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Denton Kiwanis celebrating 100 years in serving needs of community children

The Denton Kiwanis Club is marking 100 years of serving the community’s needs, particularly providing health services for children. To celebrate, members of the legacy nonprofit are hosting a dinner Thursday night with friends, family, city officials, school board members and several guest speakers.

The club is perhaps best known for the Denton Kiwanis Club Children’s Clinic. The clinic provides free medical care prescriptions, dental procedures, vision services and mental health services for children in low-income families who reside in the northern part of Denton County. The club is the only agency in Denton to offer free dental services.

The clinic treats between 250 and 350 children a year. Bob Crouch, a club member for 56 years, said most of the children the clinic sees are referred from schools.

“Typically, by the time we see a child that is needing either dental or medical care, it’s an urgent matter, so typically we can get them in within a day or two to be seen,” executive secretary Robin Meyer said.

The clinic runs in cooperation with local medical providers, dental care providers and pharmacies who see clinic referrals at a reduced rate.

The club also does other service projects throughout the year, such as dental hygiene kits. Last year, club members packed 2,250 dental hygiene kits that were given to each second grader in Denton ISD.

This year, the club is continuing that program and going to Hodge Elementary School on a monthly basis. In October, Kiwanis members were able to distribute kits for pre-K and kindergarten students, and this month, they plan to continue with students in the first grade.

Jeff Woo/DRC 

Alan Lessard, a guest speaker, speaks to members during the Kiwanis Club’s weekly meeting at Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q on Tuesday in Denton. The local Kiwanis organization is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

The club additionally gives out $1,000 scholarships to graduating seniors from each of the high schools in Denton.

“The thing that makes the Denton Kiwanis Club uniquely important is it does a tremendous amount of service,” said James Wells, a member of the trust committee. “The Kiwanis international motto is ‘we serve,’ [and] we do through the clinic and support through education and scholarships.”

This year and last year, the club was unable to give out scholarships and struggled with keeping the clinic open after losing its two biggest fundraisers, Taste of North Texas and the Fourth of July fireworks show. Both fundraisers were canceled because of COVID-19.

“Losing both of our major fundraisers had a huge impact on us,” Meyer said.

But the clinic never closed and continued helping children who needed medical services, despite funding issues. The club was able to get grants to help keep the clinic open, and Meyer said things are starting to look better since they are anticipating having both of their major fundraisers back in 2022.

“We want to recover from COVID,” said Doug Chadwick, past president of the children’s clinic and current member of the trust committee. “We’re a face-to-face organization, so not being able to do that for a year was painful and very hard for us. We are building our way back out of that.”

Chadwick, who is also a member of the Denton ISD school board, wants to get back to a larger number of members that are participating regularly. He encourages people new to Denton to check out Denton Kiwanis Club or other civic organizations.

“We want to continue the service things we are doing for our community,” Chadwick said. “As Denton grows, the needs for clubs and organizations supplying services that aren’t handled by other agencies [increases]. There needs to be organizations like ours that step in and do things.”


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Hundreds of shots, hundreds of stickers: DCPH hosts first vaccine clinic for kids under 11

Denton County Public Health held its first COVID-19 vaccine clinic Wednesday for children between 5 and 11, with local health officials saying the new eligibility is vital in further curbing the virus’s transmission and many area parents saying it’s brought them a sigh of relief.

Pfizer’s coronavirus shot was approved for children as young as 5 last week, at which point providers across the county could begin vaccinating them. DCPH ordered more than 8,000 new Pfizer shots, which come in a different dosage suited for children. More than 300 parents made appointments for Wednesday’s clinic at the county’s Morse Street facility, with about 500 spread out over the next two days. Other locals made appointments with pharmacies or pediatricians.

DCPH adopted a new strategy for the kids, having them go with their families indoors and into individual rooms for the shot. Organizers say that while that change makes the clinics less efficient than the department’s popular drive-thru model, it comes with the benefit of comfort and privacy for the kids. Prosper resident Phillip Robinson said his son, 8-year-old Matias, had no problems with the setup.

“We were looking forward to him getting it,” Robinson said. “We were pretty nervous about school starting again [without the shot].”

Robinson said he got his own first dose at Texas Motor Speedway and has been waiting for his two school-age kids to have the opportunity. In the meantime, he said, the family has stayed vigilant about masks.

Jeff Woo/DRC 

Prosper resident Phillip Robinson and his son Matias, 8, sit in a waiting area after he (Matias) received a vaccine during a vaccine clinic at at the Denton County Morse Street Facility on Wednesday.

Debate around the vaccine has only heated up since children became eligible, though DCPH Director Matt Richardson shot down safety concerns at Tuesday’s county Commissioners Meeting, citing lower COVID-19 death rates among every age group receiving the shot and stating children can easily spread the virus to their family members.

“There’s no doubt, in our epidemiological investigations, that many, many pediatric cases go to the point source of infection for household contacts,” Richardson said. “That’s clearly what we’re trying to prevent. This is a second-level prevention.”

Reached after the meeting, Richardson said vaccine hesitancy tends to increase as age gets lower. But in this case, he said, the research is clear — and he’s making a full recommendation as a result.

“Typically, what we see is that as vaccine eligibility gets younger, there’s more and more hesitancy,” Richardson said. “That safety is important across the board and the good news is this 5-11 group did not experience more side effects [than others]. … I can speak to the research we see, and the research says it’s safe and effective.”

Brenda Barrio, a Denton resident and associate professor at UNT, said she kept her 6-year-old son, Lucas, involved in the vaccination process. She kept up with the latest research and asked her son’s doctor for their recommendation, but ultimately it was he who gave the green light.

“We’ve kept him informed because the change was drastic, so we had to,” Barrio said. “For his own sake, he wanted to get the vaccine. He had been wanting to get it.”

Jeff Woo/DRC 

Bunmi Adelaja, LVN, administers a vaccine to 6-year-old Lucas Barrio during a vaccine clinic at at the Denton County Morse Street Facility on Wednesday, Nov. 10.

Barrio said it was “extremely stressful” to keep her son in school without him being eligible for the shot, especially as cases popped up in his own classroom. She said that while it’s a relief for him to finally get it, her family won’t be letting their guard down yet.

“I’ve been trying to get as informed as possible,” Barrio said. “You still worry. As a parent, you’re going to worry about everything.”


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20th century philosopher inspires UNT professor's latest jazz album

Dave Meder didn’t set out to make a record during the pandemic.

Courtesy photo/Outside in Music 

Pianist Dave Meder, who teaches in the University of North Texas College of Music, has a new album, “

Unamuno Songs and Stories

.”

But when the University of North Texas music professor returned to some of his favorite literature — the poems and essays of 20th-century Basque-Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno — he recognized a kinship between himself and the writer. He also recognized the way Unamuno responded to sociopolitical turmoil, and how music seemed to be a safe place for Meder to process his own anxiety, fears and hope.

“I discovered him in college, during my undergraduate years,” said Meder, who teaches piano in the UNT College of Music. “I started out as a music major, but I left music and went into political science and Spanish.”

Unamuno was a major dissident figure during Francisco Franco’s rule, and Meder threads the ideas and ideals into his latest album, Unamuno Songs and Stories. For Meder, jazz was a fruitful place to muck around with his very American worries and dreams.

Meder earned his undergraduate degree at Florida State University. He recalls reading Unamuno in the original Spanish and finding connections with the thinker even then.

“I think there are a lot of things about him I identify with in my own life,” Meder said. “He was a man of faith, but that didn’t stop him from having a lot of issues with the church. He was also an intellectual; he was always thinking about secularism. I was brought up in the church — Southern Baptist, to be specific. Even in college, I was so attracted to Unamuno and his work. He finds these ways of not shying away from his belief in God, but also just railing against the church.”

Meder joined his fellow Americans, watching evangelical Christians associate themselves and their faith with Donald Trump, who didn’t shy away from admiring strongman leaders in other countries, from the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte to North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

“When Unamuno was alive, the church at that time was tied in with all the right-wing figures,” Meder said. “Through the whole sociopolitical shift, when the government ultimately installed Francisco Franco and became a fascist dictatorship, the church was allied with all that. Unamuno was very comfortable criticizing the church and the government. He was exiled for those criticism, and Franco ruled as a right wing dictator until 1975. He died under house arrest.”

Meder said he wasn’t interested in making partisan statements in the jazz record. Instead, he used Unamuno’s writings to explore his own feelings about the United States, and the tectonic political changes it is going through. He gathered his trio — Marty Jaffe on bass and Michael Piolet on drums — to build a sonic foundation interpreting Unamuno’s ideas. Guest artists Miguel Zenón, an alto saxophone player, and Philip Dizack, a trumpeter, joined the trio to embellish the music with solos and color. The musicians recorded most of the songs this year.

Courtesy photo/Adrien H. Tillmann 

From left, musicians Miguel Zenon, Dave Meder, Michael Piolet and Marty Jaffe perform on Meder’s “Unamuno Songs and Stories.”

“The way I compose music is that it depends heavily on soloists who cannot just play really well, but soloists who can get inside the intent of the composition and really learn to feel how their improvisation or solo fits into the larger piece,” Meder said. “That’s what I feel about Marty, Michael, Phillip and Miguel. They can do the improvisation and think compositionally at the same time.”

Songs and Stories is a sprawling work. It weaves thoughtful, subtle meditations on the philosopher’s work, but Meder and his band aren’t afraid to unleash angular, aggressive sounds and rhythms or surprise the listener with bright pops of humor, hope and the occasional dare to let your mood lift with Dizack’s luminous phrases. Zenón doesn’t show off when he easily could. In “The Lake and the Mountain,” Zenón adds buttery phrases throughout the song, connecting Meder’s uptempo accompaniment to slower, moody moments.

“‘The Lake and the Mountain’ comes from probably his best-known work, ‘Saint Emmanuel the Good, Martyr,’” Meder said. “The lake and the mountain are two primary symbols. The mountain represents eternal life and the grand tenets of Christianity. The lake is a symbol of spiritual doubt, and wrestling with spiritual uncertainty. The story is about a priest who comes to realize he doesn’t believe anymore, but he remains in his community, with his church, doing the work of the church. He has a lake inside of himself, and he projects the idea of the mountain.”

The piece moves between two rhythmic feels. Grand, sweeping sections representing the mountain, and both hurried and slower sections recreate the flow and heaving of water.

“When it came to the instrumentation, piano bass and drums, I felt like I needed another sound,” Meder said. “We brought in Miguel Zenón, who’s more than an alto saxophone player. He’s a MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ winner and a prolific composer. I wanted him to lend more of a sense of duality, a feeling that we could go back and forth between those two distinct symbols.”

The piece “I Look for Religion in War” has a cinematic heft to it, even suggesting a motif for the seeker in Unamuno’s philosophical writings. Dissonance occupies the opening phrases of the song, with Dizack sneaking in to leave mellow, light-infused notes in a busy piece. Meder said Unamuno’s work, titled “De la correspondencia de un luchador” expressed the belief that, for humans, the one true religion is war, with its ability to sort people into opposing forces, foist good and evil on them and then get on with the devastation and triumph.

“We’re constantly striving for peace,” Meder said. “But to get there, we have to have war. Peace gives us time to look around and to see what we don’t have. So the piece is very aggressive and belligerent, but in the middle reaches this idyllic place. The essay I took this from is open to interpretation. For me, it feels like we’re just going to be fighting all the time. It’s this very dystopian take on war.”

Meder’s trio takes a moment to merge romance with nostalgia on the album with “If Ever I Would Leave You,” a riff on Lerner and Loewe’s lush ballad from Camelot (sung most memorably by the one and only Robert Goulet as the ever-idealistic but flawed Lancelot.)

But in the trio’s competent hands, the track is a reflection on the love of country instead of a gossamer recollection about Petrarchan-style coupling. As Piolet and Meder converse on drums and keys, ever-so-slightly chasing one another, Jaffe interrupts with a fluttering heartbeat of uncertainty. A country can be like a hero or an anti-hero, after all, and Meder and company craft a fitting and nostalgic tribute.

The album came out at the end of October on Outside in Music.

Meder said the album is his bid of hope for American democracy that centers itself on truth and hope.

“Above all, we must at least speak out against the forces that would oppress us or deny us our rights,” Meder writes in the album liner notes. For in Unamuno’s words: ‘… to be silent is to lie, for silence can be interpreted as assent.’ This album is my humble way of denying my assent.”


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Nondiscrimination ordinance first draft pushed along by Denton City Council
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Denton’s first draft of a potential nondiscrimination ordinance came before City Council members for the first time Tuesday.

Council members have discussed such an ordinance periodically for more than two years, and the formal process they’re sticking to means a final approved ordinance is some ways off. Conversations last stalled in October 2020.

The ordinance, in its current state, would refer issues to applicable state agencies whenever possible. Complaints that aren’t referred out and survive a vetting process would be investigated by somebody associated with the city. That somebody would likely be a contracted third-party firm, according to discussion Tuesday.

If validated, a complainant and offender would go into a conciliation process. Council members were split Tuesday on whether offending entities and individuals should be liable for a Class C misdemeanor and fine of up to $500 if conciliation were to not work.

The first draft set up protections in employment, housing and public accommodations for people based upon race, color, national origin, age, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation and gender identity.

The devil is in the details, and potential conflicts with other levels or government and existing law create sticky situations for council members and city officials.

For instance, religious organizations, the state government and the federal government would be exempt from the city’s ordinance in many instances.

Another sticking point for council members was the issue of access to bathrooms.

According to the draft ordinance, it would not be a violation “to deny the opposite sex access to facilities inside a public accommodation segregated on the basis of sex for privacy such as restrooms, shower facilities, locker rooms, dressing rooms or any similar facility.”

Exemptions exist in the draft for bona fide social, fraternal, educational, political, religious and civic organizations.

Some council members took their limited time to speak against that provision specifically. Council members kept their thoughts relatively brief knowing the issue would be coming back several more times before a final draft is proposed.

“This is the first draft that we have put together, so there may be changes [and/or] feedback, but we wanted to get something drafted for your review and input,” Chief of Staff Sarah Kuechler told council members Tuesday.

City officials discussed the issue of determining what would be subject to open records laws once a nondiscrimination ordinance is passed.

“I really want to hear from staff on the public aspect of this because that’s going to be huge,” Mayor Gerard Hudspeth said.

He specifically mentioned a hypothetical scenario in which a complainant would allege discrimination and their name and personal information then would be published in the media.

Along with legal ramifications, the City Council eventually must determine how exactly a nondiscrimination ordinance would be administered.

Most council members leaned toward city staff’s suggestion to contract with a firm that would manage potential ordinance breaches filed with the city and then investigate cases.

Such an arrangement would ideally be paid on an as-needed basis and would cost the city roughly $30,000-$50,000 a year, according to Kuechler’s presentation.

That could save the city money while it determines what volume of cases it could expect, and it would make unnecessary the hiring of a full-time city staffer to handle the program.

The City Council likely will discuss the potential ordinance, along with tweaks from city staffers, several more times and take into consideration ample input from locals before a final decision is made.


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