Local Donations Provide Upgrade for WIC Office

Local Donations Provide Upgrade for WIC Office

Amy Renzvold, Clinical Supervisor for the WIC Office in the Bryan/College Station, TX

Amy Renzvold, Clinical Supervisor for the WIC Office in the Bryan/College Station, TX

College Station, February 9, 2015-  When Amy Rensvold, with the local Women, Infants and Children’s (WIC) office called Stearns Design Build she was hoping to get a bid to have some laminate countertops replaced.  Instead Stearns Design Build president, Hugh Stearns offered to do the work for free.  Thanks to the generosity of Lowe’s in Bryan, who contributed materials at half price, the project could be done with no cost to the WIC office.
WIC is a federally funded organization that helps families eat well and stay healthy by providing:

  • Nutrition education
  • One-on-one counseling about nutrition
  • WIC EBT card to buy healthy foods
  • Support and help with breastfeeding


  • Referrals to health care and other programs

These services are available to:

  • Pregnant women
  • Women who are breastfeeding a baby under 1 year of age
  • Women who have had a baby in the past six months
  • Parents, step-parents, guardians, and foster parents of infants and children under the age of 5 can apply for their children


Stearns said that doing this project as a donation was a “no brainer.”  Stearns said, “in a time when so many are cynical about government, the WIC office provides a great example of American potential through community assistance.  When we take care of the nation’s children, we are providing for a better future for all.”  Stearns was especially complimentary of the local WIC office. “When that work is done with the level of caring and respect that is exhibited by our local WIC office, a positive example is provided to further enhance the benefit.”  Stearns Design Build employees also contributed to the project by giving up a weekend to doing some of the work on their own time.

To learn more about the services provided by WIC please call 979-260-2942.  Brazos Valley Community Action Agency, Inc. operates the WIC program in 6 counties in the Brazos Valley.

Stearns Design Build has been providing custom remodeling and new homes in the Brazos Valley since 1993.  For more information visit www.stearnsdesignbuild.com.


Honoring Community – Red Wasp Film Festival

One of the very cool things that happens in Bryan every year is the Red Wasp Film Festival, which began in 2003. Founders Carol and Craig Conlee held the first festivals at 7F Lodge in Wellborn.

In 2006 Brazos Progressives partnered with Carol and Craig, and the festival moved to Conlee Auctions in downtown Bryan, TX, and 2008 the festival moved to Stage Center.

Carol Conlee came up with the name. When they owned 7F Lodge, where the first festivals were held. during the spring, the red wasps would return in droves, so Carol decided to make the “pesky” wasps part of the festival. It was one of her ways of making peace with her surroundings. She swears that although the wasps are still present in the environment during the spring they don’t bother her any more.

Since 2006 The Festival has been under the capable direction of Krista May who has done a stellar job making sure that it has grown in stature and quality of film every year.  Red Wasp 2013 will happen Friday, November 1, and Saturday, November 2, 2013, at StageCenter Theater in downtown Bryan. More information about film submissions, screening schedules, sponsors, and ticket information will be posted soon at redwasp.org. Stay tuned

Honoring Community – The Frame Gallery

the frame gallery

the frame gallery

One of the great things about locally owned independent businesses is the degree to which they do community.  Independent businesses are integrally tied to the community that they are in and as such those owners tend to be great stewards of community.

One business that exemplifies this is The Frame Gallery.  Greta Watkins the owner of The Frame Gallery has, more than anyone else, inspired and created the downtown renaissance in Bryan.  She has worked tirelessly to make First Fridays and the Art Step the huge success that they are.  Twenty years ago, downtown Bryan was as far from cool as one could get, now it is an amazing center of community, commerce and art.  I seriously doubt that this would have happened if not for Greta.

The Frame Gallery at 216 N. Bryan Ave. is the heart of downtown.  On First Fridays the place is hopping. Greta’s husband, Randy, and his band are set up playing some excellent mell

As a community, we are very fortunate to have the stewardship that Greta Watkins provides, as well as the unique personality that she brings to The Frame Gallery. ow jazz, the walls are covered with incredible local art and the place is elbow to elbow with the fine people of our community.  It is a scene not to be missed, and so very different than other times at The Frame Gallery.  I love to slide into The Frame Gallery on a hot afternoon when the crowds are not as imposing and spend some time enjoying the visual talents of the artists of our town.  Greta’s portraits of Brazos Valley personalities are some of my favorites.

Honoring Community – Southwood Learning Center

Here is a great story of the American Dream played out right here in College Station. 

southwood learning center

southwood learning center

In 1981 an Indian family decided to leave all they knew behind and chase the American Dream in College Station, Texas.  They brought their children, some savings and lots of hope for a bright future.  Of all places in the world, why College Station, Texas?

The gentleman had a brother who was a professor at the amazing institution known as Texas A&M, which possibly had a position open for him.

Once the family moved here, circumstances changed and the opening at the university was no more.  What to do?  A young family, a new country, young kids and disappointment looming in the horizon.  What to do, what to do?

The wife had been a teacher, once upon a time in India.  Her passion had always been children.  She had patience, love and a desire to teach, perhaps she could once again work in a school.  The elementary schools were not an option, too many differences in teacher requirements.  She volunteered at a local preschool while the husband looked for a new job.

One fine day as they were driving by a quiet street, they saw a “For Sale” sign on a daycare center.  “Let’s inquire” they both thought, “we have nothing to lose.”  They did and though the center only had 8 kids they decided to jump in with both feet and started Kiddie Castle Children’s Center.

The couple worked diligently to provide a warm and nurturing environment that felt like home for all their children and families.  They worked tirelessly to improve their curriculum and eventually began a Montessori curriculum.  This was an internationally recognized approach that allowed children the freedom to move at their own pace and reach levels typically unheard of in other curricula.

It was hard work, many hours with the whole family working every moment they had to make a go of the new business, even the children pitched in after school.    The first few weeks and months were grueling.  There was excitement paired with fear, what if this did not work?  At first, there were many dark clouds, but with prayer and continued efforts the school began to grow and expand until there were several schools including Southwood Learning Center.  The American Dream had become a reality.

This is the story of how my parents Syed and Muneer Hyder came to this country and established themselves and their business over a 30 year period.  Today, my parents are somewhat retired and have finally decided to slow down a little, but the original Kiddie Castle is still in business as is Southwood Learning Center.

I get to contribute to the history as the proud administrator of Southwood Learning Center.  Times have changed with new theories on child rearing and classroom management, but we still follow the century old Montessori curriculum and we still believe in children having a nurturing environment that allows them to explore the world around them in a safe and fun way.

It is exciting to see what can be accomplished in this country with a dream, hard work and opportunity.  It is even more exciting to be a part of it all.  How fortunate am I to be a part of this legacy and I look forward to many more years of working towards keeping the tradition of good education and a family atmosphere alive in Southwood Learning Center.


I have fond memories of collecting fossilized sharks teeth from the banks of the Brazos River on an outing with The Junior Museum of Natural history, now the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History.  The museum is a real treasure for the Brazos Valley. If you have not discovered this treasure we encourage you to do so.  This museum is not just for children but it is always more fun to bring a child with you.
The Museums director is Dr. Deborah F. Cowman. The Museum’s mission is to preserve and protect natural and cultural history, to promote science education, and to encourage responsible stewardship of all natural and cultural resources. It accomplishes this through: 1) the preservation of artifacts and natural specimens; 2) the presentation of exhibits and educational programming; and 3) cooperative partnerships with arts and cultural organizations, community oriented entities, and academic institutions throughout the Brazos Valley.

The Junior Museum of Natural History was founded by the American Association of University Women in 1961 for the express purpose of providing object and activity-oriented natural science education to young people. All efforts were volunteer and extensively involved the Department of Biology at Texas A&M University. From its beginnings, the Junior Museum of Natural History aggressively reached out into the Bryan schools. Its first home was, in fact, in the Brazos County Courthouse in Bryan.

In 1970, the collections increased several fold when the Texas A&M Museum Collections were orphaned. Important acquisitions included a collection of Pleistocene mammals, local archaeological material, and two historically important local botanical collections from 1883 and 1897.

In 1979, the museum moved to the Brazos Center. In 1993, the name became the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History to clarify the museum’s role in the community and to focus collections, exhibits, and programs on the local area. In 1991, a new 9,400 square foot museum was built next to the Brazos Center on land donated by the County.

The Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History is staffed by paid professionals, interns, and volunteers. Programs are provided to area schools and preschools. There are spring, summer, and fall nature camps, with special programs on- and off-site for adults as well as children. Educational exhibits are changed quarterly.