Those who never venture beyond the neon hotel signs and casino lights of Shreveport, Louisiana will miss the real, vibrant and growing city.

I was pretty far out of my comfort zone. I’m not saying I’m a low-maintenance girl, but let’s just say my biggest treat to myself is getting my hair colored every couple of months. Of course, I had heard of medical spas before, but had never stepped foot in one until earlier this summer when I visited Premier Medical Spa in Dr. Alan Bassin’s office in Lufkin.

“A library in the middle of a community is a cross between an emergency exit, a life-raft and a festival. They are cathedrals of the mind, hospitals of the soul, theme parks of the imagination. On a cold, rainy island, they are the only sheltered public spaces where you are not a consumer but a citizen instead.”

When a child is abused or neglected and they enter into the foster system, they become surrounded by strange new faces and confusing terminology. Everything they’ve ever known is different, even scary. Thankfully, each child thrust into this terrifying situation is appointed a CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocate, a volunteer whose specific responsibility is to support the child’s best interests.

While most 16- or 17-year-old kids dream of getting behind the wheel of a car and taking it out on the open road, Tanner Adams has his sights set much higher.

Topping out at 140 mph, Lufkin native Steve Holland races his 305 Sprint car around the dirt-packed oval track with an unnerving focus on the finish line. The smell of dirt, sweat and methanol fumes fill his nose. He can’t hear the cheers from the stands over the roar of the engines, and crammed inside the cage of his car, he can’t see the smiling faces in the crowds. It’s his favorite place to be. A passion he’s indelibly passed down to his only daughter and namesake, Stevi.

In a small storefront on West Frank Avenue in historic downtown Lufkin, Bobby Nichols sits down to design a custom piece of jewelry. His mind focuses and drifts as he uses his 42 years of experience to create a masterpiece that he envisions in his mind’s eye. It’s the thrill of a challenge that keeps him coming back to his workstation day after day, constructing something special and long-lasting for his customers.

Tena McQueen worked four long years to create a home that made her proud. Now the challenge is having the time to perfect her style.

Order your groceries online? There’s an app for that. Learn how to French braid hair? There’s an app for that. Meet complete strangers — whether it’s to make friends or to start an online relationship? There’s an app for that. In fact, there’s an app for almost anything you can imagine. What’s scarier is that your child probably knows more about these apps than you do.

With a lifelong love of clothes, June Smith has always been on the hunt for a good deal — she could spend hours walking up and down the aisles of thrift stores and resale shops. In the early ’90s those two passions came together in a way she never expected.

Editor’s note: This month we begin our series Women of Nonprofits, a look at the ladies leading local nonprofit organizations.

With her incredible talent, unique sound and the support of a loving family, Laci Kaye Booth was destined to be a star. After an incredible run to the Top 5 on the hit reality TV show “American Idol,’’ the 23-year-old Livingston native continues to live out her dream of becoming a professional singer. In June, she signed a deal with the largest independent music management company in the world, Red Light Management, who works with a diverse roster of uniquely talented artists such as Dave Matthews Band, Enrique Iglesias, Dierks Bentley, Chris Stapleton, Lady Antebellum and “American Id…

Teresa Jackson, the managing travel agent with Holiday Travel in Lufkin, spends her days planning adventures for clients.

From ground level, it’s impossible to see a canyon until you’re right up on it. It’s like trying to prove a negative — how can you verify what isn’t there? Unlike mountains, which make their presence known long before you get close to them, a canyon never announces itself until you’re almost to the edge of it. And that’s how the second biggest gorge in North America was able to sneak up on my friend Jeff and I.

She steps out of her 2009 Ford SUV parked on South First Street in Lufkin, walks through the door of the Standpipe Coffee House and breaks into a million-watt smile. Heading straight toward her interviewer, she proceeds to hug a man she’s never met and immediately knocks off one of her loop earrings. She leans over to find it, and if it had rolled beneath one of the benches, there’s no doubt Melissa Radke would have hiked up her pretty dress and crawled wherever necessary to retrieve that earring — appearances be danged.

From the window of Renfro’s Art Gallery & Gifts, the shop’s namesake gazes out at the traffic moving up and down Main Street in Zavalla. Paintbrush in hand and easel in front of her, Joyce Renfro said this is her private getaway and has been for the past 45 years.

Daniela Henson’s day starts out at the school buses at Coston Elementary, where she waits to help her students begin their day — she’s a paraprofessional who works primarily with special needs students.