Unsung heroes of Hood County

January 1, 2014


The only time they toot their own horn is maybe on New Year’s Eve. But others were willing to toot it for them when the Hood County News asked for nominations for unsung heroes of Hood County.

Sometimes, those doing the nominating didn’t even know the name of the person they wanted to submit for consideration.

“There was some guy who drove around town in a 4-by-4 for the sole purpose of pulling people out of ditches for free,” was the message in one email. “No idea what his name is.”

We could call him “Godsend,” but there are many others who could rightfully answer to that same name – people like Jason and Elizabeth Berry, who give their time and their money to Ruth’s Place and other good causes. Or Toni Brown Belew, who heads up United Way of Hood County. Or Mary Flores at Mission Granbury, social worker Helen Best or “Leland,” a man who does volunteer landscaping in the Habitat for Humanity neighborhood in Rancho Brazos.

There were a few who didn’t return our calls about their nomination or who politely declined comment, we suspect because they are too humble to accept the recognition. And there were others who were just as humble, but who were shocked enough to give us a comment about the honor when we contacted them.

“It comes as a great surprise, and I’m humbled by it,” said Church of Christ minister and Granbury police chaplain John Knox. “I feel that I’m just doing what I’m supposed to be doing, which is fulfill my calling – and that’s to serve Hood County.”

Some, such as Carol Pirkle, who was nominated for the untold hours she has worked handling the books for a number of nonprofits, were quick to point out the selfless service of others. Pirkle mentioned Martha Pyron, Julia Panell and Mission Granbury “visionary” Shirley Hooks.

“It takes all of us to do it,” said Pirkle, who has served as treasurer for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hood County, Mission Granbury, Christmas for Children, Operation School Supplies and other nonprofits and service clubs.

“I think that that’s the thing I most love about Granbury – by getting into the charity work that I do, I have met some of the finest people in the world here,” Pirkle said.

We aren’t able to give all of them the recognition they deserve, but we can at least single out a few. We have spotlighted some who are champions for children.

on a wing and a prayer

Christmas for Children organizers and volunteers are the angels who make sure every child in Hood County gets Christmas gifts. But they were faced with a sobering challenge when they received 76 heartbreaking requests for beds instead of toys.

That’s when they turned to a man who operates a prayer ministry – and a mattress store.

When Christmas for Children co-chair Jacque Gordon went to Marvin Hull for help, he ordered all 76 beds, even though the nonprofit as yet did not have the money to pay for roughly 20 of those beds.

“I talked to my wife,” Hull said. “Business has been awful for the past four or five years, just because of the economy. I was up most of the night working on the deal, trying to figure out what to do. I told them, ‘We’re just going to go ahead and order them, and if you get some more (money) in, let me know.

“I was a little shaky when I called the order in because I honestly didn’t have the money in the bank to cover it. It was a leap of faith.”

The landing was cushioned by 76 mattresses.

The afternoon before the beds were due to arrive, the charity’s treasurer showed up at Hull’s store with the money.

“They had gotten some more donations,” he said, “and a friend of mine had given me a check for $1,000 to give to them. We had enough to just about cover it.”

Hull and Gordon were both nominated as Unsung Heroes of Hood County.

Said Gordon: “Before I began volunteering in this program, I had no idea how many children were in need.”

protecting innocents

In cases where it may seem that children don’t have a prayer, they have District Attorney Rob Christian and investigator Robert Young. Young has had many a come-to-Jesus meeting with child abusers.

“I know of no other investigator anywhere that investigates cases as quickly and as thoroughly as Robert Young does,” Christian said. “His investigations have led to convictions and long prison sentences on cases where there might not have even been a conviction in the first place if Robert Young weren’t involved.”

Christian, who has been district attorney for almost 12 years, said that Young handles the more serious cases of physical and sexual abuse of children. He goes to crime scenes, attends autopsies and talks to the medical examiner, he said.

Even on Christmas Day, Young was at Cook Children’s hospital in Fort Worth, investigating an injury to a child that was ultimately determined to have been accidental.

“From my perspective as a district attorney, it gives me a large measure of comfort and confidence to know that when Robert has investigated a case, everything that could have been done was done,” stated Christian.

“I think that the true unsung hero is Robert Young. His investigations make my job much, much easier.”

neighborhood mom

Sometimes, bringing cases to the attention of law enforcement falls to Deanna Rooks. A beloved figure at Oak Trail Shores, the motherly “Mrs. D” doesn’t just protect children in her role as pool supervisor at OTS; she protects them by reporting abuse and contacting agencies that provide food and clothing.

Once, Mrs. D even accompanied a 14-year-old girl when the girl had to break the news to her mother that she was pregnant.

Rooks was nominated as an Unsung Hero by her proud daughter, Michele Carter.

“I’ll take her to Walmart, and kids will just come up to her and give her a hug,” Carter said. “She had a rough childhood, and she doesn’t want to see any child suffer or go hungry or go without.”

Of the 66 hours per week that she works during the summer at the OTS pool, Rooks said: “I get tired, but it’s not a tiresome job because I love the kids. I hear their problems. If they need help or they’re being hurt, I know who to call.

“When they’re at the pool, they have to follow the rules. They’ll say, ‘You’re mean, Mrs. D.’ And I’ll say, ‘But I love ya!’”

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