From catastrophic weather and triumphant recovery to selfless bus drivers, the fiercest female and the book club queen, here’s an update on some of the most intriguing neighborhood stories and photos of 2019.

1. April Wallace

April Wallace served 10 years in prison for drug charges, and she says it was the best thing that could’ve happened to her. “It saved my life,” she told the Advocate in July. “I would not be where I’m at right now had I not been in prison. I’m telling you, I was hell on wheels.”

Wallace, one of our annual Fierce Females, became a barber after prison, and she encourages formerly incarcerated women to pursue a trade. She’s a full-time college student majoring in business and received a mediation certificate through El Centro College. She recently got engaged to a staff sergeant in the Army National Guard, and she continues to follow her dream of attending law school.

2. Curtis Jenkins

Photo by Danny Fulgencio

The world continues to show love for Lake Highlands school bus driver Curtis Jenkins, who we profiled in March. Jenkins takes his job to the next level, keeping his passengers occupied earning “bus bucks” that can be exchanged for $5 gift cards. He even buys all 70 of them Christmas presents from their wish lists every year. Karma came for Jenkins during an RISD all-employee convocation in August, when he received a brand-new Chevrolet Trax to replace his old pickup truck. Jenkins’ story inspired an anonymous donor, who got in touch with Richardson Superintendent Jeannie Stone. Stone worked with El Dorado Chevrolet to make the gift happen. About a month later, Jenkins was featured on the “Rachael Ray Show.”

3. Erin Willis

Photo by Danny Fulgencio

When we spoke to Erin Willis in June, she was first opening up her restaurant, RM 12:20 Bistro, and she’s now hosting a book club there. The January book is “Ask Again, Yes” by Mary Beth Keane. The bistro has live music, featuring artists such as Honey Folk and Kristy Kruger. The restaurant also started a catering business. Fun fact: the painting in RM 12:20 Bistro is of Willis’ grandmother.

4. Denzel Gulley

Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Denzel Gulley is the Lake Highlands High School senior who supported himself with full-time jobs beginning at age 15. When we featured him in the May Advocate, Gulley was headed to Wayland Baptist University on a football scholarship. He’s now a redshirt freshman at the Plainview, Texas, college, majoring in political science, and he will play offensive lineman as a sophomore. The football team went 4-6 in 2019.

Photo by Danny Fulgencio

5. Paul Klitzke

The supercell thunderstorm that hit Dallas on June 9 damaged the Episcopal Church of Ascension’s building and community gardens after we profiled their work in March. The Rev. Paul Klitzke says they lost a lot of plants and trees, and the church had to replace a roof. Renovations have been going well, and new gardeners are tending the plants. The church moved its food pantry into the youth and outreach center, where it’s getting a dedicated space. The pantry previously was hosted out of closets in the kitchen. The church held a grand opening on Dec. 7.

6. Abebe Zelelew

Photo credit: Danny Fulgencio

When we profiled Y.A.M. studio in the December Advocate, we expected the “Y” for yoga and “M” for music, but we also fell in love with the “A” for art. Vickery Meadow artist Abebe Zelelew currently has work featured in the studio. Zelelew was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1964 and studied graphic arts at the Addis Ababa School, graduating in 1985. His work focuses on images from Ethiopia. The images are carved onto hardwood panels and then painted. Zelelew has held solo and group exhibitions in Ethiopia, China, Djibouti, France, Greece, California, Texas and Washington, D.C.