In our age of climate change and depleting resources, many feel compelled to don the uniform of the environmental steward.
This includes Del Rio’s, Jason Kidd.
Kidd is a self-taught wood craftsman who employs a practical sustainable resource intelligence to his “professional” hobby.
“It was out of necessity,” he said. “Yes, the premise and the basis was sustainable resources but out of necessity. I was a stay-at-home dad.”
Kidd was motivated by a need to “make quality of life improvements in the home to make life easier.”
He primarily builds home decor — spice racks, hat racks, removable walls — but there is a pragmatic side to his business, Creative Pallet Designs by Kidd. Attaching wheels to his creations is a prime example, such as vegetable shelves.
“How many times do you go into your house and you’re like so frustrated that it’s difficult to move an object…now you can just easily roll it away,” he explained.
Or how about a hidden compartment in a mobile waterproof trash can made from a pallet?
“What do thieves go to when they first go in? Your vault and your drawers,” he said. “Name one criminal that goes to your trash can.”
A substantial amount of money can be saved by learning how to make home decor from reclaimed wood. Kidd made a triple bunk bed for less than $200.
“You find me anywhere in town where you’re going to find a triple bunk bed, solid wood, with a rustic wood burn for $168,” he remarked. “You’re not.”
Kidd makes a serious attempt at reducing his carbon footprint by turning old tables into American flags or utilizing discarded pallets or other reclaimed wood.
“Look at how many homes are built and if you ever drive by take a decent look at how much wood goes to waste and how many pallets are sitting there,” he commented.
He tells people to use the materials they have. He made one lady a baptismal desk from wood that came from an old church that had burned down. A literal piece of history.
“Some people have parents that have passed away. They bring me their license plates from their parents…and I make them little birdhouses with their parents’ license plate and they can have in their front yard,” he said.
But woodworking wasn’t always a passion for Kidd.
While living in Germany he took a class on sustainable resources compelling him to ask what is sustainable. He thought of sulfur. He thought of trees.
“And I looked around because I lived next to a beer factory…and they threw away thousands of pallets everyday….and then I was like we can make homes out of those for the homeless,” he said.
He self-taught himself the art of woodworking via YouTube and tested his craftsman skill set by constructing smaller scale items like wine racks with hand tools.
Kidd, who is employed as a military police officer at Laughlin Air Force Base, was once engaged in his labor of love full time. He was all in, teaching classes, hosting a radio program dedicated to do-it-yourself woodworking and, of course, building creative decor.
But the stability of a government position took him away from that.
However, he still operates his business on a part-time basis and does plan on opening up a storefront with a shop in the back. And with all of Kidd’s clever and unique ideas, success is almost certain.
“There’s so many things you can do with wood…it would blow your mind…that the average person doesn’t think about it,” he said.
Macaroons, the delicious cookies that were once hard to find in Del Rio, are now not so difficult to find in the River City. At least, for the time being.
But first, a brief history and description of macaroons for the uninformed.
The original macaroons were made from egg whites, sugar and almond paste (primary ingredient) exhibiting a crisp exterior and soft interior according to the webzine The Nibble. The etymology derives from maccarone, Italian for paste, which was born from the word ammaccare, that means to crush.
Today’s colorful and dynamic macaroons are more derivative of the ones French pastry chefs began developing (macarons) nearly six-hundred years ago.
Jennifer Orellana, a local creator and purveyor of macaroons/macarons — and cakes too — graciously answered a series of questions for the Texas Times about her tasty cookies.
TT: How did you become interested in creating macaroons and cakes?
JO: In college, I studied abroad in Paris, France and that’s where I fell in love with macarons. They were so luxurious and beautiful, but also expensive. So, I figured I would just try making them myself. I started with macarons and began experimenting with cakes and eventually, they both just came together.
TT: What is your background in baking/pastry?
JO: I’ve always loved baking since I was little. I’m a self-taught baker and really learned my way through YouTube. When I moved from San Diego, California to Del Rio, Texas, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen and my husband noticed that baking was a passion of mine and encouraged me to try selling my creations.
TT: How long have you lived in Del Rio and why did your family move here?
JO: I’ve lived in Del Rio for five years now and my husband has been here for seven years. My husband is an air traffic controller at Laughlin Air Force Base, and that’s what brought us to Del Rio. We started our newly wedded life here just the two of us and are now a family of four with two little boys (Makoa, 3 yo and Makena 1 yo).
TT: What has the response been in Del Rio to your creations?
JO: I was really discouraged at first and didn’t have a lot of confidence in my skills. My husband pushed me to promote myself and my creations and the response here in Del Rio has been amazing. I didn’t have high expectations, but the orders just kept coming and I was shocked. I did my first Del Rio market at the convention center and sold out of my 200+ macarons within hours.
TT: You all will be leaving Del Rio soon...what Del Rio experiences will you take with you?
JO: Coming from a big city to a small town like Del Rio, it took a lot to get use to... but I’ve learned over the years that big things come in small packages and Del Rio is just that. The community is really what makes Del Rio a great place to live and is what keeps the town thriving by supporting small businesses. I’m going to cherish every memory I’ve made here over the years and always appreciate the love and support of Del Rio.
To learn more or order macaroons/macarons from Jennifer, visit facebook.com/cakesnmacsbyjenn.
Del Rio’s Hector Coronado Jr. is a professional. For him, professional equals two gloves x one head squared.
The Houston-born Coronado Jr. recently signed a contract for management and promotional services with Las Vegas-based Prince Ranch Boxing and TMB & PRB Entertainment, respectively, allowing him to solely focus on his daily training and eliminating the DIY tasks that can sometimes compromise goals.
“They’ll take care of everything…they’ll make sure that I’m well equipped…I have everything to succeed…they take care of my bills. All that stuff. All I have to do is concentrate on boxing,” he said.
Coronado Jr. has racked up a professional fighting record of 5-0, four of those victories by knockout. His achievements are partially a product of his fighting style. His strategic combination of intelligence and pressure creates opportunities for knockouts.
“I’m a smart boxer…I’m a bit aggressive…I’m a pressure fighter…I do it smartly…I never go looking for the knockout. It just comes by itself, right? That’s what we always talk about,” he explained.
Coronado Jr. prefers to finish or drop his opponents as quickly as possible, working up from the body to the head. Once his opponents gas out they become vulnerable.
A 2015-graduate of Del Rio High School, the confident, yet humble, Coronado Jr. began boxing when he was seven years old forging a formidable career in the Mexican amateur ranks. Initially, the talented boxer had the coaching behind him but not the passion until he began attaining success on the national amateur level in Mexico.
“My dad taught me really, really well,” he said. “And I knew how to win the tournaments. I was just smart enough to win.”
Hector Coronado Sr., who trains his son at Del Rio’s K.O. Boxing Gym had his own professional aspirations in the sweet science Coronado Jr. said. “He had the dream, but no support.”
Coronado Jr. derives his inspiration to excel from his parents. “I see them waking up every morning…I want them to be able to stay at home…not have to work. That inspires me every morning to get up and…do what I have to do to succeed.”
His amateur triumphs evolved into an Olympic dream but representing Mexico wasn’t an option because he was an American citizen and didn’t possess dual citizenship. In the U.S., the powers that be painted a picture of a discouraging and difficult road to the Olympics. Despite that, Coronado, then 17, continued to pursue his dream winning his first USA Boxing Elite tournament.
He qualified for nationals but didn’t want to invest another year competing at the amateur level in the U.S. deciding he was ready to roll the prizefighting dice.
TMB & PRB Entertainment promoter Rick Morones contacted Coronado Sr. and said they were searching for a 147-fighter for a professional bout with emerging boxer George Ramos. (Ramos was recently murdered in San Antonio.) A contract was sent but Ramos declined to fight.
“George and I had already boxed before. I would beat him all the time we would fight…he was like the next big thing of San Antonio,” Coronado Jr. said.
He eventually went to San Antonio to spar for Morones and dominated his 12-0 sparring opponent. Shortly thereafter, he won a bout in San Antonio closing the deal.
Signed, sealed and determined to achieve, Coronado Jr.’s future is promising. Acquiring his autograph now would probably be a good idea…
As one century has rolled into the next, the rural economic dynamics of Val Verde County have changed. Yet, that hasn’t precluded the need for a county extension agent here - Harris County still has one too.
Texas A&M AgriLife county extension agent Emily Grant arrived in Del Rio during April of 2018 inclined to assist and guide. She immediately went to work.
Her undertakings include livestock guardian dog demonstrations for county ranchers, involvement in 4-H programs, such as wool and mohair education, the organization of the county stock show and attendance of out-of-town shows as a consultant to local youth.
“I really enjoy being with the extension service because it gives me the balance of working with producers, consumers and our youth. So I really get to a little bit of everything,” said Grant, the former Kinney County extension agent.
She explained that ag extension agents are tasked with using the research provided by Texas A&M and applying it to real-world practices in all 254 Lone Star State counties.
“Me, personally, being an ag and natural resources agent, I work with our livestock and ag and natural resource producers and stakeholders to help them get the information based upon science and research,” she said.
According to Grant, the A&M AgriLife Extension Service mission is to provide an apolitical, research-based service to every county. “Kind of a network for our farmers and ranchers to use.” She coordinates adult and youth programming as it relates to agriculture to better help county producers. In other words, the practical application of A&M scientific research that benefits Val Verde County ranchers and farmers.
What drew Grant to extension? A long and winding background in agriculture.
“I grew up on a farm and raised cattle and goats and so I grew up showing through 4-H sheep and goat program,” she said.
Grant matriculated to Aggieland with the intention of being a math teacher and basketball coach, “which is kind of not where I ended up.” Agricultural blood is thicker than career intentions. “I really wanted to stay in the agricultural field.”
Her father is the superintendent of the Fort Worth Stock Show which enabled her to volunteer there throughout high school and college fortifying and cementing her interest in agriculture. She soon decided that ag was her path. Grant received a bachelors degree in agricultural science and served an internship with the Texas Beef Council but obtained a teaching certificate in case an ag job proved to be too elusive.
Her desire was to educate the public about agriculture on a full-time basis. She said, “There are about five jobs like that in the entire state,” so she taught ag in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for three years - “and really, really enjoyed that job” - before joining the ranks of the A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Grant indicated that the ag service’s big push now is agritourism. They will be rolling out an initiative to help farmers and ranchers learn about other income opportunities that could be available to them in the form of tourism.
The Val Verde County A&M AgriLife Extension recently hosted a “Birding the Border” event and next year they’re hoping to do something on a larger scale. Grant couldn’t divulge what that was because it isn’t yet official but did say that it would allow the ag producers to directly benefit from agritourism events on their property.
This spring the film, “The Highwayman,” was released highlighting Frank Hamer’s exploits in the apprehension of super-outlaw couple Bonnie & Clyde, Kevin Costner portraying the 20th-century lawman. (Costner seems to have a penchant for playing men of the law: Wyatt Earp, Eliot Ness and Orleans Parish district attorney Jim Garrison.)
While the story is somewhat well-known and Hamer’s reputation familiar to many, what isn’t such common knowledge is that Hamer’s so-called luminous career in bringing justice to the people of Texas began in Del Rio.
The famous Texas Ranger, who also escorted Governor Coke Stevenson to view the box 13 tally sheets at the Texas State Bank in Alice, Texas during the infamous “Box 13” election scandal involving Lyndon B. Johnson, has been lauded and ordained as a law enforcement deity, the film adding buckshot to his legend.
The Hill Country born Hamer earned his badge with the Rangers in 1906. He was just 22 years old. Shortly thereafter, the seeds of a reputation were planted.
Del Rio in 1906 was a town of approximately 2,000 people and the cradle of sheep ranching. During the fall of that year two local sheepmen, John Ralston and Blake Cauthorn (the Cauthorn name a familiar one in Del Rio) disappeared. The Rangers soon commenced an investigation and focused on a man named Ed Putnam who had sold a flock of sheep to Cauthorn for $4,500 (equivalent to $130,000 in 2019).
The Ranger group who embarked to Del Rio included Hamer. According to author John Boessenecker, while searching for Putnam they received word that Cauthorn had been found shot dead in his buggy. Subsequently, they learned Ralston had vanished after completing a sheep deal with Putnam. Boessenecker wrote in True West magazine the citizens of Del Rio fell under a spell of tense animation and duly blamed Mexican bandits for the crimes.
Val Verde County Sheriff John R. Robinson received a tip that Putnam was sequestered at a bordello in Del Rio. On Dec. 1, 1906, the Rangers and Sheriff Robinson along with his deputies converged on the house. Robinson and his men covered the front, the Rangers positioned in the rear of the house. Robinson ordered the women to exit the bordello and then informed Putnam that he knew he was inside. Putnam remained silent.
Boessenecker wrote that as time went by a considerable mob had formed, some of them armed. Apparently, this lent a sense of urgency to the situation compelling Robinson to instruct his men to unleash a fury of rounds on the house.
Meanwhile, in the back, Hamer stood his Winchester carbine down waiting for the opportune time to take his shot. Reportedly, Hamer observed a six-gun barrel protrude from behind a curtain and saw his chance firing his carbine and striking Putnam in the face ending his earthly existence. Hamer, the hero.
Conversely, he was also involved in the racially-motivated Texas Ranger atrocities that occurred in South Texas. The Rangers intimidated, terrorized and even murdered several Hispanics during the World War I era.
According to the Texas educational nonprofit, Refusing To Forget, “In early 1919, State Representative José Tomás Canales, the
only Mexican-American legislator filed a bill intended to prevent a repeat of the Ranger
actions of the previous years by dramatically restructuring the force.”
Supporters of the Ranger force fiercely pushed back attempting to discredit Canales. Refusing To Forget stated Hamer stalked Canales in South Texas and Austin during the hearings. “Canales’ family feared that he would be assassinated.”
Not sure if Hamer, “the deadliest Texas Ranger of the 20th-century,” qualifies as an anti-hero but it appears he operated above, inside and below the layers of justice and it’s certain that he left a historical footprint, dubiously or triumphantly, in Del Rio.
Sometimes necessity or discomfort lead to innovation and creativity. Such was the case with Del Rioan Marco Fernandez.
Fernandez, 39, had spent 13 years at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, before leaving the U.S. Army in 2013. He landed back in Del Rio with not much to his name. He didn’t even have a bed frame to sleep on, only a mattress on the cold floor.
Not entirely satisfied with this sleeping arrangement he felt some type of action was needed to alleviate his comfort woes.
Why not construct a bed frame? So, Fernandez set out to learn how to do it.
“I didn’t have anything…and my bed was on the floor at my house and one day I just got curious and made a little bed frame I guess you could call it to put my bed on and it all started there,” he explained.
A mechanic by trade, hand aptitude was natural to him so the undertaking of a wood frame was not a stretch at all.
After the successful completion of the frame, the former Apache helicopter crew chief rid himself of uncomfortable nights.
The self-taught Fernandez continued crafting wood furniture constructing pieces for his place including an entertainment center and kitchen table.
Amid all this creativity, a seed was planted. He decided to build wood furniture and offer it to the Del Rio public. He called his venture M Squared Projects.
At first, it was a hobby but about a year ago he decided to make it a full-time endeavor. However, his commerce model is atypical but it works nicely for him: Raffles.
Interested parties purchase a ticket at a set price for a particular raffle. Once the raffle closes the number is selected on Raffle.org.
“Wood is expensive and so is electricity, so I figured the only way I could get paid enough to keep this as a hobby was to raffle my things,” Fernandez said.
He comes out with one piece almost monthly, the furniture items taking anywhere from 3-10 days to complete. He posts photos of the finished project on Facebook and then a raffle commences. People are also welcome to come to his workshop and examine it in person.
Fernandez won’t paint anything until it is raffled off to the winner.
“I’ll let them choose the colors they want me to paint it…so it can be specifically for them…The last table I made the guy had his own brand so I branded the head of the table with his brand,” he said.
His next customized table will have the U.S. Marine Corps emblem on top of it.
However, Fernandez is expanding his method of earning income. He recently began selling to customers directly.
“I just started with raffles and it’s just starting now, maybe February, where it’s picking up a little bit,” he commented.
He just finished a kitchen table raffle for a girl afflicted with leukemia. (Kitchen tables seem to be the most popular piece.) All of the raffle proceeds went to the girl.
Though he would like to acquire additional customers, he doesn’t plan ahead for what could be next. It’s literally day-to-day for Fernandez. Creating and constructing a form of therapy for him.
“I just pray a lot. I tell God to guide me wherever He wants me,” he said. “So I don’t plan anything it just happens. It’s beautiful.”
Before hometown country artist Radney Foster gave America “Del Rio, TX 1959,” a purposeful Swiss photographer named Robert Frank offered the nation “Del Rio, Texas 1955.” Or more accurately, “U.S. 90, En Route to Del Rio, Texas, 1955.”
The photo, part of an iconic collection of Frank photos published in a book entitled, “The Americans,” depicts a black and white truncated image of the Frank family Ford vehicle on the shoulder of U.S. Highway 90. Inside, his wife Mary Frank tiredly stares through the windshield wearing a forlorn expression as their son Pablo appears to be half-asleep.
An essay on the photo written by Adonis Pulatus stated, “Robert (Frank) has chosen to crop this picture in such a way as to draw the viewer’s eye to the front occupants of the Ford. The sectioning of the car in this manner and the long view down the right fender towards the interior – emphasised by the relatively shallow depth of field – is both curious and unsettling. The viewer struggles to make sense of this scene.”
The possibly idling Ford looks as if it was hastily parked in order for the photographer to capture a quick image before arriving in Del Rio; the Texas landscape blurred and obscured, reflecting the mood of the vehicle occupants.
The famous shot was taken when Mary and Pablo Frank came to visit Robert Frank at Christmastime during the end of his project; an undertaking funded by a Guggenheim Fellowship documenting all aspects of American society.
According to The Art Story, Robert Frank “bemoaned their arrival as something of a creative inconvenience,” perceiving it would compromise his artistic objectivity which he felt was needed for the project. He considered “En Route to Del Rio” more of a personal picture in contrast to the others, The Art Story reported.
Interestingly, this photo was the last to appear in “The Americans” casting a special status over its history. Robert Frank’s road trip through America during that time coincided with the travels of Beat poet Jack Kerouac who wrote the introduction to “The Americans.” The two found common threads and weaved together a narrative of America that did not resemble the cheerful facade of 1950s consumer-driven-Leave It To Beaver social conventions.
“If Frank (Robert) was the Beat photographer in style, then as Jack Kerouac well understood, his images reflected and codified the Beat-Hipster ideal,” wrote George Cotkin, a professor of post-war United States intellectual and cultural history at California Polytechnic State University, on Americansuburbx.com.
The book itself debuted in France in 1958 and the U.S. in 1959. Robert Frank shot 28,000 photos during a two-year period and reduced the collection down to 83 pictures for the book.
His rugged compositions and their realism were at first shunned by many but it was soon realized they effectively and poignantly captured the numbing reality of post-war America. A society that had transitioned into cars, credit, instant food and pop culture but also featured blight, racism, discrimination, poverty and despair.
The collection of photos has been exhibited in many of the well-renowned museums of modern art throughout the world and was one of the subjects of a well-received 2017 documentary called “Don’t Blink.”
Robert Frank ultimately drifted away from photography and delved into filmmaking. In the early ‘70s, the Rolling Stones commissioned him to film an uncompromising documentary of their 1972 tour.
Supposedly, it was too uncompromising for the band who sued to avert its commercial release.
Pulatus wrote the “En Route to Del Rio” photo requires the viewer to contemplate Mary. “What is she thinking and feeling during this long and arduous journey…Indeed, there is a Ford in this image. And a highway. But this photograph is about Mary.”
And what the Frank family did in Del Rio or how much time they spent here, and where, is now left to the imagination. The photograph was an end and a beginning.
Weather affects everyone. It has a relationship with all of us. And to have a specialist help you navigate that relationship is more than fortuitous, it’s a blessing.
In Del Rio, that specialist is meteorologist Dan Schreiber of Smalltown Weather.
Established in 2015, the Del Rio-based Smalltown Weather was the brainchild of Schreiber, a former U.S. Air Force meteorologist.
The service, or more specifically, Schreiber, seeks to provide weather expertise and information across a wide spectrum of applications including personal, commercial, legal, educational and public safety.
Most small towns don’t have access to a weather expert so Del Rio having its own is a problem solver.
He has taught meteorology classes for local first responders and school district employees; teaching them to be aware of dangerous weather events moving through Mexico.
“Since the National Weather Service doesn’t provide alerts for storms that are happening in Mexico…I provide that expertise to the community, largely…the emergency folks here so that they do have a little bit of a heads up on what could potentially happen,” he explained.
Similarly, when Schreiber was stationed at Laughlin Air Force Base most of the aircraft were not under cover. Issuing an accurate forecast was critical.
“If there was a hailstorm coming, you’re talking $1 billion plus of aircraft that were just sitting outside…that happened back in 2016…you’re talking a billion dollars in taxpayer money that could be destroyed in a matter of a couple of minutes,” he said.
Extensive damage to aircraft during that weather event didn’t occur he noted.
Schreiber said that Del Rio experiences unique weather patterns in contrast to other regions in the state; Val Verde County is positioned between three climate zones.
“And never has there been two weather forecasts that have been the same,” he revealed. “Weather’s always changing. It’s always a challenge.”
The native Californian became interested in weather while growing up in San Diego near the beach.
“I got really big into surfing…and obviously, weather impacts waves and the ocean quite a bit,” he commented. “I was always checking the forecast to see if the waves were going to be good if they’re going to be big if they’re going to be blown out.”
In high school, he secured an Air Force scholarship that underwrote his education at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona where he received an undergraduate degree in meteorology — he has broken the school’s previously-held forecast accuracy record. Next, came a six-year stint as an Air Force meteorologist.
Schreiber gets much of his data from the airport and the weather service supercomputers, distilling it into a forecast that the layperson can understand.
“I’ll take that information…and I’ll start interpreting it to, ‘Well, we know there’s a cold front coming, it’s going to be a little bit cooler, it’s going to be windier, maybe it’s going to be a bit of some rain.” So I’ll look at all that data and come up with a forecast,” he said.
Interestingly, Schreiber consults with lawyers and ordinary citizens who require what he labels as forensic weather reports for airplane crash investigations, house damage insurance claims, personal injury cases, etc. It’s a part-time gig that he would like to see become full time.
“It’s like one of those things that I just got a passion for it…I’m a weather nerd,” he admitted.
What compels a man or woman to run for public office? Good question. One way to find out is to go to the source.
“Basically, I’ve been in public service my whole adult life as a peace officer and game warden. So, this was just a continuation of that,” said Texas State Sen. Peter Flores.
Is it that simple? Not exactly...
“There was a senator in place (federally convicted felon Carlos Uresti) and a machine in place that I didn’t agree with and so when you do that...there’s two things you can do: You can stand by and take it or you can stand up and throw in. So that’s what I did, threw in,” he added.
Flores, who represents District 19, which includes Val Verde County, defeated Uresti in a September 2018 election after losing to the former state senator in 2016.
A few years ago, Flores had been giving speeches around the Pleasanton area where he lives and people began to take note of what was being said. A seasoned public speaker, he soon got the attention of a group of Republicans in Atascosa County who approached him about running for office.
“I just happened to be at hand when it came up...and it happened to be what the Good Lord put in my path,” he said.
The former game warden believes he possesses a life- experience toolbox that contains what is necessary for the legislative worksite.
“I’m from a military family, I grew up on the border...I worked my way through college...a state game warden, I served all around the state,” Flores explained.
He had stops in San Antonio as a captain and regional director of the far west and 10 years in Austin as the top administrator of the law enforcement division of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
“I worked with the House and the Senate and state government here (Austin),” Flores said.
He said he established relationships on both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate which could prove invaluable as he heads into his first legislative session as an elected official.
“While I’m not a special person, I was specially prepared,” he expressed with humility.
Flores grew up on the border in Laredo and then matriculated to Aggieland before embarking on a career path with the state. He ended his 27-year career as the Director of Law Enforcement, Colonel Warden.
He’s been married to Elizabeth Flores for 37 years and has two daughters and two grandchildren.
Flores is adamant about the issues that are most important to his constituents and Texans. He indicated that property tax reform and school finance reform are the top priorities for the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the house.
“And they certainly are for myself and most of my colleagues in the Senate,” he commented.
Flores insists that sticking to the major issues and refraining from tangling with the periphery is best practices-legislation.
“Stay with the basics, stay out of the weeds and let’s take care of the foundations of the house,” he asserted.
And what does Flores hope for after his days in office have run their final lap?
“I hope that my great-grandchildren will not curse me for the work I did in the Texas Senate,” he said unaffectedly.
“For I know the thoughts and plans I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome,” reads the quote from Jeremiah 29:11 on the pamphlet of the Casa Hogar El Corazón de Rey children’s home in Acuña.
The mission of White Stone Ministries, who operate the nonprofit home, is predicated on that scriptural verse. The home is a place of shelter, care, comfort and safety for children who have been abandoned, forgotten, abused and neglected. The 6,000 square foot structure is located three blocks from the port in downtown Acuna and currently houses 35 children including infants. The central figure in the home isn’t Ron Sherman, co-founder of the home, but Christ.
However, Sherman, along with his wife Anna Sherman, an ordained minister and native of South Africa, are the Earthly facilitators of El Corazón de Rey home. Setting out to be an orchestra conductor/music teacher, Ron Sherman, who has his Ph.D. in Christian counseling and is a certified behavioral consultant, became disillusioned with public education and took the path less traveled journeying to the deep south to teach at a Christian drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Alabama. When that facility closed its doors, he was led to open two children’s homes in Uvalde and an emergency shelter in San Antonio. After nine years, the state cut its support for nonprofit children’s homes, which comprised 99 percent of the funding for Ron Sherman’s sites, and he found himself without a home so to speak. “I’m not a fundraiser. Our budget was...a third of a million dollars every year,” he said.
Ron Sherman soon began doing consulting work in Mexican orphanages.
“I just got hooked with what I saw in Mexico, because the orphanages, children’s homes were...they’re bad.” He couldn’t believe what he saw. The first home he was invited to was in Mexico City. Just blocks from the Zócalo. “It was a five-story office building that had been converted into a children’s home and they had 600 kids in there. It was horrible, horrible, horrible in there. Good people...but they would have 35 kids in one bedroom,” he commented. He explained the situation wasn’t intentional, but the staff was completely overwhelmed.
Eventually, he was asked to travel to South Africa to visit a church and orphanages. In local townships and in Zambia, he witnessed heart wrenching and gut-churning situations. One of the first children he held there was dying of AIDS like many of the others who surrounded her. “I never held a child that I knew was dying. That was gonna die,” he said. The administrator at that particular home indicated to Ron Sherman that all the kids there were three to four months away from death. He came back home and ultimately, after walking through a variety of barriers and stumbling blocks in Mexico, started the home in Acuña with Anna.
“A year into it we had a surprise visit from the head lady at the top (Coahuila child protective services), the head attorney for child protective services for the state level and head psychologist...They spent seven hours with us...so when they left they said congratulations you have the best home in the state...and so every year for the last eight years that’s the way we are. And they took our stuff and turned it into a manual for the state,” he said. More than 400 kids have come through the home during the past nine years without funding from any level of government in Mexico.
White Stone Ministries’ funding comes from private donors, churches and their thrift and consignment store in
Del Rio. (Repurposed For A Purpose at 1010 Veterans Boulevard; www.facebook.com/revron209.) For more information on their mission and donating please visit www.facebook.com/whitestone.min and www.whtestonekids.org.