Area Native American drum group moving foward

Members of the Medicine Woman Singers keep beat as they practice a song Thursday, Nov. 19. Pictured (clockwise from left) are Chad Roop, Dave Meyers, Holly Meyers (partially hidden), Gary Shoemaker, Jerry Anders, Tim Lawhead and Jay Hyland (partially hidden). The group, which has about a dozen members total, has been together since 2009.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Nov. 26, 2015.

The death this past summer of a beloved elder, mentor and singer in a Huntington County-based Native American drum group left a huge hole in the group, something her widower calls “a stumble.”

But in the wake of their grief, the Medicine Woman Singers are finding their strengths in each other, and are ready to once again honor their ancestors and the Creator with the drum and their voices.

YSB’s Williams gets to help youth on natl. level with recent appointment

Jan Williams (right), executive director of the Youth Services Bureau of Huntington County, gives some advice to William Bradley, 15, of Huntington, on food preparation as he and Brice Estep (left), 15, of Huntington, work on the Thanksgiving dinner they shared with the Youth Services Bureau staff on Wednesday, Nov. 18. Williams, a longtime youth advocate, has recently been named to a national advisory board for the Safe Place Network.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Nov. 23, 2015.

Jan Williams has been the tip of the spearhead to help Huntington County’s troubled youth for more than 20 years. Now, the efforts of the executive director of the Youth Services Bureau of Huntington County will be recognized on a national level.

‘Part-timer’ still doing the job for sheriff’s department 47 years later

Jim Wall has been a reserve deputy for the Huntington County Sheriff’s Department for 47 years. He has served under eight sheriffs, from Marion Van Pelt to Terry Stoffel.
Photo by Ehren Wynder.

Originally published Nov. 19, 2015.

Jim Wall, the most experienced member of the Huntington County Sheriff’s Department, has never actually been a full-time deputy.

Instead, he’s spent nearly five decades as a special deputy or reserve deputy.

And that 47 years in uniform is the most years of service any current member of the department — full-time or reserve — has under his belt.

Wall first signed on as a deputy in 1968, almost by accident.

Local scribes getting intense as novel writing deadline looms

Aspiring novelists (clockwise, from left) Heather Palmer, Kristi Drillien, Jeri Davis and Brandon Smith concentrate during an intense writing session Tuesday, Nov. 10, at the Huntington 
City-Township Public Library. They’re participating in the world-wide National Novel Writing Month — NaNoWriMo — with a goal of completing a 50,000-word novel in a month.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally publilshed Nov. 16, 2015.

One’s a multi-year NaNoWriMo veteran; another is branching out from the academic world.

There are pantsers and posters. Some revel in the speed of a keyboard; others prefer the slower pace of using a pen to put their words on paper.

t’s the words that are the key. The writers are all focused on the end of November, when they want to have put together 50,000 words — words that could become a novel, the beginning of a novel, or just an exercise in finding out what doesn’t work.

Senior Center offering even more services in its temporary quarters

Nancy Thrasher (second from right), of Huntington, and Shirley Turner (right), of Andrews, walk around the outside of the gym at Central Christian Church as a group of line dancers go through their paces in the center court on Monday, Nov. 9. The indoor facility has provided more room to Seniors since the Huntington County Council on Aging moved into offices within the church last month.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Nov. 12, 2015.

The Huntington County Senior Center is alive and well, and offering even more activities for older folks in its new digs at Central Christian Church, located at 500 MacGahan St., Huntington.

The Huntington County Council on Aging moved into offices at the church the week of Sept. 21, says Director Holly Saunders, while it awaits planned renovations to the new Senior Center building on West Park Drive.

Army recruiter telling HNHS students about his career choice

Army Recruiter Staff Sgt. Christopher Mercer (left) goes over last-minute details with Huntington North High School senior Elizabeth Mitchell, in the high school’s commons area on Wednesday, Nov. 4, prior to her scheduled enlistment on Nov. 6. Mitchell plans to specialize in computers and intelligence after she completes basic training.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally publislhed Nov. 9, 2015.

When Christopher Mercer was 18, coming of age in a small town near Bloomington, the Army seemed like a good alternative when he didn’t know what he wanted to do after he graduated from high school.

“I didn’t want to go to college and not know what I was going to go for, and then be in my second and third year and not necessarily know what I wanted to do,” he says. “Two years into the Army I was like, ‘I love this!’ and ended up re-enlisting for it.”

BAGC kids, LAC artist almost finished with downtown mural

Parkview Huntington Boys & Girls Club members (from left to right) Natalee Searles, 9; Harlee Mason, 9; and Zander Mason, 11; receive guidance from LaFontaine Arts Council Artist-in-Residence Angela Ellsworth (third from left) as they paint a rainbow’s stripes on a section of a mural at the club on Monday, Oct. 26. The mural will be displayed in downtown Huntington after it is finished.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Nov. 2, 2015.

In a Chinese folk tale, a poor boy named Liang receives a magic paintbrush that brings whatever he paints with it to life. The proverb is about kindness and generosity, as Liang uses the paintbrush to help those less fortunate around him rather than for his own selfish desires.

It’s in that spirit that the youngsters at the Parkview Boys & Girls Club of Huntington County have helped bring to life the tale’s inspiration in a huge mural conceptualized by Huntington artist Angela Ellsworth.

Forester volleyball coach hoping lessons he’s learned from family can turn around HU program

Kyle Shondell is in his first season as the head coach of the Huntington University volleyball team. Coming from a family with a long history of volleyball coaching success, Shondell hopes to turn the Foresters’ program around.
Photo by Steve Clark.

Originally published Oct. 26, 2015.

Kyle Shondell’s office in Huntington University’s Merillat Complex overlooks Platt Arena.

From there, Shondell, the school’s first-year head volleyball coach, has a front-row seat to the campus tours that regularly pass through the gym.

It’s a place he hears tour guides refer to as the home of Forester basketball.

Halloween soulmates crank it up for their ‘Nightmare on College’

Barb and Wendell Koedel stand amidst the huge Halloween display in their yard at 1557 College Ave., preparing to receive Halloween trick-or-treaters on Saturday evening. This is the fourth year for the display, which grows bigger each year, they say.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

When grade school sweethearts Barb and Wendell Koedel reconnected several years ago, they knew it was a match made in heaven — or maybe the ghoulishly eerie atmosphere on earth, especially around the autumn month of October.

When Wendell discovered Barb had been putting up a Halloween display every year he knew he had found his soulmate.

“I’ve always liked doing this, and I just never got a chance to, until we got back together,” says Wendell Koedel, a die maker. “I’ve always loved Halloween.”

Huntington Township Fire Dept. may ‘go live’ in November, says chief

Huntington Township Fire Chief Paul Von Bank stands next to the department’s new tanker and the fire engine. The new fire department will be fully operational by next year.
Photo by Ehren Wynder.

Originally published Oct. 22, 2015.

The Huntington Township Fire Department is on track to be fully operational before next year, Fire Chief Paul Von Bank says.

“We have 24 members that are trained in fire response,” Von Bank says. “Our next phase is EMS training.

“Truck-wise, we’re up to two vehicles — a tanker and an engine — so we’re hoping to go live in November.”

The budget for next year is about  $71,000, the chief says.

Von Bank says the current priority is purchasing radios for the department and getting them approved by the state.

Local quilt star thinking about hanging it up

Bernice Enyeart holds her favorite quilt, named “BCE” for her initials, at her home in rural Huntington. Enyeart, who has won numerous awards for her innovative quilts, has made 79 quilts and wall hangings and still has 60 of them.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Oct. 19, 2015.

Sitting in her eclectically appointed living room, dotted throughout with cat tchotchkes, Bernice Enyeart is perfectly at home with all her “friends.”

The lady who could arguably be dubbed Huntington County’s quilter-in -residence has made 79 quilts and wall hangings since she began the hobby in her early 40s — 60 of them she still owns.

“They’re like old friends,” Enyeart says.

Creating a link benefits Boy Scout, Forks park and the community

The Wabash River is visible in the background as Kevin King stands inside a campground ring on the heavily-wooded Ehler Island at the Forks of the Wabash Historic Park. King is coordinating the construction of two accessible campsites on the island as he works toward his Boy Scout Eagle award.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally publshed Oct. 15, 2015.

Kevin King was looking for a project that would benefit his community.

The Forks of the Wabash Historic Park was looking to develop a nearby island.

Jim Scheiber, a member of the Forks board and a friend of the King family, linked the two.

A campground then began taking shape on the island — and King was well on his way to joining the ranks of Eagle Scouts.

Andrews Elementary makes it clear that bullying in school is history

Fourth-grader Logan Sibert cuts out a “hand” he decorated in art class at Andrews Elementary School as part of the school’s Bully Prevention Day on Monday, Oct. 5. The hands made by students, which were added together in a mural that urged students to “Take a stand … lend a hand.”
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Oct. 12, 2015.

Back in the day, parents and educators were often heard using the phrase, “boys will be boys” — or “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

That day is over for those involved in bullying at school.

At Andrews Elementary School, the message has been driven home to every student in each grade to “Take a Stand … Lend a Hand” when they see a fellow classmate being bullied.

Huntington North cheerleader gets bitten by marching band bug and now lives in both worlds

Callista Barker, a member of both the Huntington North High School cheerleading squad and marching band, performs with the band while clad in her cheerleading attire during halftime of the school’s homecoming football game on Friday, Sept. 25.
Photo by Steve Clark.

Originally published Oct. 8, 2015.

Callista Barker already excelled at cheerleading, leading Huntington North High School throughout her high school career in supporting its sports teams.

But one day she picked up a drum.

“It was my best friend at the time, Brandon Blue,” she says. “He was in drum line and they weren’t going to have a drum line that year — it was my sophomore year — because people weren’t trying out for it. So he dragged me into it … I ended up really liking it.”

Izaak Walton League inducts Phil Ross into its hall of fame

Jean Ross (left) displays awards given to her late husband, Phillip Ross, for his contributions to the Izaak Walton League. Their son-in-law, Robert Goings (right) serves as the league’s current president in Huntington County.
Photo by Ehren Wynder.

Originally published Oct. 5, 2015.

Phil Ross is remembered as a lifetime conservationist.

The former president of the Huntington chapter of the Izaak Walton League died Feb. 11, 2007, at the age of 86.

Seven years after his death, he has been inducted into the Izaak Walton League Hall of Fame. The honor was presented in 2014, by the Izaak Walton League in Pierre, SD.

He is also the recipient of several awards recognizing his research and his lifelong adherence to the members’ pledge to conserve nature in all facets.

Huntington Area Recreational Trails Assn. setting off down path

This map displays completed and yet-to-be completed trails in Huntington. Approximately seven miles of trails will be built next year and the Huntington Area Recreational Trails Association, HARTA, is leading the charge for even more trails to be built beyond that.
Graphic provided.

Originally published Sept. 28, 2015.

The Huntington Area Recreational Trails Association is setting off down a figurative path it hopes will lead to the creation of literal ones.

The organization – HARTA for short – is a nonprofit group formed last year with a mandate to design, develop, construct and maintain public trails and greenways in the Huntington area. In order to fulfill that mandate, HARTA pursues funding and engages in fund-raising.

‘A tall ship and a star to steer her by’ more than a dream for Huntington County woman

Boatswain’s Mate Shelbie Smart stands at the top of the 147-foot-tall mast of the Coast Guard cutter Eagle, the deck of the ship and the ocean visible far beneath her. Smart just completed a three-year stint on board the tall ship, which started life as a Nazi training ship. It now serves the same purpose for the United States Coast Guard.
Photo provided.

Originally published Sept. 21, 2015.

For Shelbie Smart, “a tall ship and a star to steer her by” is more than a dream.

It’s the life she’s been living the last three years.

As a boatswain’s mate with the United States Coast Guard, the Huntington County woman just finished up a stint on the Coast Guard cutter Eagle — a tall ship that once belonged to the other side.

Pioneer Festival has become tradition for Brooks family

Po Brooks drops apple fritter batter into hot grease during a previous Forks of the Wabash Pioneer Festival as her husband, Jeff Brooks, works in the background. The Brooks family has been involved with the festival since its beginnings in 1975.
TAB file photo.

One Huntington County family has not only embodied the spirit of the upcoming Forks of the Wabash Pioneer Festival, they have also served over the years as pioneers of the festival itself.

As Mary Brooks, of Huntington, recalls, it all began in 1975, when Eiffel Plasterer had a show of tractors at his farm. She and her husband, Garl, thought it might be interesting to do something special during the show, so they made apple butter outside, drawing people’s interest.

Andrews Town Park plaque honors woman responsible for resurrection

Rick Wright stands next to the new drinking fountain at the Andrews Park that pays tribute to his late wife, Linda Wright, who was the leading force in the rehabilitation of the once-neglected park. A plaque attached to the fountain notes that Linda Wright “believed that public places are what tie a community together,” prompting her to work for the restoration of green space and playground equipment seen in the background.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Sept. 17, 2015.

Green grass and flowers, neatly edged mulch and brightly painted play equipment.

The Andrews Town Park wasn’t always that way.

But now it invites walkers to sit for a while at the picnic tables under the pavilion; parents feel comfortable allowing their kids to ride their bikes to the park.

And if the visitors should happen to stop at the drinking fountain to quench their thirst, they’ll see a tribute to the woman many believe is single-handedly responsible for the resurrection of the park.

Residents liking Huntington, Markle libraries more as circulation surges

Huntington City-Township Public Library Director Beka Lemons stands in one of the many aisles containing DVDs that can be checked out of the Huntington library. Lemons says the circulation fees have now been dropped, contributing to an upswing in circulation.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Sept. 14, 2015.

It seems that Huntington city and township residents are liking their library more and more, and Director Beka Lemons has the numbers to prove it. She says circulation is up in double digits at the Huntington City-Township Public Library, both at the Huntington branch and at the Markle location as well.

Local man cranks out latch hook art work just to pass time

Bernard Woenker, of Huntington, sits in his living room surrounded by some of the latch hook rugs he has created. He estimates he has hooked as many as 300 rugs in the 40 to 50 years he has worked at his hobby.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Sept. 10, 2015.

There are a baker’s dozen of colorful latch hook rugs found throughout Bernard Woenker’s apartment at the LaFontaine Center, and another hanging on his front door to welcome guests. He has hooked them all _ and more. Every one is a work of art.

“I have gone in his apartment and looked at them,” says Natalie Brautigam, service coordinator at the LaFontaine Center. “They’re wonderful. He spends a lot of time getting every color just right and putting them together.”

Good behavior, helping out literally pays off for Lincoln kids

Lincoln Elementary School third-graders line up at the Abe Bucks Bookstore on Wednesday, Sept. 2, to spend the “Abe Bucks” they have earned. Pictured (from left to right) are students Jeremiah Davenriner, Sierra Davenriner and John Setser and bookstore helpers Amy Vickery, art teacher, and Marilyn Rumple, music teacher.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Sept. 7, 2015.

Sally Morrison’s first-grade class marches in line in the halls of Lincoln Elementary School early on a Wednesday morning, eager to go shopping. Many are clutching envelopes that look stuffed full; others are carrying little green pieces of paper that were hard-earned.

“I’ve got 20,” says one little girl, holding up her envelope. Not to be outdone, other students raise their “wallets” as well, boasting they have earned 40, even as much as 80 of the school’s precious “Lincoln Bucks.”

When things get heavy, local woman is there to lift them

Christina Bangma, of Huntington, works out with a circus dumbbell at Champs Strength Academy on Thursday, Aug. 27. Bangma and teammate Jes Reeve will participate in the North American Strongman Nationals competition on Oct. 2 and 3 in Davenport, IA.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Sept. 3, 2015.

By day she’s the smiling, mild-mannered secretary behind the desk in Huntington North High School’s front office.

But in her off-work time, Christina Bangma puts on her game face and when things get heavy, she lifts them.

It’s her skill as a competitive weight lifter that will find Bangma in Davenport, IA, on Oct. 2 and 3 for the North American Strongman Nationals.

Neglected courtyard turns into garden lesson at Flint Springs

Flint Springs Elementary School fifth-graders Kayla Ables (left) and Ashlynn Snyder water newly planted vegetable seeds in the school’s courtyard garden on Tuesday, Aug. 25.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published Aug. 31, 2015.

The garden at Flint Springs Elementary School started out as an alternative to a neglected courtyard.

It’s become a mechanism for kids to get their hands into the soil and learn how to grow the food they eat.

It’s also become a way for a couple of dozen fifth-graders to help save the monarch butterflies and, by extension, the human species.

The vegetable garden came first.

“There was a garden, but no one took care of it,” says Master Gardener Sharon Bowman. “The pond and waterfall hadn’t worked in years.”

Paradise for Ossian couple is camper in corner at Salamonie Lake

Salamonie Lake campground hosts Brenda (center) and Ron Werling, of Ossian, receive a visit from 1-year-old granddaughter Addison Girardot (left) on Friday, Aug. 21. The couple — he’s retired, she’s not — are part of a Department of Natural Resources program that offers a free stay in exchange for helping out at the campground a few hours a day.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

For Ron and Brenda Werling, it’s paradise.

All the nature they can soak in, a pile of firewood and a travel trailer to call home.

From their little corner of the Salamonie Lake modern campground, they have an eye on the world.

“We meet all kinds of people, from different parts of the state,” Brenda says. “Really, from all over.”

It’s not just the people. There’s the inhabitants of the natural world, too.

“In the evening, the deer come out, the turkeys come out,” she says. “We both like being outdoors, so it’s perfect for us.”

Local free meal ministry gets gift to pay off building mortgage in 1 year

Scott Thorn, director of the New Life Community Meal Ministry, stirs a pot of soup he made for the evening’s free community meal on Wednesday, Aug. 12. A recent donation paid off the mortgage on the ministry’s building. Between 45 and 50 people take advantage of the free dinner nightly.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Aug. 24, 2015.

Sometime before 6 p.m. on any given weeknight, people start lining up outside the door of a storefront downtown on Jefferson Street. The mouth-watering aroma of food and the promise of a good meal draw them to the site of the former Rodger’s and Vivian’s Income Tax Service.

And now, with a gift from a church in another state, the New Life Community Meal Ministry can now call the roof over its head permanent.

Church’s new jail ministry looks to restore

Caitlyn Frecker, Dawn Frecker and Meghan Mendenhall (from left), members of the SS. Peter and Paul jail ministry, gather with the rest of the group for a time of prayer and member reports during their Aug. 11 meeting. The group focuses on merciful and compassionate restorative ministry for the incarcerated as well as their families.
Photo by Lauren Frischman.

Originally published Aug. 20, 2015.

The fledgling jail ministry at SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church can be described as a group driven by God with the purpose of merciful and compassionate restorative ministry.

The idea for the ministry came about when Dawn Frecker and her daughter, Caitlyn Frecker, attended an all-day seminar on prison ministry in November of 2014. Both are ministry students at the University of Saint Francis, in Fort Wayne, and Dawn also is employed as the marketing coordinator at John XXIII Retreat Center in Hartford City.

2012 HNHS grad combining music, teaching passions into one world at Huntington U

Preston Shafer plays a piano piece from memory in the recital hall at Huntington University. Shafer, a 2012 graduate of Huntington North High School, is majoring in music education at the university, where he also teaches private voice and piano lessons.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Aug. 17, 2015.

Preston Shafer enjoys hanging out with friends and family and watching movies — when he can. But lately, he has had precious little time to goof off, even though his passion is music.

Music is also Shafer’s avocation and his major at Huntington University. The senior student, who graduated from Huntington North High School in 2012, will graduate next spring with a Bachelor of Music qualifying him to teach vocal and general music education in kindergarten through high school.

Former local man enjoying natl. challenge of building custom ‘Rat Rod’ on a budget

Former Huntington resident Ron Lahr, now of Slaughters, KY, stands in his garage, where he’ll soon be building a rat rod in the Rat Rod Build-Off, a competition that challenges 10 car builders from across the country to construct a rat rod in 30 days for less than $3,000.
Photo provided.

Originally published Aug. 13, 2015.

The Rat Rod Build-Off is an annual competition that tasks 10 car builders from across the United States with building a rat rod from scratch.

They only have 30 days to do it, however. And they can’t spend more than $3,000.

Former Huntington resident Ron Lahr is participating in this year’s competition. But he’s not losing much sleep over it.

“It’s not much of a challenge, really, to me,” he says, casually.

New supt. believes in solving problems, not laying blame

Randy Harris tries out his new desk on his first day on the job as superintendent of the Huntington County Community School Corporation on Monday, Aug. 3.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published Aug. 10, 2015.

Randy Harris’ No. 1 pet peeve is people who want to blame others for their problems.

And as Huntington County Community School Corporation’s new superintendent, if there is any of that to be found in the district, he plans to change it — and the 11 schools in the district — and make HCCSC into a model school system.

“There are plenty of problems out there,” he concedes, “and there is plenty of blame to go around. Ultimately, as people working with kids, our job is to solve the problems.”