BYNG — Jo Ann Shelton has been a resident of Byng for more than 30 years.   She worked for McCall’s Chapel for many years and I did not know until recently that she has changed jobs.  She has accepted the position as assistant director for the Victim’s Impact Panel of Oklahoma, Inc.  She is serving 19 counties from I-35 east and I-40 south and stays quite busy.

Victim’s Impact Panel is a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing the epidemic of drinking and driving in the state of Oklahoma.,  Alcohol-related crashes take innocent lives and physically injure an alarming number of people daily.  Someone in the U.S. dies every 32 minutes by the hands of a drunk driver.  It is the number one killer to those between 18-25 years of age, Shelton says.  She believes this epidemic has a cure.  The answer is found in those who are forever changed because of someone’s choice to drive after drinking.

The VIP aims to reach people about the dangers of driving under the influence. This is accomplished by having a panel of three speakers share their different but personal and very real tragedies by giving a name and a face to the pain.

A victim, a rescue professional, and an offender tell the three stories at the programs. The victim is someone whose loved one was severely injured or killed by a drunk driver.  The rescue professional’s viewpoint comes from someone who works the scene of the wreck:  law enforcement officers, fire fighters, EMTs and emergency room doctors. The offender is someone who has killed or injured someone else or themselves while drinking and driving.

VIP serves 77 counties in Oklahoma. Pontotoc County has had a successful VIP program operating since 1991.  Shelton began speaking for VIP in May 1992, after her son, Jeffrey, was killed by someone who chose to drive under the influence. She first spoke to the Byng Senior Class of 1992 and has been speaking at programs across the state ever since.  She became the Pontotoc County offender coordinator in May 2003, after Larry “Scooter” Throne stepped down to meet other professional obligations. He started the Pontotoc County program in 1991 and served as  coordinator until 2003 and he still devotes time whenever possible to VIP.

Programs are presented on a regular basis to  DUI offenders who have been court ordered to attend.  Another branch of VIP is the school programs which are presented from the 8th grade up to university age.

Last year VIP representatives spoke to more than 6.500 students in 20 different schools during Red Ribbon Week.  They reached more than 38,319 students in Oklahoma.

Programs are presented in a non-threatening manner.  They do not believe offenders are bad people but people who made bad choices.

Shelton says VIP has been her passion since her son’s death, and her mission has become that of promoting drunk driving awareness, prevention, and healing.  The VIP motto is “Your Life Is Worth Our Time.”

Shelton encourages anyone who has lost a loved one because someone chose to drive under the influence and needs someone to talk with to phone her at the VIP Southeastern office located in “The Source” building, 730 E. Main and Stonewall Street, Ada, at (580) 272-9430. Her email address is joanshelton607@aol.com.

Shelton says VIP needs help to make a difference in the community.  It may be your child or grandchild’s life they are saving.  She thanked all participants who work so diligently to make VIP a success in Pontotoc County.

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LaDawn Whitlock Wainscott,  Byng Parent-Teacher organization president, says the Byng Elementary  Fall Festival netted $3,000 and already $1,000 has been spent to buy library books and each teacher has been allocated $50 to buy classroom supplies. She expressed thanks to all individuals who donated  time and items to make the festival a success.

In addition to buying library books, past carnivals have been used to buy a security system that monitors the halls, a flagpole and flag, playground equipment, sound system, and $50 per teacher for student incentives.

PTO is always looking for new members and anyone interested may come to the next meeting Jan. 23 at 6:30 p.m. at the elementary library.  For more information, phone LaDawn  at (580) 310-5069, Kathy Hurley at (580) 332-5053 or Leah Counts at (580) 436-4937.

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Lynda Dixon has returned home after a 10-day stay in Missouri where she visited with several friends from college and attended the wedding of her brother, Neal Jordan, Jan. 7.       

She began her trip Dec. 28 by accompanying her son and daughter-in-law, Rod and Gayla Dixon, when he returned to work in St. Louis, Mo.  Rod is employed in his uncle’s investment  office and was “best man” at his wedding.  Gayla teaches music in an elementary school near Dallas but had permission to extend her Christmas break for the few days necessary for her to stay in St. Louis for the wedding.

The trio drove first to Excello, Mo., so Lynda could meet Beverly, the bride-to-be, and see the house the couple were to share after the wedding.  Their visit was short for they had another three-hour drive to Rod’s apartment.  The following day Rod and Gayla took Lynda to the home of her first college roommate, Katie Graham.  Katie and her husband Melvin have a beautiful home in Moscow Mills, Mo. 

From there she went to Kennett, Mo., to renew acquaintance with Fern, another friend from college.  She spent a couple of days there before devoting the rest of the week to shopping, getting ready for the wedding, becoming acquainted with Beverly’s family and visiting with two of Neal’s grown sons and two daughters.  She says the Saturday wedding was beautiful.  She returned to Ada in time to hear her husband, Joe Dixon, lead the eventing church service at New Bethel.