Thursday, September 5, 2013

HIgh Holidays

High Holidays will be traditional at the Chabad of Plano


The public is invited

Pull Quote: The Rabbi goes on to say, “It is an honor that what we do is judged by God. We see it as though it is important to him what we do.”

By Felicia Whatley


Rabbi Menachem Block from the Chabad of Plano at 3904 West Park Blvd. will be hosting the Jewish High Holiday celebrations for Rosh Hashanah Wednesday, Sept.4 and Yom Kipper Sept. 13 beginning at sunset.

“We celebrate Rosh Hashanah because the commandments in the Torah (bible) tells us to. Every Jew makes the best effort to observe the commandment,” said Rabbi Block who serves as executive director and Spiritual Leader of Chabad of Plano and Collin Country.  He and his wife Rivkah established a local Chabad-Lubavitch synagogue in 1992 here.

The two big High Holidays are Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipper.

Rosh Hashanah is the day in Jewish history where Adam and Eve were created. It was decided by God that day would be the head of the year. When God blessed it and gave life one year had passed.

“Every year people are judged as what kind of year it will be. The blessing is all life. The world is judged globally,” said Block.

The Rabbi explains that like the brain gives the organs direction, this new day is like the director of the rest of the year.

“God decides what will happen to the world for the next coming year.  You may not get your sign in bonus or other such incentives, but life will prevail every year,” he said.

Many people fear judgment, but to many Jews it is perceived as a good thing.

The Rabbi goes on to say, “It is an honor that what we do is judged by God. We see it as though it is important to him what we do.”

Traditionally Yom Kipper is the day Jews ask God for forgiveness.

“The day is extended for forgiveness, regret, and remorse of the past,” said Block.

By keeping the faith of the teachings in the Torah, the Jews keep the traditions of their people by observing the fasting, then eating and praying.

Mrs. Rivka Block says the High Holiday services will be “uplifting with modern and soulful melodies with ongoing explanations of the prayers and sermons. We will be using easy to follow services with an English translated prayer book.”

Though the congregation is Orthodox, the services are intended to be “enjoyable and relevant for Jews of all backgrounds,” she said.

The Chazan leader will be Rabbi Shlomie Rabin. He has many years of experience leading High Holiday services and currently serves as the Cantor on Shabbos at Chabad of Midtown Manhattan. 

“Rabin has a clear tenor voice that is pleasant and easy to listen to.  He will chant the traditional tunes modified to include influences and hints of contemporary style,” said Block.

“The service is open to the public. If you can’t afford it, come without paying,” he said.

For more information please call 972-596-8270 or email

Save Your Boss: Take a CPR Class

Save Your Boss: Take a CPR class; you never know when you’ll need the skills

Pull Quote: The American Heart Association changed its definition of CPR earlier this year, so it's important to know that on adults who have apparently suffered a sudden heart attack, experts now say chest compressions -- about 100 a minute -- are enough to keep a victim alive until help arrives.

By Felicia Whatley

Texas Heart CPR class was taught in Plano by Barry Brooks on Monday, August 26th at 6:00 p.m.

It is important to have the skills to be a responder. You never know when you will need it—you could save a co-worker, your friends or loved ones, or help save the life of a complete stranger.

CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, is an emergency procedure in which a medical professional or Good Samaritan gets the heart and lungs of a victim working again by compressing the chest by hand and forcing air into the lungs, according to By Evelyn McCormack,  contributor.

“Every life matters, even if it is saving only 1% of the cases,” said Brooks, who has a bachelor’s in Criminal Justice and just finished his paralegal certification from SMU.

The American Heart Association changed its definition of CPR earlier this year, so it's important to know that on adults who have apparently suffered a sudden heart attack, experts now say chest compressions -- about 100 a minute -- are enough to keep a victim alive until help arrives.

Some basics on saving an adult

When you arrive on the scene, make sure you are in a safe location. If the victim is not breathing and there is no pulse, activate your emergency response plan. Call for help.  Then begin CPR.

Use your hands, one overlaying the other under the breastbone, pressing down 100 compressions a minute at a rate of 30 compressions to one mouth to mask or mouth to mouth breaths per minute. Start compressions within 10 seconds of cardio arrest, until spontaneous circulation returns.  

For every set of 30 compressions – counting out loud, follow up with two big breaths into the patient’s mouth, continuing for 5 sets before checking for pulse and breathing. If there isn’t any then keep administering CPR.

If there are two people assisting the victim, they each have assigned roles. One must be responsible for keeping the air way open, with a head tilt, chin lift and rescue breaths.  The other is responsible for administering the compressions, making sure to press deep, allowing for complete chest recoil. After two minutes, the rescuers should switch roles, because giving the compressions can be very tiring.

A victim has a 40 percent chance of survival if two things happen: CPR is started within 4 minutes of collapse and defibrillation is provided within 10 minutes, stated McCormack.

Some basics when using the AED

The AED is a An automated external defibrillator,  a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses the potentially life threatening cardiac arrhythmias of ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia in a patient and is able to treat them through electrical therapy, allowing the heart to reestablish an effective rhythm.

Make sure to turn on the power, plug in the pads, place one pad near the heart above the nipple and the other below the nipple. Follow the verbal commands.  If the device determines that a shock is warranted, it will use the battery to charge its internal capacitor to deliver the shock. If needed, press the button to administer the shock and then stand back.

Afterwards, keep the AED connected check pulse. If the heart rate is under 60 beats per minute, continue CPR until help arrives.

For choking do the Heimlich maneuver

 The Heimlich maneuver is an emergency technique for preventing suffocation when a person's airway (windpipe) becomes blocked by a piece of food or other object, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

If is an adult is making gasping noises while eating, he or she may be choking. Quickly, lock arms around your friend, above the navel and give several quick, upward abdominal thrusts—or chest thrusts if the person is pregnant or obese-- until the obstruction comes out.

If you notice an infant is blue around the mouth and the breathing is poor, the baby may be choking. Place the baby on your lap, facing the floor, with your hand supporting the face while keeping the airway open. Administer five back slaps. Flip baby over then do five downward chest thrusts per second. Repeat if needed.

The two-hour course goes into greater detail where you get to practice on dummies until it becomes natural.  There is a test at the end, so pay attention to the details, and then you will be certified with the American Heart Association in preparation to become a hero.

Nurse Diane Blaukat took the course and said, “Heart disease is the No. 1 killler. If people can recognize and treat it, mortality would be less, so CPR is very important.”

Texas Heart CPR Training offers several classes per week at 2000 N. Central Expressway, Suite 220, Plano, TX 75074. Call 214-592-7088 or check out

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Wounded Warrior Deer Hunt

U.S. Army Corps of Engineer Wounded Warrior Hunt

By Felicia Whatley


Three local wounded warriors enjoyed a weekend in the wild for a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sponsored deer hunt including shotgun shooting lessons, a potluck dinner for the warriors and their families, a fish fry, and a chance for each hunter to harvest and take home a doe and a buck.

“I helped set up and take down for the wounded warrior hunt. One warrior harvested two deer, another got one deer and the other soldier participated in the hunt,” said Lewisville Lake Park Ranger Justin Berndt, who played a supportive role in the hunt on December 14 and 15, 2012.

A deer population study was done on the area a year ago in which the Fort Worth District decided there was a need to thin out the herd.

“We noticed an opportunity to support the district mission and we just wanted the warriors to have an experience hunting that they may not have otherwise had; so we selected three soldiers from the Disabled American Veterans, two were from Community Warrior Transition Unit with limited hunting experience for a day and a half white tail deer hunt,” said Rob Jordan, a lake manager.

“This the first time we had done a hunt here in the Trinity Lakes region. We showed them some techniques rattling antlers and grunt calls for deer,” said Jordan.

U.S. Army Sergeant Royce Sweatman, a Vietnam veteran shot and brought home a buck and doe, Command Sergeant Major Chad Wong shot a buck and Sergeant Ignacio Mata had a great time on the hunt, but did not harvest a deer. Each soldier was paired up with a ranger;  blinds made by an Eagle Scout Adrien Lewis from Carrolton and enjoyed the hunt using the authorized double barrel shotgun in the specified area.

Command Sergeant Major Chad Wong, a member of Army Reserves Civil Affairs said, “I was glad to be invited. I took my daughter and she is still talking about how much fun she had.” “I really appreciate what the Corps did for me,” said the two time Iraq veteran who also did tours in Afghanistan and Bosnia. Wong is also a police officer in Tulsa, Okla., who is going through a medical board.

Sergeant Mata said the experience “was really great and I enjoyed it. It was the first time using a shotgun. The guides were very knowledgeable and we saw a lot of wildlife—owls and various deer showed up.”

Army Corps of Engineers





U.S. Army Corps of Engineers hosts 7th Annual Lake Lavon Learning Service Project


Lewisville, Texas –


The 7th annual Lake Lavon Learning Service project on March 1, 2013 from 10am to 2pm will connect almost 1,000 Sloan Creek Middle School students (Lovejoy ISD) with the Lewisville Army Corps of Engineers rangers and volunteers, local fire fighters and the environment for an experience that will teach students about water safety, community service and civic responsibility.


“Our spring service learning project at Lake Levon has become a tradition at Sloan Creek Middle School. This is a great opportunity for our students to learn about the importance of the lake in relation to their community. Our students look forward to the event and really benefit from the hands on learning experience,” said Principal Kent Messer.


This year the students will do trash pick-up to beautify the Lake area, a flood control project , water safety and a life jacket relay to focus on the importance of properly wearing the life jackets.

Parent and Lovejoy ISD employee Stacey Hancock said, “The opportunity for our students to give back to the local community is important, and I think it gives them a better understanding of the world outside their school.”


Seventh grade student Hannah Weeks looks forward to the field trip. “I think Lake Lavon is a great chance for us to help out the community and give back. I think my favorite part from last year was the painting.”

Eighth grade student Jenna Evans said this about the experience, “I think Lake Lavon is a great opportunity for us to learn about the community and how we can help. Last year was extremely fun for me because it was my first time to get to help out the community as a new student and I loved staining the tables.”

Seventh grade student Sioban Pitan said, “I like the project because we get to help the environment, make the area clean, and learn in the process.”


Assistant principal Kevin Parker said this about the event, “Our Lake Levon project allows us to transform our classrooms into a place where students get to experience learning. There are different learning environments that keep students engaged and with the help of our parents, community members, and businesses it is a win, win for everyone.”


Lake Lavon is known to have some of the best fishing, boating and camping areas in North Texas, about 1.6 million people visit each year, and the lake was originally authorized by the Army Corps of Engineers in March of 1945 for the purposes of water supply and flood control and to later include recreational purposes. The lake has 121 miles of shoreline and is home to various species of bass, crappie, and catfish.            


America—put your money where your mouth is

Insight into poverty, homelessness, and hunger in the U.S.

By Felicia Whatley


The national debt is out of control. Obama continues to patronize our enemies and ignore the Americans who truly need assistance. And why is everyone so up in arms about Obamacare?

As of Aug. 24, the national debt is at the highest it’s ever been at an estimated $16.9 trillion, Our economy still has influenza, with a the declared unemployment of 11,431,388 and the U.S. trade deficit is  $652,454,200,  according to

Foreign policy is important, but why are we still giving money to our enemies? I would argue that the money should be invested on Americans to help the impoverished, homeless, and those who are stricken with poor health.

There are several huge non-profits like U.S. AID, UNISEF, and various Christian charities  that promise a dollar a day will help save a poor, starving child in a 3rd World Country. That is all well and good, but what about the homeless, starving families in our cities?

The recession will force 1.5 million more people into homelessness over the next two years, according to estimates by The National Alliance to End Homelessness. Some of the top reasons Americans are homeless are because of the lack of affordable housing, cited by 72 percent of cities, poverty being 52%, and unemployment 44%.

The top ideas to stop homelessness were more housing for persons with disabilities or that the nation needs better paying employment opportunities and more mainstream assisted housing.

 “Many people think having a job will reverse a homeless person's situation. But this isn't always the case. In fact, many homeless people do work--they just don't make much money. Thirteen to 25 percent--and possibly more--of the urban homeless population are employed,” said Sarah Valeck in her article “Causes of Homelessness in America.”

How does this affect your community? It is estimated that over 125,000 school-age children in Texas experience homelessness during the course of a year, stated The Texas Homeless Education Office, who is committed to ensuring that all Texas children in homeless situations have the opportunity to enroll in, attend, and succeed in school.

Or the reason why people are homeless and in need of assistance for food or paying for other basic needs such as rent, utilities, fuel for their cars, car payments, and medical bills —is simply because they are poor.

Sometimes it is the children who suffer the most from homelessness and hunger. A study cited from the East Texas Foodbank shows 22% of children under the age of 18 don't know where their next meal is coming from.

According to Feeding America, one-in-six Americans face hunger. A study released by the U.S.D.A. in 2009 and updated in 2011 said Texas has highest rate of child starvation in the country.

Instead of America funding our enemies in the Middle East and Asia, we need to focus more on helping the needs of our own citizens. Why is the U.S. still giving money to countries with military coups, like they did with Pakistan and now Egypt? It is totally illegal according to our Constitution.

Many Americans are turned down from social assistance programs. FEMA is quick to fund towns that get hit by natural disasters and human error, but what about the average Joe, who was laid off and now can’t take care of his family.

Let’s talk about Social Security. The program only gives on average $1,000 a month to qualifying recipients. How is anyone supposed to live off of that? It’s not enough-- and Medicare and Medicaid don’t cover anything major. In America, if you get cancer or need an organ transplant, you are likely to go bankrupt no matter how great you think your health insurance is.

Americans need sustainable aid and viable healthcare. For those conservatives who are panicking about having to provide healthcare for their workers—I’m sure THEY are fully insured. For those of you who have a soft spot in your heart and want to give money to help the less fortunate, give locally.



My Story of unemployment and hunger

By Felicia Whatley

When I moved to Texas last summer, getting away from an unhealthy situation in the Northeast, I was drawn in by the job growth and the cost of living here. Texas added more jobs than any other state in 2012; the state added 260,800 jobs. Nearly 99 percent of those jobs were in the private sector and the unemployment rate was almost 2% less than the national average.

I left my reporter position in Connecticut and risked everything to move here. As a disabled veteran, I went to the Homeless Veterans classes at the VA Hospital in Dallas. They had a few programs, but I was told I had to get on a waiting list and to come back in a week for another seminar. What was I supposed to do before that?

So I got in line at the Salvation Army shelter in Dallas. It had to have 115 degrees that hot July day. A lady told us to come back at 4 p.m. and that some of us could stay the night until 6 a.m., when we would be forced out. I was at the back of line. I was waiving from the heat and shifting from foot to foot. I have protruding disks in my spine, my feet got run over by a car and my lungs and eyes have been severely damaged while I was deployed on active military service. I also see a polytrauma specialist for TBI. Those IEDs are nasty business. I knew how to take them apart and disarm them, but it just takes one to bite you, to remind you how dangerous they are.

Next option, I looked into faith based shelters. There was one, near the VA, a Christian one. They gave me a meal and then turned me away. I am sure the Star of David I wore had nothing to do with it. One of the residents there said, “Find a cheap apartment in a safe area.” I did just that. I moved into Lewisville a few days later. With only a few grand left, I realized I needed assistance.

Hope Inc., Catholic Charities, and the Salvation Army in Lewisville turned me away. I attended Kol Ami, a reformed Jewish synagogue in Flower Mound and asked them for assistance. I was also turned down. I was accepted instead at Christian Community Action (CCA).

The help was gracious, but minimal. They paid $200 towards one month’s rent and gave me access to use their food pantries weekly. I asked if I could have access to the dental clinic (my VA compensation does not include dental) and my councilor Kate said, “That’s for people who don’t have any insurance.” I had to pay out of pocket with my family’s assistance to get a tooth pulled.

I got a job with Dexway CAE teaching English as a second language online. Most my students were in Spain, Kuwait, Mexico, or other parts of Europe. I enjoyed the job, but the pay wasn’t great--$12 hour, and the company was unstable.

When I got laid off I was really scared. Scared that I would become homeless, my bills didn’t pay for themselves, and that I couldn’t go to the grocery store and buy fresh items to supplement my diet. I receive some assistance from the VA, but since I have a master’s degree, I have a lot of debt.

I decided against food stamps because you enter yourself on a national registry, which some have complained can affect the jobs you are offered—it is on several applications--, can affect how you file your taxes and it was possibly used to affect your credit.

VONAP through Texas Workforce Commission for Veterans, the VFW Foundation, and the Vietnam Veterans organizations did help me financially, so I could get through another month in Lewisville. I quickly realized I had to move, because the rent was being increased to almost $800 a month.

Now I live in Plano, sharing a one bedroom apartment with a strange man, so the rent for me is $350 plus half the utilities. I happily work for the Star Local News and still need the pantry assistance.

Most pantries in Plano are only open a few hours a week, open during the daytime, when it is difficult for me to go. God’s Pantry is one of my favorites. Sometimes I get lucky when Costco or Trader Joes donates. I also like the Assistance Center of Collin County in correlation with a Plano Lutheran church. They put nice fruits, vegetables and milk products in my bag. But I can only utilize that pantry once a month.

I am happy to be in Texas again. I have a bigger chance making it on my own here. I call Connecticut “the rip off state.” The taxes on my (one) vehicle were over $400 and if I were to rent an apartment there it would probably be close to $1200.  For property taxes on a three-to-four bedroom home, it is almost $6,000 a year. Most of the twenty and thirty-somethings that worked with me at the Reminder News lived with their parents, including me.

As the Serenity prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr says, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Benghazi attack

It has been a little over a month since the U.S. embassy in Libya was attacked, leaving 15 wounded and killing four Americans, two Navy seals and one an ambassador Christopher Stevens. There is ample evidence that President Obama knew of the attacks and did not react. There were Marines and munitions an hour away at most that could have helped save these men's lives. What have we learned from this?

As we near the 2012 Presidential election, many Republicans are calling Obama a coward for his lack of efforts as the Embassy screamed for help. Up til now, Obama has fulfilled his promise to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq and we are expected to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

U.S. military generals have expressed that the conficts are not drawing down and now is not the time to pull out. Let's also not forget that Obama wanted to close down Gettmo, Guantanamo Bay Cuba. His brilliant idea was to bring the international terrorists and other criminals to American soil and hold them in a maximum security prison, where they would be afforded the same rights as U.S. citizens. The idea was ludicrous.

Though I have already voted for who I think would be the best candidate as a Commander and Chief of our Armed Forces, the best to help us with our economy, and bring back good values for America, I am quite positive that Obama will still get re-elected. I pray that Americans will realize that national security is still paramount. When the troops come home from Afghanistan, it won't change the true threats from abroad.

But is America's biggest problem it's leadership? I think it is more complicated than that, but for those who rallied around Obama for "Change." Did they get the change they wanted? I think not.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

DFAS how could you?

Defense Financial Accounting Service (DFAS) send me a lovely, welcome to retirement from the Army letter. Oh you don’t believe me? You must know how the system works. According to DFAS I owe the military $7,044.79. I thought at first it must be an outrageous bill from equipment that didn’t get turned in. I transferred to so many different state’s National Guards, I figured some stuff had to have gotten lost. But why so much? I don’t understand.

I called the Debt and Claims department at DFAS and the gentleman who answered the phone said that a few hundred dollars were to be recouped because of over payment at a Army training school Summer of 2010 and the rest over $6,000 was because I had received a reenlistment bonus of $15,000 and I had only served a little over half of my commitment. What?

I went through a paper medical board in the summer of 2011, sent to Massachusetts State Med Com where they had determined due to a medical diagnosis that I would be medically discharged. I received a medical HONORABLE discharge July 15, 2011 that ended my 11 years in the Army. The medical disability I occurred as a combat veteran serving my country in Iraq. I stuck through it all: the rapes, the mortars, the terrible chain of command, because I believed in my Army core values and loved being a Soldier.

So to add insult to injury, they want a refund? I didn’t get to plea my case to a real person nor did I receive a medical pension from the United States Army. Instead, they want money I spent to live off of while I was in Graduate school back?

I have $80,000 in student loan debts, $10,000 to pay my car off, $10,000 in medical bills the VA won’t pay for and $6,000 in credit card debt that I owe. I can’t handle all this. I am a newspaper journalist for a weekly and I make a little over $300 a week. It is an unreasonable hardship to even think about these alleged DFAS charges. I gave 11 of the best years of my life to the Army, I was pushed out, and now they want what from me? It’s obscene.

The gentleman on the phone wanted to know how much I would be willing to pay each month, $200 or $300. I told him I couldn’t. I can’t afford to pay that back and I’m hurt that they would even ask for it. The bonus was a re-enlistment incentive the Army was giving in 2007, because retention was so low and we were spread so thin. Why are combat veterans treated like this? Shame on you DFAS; and shame on you Department of the Army, for even asking me to pay this back.

Well you didn’t fulfill your end of the bargain either. I was supposed to get the GI Bill Kicker, which was up to $450 a month while I went to school. I told them to put it in the contract, but they didn’t, so I was screwed. And it looks like I’m screwed over again with a $7,044.79 bill that is expected to destroy what I have left in credit. I have PTSD. DFAS you are not helping. I feel like crying myself to sleep again tonight, because at 31 years old I am stuck living with my parents. I have a job that will never help me break even, let alone get ahead. I just can’t do this. I need help.

Sincerely, Ret. Specialist Felicia Whatley