Social Eyes by Faye Reeder

Eyes on H-E-B: Free books from Retired School Employees put smiles on students’ faces

H-E-B Retired School Employees member Paula Schneider reads to a fifth-grade class at Spring Garden Elementary.
H-E-B Retired School Employees member Paula Schneider reads to a fifth-grade class at Spring Garden Elementary. Courtesy photo

Last month, 1,814 fifth-graders and 370 ESL students in junior high and high school received a free book to take home courtesy of the H-E-B Retired School Employees. A contingent of volunteers from the group fanned out across campuses in the school district to personally deliver the books.

What started out in 1998 as a book giveaway project funded by passing the hat among the members of the Retired School Employees club has now grown into an annual fundraiser called Burgers for Books that has enabled at least 25,000 free books to be given to local students.

Each October, the members partner with Outback Steak House to offer a hamburger lunch to school employees and to anyone in the community. Outback discounts the food and members assemble the lunches available for pickup or dining in at the Pat May Center. Funds raised at this Burgers for Books event go toward purchasing the books.

It was a homecoming of sorts for Ulana Ratley, an H-E-B Retired School Employees officer who has been involved in the book project for several years, when she delivered books to Spring Garden Elementary where she taught for 27 years along with former teachers Paula Schneider and Linda Foster.

“All three of us enjoyed returning to our campus and had fun reading a book to each of the fifth-grade classes,” Ratley said.

Lisa Rowlett, an ESL teacher at KEYS High School, reported that her students played a game to organize the books before each one chose one to take home. “The students were excited to receive a new book to keep. You should see the smiles on their faces when they received them. They are a blessing.”

H-E-B Retired School Employees members Gretchen Thomas and Pat Reinecker headed up this year’s effort. The H-E-B book project is part of a statewide literacy project established by the Texas Retired Teachers Association. The local group has devised a plan for alternating grades that receive the free books each year so that every student gets a free book during their elementary school years. All secondary-level ESL students get a book each year.

The organization has around 500 members who can attend monthly meetings and participate in the literacy project and other community endeavors. Any former school employees who wish to inquire about becoming a member of RSE can contact the president, Kathy Prado, at klprado@verizon.net. Visit localunits.org/HEBRSE to learn more about the group.

Catalyst of Hope Forum on community transformation is Feb. 2

A forum and workshop hosted by 6 Stones coming up on Feb. 2 from 1:30 to 4 p.m. at the Campus West facility at 209 N. Industrial Blvd. will offer a lively dialogue and valuable information about how communities can find real solutions to the issues they face.

The event is free and open to the public and aims to help attendees from the civic, private and public sectors engage talk about city transformation, collaboration and the collective impact they can have on their communities.

The keynote speaker is Eric Swanson, author, teacher and city transformation expert. Following his presentation, guests will enjoy a panel discussion featuring panelists Gary McKamie (former Euless city manager), Gene Buinger (former H-E-B superintendent), Kim Campell (TXU Energy) and John Meador (pastor, First Euless).

“We are so excited to have Eric Swanson join us to talk about ‘Collaboration, Community Transformation and Collective Impact,’ ” said 6 Stones Executive Director Scott Sheppard.

“We have seen tremendous success in these areas here in H-E-B, and we want to inspire, coach, and help other communities across the Metroplex, state and nation experience what we have here. It’s our gift,” Sheppard added.

“Eric has a passion for engaging churches worldwide in the needs and dreams of their communities toward the end of spiritual and societal transformation,” writes Steven Jones from 6 Stones staff. Swanson is the co-author of several books including To Transform a City.

“Our hope is to encourage and inspire other like-minded individuals to come together for the good of their respective communities,” Jones said, adding that the goal is to share with other communities the experiences 6 Stones has had with their transformation initiatives.

There is no charge for attending the program, but reservations will be appreciated. Register and get additional valuable details at www.6stones.org/forum or call 817-868-7400 with questions.

Classic Chevrolet edges out reigning champ at Pulling for Hope competition

If you were near Pennington Field early last month and believed you were hearing what sounded like groans and grunts, you were not imagining things. It was the day for teams from Hurst, Euless, Bedford, H-E-B school district, Classic Chevrolet and Redi-Mix Concrete to compete in the Pulling for Hope event, a friendly competition to see which teams could pull five school buses (and one cement truck) in a race across the Pennington Field parking lot.

The annual competition raises money for the 6 Stones Night of Hope program that provides meals and gifts at Christmas for the families of more than 4,000 needy students in the H-E-B schools. Teams collectively raised in excess of $150,000 at this year’s contest.

“Pulling for Hope is organized independently by the teams who vie for bragging rights on the pavement each year,” said 6 Stones spokesman Steven Jones, adding that the six teams competing haul around 10 tons of metal across the lot. Funds raised in advance of the contest can shave time from a team’s effort.

“A mere eight-tenths of a second separated the top-finishing teams, and each received an extra time deduction because of their fundraising efforts. Euless, the reigning champion, finished with over $35,000 raised and a final time of 24.9 seconds. They were edged out for the trophy by Classic Chevrolet, who brought in a whopping $42,000. Bonus deductions brought Classic’s final time to 23.5,” Jones reports.

The team from Redi-Mix ambitiously pulled a concrete truck instead of the standard school bus and somehow finished within seconds of their competitors even with a 1,400 pound disadvantage.

To see photos from the event, visit www.6stones.org/2016/community-raised-150k/.

Please send your Eyes on H-E-B news tips to freeder@star-telegram.com. Keep up with even more community news by liking our page on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/SocialEyes.ST. Twitter: @FayeReeder

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