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(West Plains) – The city of West Plains is reminding residents that for the Christmas holiday there will be no residential refuse collection Thursday, December 25 or Friday, December 26. Monday and Tuesday routes will be collected on Monday, December 22, Wednesday and Thursday routes will be collected on Tuesday, December 23, and Friday routes will be picked up Wednesday, December 24.

Trucks will run on December 26 to service larger commercial customers.

The City of West Plains Solid Waste Transfer Station and Materials Recovery Facility will be closed at 11 AM on Wednesday, December 24 and will remain closed until December 29. It will also be closed January 1, 2015.

Also, there will be no residential refuse collection January 1, 2015. Thursday customers will be picked up on Friday, January 2, with no other routes affected. Trucks will run January 1 to service larger commercial customers.

Carol Turner, an RN at TCMH won the employee of the year honor.  Shown here are Linda Pamperien, TCMH CFO; Wes Murray, TCMH CEO; Tuner and Doretta Todd-Willis, TCMH CNO. (Provided)

Carol Turner, an RN at TCMH won the employee of the year honor.  Shown here are Linda Pamperien, TCMH CFO; Wes Murray, TCMH CEO; Tuner and Doretta Todd-Willis, TCMH CNO. (Provided)

(Houston) – Texas County Memorial Hospital gave out top employee awards and honored 42 employees with service awards at the Thirty-Second Annual Celebration of TCMH Employees on Friday, December 12 at Faith Fellowship Church in Houston. In attendance were approximately 100 employees, many with guests, for a total attendance of about 200 people.

Stuart Mitchell of Mountain Grove and Cathy Stilley of Willow Springs took top honors as co-managers of the year at TCMH for 2014.

Mitchell, an employee at TCMH since 2008, is the director of the information systems department at the hospital.

Stilley has been the clinic coordinator for Dr. Steve Hawkins in Cabool since 1993, and when the clinic became the TCMH Cabool Medical Clinic in 2005, Stilley retained the clinic manager position as an employee of TCMH.

Carol Turner of Success received the employee of the year honor.

Employee of the year is limited to the individuals who have received the honor of employee of the month since the 2013 employee awards ceremony. All employees are allowed to vote for employee of the year by choosing one employee of the month in a secret ballot vote. Turner is a registered nurse in the emergency department at TCMH, and she has worked at the hospital since 1991. Turner won employee of the month honors at TCMH in December, and it was the second time she received the employee of the month honor during her employment at TCMH.

The managers of the year and the employee of the year were honored with an engraved plaque, $500 cash, a pin and a day of paid time off.

TCMH also gave out prizes to hospital employees that had volunteered at hospital events throughout the year, and recognized employees for service.

Stuart Mitchell, information systems director at TCMH, and Cathy Stilley, TCMH Cabool Medical Clinic manager, won manager of the year honors at TCMH.  Shown here are: Linda Pamperien, TCMH CFO; Wes Murray, TCMH CEO; Mitchell; Anita Kuhn, TCMH controller; Stilley; Dr. Steve Hawkins, and Doretta Todd-Willis, TCMH CNO. (Provided)

Stuart Mitchell, information systems director at TCMH, and Cathy Stilley, TCMH Cabool Medical Clinic manager, won manager of the year honors at TCMH.  Shown here are: Linda Pamperien, TCMH CFO; Wes Murray, TCMH CEO; Mitchell; Anita Kuhn, TCMH controller; Stilley; Dr. Steve Hawkins, and Doretta Todd-Willis, TCMH CNO. (Provided)

Stuart Mitchell, information systems director at TCMH, and Cathy Stilley, TCMH Cabool Medical Clinic manager, won manager of the year honors at TCMH. (Provided)

Stuart Mitchell, information systems director at TCMH, and Cathy Stilley, TCMH Cabool Medical Clinic manager, won manager of the year honors at TCMH. (Provided)

(West Plains) – DivorceCare, a special help seminar and support group for people experiencing divorce and separation, will be held on Tuesday evenings at 6:30 PM, at First Baptist Church-West Plains beginning January 13.

The DVD-based DivorceCare support group features nationally-recognized experts on divorce and recovery topics. Seminar sessions include “Facing My Anger,” “Facing My Loneliness,” “New Relationships,” “KidCare” and “Forgiveness.”

A program for children whose parents are separated or divorced begins this same night. DivorceCare for Kids (DC4K) is designed to help children ages 5-12 find healing and encouragement and establish coping skills during the breakup of their parents.

Both groups will meet at the church located at 202 Walnut Street in West Plains. There is no cost to participate in either program, but those who would like to attend should call the church office at 417-256-3128 to register. Questions also may be directed to the church office.

Pictured: (front row, left to right) Lauren Boudreau, Elizabeth, AR; Alyssa Long, Mountain Home, AR; Melody Wire, Flippin, AR; Heather Porter, Mountain Home, AR (back row, left to right) Traci Ohler, Instructor; Bradley Razer, Mountain Home, AR; Christine Razer, Mountain Home, AR; Marisela Estrada de Kantor, Lakeview, AR; Kristin Krampits, Mountain Home, AR.  (Provided)

Pictured: (front row, left to right) Lauren Boudreau, Elizabeth, AR; Alyssa Long, Mountain Home, AR; Melody Wire, Flippin, AR; Heather Porter, Mountain Home, AR (back row, left to right) Traci Ohler, Instructor; Bradley Razer, Mountain Home, AR; Christine Razer, Mountain Home, AR; Marisela Estrada de Kantor, Lakeview, AR; Kristin Krampits, Mountain Home, AR. (Provided)

(Mountain Home) – Arkansas State University-Mountain Home (ASUMH) recently held a ceremony honoring graduates of the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program.

Graduates completed 99 hours of course work and passed a skills and knowledge test to graduate. Students finished their course work in four weeks. ASUMH instructor Deanna Grace, RN presented the graduates with their certificates.

For information on upcoming classes or scholarships, contact ASUMH Health Science Coordinator Sarah Smith at 870-508-6266 or email sarahs@asumh.edu.

(Provided)

(Provided)

(Mammoth Spring) – Each month the Thayer/Mammoth Spring Rotary Club, in cooperation with Couch, Koshkonong, Mammoth Spring, and Thayer High Schools select a student of the month from each respective school. In addition to high scholastic performance, these students must exemplify model behavior in the classroom and in the community.

The recipient of this honor for November 2014 from Couch High School is sophomore Maggie Smith. Maggie is extremely active in her school; participating in Youth for Christ, FBLA, FCCLA, Library Club, and Beta. Maggie is the daughter of Edward and Pam Smith.

The recipient of this honor for November 2014 from Koshkonong High School is sophomore, Dylan Wiggs. Dylan is extremely active in his school; participating in Basketball, Cross Country, FFA, and Beta. Dylan is the son of Steve and Teresa Wiggs.

The recipient of this honor for November 2014 from Mammoth Spring High School is junior, Trisha Davis. Trisha is extremely active in her school; participating in Basketball, Band, Quiz Bowl, Trap Shooting Team, FFA, Beta, National Honors Society, and Student Council. Trisha is the daughter of Brian and Lee Davis.

The recipient of this honor for November 2014 from Thayer High School is sophomore, Adriana Pounders. Adriana is extremely active in her school, participating in Art Club, Band, Quiz Bowl, FCCLA, Student Council, and Sophomore Class Secretary. Adriana is the daughter of Jeremy and Susan Pounders.

Ozarka Kids Academy donates winter items to Izard County DHS. (Provided)

Ozarka Kids Academy donates winter items to Izard County DHS. (Provided)

(Melbourne) – In lieu of a gift exchange, Ozarka Kids Academy at Ozarka College in Melbourne chose to donate to the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) this holiday season.

The new hats, mittens, packs of diapers, and non-perishable food items Kids Academy students brought in will be donated to DHS on December 20, who will intern redistribute them to Izard County residents in need.

For more information about Ozarka Kids Academy, please contact Karen Hall, Ozarka College Director of Childcare, at 870-368-7868.

The stockings have been hung and trees decorated. While festive and the most visible these heirloom traditions are not what this wonderful season of giving is all about.

Many times we forget that this is the time to celebrate the birth of Christ, the wonder, joy and tradition that His birth has meant for all of us. As a child, I recall the excitement of Christmas, but I also recall the excitement to celebrate Christ’s birthday and all that meant for me, my children and family. It is important that we celebrate the true meaning of this holiday season and pass the religious or cultural traditions along with those we have developed as a family or society.

One tradition that I hope each family partakes in is the season of giving. Give to others. Not just items, though many are in need of clothing and simple necessities. Give of your time. Volunteer at a local food pantry, women’s center, or school. Nursing homes are always looking for someone to come and visit with patients, read to them or do small tasks. These simple tasks can be completed year round and will have a positive effect on both the recipient and the giver. Please consider giving the gift of your time to those in need.

I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas and best wishes for a happy, healthy and blessed 2015.

As always, I appreciate it when groups from around Missouri and from our community back home come to visit me at the Capitol; however, during interim I may be in district. If you would like to arrange a time to come and visit me in Jefferson City, or if you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact my Capitol office at (573) 751-1882.

Merry Christmas to You and Yours

Whether you are hosting the family Christmas, or traveling across the country to be with loved ones, I hope you have time this holiday season to enjoy the company of those closest to you. While we never want to overlook the true meaning and significance of the Christmas holiday, it’s also the time of the year when we reconnect with our loved ones; enjoy watching the excitement in our children’s eyes as they open presents; and simply relax for a few moments as we put our worries aside and appreciate the many blessings we have been given. Yes, the merry-christmas-card[1]new gadgets and toys can be nice, but Christmas is really a time to thank God for all that he has given us. While the commercialized version of Christmas sometimes clouds the holiday’s true meaning, I hope all of you will remember it is much more than just a day to give and receive gifts.

I hope this Christmas is filled with joy and warmth for you and your family. I wish you safe travels if you are visiting loved ones and wish the same for those who may be coming to stay with you. At the same time as we prepare for this greatest of holidays, I also ask us to remember there are many Missourians who are not as fortunate. They won’t have the luxury of the companionship of family and friends, a warm fire with stockings hung on the mantle, or even a simple meal. I ask you to keep them in your thoughts and prayers during this holiday season. We are all so very blessed to have the many riches that we do. Please take the time this Christmas to give thanks for all that you have regardless of how plentiful or meager it may be.

Thank you again for your support and may you all have a Merry Christmas.

Unemployment Reaches Six-Year Low

The holiday season brought with it the gift of good news as we saw our state unemployment rate drop to its lowest level more than six years. The Missouri Department of Economic Development released data this week showing the jobless rate in Missouri is now down to 5.6 percent from 5.9 percent in October. This figure is significantly better than last year’s rate at this time of 6.1 percent, and actually represents the lowest unemployment rate our state has seen since May 2008. This is great news as we continue to work to put Missourians back to work and to stimulate our economy.

Legislative Committee Begins Investigation into Ferguson Unrest

While the State Capitol is now trimmed with Christmas decorations and the sounds of Christmas music can often be heard through the halls, there is still serious work taking place in our seat of government. Last week the Joint Committee on Government Accountability met in Jefferson City to begin its investigation into the way the unrest in Ferguson was handled by the governor.

As we all saw as we watched the news, the protests in Ferguson turned violent as protestors began looting and setting fires. Now, as a community tries to rebuild from the destruction, it is time to gain answers; in particular as to why the governor did not use National Guard troops to prevent the chaos.

The first meeting of the committee was more organizational in nature and the deeper investigation will commence in the coming days. However, what we know so far is that the committee plans to conduct a robust investigation into the response, or lack thereof, of the Missouri National Guard in Ferguson. Second, state employees will be afforded whistleblower protection should they have information they feel needs to reach the committee. And, third, the committee has the authority to subpoena information and receive testimony under oath should the Executive branch be non-cooperative.

All of these things will contribute to what I hope will be a comprehensive and productive investigation that will give Missourians the answers they deserve regarding what we saw transpire in Ferguson. As the committee continues its work, I will keep you updated on their findings.

As always, it is an honor to serve the good folks of the 153rd District. If you would like to discuss any issue, please call 573-751-1066 or you can e-mail me at steve.cookson@house.mo.gov .

Recognizing Christmas

Researching Christmas through the lens of American History has been interesting and enjoyable for me. During Colonial times, the Day of Christmas was somewhat contentious. There were some that wanted to carry on this tradition as was celebrated in Great Britain. To others, that was reason enough not to commemorate it. The first U.S. Congress–the exact one that petitioned Washington to set a “Day of Publick Thanksgivin’,” worked on December 25th, 1789. In the 1830′s, some state legislatures began to change this trend by enacting laws to designate this holiday. It wasn’t until 1870, though, that President Grant compelled Congress to set the date of December 25th as Christmas Day. After the turn of the century, the Missouri Legislature followed and enacted section 9.010, which states, with a number of other dates, “The first day of January,…and the twenty-fifth of December, are declared and established public holidays…” Recently, in 2013, the General Assembly passed section 9.015, which reads, “No state or local governmental entity, public building, public park, public school, or public setting or place shall ban or otherwise restrict the practice, mention, celebration, or discussion of any federal holiday.” May you have a blessed and Merry Christmas!

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder. And His Name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”–Isaiah 9:6

(St. Louis) (AP) – Missouri Congressman Jason Smith has written to President Barack Obama to push for the completion of a Missouri Bootheel region levee after concerns were raised about the project.

The $165 million New Madrid Floodway would close a quarter-mile-long gap in the southern end of a network of levees to protect rich Missouri agricultural land from frequent flooding from the Mississippi River. Smith’s letter was sent Wednesday, one day after community leaders said the project would cause greater flooding concerns in Cairo, Illinois, and other predominantly black communities in the region, the Southeast Missourian reports.

In another letter to Obama, nearly 100 environmental groups renewed their longstanding concern that the project would threaten wetlands and habitat for fish and wildlife. That letter suggested that the Environmental Protection Agency use its authority to veto the project through a rarely used provision in the Clean Water Act.

Smith, however, urged the president to “resist any requests” to use an EPA veto. He said the people of Southeast Missouri have spent 60 years waiting for the floodway project and “do not appreciate being held hostage by a radical environmentalist agenda.”

Smith also said he reviewed many of the letters written to the president Tuesday and said many expressing their opposition were from the Kansas City, Missouri, area and did not live in the affected region.

As for the concerns the project will increase flooding dangers in Southern Illinois, Smith said this belief is “unfounded and not based in science.” He also expressed concern that interference by the president would “derail” the project.

“The Corps of Engineers has repeatedly determined that this project creates no additional risk of flooding to upstream or downstream communities,” he wrote.

A final environmental impact statement must be formulated before a decision is made whether to proceed.