Police, firefighters join forces for blood drive

By Hale Hughes

LifeShare Blood Center in Beaumont has partnered with Woodville's Volunteer Fire and Police Departments to host their "Cuffs and Hoses" Blood Drive. The blood drive will be Monday, Aug. 14 in front of the police station from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

LifeShare will be in Woodville all day and will move the bus to the Walmart Parking lot and will be there from 2:20-6 p.m.
Donors can come by the bus and donate and should allow themselves approximately 30-40 minutes to complete their donation process. It's a small sacrifice for the donor with an immeasurable impact for those on the receiving end, as well as their loved ones.

Denise Duke is a native of east Texas and the donor recruiter for LifeShare and spoke with the Tyler County Booster about the Cuffs and Hoses Blood drive.
"Anyone who makes a blood donation and finds themselves in need for blood within a 12-month period can be reimbursed up to $500 for the cost of blood testing, which can have a significant impact on saving them money on their medical expenses," Duke said. "The flip side of that is whenever we host these group drives, the first responders from the police and fire departments will be covered if a first responder needs blood. All the donors need to do is request that their donation be given in the name of that person or department and LifeShare will make sure that their donation is credited appropriately."

Duke also added a couple of significant statistics.

"One in three people will have a need for blood in their lifetime at some point." And while a donor may not know who specifically may benefit from your donation, it's very likely that they do know someone who was affected from your donation. It could be a mother, brother, co-worker or friend.
"Every day, one in seven people that enter the hospital will receive a blood transfusion."

Considering LifeShare services 11 hospitals in eight counties in East Texas with thousands of people admitted weekly, it's evident that the need for blood is genuine. The Tyler County Community Hospital is one of the hospitals served by LifeShare which is based out of Beaumont.

I love coming to Woodville," Duke said. "I love chatting with the people from all over Tyler County and have built relationships with people because I love talking with them, whether we are standing outside of Walmart or having a drive at the hospital or the police station.
Duke was asked about blood types.

"O negative is the universal blood type and anytime we are able to get a O negative donation, it can help anyone. Shortages for different blood types can change from week to week or month to month," said Duke. "The next type that is needed is O positive, but both O types of blood are typically in high demand.
Duke was open to explain the process for those who may not have ever donated.

"First time donors will be given a donor ID number and a phone number that they can call a few days after making their donation to get the results of their blood type, blood pressure, cholesterol level."

Whenever you go on the bus, it's like having a mini-physical according to Duke.

An appreciation token for donations are T-shirts. The shirts offered for this drive have a tremendous graphic on them and are one of the boldest yet. These shirts offered for this drive are a very limited edition and will be on a first come, first serve basis and it's giving great acclaim and credit to the first responders of Tyler County.

All Tyler County residents are encouraged to come out and show their support for our local heroes and first responders and donate blood to a cause that is second to none.

Ivanhoe home destroyed in nighttime fire

This Ivanhoe home was built by Jeanna Stafford’s father and her children grew up there. Firefighters from three area departments fought to contain the blaze to the residence and carport. If you would like to help this family recover, drop off donations at the Booster office and the family will pick them up. (Valerie Reddell photo)This Ivanhoe home was built by Jeanna Stafford’s father and her children grew up there. Firefighters from three area departments fought to contain the blaze to the residence and carport. If you would like to help this family recover, drop off donations at the Booster office and the family will pick them up. (Valerie Reddell photo)

By Valerie Reddell
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Home health care provider Jeanna Stafford and her grown son lost their Ivanhoe home Aug. 1 in a massive fire that also destroyed nearly all their personal possession.

Stafford said the house was built by her father, and she did not have homeowners insurance. She does have coverage for the car that was consumed in the fire.

During an interview Aug. 4, Stafford was still trying to come to terms with how to replace all their furniture, small appliances and clothing while at the same time trying to decide whether to rebuild or start over somewhere else.
She is thankful that her son was awakened and escaped the fire with only minor scrapes and bruises — and that none of the firefighters and first responders were injured.

Trucks and firefighters from Ivanhoe, Woodville and Warren spent hours at the fire scene Aug. 1, and Ivanhoe firefighters returned several times throughout the next day to cool off hot spots.

One treasured family possession was lost as the flag that draped the casket of Jeanna Stafford's father. He served aboard the Lexington in World War II and the flag was in a shadowbox in the living room.
Her daughter Jennifer Stafford said the community has been encouraging.

"We have had so many reach out to lend a helping hand," Jennifer Stafford said. "This was my childhood home and it's so shocking to think it can never happen to you then it does. We appreciate all the prayers and positive words from everyone in our community."

Meanwhile her mother is temporarily staying in Orange and commuting to work every day until she finds new housing.

"My employer is providing a bed and a couch that they had from an estate sale, but we still need sheets, towels ... all that stuff," she added. Vouchers from the Red Cross and Salvation Army are helping them with their most immediate needs.

If you would like to assist the Stafford family, the Booster will serve as a collection point for clothing and household items. Ms. Stafford wearing size 2X clothing and her son wears 32 x 32 pants and large shirts.

Early voting under way in WISD’s effort to raise tax rate

By Valerie Reddell
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Early voting is underway in the Woodville ISD Tax Ratification Election, which would give the district permission to raise the maintenance and operations tax (M&O) by 13 cents for the coming fiscal year.

Superintendent Glen Conner and the board of trustees say that the tax increase is necessary to offset lost state revenue with the expiration of more than $1 million Woodville has received under the Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction (ASATR). The ASATR program was created when the Texas Legislature reduced tax rates by a third in 2006.
If voters approve the proposed combined tax rate of $1.285 per $100 in taxable value, the district expects to generate $988,000. If rejected, school funding will drop $1,030,000.

The average home value in Woodville is $46,241, according to a notice produced by Woodville ISD. Under last year's rate of $1.145, homeowners paid $529.46 in school taxes. Based on tax appraisals for this year, the average home is valued at $64,751. If the tax increase is approved, the school tax on that property would be $597.89. If voters reject it, the rate will revert to $1.155 per $100.

If voters approve the rate increase, that average tax bill would climb by $68.43 to $621.44.

The increase does not apply on any homestead belonging taxpayers who are over 65 or disabled. Those tax bills remain frozen unless improvements are made or the property is sold.

District officials say the increase also generates additional $988,000 in state revenue. If rejected, those matching revenues are essentially left in Austin, according to Conner.

Voters can cast a ballot between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. at Woodville ISD Administration Bldg., 404 N. Charlton. In addition, voting will be held at Woodville High School, 700 Eagle Drive from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 17; at the Woodville ISD Community Room from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Aug. 18; and at Woodville ISD Summit, 5:30 to 7 p.m. Aug. 19. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, at the WISD Administration Bldg.

The Texas Legislature is considering a number of bills that would impact public school finance. Stay up to date on those efforts at the Booster's Facebook page.

Texas Sales Tax Holiday This Weekend — Aug. 11-13

(AUSTIN) — Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar reminds shoppers the annual sales tax holiday is scheduled for this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 11-13.

The law exempts most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks priced for less than $100 from sales tax, saving shoppers about $8 on every $100 they spend during the weekend.

Lists of apparel and school supplies that may be purchased tax-free can be found on the Comptroller's website at

This year, shoppers are expected to save an estimated $87 million in state and local sales taxes during the sales tax holiday, which has been an annual event since 1999.

Walter Diggles, wife, daughter found guilty

LUFKIN -- Walter Diggles along with his wife Rosie and daughter Anita were found guilty Thursday on all charges stemming from a conspiracy to divert federal funds intended for hurricane victims to their own use or groups with which they were affiliated.

Diggles, 64, the former executive director of the Jasper-based Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG), helped oversee the disbursement of a number of federal grants intended to help a 12-county region served by DETCOG, which includes Tyler County.

The federal jury found all three Diggles guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Walter Diggles was found guilty on a total of 11 counts of wire fraud, two counts of stealing federal funds and three counts of money laundering. His wife, Rosie, was found guilty of nine counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. His daughter, Anita was found guilty of one count of wire fraud

Sentencing by Judge Ron Clark will be held in four to six months. The three could be facing up to 30 years in federal prison and up to $1 million in fines.

Closing arguments in the eight-day long trial were held Thursday in the federal courthouse in Lufkin in a case that began in March 2014 when FBI and other federal officers executed search warrants at the DETCOG headquarters, the Diggles residence and the New Lighthouse Church of God in Christ in Jasper where Diggles served as the pastor.

A federal indictment charging the three family members was handed down in Beaumont in December 2015

According to evidence presented during the trial, Diggles defrauded federal authorities by inflating the amount the Deep East Texas Foundation needed for social service programs. Diggles was listed as the "registered agent" for that foundation.

He received about $4.4 million from 2007 to 2012 through federal Social Services Block Grant funds. Of that, $1.3 million was spent on personal expenses, such as transportation, funeral expenses and church rent.

Prosecutors said members of the New Lighthouse Church operated an after-school program, and that Rosie and Anita Diggles prepared documents and reimbursement packets to request funds in support of the learning center.

4 charged with murder of Nederland man found in Fred

murder suspects

by Valerie Reddell

WOODVILLE —Four suspects have been charged with murder in connection with the May 27 death of Brandon Robertson, 25, of Nederland. The body was found in Tyler County after firefighters discovered the remains while fighting a small woods fire. They face additional charges of tampering with physical evidence, along with a fifth suspect.

Sheriff Bryan Weatherford identified the suspects as:
• Jeremy Arrington, 38, of Spurger.
• James Pratt, 25, of Nederland.
• Thomas Swafford, 24, of Nederland.
• Jacob Arrington, 25, of Nederland.
• Scott Ford, 28, of Orange.

Jeremy Arrington and Pratt are being held at the Tyler County Jail. Arrington is charged with tampering with physical evidence and bail is set at $150,000.
Pratt is charged with murder and tampering, his bonds total $450,000.

Swafford and Jacob Arrington are being held at the Jefferson County Jail in lieu of $350,000 bail.
Scott Ford is being held at the Jasper County Jail. Requests for a booking photo of Ford were not been answered as of press time. His bond is set at $350,000.
Information has not yet been released on a sixth suspect.

An autopsy on the victim showed multiple gunshot wounds, Weatherford said in a written statement released to media outlets.
Tyler County detectives and Texas Rangers interviewed multiple witnesses and suspects and confessions were attained. Those statements and evidence collected from multiple crime scenes in Jefferson and Tyler County revealed that Robertson was killed in Jefferson County then taken to Tyler County and dumped.