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Two Bastrop County community members recognized

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  • Article Image Alt Text
    Donna Cassel (center) is joined by her granddaughter Erica Mattar (left) and her daughter Lisa Tantaksinanukij (right) as she receives the KVUE Five Who Care Award.
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Donna Cassel, who will award $40,000 in scholarships to seniors this year, received the Lamar Medal from the Mina Masonic Lodge on Thursday.
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Brenda Zimmerman (left) is joined by Rob Robinson (right) from Austin Community College, who nominated her for the award.

Every year for the past 31 years, KVUE-TV and their sponsors, ABC Home and Commercial Services and Henna Chevrolet, have awarded the Five Who Care Award.

This honor is given to five youth and five adults. KVUE recognizes the excellence of everyday people in their viewing audience who are making a huge difference in the lives of those around them. This year, two individuals — Donna Cassel of Bastrop and Brenda Zimmerman of Smithville — from Bastrop County have been honored with the award.

Donna Cassel, a family and consumer science teacher at Bastrop High School, has been teaching with Bastrop ISD for 40 years.

“It’s been fabulous, and I’ve loved it!” Cassel said.

She has been handing out scholarship money to graduating seniors for almost her entire career. No one directed her to do so; she just went ahead and did it herself.

Cassel shops daily for ingredients that she uses to bake cookies and brownies that are sold to students and faculty. She rises early each morning and arrives at school, making preparations to bake the treats.

She started out with $100 scholarships, then went to $500, then to $1,000. Last year, she gave out $34,000 in scholarships. Since 2003, Cassel has given out more than $110,000 in scholarship money. Estimates put the actual total of the scholarships near $240,000.

She continues to teach and has impacted thousands of lives, and there’s no sign of her stopping anytime soon. Her dedicated contributions and scholarships are much appreciated by her students and the community.

Brenda Zimmerman is the director of New Hope Respite in Smithville.

New Hope Respite is a group for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients and any kind of dementia-related patients. New Hope Respite takes care of a patient for four hours, letting the caregiver rest or take care of personal needs while knowing that their loved one is safe. At the same time, the guest is stimulated by interacting with other people with disabilities like their own, as socialization is so important. They are kept active with bingo, suitable exercise, music and a hot lunch.

The program is free to the participant and is non-discriminatory.

“It’s unbelievable when they leave that day, how different they are than if they’d been at home,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman volunteered to lead the respite group after her church leadership asked for help. She had no experience, apart from a willing heart.

“It just makes me feel very good to know we’re giving their caregiver a break,” she said.

For more information, visit https://newhoperespite.com or call 512-352-0099 or 512-718- 0400.

An awards banquet was held on April 23 at the library on the lake in Austin. Each of the winners was interviewed, and these interviews will be featured in the upcoming months on the television station.

Congratulations to these two ladies for their outstanding contributions that enhance the quality of life for the Bastrop County c ommunity.