Branson Police Department Creates Model For Positive Change

Project funded by Skaggs Legacy Endowment grant

With funding from Skaggs Foundation in 2021, Branson Police Department launched a Regional Peer Support Team. The team is dedicated to helping Stone and Taney county first responders process personal issues and struggles associated with the traumatic events they respond to and manage through their careers.

“In its first year, the team has done incredible work getting the project up and going, which included a 3-day training seminar for 30 first local responders,” says Skaggs Foundation director of Community Relations Mindy Honey. “In just a matter of a few months, they are already making a huge impact. In year one, the peer support team was activated 17 times for individual and group crisis interventions, providing services to at least 46 first responders.” 

Now, the peer support team has been selected to lead a breakout session at the Missouri Crisis Intervention Training Conference in 2022. This gives the team an opportunity to share what they have learned through the process of creating the team which included bringing together numerous agencies that span two counties and multiple disciplines.

The hope is that the peer support team will become a model for positive change statewide in regards to mental health and first responders. 

“This is not a common model that is used, so by presenting at the conference we can hopefully encourage positive change statewide when it comes to mental health and first responders,” explains Branson Police Chief Jeff Matthews.

Skaggs Foundation recently presented Branson Police Department with funding for the second year of the project. Funding for this project was made possible by Skaggs Foundation’s community grant-making program, Skaggs Legacy Endowment. Since 2013, Skaggs Foundation has awarded more than $7.1 million in Skaggs Legacy Endowment grants. To learn more about Skaggs Legacy Endowment, visit

To learn more about Branson Police Department, visit


Cutline: Skaggs Foundation Director of Community Relations Mindy Honey, center, and grants committee member Anne E McGregor, left, present a check to Branson Police Department and local first responders for the second year of a regional peer support team grant.

Five students attend Rotary Youth Leadership Award Academy

Five area students earned scholarships to the Rotary Youth Leadership Award Academy from three area Rotary groups.

The academy is a three-and-a-half-day program focusing on Rotary’s “Service Above Self” philosophies, according to the academy website. Students participated in self-assessment personality programs, team building activities, and instruction and direction in service leadership from Rotary leaders.

“Going to RYLA was a life-changing experience, not only did it help grow my leadership skills, I also formed many valuable friendships along the way,” Abby Mulnik, a junior at Branson High School, told Branson Tri-Lakes News. “I am very grateful to the Branson Daybreakers Rotary Club for selecting me to be a part of the experience and helping contribute to my future in leadership.”

Mulnik and Caitlyn Matthews were sponsored by Branson Daybreakers Rotary, Israel Reynolds of Branson and Audrey Remenar of Cape Fair were sponsored by the Branson-Hollister Rotary Club, and Bertha Perez by the Hollister Rotary Club.

“Missouri RYLA was great, I met so new friends and was challenged beyond all expectations,” Matthews told Branson Tri-Lakes News. “It provided tools on how to be an effective leader and use my talents to bring people together for a common cause.  RYLA gave me tools to perform the best I can both on the Branson Band leadership team, in the classroom, and beyond.”

The RYLA Academy chooses students based on a desire to be a part of the program, their willingness to participate in all aspects of the program, and their commitment to serve upon returning to their home communities.

Bradleyville teacher nominated for national award

A Bradleyville teacher nominated for national honor by the Missouri State High School Activities Association. 

On Tuesday, Oct. 12, Bradleyville School District posted on their Facebook page, “On the 2nd Tuesday of each month, school districts around our region are celebrating #Teacherproud and honoring the teachers of their school district. Today, we want to honor our very own Mrs. Chris Sprague.” 

According to the post, each year the National Federation of State High School Associations asks each state to nominate an individual who has made outstanding contributions to interscholastic music activities within each state. It has been announced that this year, the Missouri State High School Activities Association has nominated Sprague for this award.  

“Congratulations Mrs. Sprague!,” the post said. “We are definitely proud of you and thankful for you!” 

Boys & Girls Club of the Ozarks opens a new club in Crane, Mo.

CRANE, Mo. (KY3) – The Boys & Girls Club of the Ozarks is opening a southwest Missouri club in Crane. The club will be located at the Crane Elementary School.

The organization held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new location Thursday.

Tracey Howard, a parent, says it’s always been a struggle for parents to find a place for their kids to go after school. Now, students will be provided a safe space to learn and grow outside of the normal school hours.

“This is also going to be very good for them to have extra help with any kind of schoolwork or anything like that,” said Howard.

Stoney Hays, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of the Ozarks, says the Crane School District doesn’t have school on Monday. That leaves an extra day for families to find supervision for their children.

”Our young people go unserved on Mondays. A lot of times they are staying at home alone,” Hays said.

Hays says that can create many challenges for students.

”That becomes part of the dangers of experimenting with drugs and alcohol and getting into other dangerous experiences that wouldn’t happen otherwise,” Hays said.

The Crane club is scheduled to open no later than January. It plans to serve 100 elementary-age students in the community.

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Cox Medical Center Branson dedicating “Prayer Square”

Cox Medical Center Branson is dedicating a space on their campus for prayer. The “Prayer Square” is being dedicated Aug. 23, starting at 10 a.m., at the top level of the main parking lot near the Medical Center’s flagpole, according to a press release. 

Cox Branson President William Mahoney hopes the square can be a place of unity. “We’re asking folks to say a prayer for our entire community,” Mahoney said in the release. “This is to support our hospital staff, patients, teachers, students, families, and anyone else making decisions or having a hard time in what has been a really difficult 18 months.”

Hospital officials credit College of the Ozarks Vice President Dr. Sue Head with the idea for a prayer space on the medical campus.  “The Ozarks is known for its warm hospitality and for its core values: faith, family, flag, friends, and future. This is our legacy,” Head said in the press release. “Now is the time for us to unite in our shared values rather than focusing our differences, which are pulling us apart. What if we all took a day to be united in prayer for our medical professionals, our non-profits, our first responders, and our schools that have all heroically worked to meet the needs of our community during this pandemic? We are all better together, so let’s gather in the “Prayer Squares” throughout the Ozarks to pray for our friends and neighbors who are struggling.”

Dr. Head is a member of the hospital’s Board of Directors. Another member of the hospital’s board, Pam Yancey, said in the press statement she hopes the “Prayer Square” will become a representation of the best of the community. “The heart of this community is so good,” Yancey said in the press statement. “Coming together to support each other is what we’ve always done. We hope this special Square will help us get back to that.  “This isn’t about politics, it’s about our people. Our community may not always agree on everything, but I know we all want health and happiness for our friends and neighbors.”

Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s donates 40,000 rods and reels to help kids across the US get outdoors

A nationwide movement to help get children and families connected to the outdoors is getting an added boost.

Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s are donating more than 40,000 rods and reels to nonprofit organizations across the nation to kick off Gone Fishing, which begins June 12. 

Local nonprofit K.A.S.T., or Kids Are Special Too, will receive more than 400 rods and reels from the Springfield and Branson Bass Pro Shop location Thursday. K.A.S.T. recipients will also fish with local pro anglers.

Gone Fishing events are slated for June 12-13 and 19-20 for kids of all ages to catch their first fish in the catch-and-release ponds. Beginner guides, free seminars, crafts and more will be available.

“The effort is part of the company’s mission to inspire future generations to enjoy, love, and conserve the great outdoors,” according to a statement from Bass Pro Shops. “Since the program’s inception, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s have donated 400,000 items to youth-focused nonprofit organizations across North America.”

Visit for more details.

Sara Karnes is an Outdoors Reporter with the Springfield News-Leader. Follow along with her adventures on Twitter and Instagram @Sara_Karnes. Got a story to tell? Email her at

Junior Auxiliary of Taney County Encourages Local Teens to Continue Their Learning by Awarding Seven Scholarships

Four deserving seniors were honored recently with college scholarships from the Junior Auxiliary of Taney County (JATC). JATC provided a $750 non-renewable scholarship to a graduating senior at each of the four Taney County high schools. This year’s recipients were: Madison Shipley, Bradleyville; Katelyn Patrick, Branson; Ashley Matthews, Forsyth; and Kyla McClintic, Hollister. The selection of these recipients was based primarily on volunteer service to their communities, above and beyond any school requirements, in addition to academic accomplishments and personal recommendations.

A fifth $750 Scholarcare renewable scholarship award available for up to four years was presented to a graduating senior who can benefit from the money as well as a little extra personal encouragement and care packages that JATC members provide monthly throughout the year. This year Kylie Calhoun, Forsyth was selected to receive this award based on personal essays and recommendations accompanying her application. We are also proud to announce that Kayli Nimmo and Bryce Reinke,
both of Branson, qualified to renew their $750 ScholarCare awards. Bryce commented “Thank you very much for blessing me this year! God knew that I definitely needed some extra encouragement to get me through my first year at College of the Ozarks. Thank you again so much for all of your support throughout the year! “

JATC is proud to be able to provide support and encouragement to these students as they pursue their education and move into adulthood. These Scholarships and Scholarcare Awards are just one of the many projects and services offered in Taney County by the members of JATC. More information about the organization and its projects is available on the website,

JATC projects also include Book Swap where JA members exchange books once a month at three different extended-stay motels to give children a chance to improve their reading skills; Tender Critters for children in trauma; Santa’s Gift House; Prom Dresses for girls in need; financial and labor support for the Crisis Center of Taney County including birthday parties and kid therapy so that moms may attend counseling sessions; Shoe Box Project filled with fun items such as Legos, Birdhouse kits, Sonic Sound magnets, Play-Doh, stickers, Silly Putty, coloring books and crayons, and delivered to Mark Twain and Bradleyville Elementary Schools for children in Pre-K through 4th Grade just in time for Spring Break to provide them with activities for Spring Break; and School Supplies “refreshment” in January for elementary schools in Eastern Taney County.

JATC is more than a nonprofit organization, it’s a group of women united by a single cause and dedicated to helping the children of Taney County. That’s the magic of JATC. It was chartered by a group of caring, enthusiastic women in 1998 and continues to grow and thrive throughout Taney County. Approximately 50 members annually contribute more than 4,000 volunteer hours as they strive to improve the mental, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children in Taney County.

Our major fundraiser – a fun Trivia Challenge with dinner, live entertainment, and a Silent Auction – had to be canceled last year! THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT THE 20TH ANNUAL TRIVIA CHALLENGE HAS BEEN RESCHEDULED FOR FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2021 AT THE CHATEAU ON THE LAKE. We hope all our supporters will SAVE THE DATE and join us there. Support for our organization turns into support for the children in our community. And, as you all know, community support became even more essential during the Pandemic. Special thanks for the donations we have received from corporate charitable giving (e.g., Amazon Smile, Benevity Funds, Walmart, and White River Electric), generous local businesses, and churches (e.g., Belk. Mr. G’s, Branson’s Cowboy Church located at God & Country Theatre, Doug Baker State Farm Insurance, Ozark Mountain Ear Nose & Throat, 417 Fundraising, Branson Bank, Central Bank, First Community Bank, Edward Jones – Mitch and Jennifer Holmes, Edward Jones – Mac McGregor, Target, and Lowe’s.)

JATC is more than a nonprofit organization, it’s a group of women united by a single cause. We are dedicated to helping and making a difference in the lives of the children of Taney County. That’s the magic of JATC. It was chartered by a group of caring, enthusiastic women in 1998 and continues to grow and thrive throughout Taney County. Approximately 40 members annually contribute more than 4,000 volunteer hours as they strive to improve the mental, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children in Taney County. JATC is part of the National Association of Junior Auxiliaries (NAJA), a non-profit organization founded in 1941 with headquarters in Greenville, Mississippi. NAJA has more than 15,500 active, associate, and life members in 98 chapters located in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee. Their slogan is “Caring Hearts—Helping Hands—Changing Lives”.

More information on JATC can be found on the Junior Auxiliary website JATCMO.ORG, their Facebook page, Junior Auxiliary of Taney County, or via email at

Taney County Treatment Court takes Holistic Approach to Recovery

By AL Vineyard for Drug Free Ozarks

When a person has a substance use disorder, nearly every aspect of their life, including relationships, mental and emotional health, job skills, education, lifestyle, and parenting are affected.

If the person has children, the impact is even greater.

Children raised by parents with substance use disorders are often not taught basic life skills other children their age learn and often experience trauma related to the substance use and its consequences.

In an effort to help individuals whose lives are affected the most by substance use disorders, Taney County Treatment Court, commonly called drug court, assesses each participant, providing an individual treatment plan that focuses on the specific needs of that person.

Judge Eric Eighmy has presided over the Taney County Treatment Court for the past two-and-a-half years of the treatment court’s 21 year history. He’s seen the success of Stone and Taney counties’ treatment court systems, crediting Stone County Treatment Court Judge, Alan Blankenship, for being one of the best treatment court judges in the state. When Eighmy was offered the position, he humbly accepted, wanting to continue the success of his predecessor while reducing recidivism rates in Taney County.

Sit in on a monthly drug court proceeding and it will quickly become apparent how much Eighmy cares for the participants.

He can be seen cheering them on, encouraging them, and even stepping away from the bench to shake the hand of participant Jamie Bain’s new spouse who joined the proceeding.

Treatment Court Probation Officer Kathy Jeter says participants’ families are encouraged to join drug court functions, including court dates. The program includes education and therapy for the families. She explained that substance use disorders affect the families and the recovery process should include them as well.

Serving with Eighmy are others who help address the specific needs of each participant. Included in this team is a prosecutor, assistant prosecutor, clerk, two treatment providers, a probation officer, the drug court coordinator, and a defense counsel to represent participants when a sanction is being imposed. Each team member has a specific role in the process, but when they all come together for court, they collectively become the participants’ cheerleaders.

Jacob Beall arrived to March’s drug court proceeding dressed in a suit, wanting to prove he’s serious about the program and taking control of his life. The month before he looked very different, having just experienced a reoccurrence of symptoms. He thought the team would have written him off, but when he showed up dressed in the suit, the entire courtroom cheered as he walked to the front.

Drug court participants are not dismissed from the program for drug use. Instead, the drug court team works with the participant to identify triggers and establish new healthy ways to deal with the situation.

Beall is grateful for the program.

“I would probably be dead without it,” he said.

In order for a person to recover, it is important to identify and change harmful thought patterns regarding behaviors typically associated with substance use disorders. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) are part of the treatment program addressing these thought and behavior patterns.

Jordan Tracy, drug court participant, credits the program for helping him make better decisions. Tracy is soft spoken with a genuine smile that exhibits the joy he has achieving 21 weeks free of heroin use.

The drug court treatment plan consists of five phases. The process typically takes approximately 18 to 24 months. The phases build on one another. Each phase has a set number of mandatory substance free days, community service hours, and additional requirements in order to “phase up.”

Phasing up is a celebratory occasion. 

Bain is in Phase 2 of the program, with six months of recovery time.

“As long as you fight it, it will be hard,” she said.

Today, it is apparent that she isn’t fighting the program, but rather, she is fighting for recovery with her husband by her side.

Margot Cole is two months shy of her two-year recovery date.

The drug court program has taught her a lot about her substance use disorder. Cole also credits the collaboration with sober-living houses, such as Standing by the Door, for helping her learn new and healthy life skills. Cole stays busy, working multiple jobs, keeping up with classes, appointments, community service work, and meetings required by the drug court program. Even with her busy schedule, she is never too busy to help a fellow participant, offering the few spare minutes that she has for emotional support.

Taney County Treatment Court creates a community, a bond between participants, teaching them healthy relationship habits and life skills.

In addition to learning healthy relational skills, participants who have children are offered parenting classes.

The drug court team works with participants to teach parenting skills and ensuring the home is fit for the parent and children. The team also works with the family court regarding custody matters.

Participants are required to attend two recovery meetings of their choice each week. It can be a Bible study, a spiritual meeting, Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, or Celebrate Recovery. During the pandemic, the meetings were held virtually, and the community is so strong that past graduates stayed connected to participants to encourage them through the difficult lockdown.

Once a participant has reached the final phase and completed all of the necessary requirements, the individual is eligible to graduate. Graduation is saved for the end of each drug court proceeding. Each team member stands to say a few words to the graduate. Family members are encouraged to join and speak. Graduates even invite the arresting officers, who gladly attends in full support of the changes the graduate has made.

Graduating does not exclude the graduate from future connections and resources. If a graduate needs to come back for MRT, they are encouraged to do so for no additional fees. They are invited to participate in court proceedings, meetings, and classes after graduation and are encouraged to continue with the social network and community the treatment court establishes.

Taney County Treatment Court works with people with the most intense substance use disorders who have been resistant to other treatment programs. This program uses a holistic approach, addressing every aspect of the participant’s life with evidence-based practices to change the lives of the participants, enhance the lives of their families, and reduce recidivism for the community.

The success is apparent in the numbers. Statewide, as of December 31, 2019, there were 22,221 graduates with approximately an 11% recidivism rate.

“Everybody impacts everybody,” said Jeter. “I love what I do. The joy comes from the participants’ success and them pouring into others.”

Drug Free Ozarks is part of the Stone & Taney Counties Substance Use Initiative, which is aimed at reducing and preventing substance use in Stone and Taney counties. It is a project of CoxHealth and funded through a Skaggs Legacy Endowment grant. To learn more about the Substance Use Initiative, visit or on Facebook at DrugFreeOzarks.


Hollister has a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Little Free Library

Hollister has a place that encourages reading and helps build family bonds through the love of reading together. 

The grand opening and ribbon-cutting for the Little Free Library were originally scheduled for April 22, 2020, but due to COVID-19, it was canceled. While the Little Free Library has been open for more than a year, the ribbon-cutting celebration, sponsored by the Hollister Area Chamber of Commerce, took place on Tuesday, May 18 at the Chad Fuqua Memorial Park in Hollister. 

According to an email from Hollister R-V School District Communications Director Kim Connell, the Little Free Library is important for Hollister, because many families do not have funds to buy books or resources to get books. Another reason it is important is that families in Hollister may not have transportation to Taneyhills Library in Branson or the funds to purchase a library car.

“The Little Free Library was started after a discussion at a Parents as Teachers Community Advisory Committee meeting discussing the importance of early literacy and how access to books can be improved in our community,” said Lead Parent Educator for Hollister School Districts Parents as Teachers Traci Canote. 

Books create warm emotional bonds between adults and kids when they read books together. Books help kids develop basic language skills and profoundly expand their vocabulary, according to the email. 

According to the Little Free Library website, LFL is a nonprofit that builds community, inspires readers, and expands book access for all through a global network of volunteer-led little libraries. LFL’s goal is to address the growing literacy crisis around the world. 

Today in the United States, more than 30 million adults cannot read or write above a third-grade level. Studies have repeatedly shown that books in the hands of children have a meaningful impact on improving literacy. The more books in or near the home, the more likely a child will learn and love to read. But two out of three children living in poverty have no books to call their own, according to the website. 

According to the website, the LFL has done a lot to fight the literacy crisis around the world including:

More than 165 million books have been shared through registered Little Free Libraries, profoundly increasing book access for readers of all ages and backgrounds. Thousands of neighbors have connected for the first time, building stronger and friendlier communities. The Impact Library Program, which began in 2016, has provided more than 1,000 Little Free Libraries at no cost to communities where they’re needed most. 

 The Native American Initiative has provided little libraries full of books to native communities in partnership with tribal leaders and organizations. The Action Book Club, which launched in 2017, has inspired thousands of participants to read books, spread kindness, and work together to improve their communities. The LFL has been awarded Guidestar’s respected Platinum Seal of Transparency, as well as recognition from the Library of Congress, the National Book Foundation, Library Journal, the Women’s National Book Association, and more. The Hollister LFL is located at the Chad Fuqua Memorial Park next to city hall, according to the email. “The location of Chad Fuqua Memorial Park was decided upon due to its proximity to downtown residents,” said Canote. “We wanted a central location that is accessible to families regardless of transportation.”

According to the website, LFL are book-sharing boxes that play an essential role by providing access to books and encouraging a love of reading in areas where books are scarce. At the Little Free Library nonprofit, they work to fill book deserts and grant libraries to underserved communities through our Impact Library Program and other initiatives.

In Hollister, the idea of a book-sharing library makes it easy for people to not only get books to read but to donate to the LFL as well, according to Canote. “Anyone can donate books. When an individual visits the library they are invited to take a book, leave a book, or both,” said Canote. “Our Little Free Library was created with young children (in) mind, however, the donated books have expanded to include books for all ages.” The benefit of the Hollister LFL has already been felt by the community, according to Canote.

“The benefits of having books available to a community is huge,” said Canote. “Our primary goal is that children will enjoy books with their parents and grow to love reading. We know that an early love of reading promotes success in school which is one of our program goals.”

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Western Taney County volunteer firefighter creates non-profit organization for families of fallen first responders

BRANSON, Mo. (KY3) – Cory Roebuck, a volunteer firefighter with the Western Taney County Fire Protection District, is helping the families of first responders killed in the line of duty.

A ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday at the Branson Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce launched the Taney County 100 Club. Roebuck said he nearly died eight years ago when he was left hanging from a tree while responding to flash flooding. While waiting to be rescued, he said he started thinking about what would his family do if he didn’t make it.

“When I was clinging to a tree in the middle of the night all I could think about was my family, who’s going to tell my wife, who’s going to raise my family?,” Cory Roebuck said.

He said from that point on it was so important to him that his family have a plan of action if a tragedy ever occurred.

”Not only for my family, but now for my brothers and sisters that are there every day sacrificing for our community and able to maintain their house and their livelihood in the event they should be catastrophically injured or killed,” Roebucks said.

Roebuck said the idea behind the 100 Club started in 1952 after a Detroit police officer was killed in the line of duty. He wanted to bring that same organization to Taney County after his near death experience.

”It was a local business person that felt compelled to mail a letter to 100 of their business friends and ask for funds, funds that would help the widow out,” Roebuck said.

He said in 1953 the group expanded and asked for $100 each year from members of the community so funds could be ready in a moments notice for the family of a fallen first responder.

”Sometimes as a first responder that is the wage earner and when they pass so do the funds,” Roebuck said.

Roxanne Amundsen whose husband was in law enforcement, said she thinks this organization can greatly impact families of first responders.

“My husband was a deputy here and also in emergency services for 20 years in Taney County and I can really relate to what that does to the wife and to the family,” Roxanne Amundsen said.

Amundsen said she never knew if her husband was going to make it back home when he left for work, so having an organization willing to help if tragedy strikes is reassuring.

”I look at every one of these first responders that are here today and think I would love to connect with their families and their wives and their children and say I know what you’re going through,” Amundsen said.

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