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First Refuge Ministries cuts ribbon on new facility in Sanger

Updated to include the address of the new location in Sanger.

SANGER — Dozens of people including staff members, volunteers and community members gathered Wednesday afternoon to cut the ribbon on First Refuge Ministries’ newest center in Sanger.

The center, which opened last week at 713 S. 5th St., will provide free medical services, counseling services and a food pantry to those in need.

“This will do so much good for people who desperately need it,” First Refuge Ministries executive director Paul Juarez said. “Many people are one paycheck away from becoming homeless. They need assistance to prevent that from happening, and that’s what we hope to do here in Sanger.”

The center is the second of its kind, with the first being located at 1701 Broadway St. in Denton.

The Sanger location at has been in the works for more than a year when Juarez said he came into contact with Grant Bowles, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in Sanger.

“I was on a tour of First Refuge’s building in Denton and I remember immediately thinking, ‘We need this in Sanger,’” Bowles said. “It just clicked.”

The house First Refuge Ministries will serve out of was provided by the Sanger church and had previously been unoccupied.

“It was just sitting there empty,” Bowles said. “We had been trying to figure out what to do with the place but nothing fit. I saw what First Refuge was doing and it just made sense. Everything fell into place.”

After the ribbon cutting, attendees toured the facility that features two counseling rooms, two medical examination rooms and a food pantry that is set up like a grocery store.

“There are so many people around here who don’t get proper medical and dental services,” said Debbie Reaves, a Sanger Chamber of Commerce administrator. “To have a place that provides that capability for us is huge for the community.”

Although the center opened just last week, community members like Reaves are already praising its impact.

“I personally have a granddaughter that’s going to counseling in the Denton office,” Reaves said. “To know that she is now going to get that service here is just phenomenal.”

UNT adds allergen-free dining hall

In the first day of operation, the lunch menu at Kitchen West features fried chicken tenders or fried cauliflower, beef stroganoff with a variety of sides, breads and desserts inside West Hall at the University of North Texas.

What makes them different from what would be served in one of the other four dining halls on campus is all of the food is free of the eight most common food allergens: milk, eggs, fish, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, soy and shellfish.

The space has been a dining hall for a long time, but was closed last May to make way for this new concept. Mike Falk, the manager of the kitchen, has been at this location for five years and UNT for 12.

Mark Finley / Jeff Woo/DRC  

Dining hall worker Alissa Hatfield cleans the food area at Kitchen West inside West Hall at the University of North Texas. Kitchen West opened Wednesday and is completely free of the eight main food allergens: milk, egg, fish, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, soy and shellfish.

While he thought this would be a challenge at first, he realized he could adapt tried-and-true recipes like his favorite fried chicken by replacing ingredients. He breads the tenders in Bob’s Red Mill gluten free flour now and fries it in canola oil instead of peanut oil.

“We were known for fried chicken, West Wednesdays, we were the most popular place to come,” Falk said of when they served their fried chicken. “All of that food we can still cook and process the same way we did before, so people may not notice a difference.”

Other items are more noticeable, he said, like dairy-free cheese options and vegan mayonnaise in Thursday’s potato salad. In addition to revamping classic recipes like fried chicken, kitchen staff also led a recipe development phase over the summer at the kitchen at Bruce Hall.

Mark Finley / Jeff Woo/DRC  

Dining hall worker Alissa Hatfield, right, serves students meals Wednesday at Kitchen West inside West Hall at the University of North Texas. Kitchen West opened Wednesday and is completely free of the eight main food allergens: milk, egg, fish, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, soy and shellfish.

For UNT Dining Services overall, leadership noticed a trend of students increasingly having food allergies and preferences in the products they consume, said Peter Balabuch, executive director of UNT Dining Services. By having smaller and specialized dining halls gives students a chance to experiment with different foods and concepts, like all-vegan dining hall Mean Greens and specialized diet options.

“As time went on, we identified a need to address students with special dietary concerns so we thought we should re-imagine what we’re doing at West and basically reinvent it,” Balabuch said. “Because we’re a scratch-first organization, we thought, ‘Let’s go all the way like we did with Mean Greens and let’s making this dining hall a safe spot for students who suffer from allergies and intolerances.’”

Mark Finley / Jeff Woo/DRC  

A variety of food options are available at Kitchen West, which opened Wednesday inside West Hall at the University of North Texas. The new dining hall features food that is completely free of the eight main food allergens: milk, egg, fish, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, soy and shellfish.

To Balabuch’s knowledge, the only other college with an entire allergen-free dining hall is Michigan State University, as most campuses just dedicate one line or station in a bigger dining hall to this style of food.

The dining hall will have a grand opening at the beginning of 2020, and it’s open to the public for $5.50, all you can eat. For now, hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Jeff Woo/DRC 

Denton City Council member Gerard Hudspeth rings a bell to start the Salvation Army Red Kettle Kick-off at Golden Triangle Mall on Wednesday. Guyer and Denton High School gave performances during the event. The kickoff is the largest fundraiser of the year for the organization. For video coverage visit DentonRC.com

Attorney fired bullet as she was cleaning out her office, new statement says

The Denton attorney who fired a bullet inside a law office last Friday was let go from the firm the same day and returned to the office with a handgun as she was cleaning out her desk, according to a statement from the law firm sent late Tuesday.

Denton police charged Petrina Thompson with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon last week after she allegedly fired one round from a handgun inside the Martinez Legal offices in the 400 block of South Carroll Boulevard.

In a statement Tuesday evening, the law office said Thompson was only employed there for “a few weeks.” Martinez Legal said Thompson left the building and came back in with a duffel bag. Inside of it, the law office said, was a handgun.

Attorney Marci Martinez and a paralegal were inside. Thompson pulled out the handgun and fired one round. The weapon apparently jammed, preventing Thompson from firing more rounds, the statement reads.

Petrina Thompson

“We are grateful to the Denton Police Department for their rapid response to the situation,” the statement reads. “Our law firm is continuing to serve our clients with legal representation of the highest quality.”

Denton police have still not released Thompson’s arrest affidavit. The Denton Record-Chronicle requested the document on Monday. Wednesday morning, spokeswoman Khristen Jones said the document will be released by the end of the day. The details of the shooting were described in the law office’s statement.

Jones told a reporter on Saturday that officers arrested Thompson less than a mile away on South Bell Avenue. Officers found the handgun in Thompson’s possession and determined the weapon was jammed.

Thompson, who in federal court records is said to have been employed with the Dallas City Attorney’s Office, has no public disciplinary history, according to the Texas Bar.

A police spokeswoman told one news outlet they were unsure if Thompson had a license to carry the handgun.

Thompson was in the Denton County Jail on a $150,000 bond as of Wednesday morning.