiefs won the Super Bowl Sunday night, Feb 2, 2020. They defeated the San Francisco 49ers, who hired the first female to coach a team in the Super Bowl. Katie Sowers is an offensive assistant for the 49ers.


Statewide news with local relevance: Applications opened yesterday, Feb 1, 2020, for HealthTech Arkansas, which is an accelerator program for five new healthcare companies each year. Startups get $75,000 upfront and pilot projects with at least two Arkansas healthcare providers. There are currently ten providers associated with the program: Arkansas Heart Hospital, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Arkansas Urology, Baptist Health, CHI St. Vincent, Conway Regional, Mercy, St. Bernards Healthcare, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), and Washington Regional Medical Center. The director of HealthTech Arkansas is Jeff Stinson, MBA. He is also involved in the Fund for Arkansas’ Future. To read more about the program, click here.

Noted: There were 85 human trafficking cases in Arkansas reported to the national human trafficking hotline in 2018, a big jump from 46 in 2017. There were 41 cases reported to the hotline in the first half of 2019. To read more, click here.

Important: In case you missed it, in order to enter a federal building or board a commercial airplane after Oct 1, 2020, you are required to have a “Real ID.” The large amount of paperwork could be harder to compile than you think because of name discrepancies on documents. Therefore, starting the process now is recommended.

Local headlines: A tea shop opened Wednesday, Jan 29, located across from the Citizen’s Bank headquarters on St. Louis Street. The Tea Crate is owned by Nathan and Shaelyn Ellyson, and the structure that houses it is built out of stacked shipping containers. The shop opened with already 2,348 Facebook likes. To see a menu, click here (requires a Facebook account).

Business: Citizen’s Bank promoted Helen Shaw to Vice President – Corporate Security Officer and Facilities Manager. To read more, click here.

Business: Brian Emison is the new Chief Deposit Officer at First Community Bank in Batesville. To read more, click here.

Lifestyle: Great article about a local writer in the Batesville Daily Guard this week – Madeline Pyle. With a Master of Arts degree in Applied Communication from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, she is currently the Associate Director of Communications for Lyon College, and freelances for the Batesville Daily Guard and White River Now.


Healthcare: One of the local Internal Medicine residents, Ron Varghese, MD, was accepted into an endocrinology fellowship program in Maryland. To read more, click here.

Education: The Batesville School Board voted this week to put a millage increase before voters on April 14. The board is requesting voters to approve a $49 million, 8.4 millage increase, which would put the total school millage at 47.15. To read more about the plan, click here.

Nationwide news with local relevance: Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash today (1-26-2020). Bryant was a legend in the basketball world. His last tweet was congratulating LaBron James for surpassing his third place spot in the National Basketball Association’s All-Time Scoring List. Bryant scored 33,643 points in the NBA, and currently is the second-highest paid NBA player in history at $323.3 million.


Tourism: It took many years for the Ozark Folk Center State Park to be built. It now struggles to fill seats at concerts. According to an article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, it loses $2 million per year. To read more about this issue, click here.

Media: White River Now has an app. This is good news because…now there are fewer barriers for me to access local stories. Fewer clicks and fewer distractions. And aligns with my habits already built into my daily routine of clicking on apps on my phone.

Lifestyle: Local yogi Roman Plaks is offering locals the chance to become Registered Yoga Teachers (RYT®s). To achieve certification, enrollees are required to attend the course one weekend per month for eight months at his studio, Yoga7, located beside BodyFit. The certification, offered by the Yoga Alliance, is widely recognized, and requires no prior yoga experience to enroll. According to Plaks, many who register do not intend to use the certification to become yoga instructors. To see what they plan to use it for, click here.

Tourism: The lights display brought in $64,893 from the riverfront activities, which included $29,158 in donations. A year prior, White River Wonderland brought in $55,346, which included $25,410 in donations, according to city council minutes. (They estimated 174,000 visitors in 2018.)

Tourism: The municipal golf course’s new green fees are now in effect. The increased rates were compiled by the newly formed Batesville Municipal Golf Association. The creation of the association is an attempt to save the golf course from being repurposed by the city. The motivation to repurpose was due to the course being $100,000 shy of meeting its 2018 budget. The new single rate is $540 annually, and $600 for a family. To see a list of all the new rates, click here.

Noted: The county (Independence) filed a lawsuit against the city (Batesville) on January 10. Lawyers on the case are Daniel Haney for the County and Tim Meitzen for the City. To read more, click here.

Statewide news with local relevance: Arkansas is one of four states to partner with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Because of this, 39,000 books are delivered EVERY MONTH to Arkansas children (1.4 million nationwide) who are enrolled in the program. The program is free for the family receiving the books, they just have to sign up. Which more and more families are doing, 87 percent more in the past two year. Independence County children ages 5 and under are eligible. To sign up, click here.

Noted: Primaries in Arkansas will take place on Tuesday, March 3.

Noted: A summary of Arkansas laws changed in 2019: Due to Act 182, more than half a million taxpayers in Arkansas will have reduced income tax. Act 822 will lower tax rates for businesses, and will allow them to carry net operating losses eventually up to 10 years. Act 190 restructured the state government, reducing the number of cabinet-level agencies from 42 to 15. To read more, click here.

Education: Last year, only 30 percent of low income students in Arkansas scored at grade level on the ACT Aspire Test (57.2 percent of non-low income scored at grade level). That is a big difference. To read more, click here.


Education: Southside Junior High School received a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, who awarded Arkansas Public School Resource Center $42.53 Million to fund charter school programs. Their high school received its conversion charter status five years ago, which means it is up for renewal this year, 2020.

Education: Cedar Ridge School District now has an app, free and available to the public. And a new website.

Lifestyle: A new summer festival is coming to Batesville in July of 2020. To read more, click here.

Business: Arkansas-based Walmart opened a beef packaging facility in Georgia, in order to have more control over its products. To read the press release, click here. Walmart previously opened a milk processing plant in Indiana in 2016. In other news from Walmart, they recently started using a robot named Alphabot in New Hampshire to bring items from storage to associates to expedite online grocery pickup orders. To read more, click here and here.

Youth: The Independence County Spelling Bee was won by Alexander Tenace, an 8th grader at Batesville Junior High School. Second place was Brayden Vines, a 5th grader at Southside Middle School.

Youth: Sophia Strain at 14 is the youngest person to ever bowl a perfect 300 in Batesville. To read more about this, click here.

For 2019 YEAR IN REVIEW, click here.

DECEMBER 13, 2019


The City of Batesville has branded itself “Christmas Capital of Arkansas” due in large part to having the largest free Christmas lights display in Arkansas (more than 1.5 million lights attracting more than 100,000 tourists each year).


Walmart plans to use more than 1.1 million cubic feet of mass timber, grown and produced in Arkansas, to build its new home office campus in Bentonville. Arkansas currently has no production facility able to manufacture such a large project; therefore, Walmart has invested money to bring Canadian-based Structurlam to the center of the state and its 19 million acres of forest. This move will create 130 new jobs in Conway according to this press release. And the growth continues for Conway.


Energy bills will increase by an average of $15/month starting next month for residential customers of Entergy Arkansas due to a tax credit expiration.

A bridge over the White River connecting Stone & Izard counties was named in memory of Sgt. Mike Stephen, who worked for the Stone County Sheriff’s Department and lost his life in the line of duty this past summer (2019). To read more, click here. History in the making.

The Pew Research Center released some findings for 2019, the most notable being that for the first time in history, the Hispanic population in the United States is projected to be the largest minority group to vote in 2020. Interesting. Did you know Batesville School District at 16 percent has one of the highest percentages of English Learners of all school districts in the state (top 7 percent).


The Arkansas Razorbacks hired a new head coach, Sam Pittman from Georgia. The former Razorback coach, Chad Morris, was hired by Gus Malzahn to be his offensive coordinator for Auburn.

DECEMBER 7, 2019


A new organization has emerged in Batesville to provide support for new foster parents and children to help with the transition. To watch a three-minute video explaining their mission, click here. To follow them on social media, click here. The organizers of the group are: Amber Ellis, Meeta Foster, Brooke Cherry, and Taylor Cox. What an excellent and practical way to help area foster moms. Keep up the good work!

A local football coach published a book, available for purchase on Amazon. It currently has 3 reviews. To hear his interview on White River Now, click here.

A deer in Oil Trough tested positive for chronic wasting disease this week, according to the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission. To read more about chronic wasting disease in Arkansas, click here. As of now, chronic wasting disease has not spread to humans; however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains the World Health Organization’s recommendation: “it is important to keep the agents of all known prion diseases from entering the human food chain.”


The Internal Medicine Residency Program at White River Medical Center was 1 of 20 throughout the nation to receive a grant from the Society of General Internal Medicine (and American College of Physicians). The money will be used to fund a Proud To Be GIM event, for the promotion of the Internal Medicine profession. One of the other programs to receive the grant was the Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care / The Massachusetts Chapter of the ACP. To see a list of all grantees, click here.


Myers Davis Life Coaching & Business Consulting recently hosted Cookbook Wars between the students in the school districts where their transition class is offered. The class trains students who qualify, and helps them locate work-study jobs that are a good fit. It is offered currently in 11 area schools.


General Election Day has been set: Nov 3, 2020. Mark your calendars.

NOVEMBER 30, 2019


Urban Forge in Mountain View designed and created 300 twenty-foot-tall metal holiday trees and stars for a holiday festival in Houston, Tex., attended by more than 100,000 people. The trees have integrated choreographed lighting and an app that can stream music. To see the trees in action, click here. Congratulations to this local company for its innovation, creativity, and successful execution.

First Community Bank announced this week its plans to build a three-story operations center next to its main branch at the corner of St. Louis and Harrison streets in Batesville. It is projected to be completed by the end of 2020 and will house 125 employees.


Lyon College inducted four people into its Athletic Hall of Fame last Saturday. Aubrey Bell, ’72; John Harvey, ’01; Steven Wright, ’07; and Maribeth (Waters) Richards, ’09 made up the 2019 class of inductees. Read about it here.

Among all the community colleges in Arkansas, University of Arkansas Community College in Batesville (UACCB) saw the highest enrollment increase, at 12 percent, since 2014, according to the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. Other community colleges in the state decreased an average 14 percent since 2014 . To read why, click here.

In other news, the college is building a new 15,000-sq ft facility, to be completed by the end of the year, that will house an industrial technology program and a MAKERSPACE with 3D printers and a variety of metal and woodworking tools from hand tools to CNC mills and lathes. Congratulations, UACCB!

NOVEMBER 23, 2019


First Community Bank expanded to Conway, Ark., and Harrison, Ark., this month (and Newport last month). Where will they go next? Russellville?


The Independence County Budget Committee budgeted a five percent raise for all county employees for 2020. The raise was to prepare for the rising minimum wage to $10/hour in 2020 and $11/hour in 2021.


Batesville High School senior, Veronica Laslo, who was announced as a National Merit Semi-finalist in September, was named a Coca-Cola Scholar Semi-finalist this week. She is one of 22 semi-finalists from Arkansas, and one of 1,928 high school seniors nationwide who were selected from more than 93,000 applicants. The Coca-Cola Scholars Program is an achievement-based $20,000 scholarship awarded to 150 students each year. In 2019, four of the scholarship recipients were from Arkansas. To see a list of all 2020 semi-finalists, click here.

NOVEMBER 16, 2019


Local businessmen bought Ramsey Mountain for $125,000 this week, and are working with local authorities to make sure the land is preserved in an aesthetically pleasing way.

Cave City Mayor Jonas Anderson dedicated a new monument in Veteran’s Park yesterday, Nov 15. He thanked Council member Ed Turnbough for the idea, and showed appreciation for the mayors, county judges, state representatives, and senators in attendance. According to Anderson’s social media post, “There are now almost 300 names etched into those granite slabs. Five of them belong to my own family; grandparents, uncles, a step-dad.” Pay attention to this young mayor. He continues to impress.


Thirteen local choir students were accepted into the SWACDA regional honor choir. Congratulations to Sarah Barber, Stephanie Barber, Alexis Bulger, Sophia Cole, Eli Dockins, Nate McDonald , Brandon Grant , Julia Gross, Larkin Jones, Josh Narramore, Caroline Russell , Emma Russell, Claire Simmons, and Cole Weaver.

Batesville and Southside high school football teams both lost Friday night.

NOVEMBER 9, 2019


Intimidator announced its 2020 Spartan Mower. To see owner Robert Foster discuss his newest mower, with a 7-gauge deck system, click here.

White River Medical Center (WRMC) was given a safety grade of C from The Leapfrog Group on Thursday, Nov 7, on a grading scale of A to F. Leapfrog also gave a C to other nearby hospitals, the two owned by Unity Health, one in Searcy and the other in Newport. St. Bernards Medical Center in Jonesboro earned an A. To read more about this safety grading system, click here. (Leapfrog performs twice-yearly assessments, and has given WRMC a C grade 5 out of the last 7 times. The other 2 times, in the fall of 2017 and spring of 2018, the hospital earned a B.)

The Stage store in the Eagle Mountain Shopping Center is closing, and being replaced by a Gordmans.


Batesville School District proposed a millage to build an auditorium and a new basketball gym, as well as update some existing facilities. Three plans were proposed, and the district wants feedback. Also this week, the state gave Sulphur Rock Elementary $14,200, which is $50 per student, for being a top 6-10 percent performer. Closest school to also earn was Concord, who received $20,100 for being in the top 5 percentage for showing growth on test scores.


Many people in Batesville woke up alone this morning, because their spouses and maybe children were in the woods hunting deer. Today marks the first day of this year’s modern gun season.

The Independence County Parks and Recreation Committee voted this week to bid on Ramsey Mountain this coming Tuesday, Nov 12.

Local mother of six, Rachel Kelly, published a book, and held a signing at Lyon College this week. To buy her book, visit her blog.


Local politician Stu Smith filed this week to run for the State House of Representatives in 2020. To see who else filed, click here.

UPDATE ON NOV 10: Arkansas fired their head football coach, Chad Morris for obvious reasons.


Batesville High School & Southside High School football teams both lost last night.

NOVEMBER 2, 2019


Discover Arkansas of THV11 featured Batesville’s own Maxfield Park in a video this week. To see the video click here. As of Nov 2, the video had 144 views. (Update: As of Nov 10, 195 views.)


Lyon announced it is offering a fermentation science course in the Spring of 2020, taught by Alexander Beeser, PhD, available for students aged 21 and older. Students will learn about the processes of making beer and kombucha. Maybe they were inspired by the University of Arkansas, which began offering a Certificate of Proficiency in Brewing Science earlier this year. This industry is certainly growing in our state. According to the Brewers Association, Arkansas has 40 craft breweries, up from 6 in 2011, which have a $838 million impact on the state’s economy. To read more, click here. The course would also be of interest to future winery professionals. The Arkansas Association of Grape Growers held their annual meeting in Fayetteville this weekend.


An Advanced Overdose Investigation Course was held in Little Rock this weekend. In September, the federal government announced $18.5M for Arkansas to use to gather and report data on overdose deaths in order to identify patterns. Arkansas has a long way to go to address this issue. Its providers write an average of one opioid prescription per person, double the national average. In response to this national directive, the state pharmacy board collaborated with law enforcement to offer the course. Batesville’s own Steve Bryant, P.D., is one of six pharmacists on the Arkansas State Board of Pharmacy. Gary Bridgeman featured the opioid crisis on a three-part series on The Official Word in August of 2019. To listen to Part One of the series, click here.


The Batesville High School & Southside High School football teams won last night. The Pioneers made the 5A playoffs.

OCTOBER 26, 2019


Two local non-profit organizations named new directors recently. The Alpha Center has named Danielle Adams, former Spanish teacher for Batesville School District, as its new director, to replace Amanda Steel. The Humane Society of Independence County named Megan Trail as its new director, to replace Nanci Solis.


Despite the rain, there were two races in Batesville on Saturday, October 26. The first one was The White River 4-Mile Classic, and it took place downtown. In its 41st year, a 41-year old male from Maumelle, Brian Sieczkowski, won the event with a 5:43 pace. Highest placing Batesville resident was a 25-year-old female, Logan Bishop, who finished 5th overall with a 6:12 pace. She turned around and won the local hospital’s 5K race that night at a faster pace of 6:05. To see results from both races, click here and here.

Local radio personality Gary Bridgeman was featured in October’s issue of Next Door Magazine, by the Batesville Daily Guard’s former Managing Editor, Angelia Roberts. To read Roberts’ story on Gary B, click here.

Ducks Unlimited donated 40 acres to the Earl Buss Bayou Deview WMA, a nearby hunting spot for local duck hunters.

Arkansas hunters killed 84 alligators this season, according to Arkansas Game and Fish. To read more, click here.


Henderson State University announced this week it will join Arkansas State University system. Local Batesville professionals who attended Henderson State University include local radio personality, Big Daddy Randy, Randy Seale, and White River Academy Director, Mary Eary,

Announced October 9, a Mountain View Pharmacist received the first and only Director’s Choice Award from the UAMS Arkansas Saves Stroke Program for her advocacy for affordability of the stroke medicine, Activase, in rural areas. She reported to Kaiser Health News in 2017 the small Mountain View hospital paid $8,010 for one dose of Activase while the larger Batesville hospital, located one hour away, paid $1,600 per dose. To hear Langston talk more about the issue, click here. To see all of UAMS’s stroke program award recipients, click here.


Ramsey Mountain is up for auction.


Batesville High School and Southside High School football teams both won Friday night.

OCTOBER 20, 2019


Southside received its first liquor license request this week since incorporating in 2014. There are currently 13 liquor licenses in the Batesville area. To see who requested, click here.

The Chamber released results from the HeART Your Community Meeting held in September. Ninety percent of the more than 150 attendees wanted to see the riverfront more developed. For more, click here and here.


Bad Boy released 2019 Plant Tour Video on Friday. To sneak a peek inside the operation, watch here.

OCTOBER 12, 2019


Maxfield Park officially opened on Friday, thanks to the vision and efforts of Batesville’s own Danny Dozier. To find out more, click here and here.

More than 2,200 people from across the state descended upon Batesville last weekend for the Acts 1:8 One-Day Mission Trip. More than 30 Batesville organizations participated. To see a video of the event, click here.

Some local teachers started a new non-profit organization called Grand Hands which offers support to grandparents raising their grandchildren.


Local youth artists, Donna Terrell and Gareth Brookshire, won the Artoberfest Sidewalk Chalk Competitions last weekend. This is Terrell’s fourth time to win, which makes her a legend. Calling all artists for next year’s contest to start practicing now.

Everything has been “coming up aces” for the Batesville High School music organizations lately. This week BHS announced three of their students, Erin Seymore, Sarah Johnson, and Brandon Grant, earned spots in the All-Region Orchestra and performed in Little Rock on September 21. Last weekend, Batesville Junior High Choir earned a 95 percent acceptance rate into All-Region Choir, and Canon Chaffin earned First Chair. Meanwhile in Jonesboro, the high school band won a marching contest (1st place 4A, 8th overall).

The Southside Southerner football team won last night, and the Batesville Pioneers lost.


ASU-Newport received a grant called Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities worth $379,443 from the US Dept of Labor and the Delta Regional Authority. Great job, Newport for continuing to pursue money for our region. For more details, click here.


After weeks of discussing a new open burn ordinance, the city council voted to stick with the 2015 adoption of the state fire code as its ordinance. To read more, click here.

OCTOBER 5, 2019

An espresso machine at a local downtown coffee shop broke this week. It took only four days for 84 of the regulars to raise $4,500 for the owners to purchase a new machine (Update on 10-8-19: 105 donors and $5,275). What this tells me: the locals really like the owners, Brice and Haley Stephens, they really like lattes, and the right people announced this fundraiser at the right time on the right medium.

I noticed the National Merit Semi-finalists hit the local papers this week. It was announced mid-September that two students in Batesville achieved this high honor. One was 16-year old Zach McClain, one of only two homeschool students in the state this year to achieve this honor. The other local semi-finalist was Batesville High School senior Veronica Laslo.

The Arkansas Employer Support of the Guard & Reserve Committee awarded First Community Bank the highest honor of its kind in the state, the Pro Patria Award, for its supportive personnel policies.

Southside Junior High School started a fishing club. Congrats to them for getting local students interested in this growing sport.

Organizer turns talents into a new local business

In less than two months, Beka McCormick has seen her professional organizing and home cleaning business, McCormick Maid, take off.

As Beka sits in the cookware-strewn floor and goes through the deepest reaches of the bottom kitchen cabinets for a client, she asks thoughtful questions:

“How often do you use this?”

“You have another one of these — do you need them both?’

“Are you attached to this?”

The answers to those questions determine where the object in question will go — within easy reach, out of sight on a higher shelf, or in one of the two big trash bags beside her: one for “give away” and the other for “throw way”.

As she makes her way through the kitchen, she is attentive the client’s lifestyle and everyday needs.

It’s all part of her process so that when the culling part is over, she knows exactly how to put the whole thing back together in the most efficient and functional way.

In fewer than two months, Beka McCormick has seen her professional organizing and home cleaning business, McCormick Maid, take off.

She’s always love organization, even as a teenager, she recalls.

“I’ve been doing this for myself and family about 5ish years but I just started doing it for people outside of family last month,” she explains. “I’ve had so many people asked me to come the more before and after pictures that I show.”

The pictures are admittedly gratifying. She posts photos of piled-high closets turned into perfect rows of clothes and bare floors.

“I would say people’s biggest problem areas are closets and cabinets, because that’s just a catch-all. It’s easy when you’re cleaning to just throw stuff in and not look at it.”

Beka, the mother of a 6-year old, a toddler, and a baby, is no stranger to just how quickly a house can become out of control. But she offers her main tips to keep things in check:

  • Pick up as you go
  • Clean things as you notice them. “If you open and a cabinet and you realize there are crumbs or dust, clean it right then instead of thinking you’ll come back later.” (“You won’t,” she advises.)
  • If you haven’t used it in the past year, get rid of it.
  • Eliminate duplicates. “Some things, I get it: you might need two large pots if you’re cooking a lot of food at once. But most things are unnecessary. You don’t need two sets of measuring cups. You don’t need two mixers.”
  • Keep things off the floor, and off the counters. “It makes the house look so much cleaner just to have those bare.”

“Most people just want me to do a de-clutter of their whole house, and we just work room by room,” she says of her process, adding that she also offers house cleaning. “But I enjoy the de-cluttering and organizing part way more than the cleaning part. So I’m trying to promote that more. This is definitely my zone.”

She says either way, it’s satisfying work to look back on the difference.

“It makes people happy and it helps people,” she said.

McCormick Maid is on both Facebook and Instagram and offers online bookings.

New summer festival coming to Batesville: “Big Fun on the Bayou”

Twenty-five volunteers from a cross-section of Batesville, many with personal stories to share of happy times spent on the bayou over the years, gathered today to begin creating a festival centered around the Poke Bayou.

The concept, introduced and spearheaded by Bob Carius and the Main Street Batesville organization, will be a day-long series of events on the bayou on July 26, culminating in an evening concert by ‘Trout Fishing in America’ at Maxfield Park. The band plays comedic songs for kids, as well as adult friendly music.

The recently finished Maxfield Park has been the first development on the bayou, an under-utilized asset for the town according the Carius, and provides a jumping-off point to more bayou activities.

The theme of the event, “Big Fun on the Bayou”, is drawn from the 1952 Hank Williams song ‘Jambalaya’.

“And there are a lot of things we can do with that besides just of course play the song,” Carius explained of the theme chosen by an initial working group, adding that watersports and triathlon-type contest could be part of the plan, but that “right now the slate is completely clean”.

A piece of property along the bayou near Maxfield Park will also be in play for the festival, thanks to its donation to the City of Batesville for such public-use development.

“The mayor and I visited the area about two weeks ago and it’s very overgrown,” Carius described of the work to be done. In the past, inmates have been utilized to clean up the bayou and could possibly be again for this particular parcel.

Anyone interested in being involved with planning “Big Fun on the Bayou” activities are invited to join the committee by contacting Main Street Batesville at