Author

Becky Bell

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A woman named Missy stood out in front of a Wal-Mart in Texarkana about a year and a half ago with all her possessions next to her feet. She felt lost and afraid in a city where she knew only one person. He had physically and verbally abused her and taken drugs. Finally, the abuse just turned into what she called a “snowball progression.”

When she moved to be with him from Palestine, TX, she didn’t know about his drug abuse. “I didn’t realize he was using, and I did not want to be part of that life,” she said. She stayed with him for eight months with her back against the wall as he warned her she could not leave. praying hands

One day he finally did allow her to go if she promised she would not call the police. She thought about going to the local shelter, but she knew that would be too close. She needed to escape to a town further away. So, she called Compassion’s Foundation, Inc. in Magnolia, AR. When she called, she was told she would need to get a ride to the facility, and then they could help her. A tender-hearted older woman saw Missy’s desperate situation and decided to help her by giving her a ride to Magnolia. “God, intervened. I know I looked like I was in dire straights with the few bags that I had outside of Wal-Mart,” she said.

The first couple of weeks at the shelter, Missy said she mostly just slept and recuperated. The women there were kind and asked if she would like to go to church services, but she said couldn’t. “I just wasn’t trying to hear that yet,” she said. What she found particularly nice about the shelter was how much the community supports it. By donating clothing, the community truly makes a difference for women who need these items. “We were freely able to get something to go look for a job or to go to church in,” she said. Donations from the community also paid for prescriptions women needed while in the shelter and even sometimes beyond. “He had broken my false teeth, and I was pretty sure this was going to hurt my chances of getting a job,” she said. “Somehow, a Texarkana dentist fixed them. The money got donated, or he did it. I don’t know.”

As soon as she had her teeth, Missy was ready to work and began at a local restaurant for five months. But she had her hopes set on a job at another local company where she could make a better living. Her hopes became a blessing when she received a job at that company.

She said she doesn’t know what she would have done without the Compassion’s Foundation, Inc. and the great gift they gave her of starting over. “If I was stuck at Wal-Mart, I don’t know what I would have done. I probably would have ended up in another relationship,” she said. “The advocates were supportive, and they knew what I was doing. It was kind of like a family there. I mean, they are strict, and they have rules, but that is so people don’t take advantage.” Missy said she knows the statistics for women going back to their abuser are high, so the advocates work with the clients and teach them independence. “I don’t want to be dependent on anyone again,” she said.

Another aspect of her new life is her church home, which she considers her second family. She also has taken on a second job at a local restaurant since they provided her a job during a temporary lay-off. “I figure it’s the right thing to do because it wouldn’t be right for them to train me only to work here a few months,” she said.

clothesThe gifts she first received at Compassion’s Foundation, Inc. are things she never will forget. Gifts were donated from surrounding businesses for holidays and a whole closet of toys for the children living there. She said they have a big clothes basket donated by the college students with everything a woman would want, from personal items to hygiene items to snacks. Picking out clothes for a job was incredibly easy because the shelter had things separated by size, she said. “From your underwear to the jacket you might need, they had it,” she said. “And I thoroughly enjoyed being there.”

For last year’s Christmas, Missy remembers an advocate inviting the clients to their home for a lovely meal. While the meal was beautiful, Missy said she was just glad the shelter made her safe. “I would have been ok staying at the shelter eating a ham sandwich than being in an abusive relationship,” she said. “They were so family-oriented. They would not let me feel like I was doing without.”

Missy wants everyone who reads her story to know that help is out there if they are in an abusive situation. She no longer feels worthless as she did when she was in the relationship. She encourages those in and around Magnolia to choose Compassion’s Foundation, Inc. for help. “It’s very humbling to have someone help you,” she said. “If people could get around the fear of change, they could get around being mentally and physically abused.”

To learn more about Compassion’s Foundation, Inc. in Magnolia, AR, please visit this link or call (870) 235-1414.

L to R: Jake, Mike, Olivia, and Casey Souter Munn

Many of us have heard of some people leaving their Christmas tree up all year long, but have you ever heard of someone having over 100 trees inside their house? In Magnolia, AR, Casey Souter Munn admits she is a Christmas season fanatic.

Ever-Expanding Collection

It all began about 12 years ago.

“I started out with two trees, then I would add two more trees then got two more,” she said about her ever-expanding collection.

Munn, a secretary at Central Elementary in Magnolia, loves to make children smile with the whimsical seasonal clothing she wears every day in December. During her interview for this story, she was wearing a t-shirt that read “My favorite color is Christmas lights.” She jokingly refers to herself as the Crazy Christmas Lady. A big reason why she chooses to go all out for the holiday is to put smiles on other people’s faces.

“It’s such a joyful time. I love all my trees,” Munn said. “They can turn a bad day around in a heartbeat,” she said.

Decorating the trees has turned into a memorable time full of family tradition. Her husband, Mike, just sits back and grins as his wife shows off her collection. Her son, Jake, 18, helps get all the boxes down from the attic and her daughter, Olivia, 16, helps to fluff the branches so they can be decorated.

“They love everything Christmas. It’s such an important time, and it’s supposed to be magical,” she said.

Non-Traditional Themes

 

To make things interesting, Munn has 19 of her trees decorated to a specific theme. To name a few, there’s a family tree, a frou-frou tree, a red and black tree to support the Magnolia Panthers, an owl tree, a cowboy tree complete with turkey feathers and her son’s first cowboy hat, a Mardi Gras tree that stays up through February, a music tree, a butterfly tree in memory of a little girl, and a beach tree that’s full of treasures the family brought back from Florida, Hawaii, and California.

She even has a tree to celebrate her second favorite holiday – Halloween. It’s black and topped with an orange witch’s hat and other spooky ornaments like rubber snakes.

Continuing a Legacy

Hand-crocheted snowflakes adorn a small tree in honor of her late mother.

“My mother also loved Christmas,” Munn said. “I try to continue her legacy.”

Her mother passed away about 20 years ago. The church-themed tree in the living room is where her memory lives on. Large pinecones that belonged to her hang alongside glittery church steeples.

“My mom got them from a pine tree in my Granny Smith’s yard in Taylor many years ago and spray painted some gold,” she explained. “I keep them out in a basket year-round.”

She also honors her mother by hanging snowflake ornaments she hand-crocheted more than 40 years ago.

“Oh, I just love having little parts of her around here,” Munn said. “She has been gone so long, so to have any piece of her at Christmas is wonderful. It makes it feel a little more like she’s here with me.”

Surprisingly, when Munn was growing up, there was only one tree in the family home. It was a real one chopped down from the woods and brought inside to decorate for the memories.

Dumpster Diving

Munn poses next to her 9-foot dumpster dive treasure, which she has now turned into the “deer tree.”

One of her more proud moments is the largest tree in her home. It’s nine-feet tall, and it’s one that she didn’t have to purchase. The only thing it cost her was some pride to dive into a dumpster near the school to rescue it.

“I said, I’m going into the dumpster to get my tree,” she laughed. “I have no idea why someone threw it away, but I’m sure glad they did!”

Luckily, she said it was still in its cardboard box and the lights worked.

“If you were to buy this tree at Hobby Lobby, it would be anywhere from $300 to $500,” she said.

Her husband joked about his petite wife crawling into the dumpster to add to her collection.

“She would have been tickled to death if it would have been an 11-foot,” Mike Munn said.

Ornaments Tell a Story

Themed trees line the windows of her home. From left to right is the beach tree, the frou-frou tree, and the old truck tree.

When asked if she has ever gotten rid of any ornaments because of their age or condition, Munn says absolutely not.

“Oh no, no, no, no, no,” she said. “I have every ornament I’ve ever had in my whole life because every ornament tells a story of some little time of your life.”

Although many of the trees in her home are six-foot, four-foot, and even three-foot, the 10-inch trees in the living room arranged together are also a part of the grand total of 102.

She said she almost didn’t put up the famous collection of trees this year because she was exhausted after recovering from the coronavirus. Her children encouraged her to keep the tradition alive. She said she’s thankful she went ahead and did it. Her home always tends to draw people in with the twinkling of lights and abundance of holiday magic in the air.

“It’s so joyful and it makes me happy,” she said. “I love all my trees!”

When it is time to put them up for the season, Munn relies on the fact that she is “one of the most organized people in the world” to get her seasonal treasures stored until they are brought out again to sparkle and shine once again.

When you turn onto Regency Circle in Magnolia, Arkansas, and drive slowly around a curve, your eyes dart left and right and you may begin to quiver.

A rusted old truck with internal strobe lights flashing looks like it is driven by the infamous Michael Myers of the “Halloween” movies. Standing not too far from the truck, Pennywise, from Stephen King’s books and movies “It,” grips his red balloon. Those who know the grisly clown likes to take in victims in the sewer drain will notice a blue light illuminating the dark way down.

For the past 10 years, Matt Bane has gone what he calls “extreme” with his three-sided lawn on #9 Regency Circle drawing the interest of the community throughout October, and especially on Halloween night when treats are given away.

A Family Tradition

Matt Bane and his girlfriend, Kodi Rabb

Bane said he began decorating for Halloween in such a big way after growing up with his parents, Marie and Tinker Bane, who decorated all of Bane’s childhood. Nowadays, his parents who live across the street help him hand out entire Hershey bars the night of Halloween. Bane can get an idea of how many people come by judging by the number of candy bars given out.

“Last year we had about 700 or 800 candy bars and when we ran out, we gave out regular candy,” he said.

Kids Love It

But not everyone waits until Halloween to take part in the fun at the yard covered in orange and purple lights with a projector showing hands trying to get out of the window like zombies. Vanessa Sneed who lives on nearby Fox Run said she takes her daughter, Melyna Sneed, 2, there for a walk almost every night. Wrapped up in a tiny pink coat, Melyna took all the creatures in the yard in and looked at the cemetery, which was on her eye level, for several moments before continuing her walk.

“She loves it,” Vanessa said. “She’s not scared.”

Each year Bane adds new elements to his display depending on what he can find in stores or sometimes what friends donate to him. This year, the largest addition is a 12-foot skeleton who reigns over the yard near the cemetery lit up by jack-o-lanterns and even a Beetlejuice grave illuminated with a white arrow pointing to the shady ghost’s grave.

With all the lighted displays, two outdoor projectors for family-friendly Halloween movies, and the blow-up elements in the yard, it takes about 15 minutes to turn everything on each night. Bane and his girlfriend, Kodi Rabb, began putting up the massive display the last week of September so it to would be ready for October viewing.

Rabb said she knows her children Coi, 3, and Oaklie, 5, enjoy the display as well as Bane’s children, Jagger, 4, and Chris, 9.

“Oh, they love it, and they love seeing everyone come by,” Rabb said. “We do this to make all the kids happy.”

Smoke machines are other elements that add to the creepiness of the yard, lingering over the cemetery. Other familiar blow-ups are from “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” including Oogie Boogie, Jack Skellington, and Zero, the dog.

Safety First

Out of a precaution due to COVID-19, this year’s display is not as decked out in decorations as in year’s past. Candy will be given away at the end of the driveway. Bane said he has talked to city officials and they would be putting up signs for cars to travel one way through the display.

Halloween will be the big night for the display of course, but some residents couldn’t help but come and get an up-close look before then. Todd Bergeron took his two children up to the yellow do-not cross tape to take a peek into the yard.

“We saw this on Facebook and wanted to come over,” Bergeron said. “They love it!” 

If you’re unable to make it out to see his decorations for Halloween, Bane is known to go all out when decorating for Christmas too, so keep your eyes peeled.

Sixth-grader Tatum Carter of Magnolia, Arkansas is into showing sheep and goats, and she doesn’t mind getting dirty doing it.

But the show world is an expensive one and with four sheep and four goats to care for, she has become no stranger to business adding entrepreneur to her list of accomplishments by creating Tatum’s Tasty Treats. The business, operating under that name on Facebook, allows Tatum to sell a variety of pies, cakes, and chocolate chip cookie bars by receiving orders and selling them by displaying pictures of her baked goodies.

It’s all in an effort to support her goats Bernard, Saltine, Cheddar, and Juanita. Her sheep are named Reba, Kenny Rogers, Dolly, and Big Mac. With these guys and girls, she hopes to win buckles, banners, ribbons, and even money sometimes. She and her dad, Micah Carter, a pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Magnolia, try to make all local shows and go out of state as often as possible. Showings leading up to state fairs are considered the season ball games and playoffs, but the state fair is considered the super bowl of showing animals.

Tatum’s business is a result of COVID-19 and being stuck in the house with time, her imagination, and her small yet capable hands.

“I always liked baking, but I really wanted to start baking since the quarantine,” Tatum, 11, said.

She claims she has watched the Food Network show “Kids Baking Championship,” and YouTube cooking series featuring baker Rosanna Pansino but she mostly taught herself through trial and error. She said her mom Julie Carter is a good cook, but she isn’t much into baking.

Tatum said some recipes taste good the first time she makes them, but the success of others remains elusive.

“The brownie truffles were just a hot mess,” she said. 

Tatum’s father said he wasn’t sure if it was the quarantine causing the burst of orders, but he was awfully proud of what his daughter was doing.

“It just blew up,” Carter said. “There were 500 likes on (Facebook) in one night.”

Some of the specialty treats Tatum makes are vanilla pound cake, lemon and blueberry pound cake, miniature lemon and strawberry pies, and ice cream pies. She has even jumped into making birthday cakes with buttercream icing.

The Big Purchase

Tatum’s first large amount of money she earned was $1,800, and it went toward the purchase of a treadmill so the goats and sheep could get some exercise. The treadmill is long and has sides as tall as the animals, so they’re able to walk a straight path without getting sidetracked.

“Tatum’s show animals are much like athletes,” her mother shared on Facebook. “The harder they train, the better they are, and the better she will do with them. Treadmill work is part of the process. I can’t tell you how proud she is to have this.”

The orders have slowed down now that school has reopened. Carter said that was a good thing because his daughter is still a child and needed a break. He said during the busiest days at the beginning of the business she would wake up baking and the oven would not be turned off until 9 o’clock at night.

Tatum said she’s thankful for the support she has received during her new business venture and showing her animals. Robert McDonald of Southern Title & Closing in Magnolia gave Tatum her first big corporate order. She said McDonald and his wife, Kristal, also gave her tips on showing goats.

Carter said the family is grateful for Mike and Karon Reynolds of Pin Oak Club Lambs in Greenbrier, Arkansas who were also instrumental in helping Tatum learn about showing sheep.

Carter said he is certainly proud that his daughter is helping pay for the high cost of showing which includes feed, hay, and immunizations which must be given often to prevent the animals from getting sick as they are prone to in muggy Arkansas weather.

“I’m proud of the lessons she has learned from running her own business, making her own money, and buying her own equipment,” he said.

Tatum has gathered quite the array of awards for showing livestock but ask anyone in Magnolia who has purchased one of her “tasty treats” and they’d tell you her baking skills deserve an award too.