Carthage man's legacy continues to help community

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Even though he’s gone, an area man’s generosity continues to benefit his community.

Before his death last year, the estate of Carthage-native Darrell “Butch” Newman donated $537,000 to the Carthage Community Foundation. Mr. Newman lived in the Maple Leaf City his entire life. He also served in the U.S. Army, and worked for the United States Postal Service for more than 26 years.

The donation ensures continued support to charities and causes in the Carthage community.


Freeman Medical Focus — National Kidney Month

JOPLIN, Mo. — March is National Kidney Month, a chance to raise awareness of the different issues patients experience and how they’re treated.

Priscilla Tuuth, Dialysis Patient, said, “All at once I started to swell up, my toes and fingers.”

At first Priscilla Tuuth hoped it would just go away on its own. Instead, she started having trouble breathing and headed to the hospital.

“I was having kidney failure.”

At first, she was able to do peritoneal dialysis at home. But after a few years, that turned into trips to the Freeman Dialysis Center. Three times a week, for more than four hours at a time. The process can be exhausting.

“Sometimes I only have enough energy to drive home.”

Dr. Abdul Nagaria points out there are around 10,000 patients dialysis patients in Missouri alone.

Dr. Abdul Nagaria, Freeman Nephrologist, said, “Kidney disease is common, chronic issues where the kidneys gets worse over time.”

He says early diagnosis and treatment is the key. Diabetes and high blood pressure are the two most common causes.

“The third most common is called glomeral nephritis – a group of conditions where there’s inflammation in kidneys.”

Dr. Nagaria says exercise and eating right are often good strategies to help prevent kidney issues. Something Priscilla Tuuth can’t stress enough. Because once you start dialysis, you’re only other option is a transplant.

Priscilla Tuuth, Dialysis Patient, said, “Dialysis is a lifeline, you can’t ever stop.”


Gravette Schools respond to allegations of officials making female student urinate in bucket

GRAVETTE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Gravette Public Schools respond to allegations of Gravette Middle School officials making a female student urinate in a bucket.

The school district’s response comes after KNWA/FOX24 received an anonymous tip about the incident.

In a statement, the school district explains the Gravette Police Department was conducting a pre-arranged training exercise with K-9 units involved in drug detection at the middle school. They say teachers were instructed to keep students in the classrooms during the exercise for their safety. The statement goes on to say that a female student needed to use the restroom during the exercise.

According to the statement, the teacher asked the school’s office if the child could be allowed leave the classroom to use the restroom. The school says he was told that the students needed to stay in their classrooms. After a private conversation with the female student and another student as a witness, the female student was given a secure, private area and a metal trash can as a portable toilet. The school says neither the teacher nor the students were able to observe the student.

The school says the student’s mother was informed of the situation and that her and the student agreed under the circumstances, the teacher acted in a professional manner. The school believes the teacher treated the student with respect and provided for her needs.


Missouri man learns a valuable lesson during turkey mating season

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Meteorologist Jaime Travers’ husband, Evan, learned a valuable lesson about exercising caution around turkeys and geese as we approach the mating season.

Evan Travers was outside filling the bird feeder when he spotted a flock of turkeys. There were nine hens and a very large and beautiful tom. The tom became aggressive while Evan was taking pictures.

“I thought for sure they’d run away after I started taking pictures of them. But the big tom turkey actually started getting closer to me,” Evan said.

The tom was coming too close for comfort.

“Next thing you know, it fluffs its feathers up and gets big,” he said. “And it starts coming towards me. And my first thought was, ‘I’m going to get big and maybe scare it off.’ You know, what do I know? And it just keeps coming so I turn and just run.”

From the backyard to the garage. But there was no time to get the garage door open.

“So I just keep running,” Evan said. “And I quickly look around to see if any of my neighbors are seeing the idiot being chased by a turkey.”

He was chased all the way back to where it started, finally making it into the screened-in porch.

“And when I closed the screen behind me, it’s right there, and it’s gobbling at me and it’s fluffing its feathers,” he said.

Turkey mating season begins in spring. Dan Zarlenga, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Conservation, says that turkeys typically aren’t aggressive but can be under the right circumstances.

“I’m going to suspect that that turkey was perceiving that he was protecting his group of hens that he was hoping to be able to mate with soon and so he saw a possible intruder there, competition, so he was taking action to protect his group there,” Zarlenga said.

An incident like this is actually more common with geese.

“When they reach their mating season and they lay their eggs, geese can be very, very, aggressive too. So, if you happen to walk near a nest, then you’re liable to get chased,” Zarlenga said.

Lesson learned. It’s best to keep your distance for your own safety and the sake of the animals as well.

For more information on turkeys and the upcoming hunting season, visit mdc.mo.gov.


Steak n Shake replaces table service with self-serve kiosks

ST. LOUIS– Steak n Shake will no longer be as you knew them. Its parent company says they are making a pandemic pivot, transitioning the popular Steakburger and shake eatery into a quick-service restaurant.

“Steak n Shake is in an era of radical transformation,” said Sandra Biglari, CEO and Chairman of Bilgari Holdings, the chain’s parent company.

Since 1934, customers have enjoyed sipping on shakes, eating their Steakburgers and skinny fries amid the black and white interior.

You will still be able to enjoy your meal inside, but Biglari says the biggest change for customers will be that you will no longer order at a table.

The company says there won’t even be a counter with an attendant. Instead, you will use a self-serve kiosk to place your order.

Biglari also said the change is a way to embrace efficiency and transitioning the service model to empower our guests to place and pick up their own orders.

The company explains that for much of 2020 off-premises business – drive-through, delivery, and takeout- became their business. Biglari says the company increased off-premise sales for comparable stores by 14%, generated cash from operations, and turned the business around during the pandemic.

The company says it expects to amplify profits by reopening the dining rooms and believes a switch to quick-serve will enhance the company’s economics.

The other change is a switch to a franchise partnership model. A single-store owner will run each restaurant.

Biglari says despite the innovations underway, what is fundamental to the company- Steakburgers and milkshakes- remains the same.

You can read more on the plans for Steak n Shake in Bilgari Holdings stakeholder letter.


Joplin Police SWAT Take Wanted Man into Custody at Apartment Complex

JOPLIN, Mo. — A Joplin man is in custody following a late night standoff with local law enforcement and SWAT officers.

JPD’s Cpl. Ketrina Jones says it began early Thursday evening as investigators received information a man wanted by Joplin Police was living at 1016 South Connecticut, Apt 6.

Given the history with the individual, law enforcement came prepared. At 10:30 PM. SWAT surrounded the building and secured the area. Officers then initiated a contain and call out.

At one point the Joplin Police MRAP* vehicle pulled in closer in front of the building. The armored vehicle is used as a shield for officers to get closer for approach.

Around 12:30 AM Cpl. Ketrina Jones of the Joplin Police Department tells us the man they wanted is in custody.

“It took a while but we got him,” Cpl Jones said. No one was injured and the unidentified man exited the apartment after about two hours.

We anticipate more information to be released later on Friday regarding possible charges and his identity.

* Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle. Formerly used in active military duty. These retired vehicles are on permanent loan to police departments across the country, for use in protecting officers in situations like tonight.


Crawford County COVID-19 Update

CRAWFORD COUNTY, Kans. — The Crawford County Health Department has some positive updates on their case counts and vaccination progress.

Early Friday afternoon, the Health Department based in Pittsburg, Kansas released their most up to date case counts as well as current update on Phase 2.

At the moment, CCHD reports:

  • 43 individuals in isolation
  • 215 in quarantine
  • 80 deaths total due to COVID-19

As the county shifts into Phase 2 of their vaccination plan, they’re also reminding those that were a part of Phase 1 can still get their vaccinations. The persons included in Phase 2 are “high-contact critical workers and congregate settings” such as:

  • Higher education staff
  • First Responders
  • Judicial/court system participants
  • Childcare workers
  • Food processing including meat processing
  • Grocery stores
  • Food service to include restaurants
  • Transportation organizations/suppliers
  • City/county public works
  • Dept. Motor Vehicles
  • U.S. Postal Service
  • Home care providers
  • Supplier of critical infrastructure service/supplies

If you or a family member belong to one of these areas and are seeking a COVID-19 vaccination, the County asks you call to schedule an appointment at (620) 724-6385 from 8 AM – 4:30 PM Mon-Fri.

The County’s Gating Criteria can be seen below which shows a reduction in new case counts and more:


‘That was our Blue Haven House,’ brothers team up to lead Blue Haven Homes

Bothers Sawyer and Sullivan Smith, founders of Blue Haven Homes, assured that they will bring dignity back to Joplin’s historical Olivia building, but who are these brothers behind the redevelopment and beginning business? 

Originally from Colorado and sons of a father in construction, Sawyer moved to Joplin in 2010 for college at Ozark Christian College (OCC) and Sullivan followed suit later in 2013. Years later the two created a real estate investment company from the ground-up based on family roots, starting with the company name that ties to their childhood. 

“… We are a family company, our dad and us are all owners of this company and partnering in on that, and so we wanted to keep it kind of tied to those family roots …”

Sawyer Smith, Blue Haven Homes

“… We are a family company, our dad and us are all owners of this company and partnering in on that, and so we wanted to keep it kind of tied to those family roots,” Sawyer said. “And my mom had a thing where she would name all the houses that we lived in, and we were actually—I was born in southern California, and Sully was born in southern California as well—and the first house that all of use lived in together when Sully was born and kind of completed our family because he’s the youngest of the family, my mom named Blue Haven. That was our Blue Haven House. And so, we were thinking of a name for the company and we were like, ‘why don’t we just name it Blue Haven? That was the first house we all lived in together and we’re working on houses.’ So, that’s kind of where the name for that came from, it’s just where it all began really.”  

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For Sawyer, after graduating OCC he married, went to Kansas ministry for a while, and tried moving back to Colorado for a few months, until realizing he and his wife missed Joplin. He said they missed the community, and after returning Sawyer worked in local construction before beginning Blue Haven Homes. 

After following both Sawyer and one of their sisters to OCC, Sullivan graduated and went on to work almost three years in Christ In Youth’s customer development center. From there, Sullivan went on to coach OCC’s soccer team and during that season is when he started with Sawyer at Blue Haven Homes. Sullivan started in August 2019, about three months after Sawyer had gotten the business going, as Sullivan said that’s when they officially became a business. 

 “… The first house that all of use lived in together when Sully was born … my mom named Blue Haven. That was our Blue Haven House. …” 


From there, their business took flight. Sawyer became Blue Haven Homes’ business development, business manager, and acquisitions man and focuses more on the big-picture. Sullivan became the financial and operations director for the business and is the more detail-orientated focus. 

“… I think you could sum up both of ours in Sully is business management and I’m business development,” Sawyer said. “So, I come up with the really cool ideas and Sully tells me if they’re worth pursuing or not and curbs my enthusiasm at times. But yeah, he has to deal with a lot of the stuff that I’m not very good at. …” 

The two bought their first house for the business in July 2019 and had their first tenant living in it by August 2019. As of now, Blue Haven Homes owns 35 units, one of which is in Arkansas and the rest are in Joplin. 10 of the 35 are under construction, while the rest are either finishing up or already rented out. 

“Basically, like the model for our company is to find distressed homes in neighborhoods and revitalize and bring dignity back to those homes,” Sullivan said. “And another thing is, when people ask what our specific thing is, we’re a real estate investment company that is focusing on single-family homes and other forms of like rental units.” 

Basically, like the model for our company is to find distressed homes in neighborhoods and revitalize and bring dignity back to those homes …”

Sullivan Smith, Blue Haven Homes

After the Smith brothers began their work with Blue Havens Home, they quickly found the community reacted positively to it. From there their business began to grow. 

“So, the first year was primarily Sully and I, and then Nick came on last January as project manager, and we just were hitting a few homes at a time—single-family homes, primarily, of buying homes that were distressed, needed work, and had good potential to be great rental homes for the community,” Sawyer said. “We would buy them, fix them up, and then get them rented. And very quickly realized a need for rentals in the area, I mean we don’t have anything sitting open for very long. There’s a need for housing for sure. …” 

Sawyer and Sullivan also have a team of individuals by their side, helping their business expand. Included in this team is the brothers’ father, owner of Bykota REI LLC in Colorado, who is Blue Haven Homes’ business partner, as Sawyer and Sullivan call him the “main investor” for their venture. 

“… So that’s when we really started accelerating in growth was when we brought a lot of more people on and really started to try to scale our business quite a bit,” Sawyer said. 

Before the two brothers got their business up and running, they worked to gain support from their father in order to move forward, as his business provided insight for what would become Blue Haven Homes. 

“We grew up doing a lot of construction with my dad, he was doing a lot of homes and then he eventually did a couple large complex programs in our hometown Pagosa,” Sullivan said. “… But a while ago he kind of got out of the construction business for a while and started a senior home care agency and he grew that really fast to where he has multiple franchises in Colorado and Arizona, and that’s when he started Bykota because he would purchase the offices that his franchises were in. And then from that Sawyer had talked to him about doing that with rental homes as well …” 

But before the idea for Blue Haven Homes came about, Sawyer said he started by looking into different business ideas. In that time, he was influenced by a website called “Bigger Pockets Podcast,” which from there he learned more into real estate investment. 

“… I already had a background in construction, had been working on homes in Joplin for quite a while, and kind of thought this is a good thing to take on,” Sawyer said. “And then approached my dad with a business-like proposal, like can we try one house out and see how it goes. We did one, it was actually a great deal that first one we did, and that’s when we were like let’s start an LLC and start doing this for real, like as an investment company.” 

From there their company began to grow from rental homes to larger buildings, as last year they found the opportunity to purchase the Joplin’s historic YMCA building. At that point the two brothers decided to start looking into larger, historical-type buildings similar to the YMCA, thus leading them to Joplin’s Olivia building


The Smith bothers, bringing dignity back to the Olivia

Through a familial partnership, Blue Haven Homes’ founders and brothers Sawyer and Sullivan Smith, in partner with their father, hope to bring dignity back to Joplin’s historical Olivia building. When the two brothers purchased the Olivia, it was an investment between both Blue Haven Homes and their father’s company Bykota REI LLC. 

Moving forward with the Olivia, Sullivan said it simplifies down to Bykota is technically the owner of the property and Blue Haven Homes is the developer.

“Just for the sake of where we needed to move money, it all kind of started with the YMCA building,” Sawyer said. “… So, the YMCA is technically owned by Bykota as well, but we’re all in it together. Once (the Olivia) is done, Blue Haven will be like operating the apartments in there and all of that. And so, it just kind of made sense for our bigger commercial holdings let’s leave it all in Bykota, get the Olivia building in Bykota, and Blue Haven really just deals with the single-family rehab rental homes in the Joplin area.” 

“… It honestly kind of fell in our lap and we’re just really glad we were set up right to be able to take advantage of that opportunity and be able to help out the public in that way.” 

SAwyer Smith, Blue HAven Homes

As to what led the two brothers to invest in the Olivia, it happened following the building’s fire in December 2020. Sawyer said he knew that this was a big distress to the Joplin community. 

“… (Jeff Neal) approached us and just asked, ‘Are you at all interested in taking this project on?’” Sawyer said. “Kind of gave us some backstory as to what state it was in. And we had already done all our market research for the YMCA, we knew this is a really good market for a project like that. And so, we started our research, started talking with more people, finding out more about how the deal would work, and it just turned out to be a really great opportunity for us to dive in and try to take this on. So, yeah, it honestly kind of fell in our lap and we’re just really glad we were set up right to be able to take advantage of that opportunity and be able to help out the public in that way.” 

Blue Haven Homes

For a two-year-old business, an investment this size could provide a daunting task, but the Smith brothers look to it with excitement, as they know their team is working alongside them. 

“Yeah, it is, but we have great partners who are helping us with this,” Sawyer said. “If it was just us taking it on it would be too daunting, but we are partnering with Jeff Neal who is a very experienced contractor in this area and has done a lot of the buildings. And also, we do have the means of several other big industrial and commercial buildings to put into this. So, we have the means to take on that risk and then we’re partnering with people who know how to manage a project like this and have proven that they know how to manage a project like this, so we’re very confident in the team we have around us.” 

Blue Haven Homes involves team members from contractors and realtors, to project managers and handy men, and more, as their team is growing over time. 

… It is like one of our goals is to never try to pursue something alone, but get the right people that can best do these types of projects or whatever we’re focusing on. …”

Sullivan Smith, Blue HAven Homes

“It just kind of goes alongside what we’ve been doing with the homes is when Sawyer and I started we quickly realized that we weren’t able to do it all ourselves,” Sullivan said. “… It is like one of our goals is to never try to pursue something alone, but get the right people that can best do these types of projects or whatever we’re focusing on. So that’s what we’re doing here with Jeff Neal and we’ve got some others.”  

The Olivia building redevelopment is expected to finish by March 2023 and will act as apartments once again. As the Olivia is considered a historic building in Joplin, stipulations require that the look and feel of the building cannot be redesigned too much. Sawyer explained that, essentially, they will bring the Olivia up to standard codes without changing too much of the building itself. 

“So, the general feel of the building I believe has to stay the same because we are redoing this as a historical building,” Sawyer said. “Obviously, we’re not going to use outdated infrastructure—like, we’re not going to keep steam heating in the building or any of that stuff—we’ll be putting in modern facilities, but we do want to also keep it very true to its historic nature with that. So, from the outside you shouldn’t be able to tell that it’s any different, and when you get in you’ll have to look carefully to see what things have changed to make it more modern. But the only things we’re going to do to modernize it are things to bring it into the 21st century as far as its facilities to make it more effective staying warm, staying cool. …” 

“… We’re just very excited to be able to do a project like that for the city and to kind of bring dignity back to that building and just have it kind of brought back to the icon that it was for this area.

Sullivan Smith, Blue Haven Homes

With redevelopment in its beginning phases, the Smith brothers and Blue Haven Homes hope to make the Olivia building back into what it once was for the Joplin community. 

“I think just specifically for the Olivia, we’re very excited to do a project like this,” Sullivan said. “I’d say with (Sawyer) having lived here for close to 11 years now and me for about eight years now, we’re not technically born and raised locals, I think we’re kind of hitting that point where we’re for sure calling this place home, but I think with that we don’t fully understand how some other more long-term local people, we don’t fully understand the impact and like the, kind of the staple that the Olivia is for the city. So, kind of with the more and more we’re learning about it we’re kind of learning more about the responsibility that comes with this building for the city and we’re just very excited to be able to do a project like that for the city and to kind of bring dignity back to that building and just have it kind of brought back to the icon that it was for this area.” 


Joplin working to fill over 100 open lifeguard positions

JOPLIN, Mo. — The Joplin Parks and Recreation Department is having issues filling lifeguard positions.

What does it mean if they can’t find enough lifeguards? That means they might have to close some pools or rotate which pools are open. They are looking to hire more than 100 lifeguards to keep all three city pools open.

Paul Bloomberg, Parks and Recreation Director, said, “We would really like to get enough lifeguards to open up all three pools. Last year all we opened up was Schifferdecker Pool.”

The Joplin Parks and Recreation Department is struggling to fill more than 100 open lifeguard positions at its three pools. They say because of the pandemic they are not able to do presentations at schools to get the word out.

“We try to recruit them before they want to go work at another place. They’re starting to look for their Summer jobs now. We try to make it financially affordable for these kids to be lifeguards.”

An aquatics engineering and design firm says they have been seeing a shortage in lifeguards nationwide. They say scheduling is a conflict and the job itself is hard to sell.

Lauren Ozburn, Water’s Edge Operations Analyst, said, “Over time families individuals, and teenagers have come to realize and really understand the job of a lifeguard is quite serious and it is in fact lifesaving. They’re taught emergency skills, they perform as a first responder just as an EMT would or even someone within the fire department. Because should an emergency situation arise that person is responsible. “

She says there are some things cities can do to retain employees.

“Developing an enriching work culture predominantly for teenagers is really one of the strongest way you can recruit, train, retain, and then get them back the following year. Its creating that positive culture.”

The Parks and Recreation Department will be hosting lifeguard training in April and May.