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.”

Local woman’s ‘track dive’ in Oregon earns her trip to world track championship meet

Andrews native Lauren Davenport Johnson, shown here competing several years ago in the Oregon Relays, will travel to Beijing, China, later this month as a member of Team USA to compete in the 1,500-meter run at the IAAF World Championships.
Photo provided.

Originally published Aug. 6, 2015.

Before Lauren Davenport Johnson could run in Beijing, she had to tumble in Oregon.

Johnson, a professional runner and Andrews native, captured fourth place in the women’s 1,500-meter run at the USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships in Eugene, OR, on June 28 with a dive at the finish line.

That effort, coupled with her performance at a race in Belgium a few weeks later, punched her ticket to China’s capital for one of the biggest track and field events in the world, the IAAF World Championships.

Best friends embark on new adventure as budding filmmakers

Olivia Henderson (left) holds the camera she will use as she and Alyssa Woolard go over a storyboard for the film project they are working on in Henderson’s home on July 13. The two Huntington North High School students recently attended a film camp at Anderson University.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally publislhed Aug. 3, 2015.

Best friends since first grade, Olivia Henderson and Alyssa Woolard are about to embark on a new venture together — that of filmmaking.

The Huntington North High School students say they’ve been in love with about every genre of film there is since seventh grade. Last year in school they got the opportunity to learn some skills they hope will come in handy on a project that will take them to Indianapolis, among other places.

New asst. property manager at Roush doing what he loves, close to home

Nate Schmalzried (left) is the new assistant property manager at Roush Fish and Wildlife Area. He’ll be working with Property Manager Jeff Reed (right).
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Nate Schmalzried showed up at Roush Fish and Wildlife Area about the same time as the rains.

“Now that the water has started going down, I’m going out and learning the property,” says Schamlzried, who became the new assistant property manager at Roush in June.

Schmalzried already had some familiarity with the property, having grown up near Bippus, where he nurtured an interest in the outdoors. He graduated from Huntington North High School in 2008 and went on to Purdue University to earn a bachelor’s degree in wildlife science in 2012.

Huntington North graduate Jacobs ready to defer college plans again to help lead FFA

Kathleen Jacobs displays just a few of the many awards and acknowledgments she has received during her time in the FFA. She estimates she has received about 40 awards, including a national FFA award for extemporaneous speaking.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published July 27, 2015.

Huntington North 2014 grad Kathleen Jacobs put off going to Purdue University for a year in order to serve as the FFA state treasurer. That term concluded in June; but if all goes well she may have to defer another year to serve at the FFA national level. Jacobs is more than ready to do it.

Jacobs beat out four other candidates from Indiana to gain an opportunity to make the national leadership team. She’s in the running to land one of three positions, eastern region vice president, secretary or president.

Chance meeting at 4-H dairy barn sets Nesses on life course

Sherrill (left) and Steve Ness, of Huntington, met in 1964 in the dairy barn during the Huntington County 4-H Fair and married four years later. They remain active in the fair by running the auction and helping to find buyers. For the Nesses, the fair is a family affair. Their two daughters and three grandchildren were all involved in some way with the fair. They show off a photo of their oldest granddaughter, Olivia Eckert, who was involved in the horse and pony show.
Photo by Lauren Frischman.

It was 1964 in the Huntington County 4-H Fair dairy barn when Steve Ness first saw Sherrill Wantland.

Sherrill was on the way to visit her high school friend and instead found Steve in the booth next door to her friend’s. Unbeknownst to Sherrill, he was dating the friend she was looking for.

Steve asked Sherrill to go get a root beer at the local A&W root beer stand,  local hangout at the time, says Sherrill.

They returned to the fairgrounds, where Steve’s friends told him that his angry girlfriend was looking for him. That relationship ended up fizzling out.

Former HNHS golfer still has bag on shoulder -- as PGA caddy on tour

Former Huntington resident Tom Maples (right) stands with professional golfer Patrick Rodgers at a Web.com Tour event in Columbus, OH, in 2014. Maples is Rodgers’ caddy and travels to golf tournaments across the country and beyond on the Web.com and PGA tours.
Photo by Jake Thompson, courtesy of the Hendricks County Flyer.

Originally published July 20, 2015.

Tom Maples had a golf bag slung over his shoulder for four years at Huntington North High School, a member of the boys’ golf team.

Seventeen years later, he’s still got a golf bag slung over his shoulder. This one just happens to belong to a golfer on the PGA Tour.

Maples, a 1998 Huntington North graduate, is Patrick Rodgers’ caddy. Rodgers, a fellow Hoosier hailing from Avon, became a professional golfer last summer, following his junior year at Stanford University.

Rolling into Roanoke to honor Williams and his Pontiac collection

Jean Williams, widow of the late Randy Williams, stands alongside her and her husband’s 1966 Pontiac GTO 389 Tri-Power four-speed car on Thursday, July 16. This year’s Rolling into Roanoke classic car show on Saturday, July 25, will feature the Williams’ prized GTO and an exhibit at the Roanoke Area Heritage Center highlighting Randy Williams’ nationally-recognized car collection.
Photo by Steve Clark.

This year’s Rolling into Roanoke classic car show will honor the late Randy Williams and his famed Pontiac collection.

So, it’s fitting that the car that sparked Williams’ interest in Pontiacs, a 1966 GTO 389 Tri-Power 4-speed, will be at the show, which is set for Saturday, July 25.

This particular car sent Williams, along with his family, down a path that saw them chase rare cars and parts all across the country for many years. Williams’ collection expanded to include 13 cars and a quartet of semi-trailers, each brimming with parts.

Warren resident’s quilt earns honor decades after its creation

Marjorie Gard shows off the quilt she made 85 years ago, as a 17-year-old girl, and that she still uses as a bedcover. The pristine-looking quilt caught the attention of visitors to the Salamonie Summer Festival, who voted to give it the “People’s Choice” honor.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published July 16, 2015.

Marjorie Gard sleeps under a pink and white quilt she stitched when she was 17.

She thinks she bought the fabric for the quilt in Marion, but too many nights have passed for her to be sure.

“My goodness, that was 85 years ago,” she says with a laugh.

And as Gard approaches her 101st birthday, the meticulously hand-stitched quilt has won its first award — a purple and white “Best of Show” ribbon that now hangs on the wall of Gard’s apartment at Heritage Pointe, in Warren.

United Way, Pacesetter companies kick off campaign

Tiffanney Drummond presents the six Pacesetter companies of this year’s annual United Way campaign Wednesday, July 15, at Two EE’s Winery, in Huntington. Bendix, Bippus State Bank, First Federal Savings Bank, Lincoln Elementary School, Our Sunday Visitor and Teachers Credit Union are the companies that are kick-starting the literacy-focused campaign, with the theme of “Together we can change the story.
Photo by Lauren Frischman.

United Way of Huntington County, Inc. joined together with its 2015 Pacesetter companies to kick off its annual campaign on Wednesday, July 15.

Pacesetter companies are companies that run its employee campaigns early.

“Pacesetters, by definition, lead by example, set the pace and build momentum for the community-wide United Way campaign,” says Stephanie Morin, United Way Office and Events Coordinator. “They spark enthusiasm throughout their organization and the community. When Pacesetters lead, others will follow.”

Always a whirlwind of activity when kids step into Boost Camp

Youngsters race to the finish during Boost Camp, a health and wellness camp organized by Lisa Leist of the Parkview Huntington Family YMCA. Campers exercise, play games and learn nutrition tips during the eight-week long camp.
Photo by Lauren Frischman.

Originally published July 13, 2015.

When kids step into the world of Boost Camp, they step into a whirlwind of activity. There is always a game to play, an exercise to perform or a lesson to learn, all based around the principles of health and wellness.

It all began eight years ago when Lisa Leist, Boost Camp director and community wellness coordinator at the Parkview Huntington Family YMCA, was watching “Shaq’s Big Challenge” on television. Basketball superstar Shaquille O’Neal worked with a group of kids to help them get healthy and lose weight.

Erie Railroad long gone, but its band ready to celebrate 100 years on July 12

The Huntington Erie Community Band, directed by Thaine Campbell, performs prior to the traditional Memorial Day ceremony on May 30 at the Huntington County Courthouse. In celebration of its centennial season, the band will perform an anniversary concert on July 12 featuring several pieces of music written specifically for the Erie Band over the years.
TAB file photo.

Originally published July 6, 2015.

The Huntington Erie Community Band has outlasted the railroad that gave it life.

The musicians continue to provide a musical backdrop for their community nearly four decades after the Erie Railroad left town.

The band, now celebrating its 100th anniversary season, has grown and evolved since its inception in 1915 as part of the Erie Railroad.

“Every place there was a shop or an office or some facility like that, they set up bands and provided instruments,” says Bill Richey, a former director of the Erie Band.

As Huntington County 4-H Fair gets underway, 4-H board gets to showcase its big acquisition

When the 2015 Huntington County 4-H Fair gets in full swing and the streets, pathways and aisles of the newly-named Huntington County Fairgrounds begin to swell with visitors and exhibitors, it will also be a good opportunity for the 4-H board to market its ready-for-hire facilities.

Kramer basketball camp blends fun and fund-raising for kids

Chris Kramer (third from left), a star basketball player at Huntington North High School and Purdue University, poses with his teammates on the EWE Baskets, a professional basketball team based in Oldenburg, Germany, after winning the German Cup in April. Kramer returns to Huntington next week for a youth basketball camp, where all proceeds will go toward purchasing backpacks for local children.
Photo provided.

Originally published July 2, 2015

Chris Kramer is talking about backpacks.

Kramer, the former basketball star at Huntington North High School and Purdue University who now plays professionally in Germany, is back in Indiana for the summer, preparing for a youth basketball camp he’ll be hosting at Crestview Middle School. All proceeds from the camp will be going toward the Steps for Success program at The Awakening Community Church, which will give away brand-new backpacks to local children before the start of the forthcoming school year.

Retirement not on the horizon for service-minded Snowden

Gene Snowden takes a break from work at his office, located within Real Living Ness Bros. Real Estate & Auction Co., 519 N. Jefferson St., Huntington. Still going strong at 87, Snowden says he has no plans to retire.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published June 29, 2015.

At 87, Gene Snowden has no plans to retire. One of Huntington’s most recognizable residents, the lifelong public servant is still making contacts as a fund-raiser for several area charities, and keeping his thumb on the pulse of the community.

Local woman’s gift helps decorate downtown

Carolyn Miller, of Huntington, takes down the “June Wedding” display from the front of the New Life Community Meal Ministry, 323 N. Jefferson St., to make way for the Fourth of July-themed display. Miller has been decorating the windows using her own decorations or buying them herself, since last September.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published June 25, 2015.

About once a month, Carolyn Miller heads downtown and spends a couple of hours doing what she does best — decorating.

Markle’s Miller chronicles 40 years as small-town doctor into book

Dr. Gerald Miller, a physician in Markle for over 40 years, has written a book with his daughter, Shari Miller Wagner, titled “Making the Rounds: Memoirs of a Small-Town Doctor” about his time practicing medicine.
Photo provided.

Originally published June 18, 2015.

Dr. Gerald Miller was a physician in Markle long enough to see children he treated grow up and have children of their own.

Miller then became their doctor, too.

A physician in Markle for over 40 years, Miller experienced a lot. And now he’s chronicled those experiences in a new book, “Making the Rounds: Memoirs of a Small-Town Doctor.”

Miller wrote the book with his daughter, Shari Miller Wagner. It’s the second collaboration between the two.

Huntington women don’t let triple-digit age slow them down

Centenarians Iris Koughn, Kay LaMont and Nyla South (from left) have always been active members of their communities, and that hasn’t changed now that the three are residents of Tipton Place, a local assisted living center. LaMont and South will both turn 101 this summer.
Photo by Lauren Frischman.

Originally published June 15, 2015.

Iris Koughn, Kay LaMont and Nyla South are three Tipton Place Senior Living residents with one thing in common — they are all 100 years old.

All three women remain as active as they are able.

Koughn has been an avid traveler almost from the day she was born. Originally from Gas City, her family moved around to Marion, Huntington, Fort Wayne and Wabash before settling back in Huntington. Her husband worked in the cement business, and Koughn kept busy by tending the farm and taking care of her family.

‘Educated, homebody, record label-type guy’ getting serious notices for growing career

Allan Craig Miller strums a tune on guitar in his home in rural Huntington County. The Huntington native is planning a concert tour in Europe, after his song “Between Saturday & Sunday” debuted at No. 3 on the European country music charts and rose to No. 2.
Photo by Rebecca Sandlin.

Originally published June 11, 2015.

Sitting at his kitchen table while the kids are at school, wearing shorts and a polo shirt that has “Diversified Services” embroidered on it, Allan Craig Miller, of rural Huntington, doesn’t look like a country music star. But with a big hit now on the European Country charts, that status is changing daily, both overseas as well as in the United States.

Andrews Lions to hail 70 years of giving back to community June 13

Mike Okuly, a board member and officer for the Andrews Lions Club, assembles photo montages to be displayed at the club’s 70th anniversary open house on Saturday, June 13, from noon to 3 p.m.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published June 8, 2015.

The Andrews Lions Club has spent 70 years serving its community — throwing parties, putting on parades, handing out scholarships and giving hundreds of kids the chance to play baseball.

Even as it celebrates its 70th year, it’s thinking about the community. Club members will be grilling up hot dogs and serving them to the community — for free — during their June 13 anniversary celebration.

Pfister retiring from what truly has been job of a lifetime for him

Rev. John Pfister, a Huntington native who returned to his hometown to serve as pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church, will retire this month after 49 years as an active priest. He’s seen here in his office at the rectory, next door to the church.
Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally published June 4, 2015.

The Baltimore Catechism, a question-and-answer text used for years to teach young Catholics about their faith, poses this query:

“Why did God make you?”

For a young John Pfister, his life’s work grew out of the answer:

“God made me to know him, to love him and to serve him in this world, and to be happy with him forever in heaven.”

With heaven as his goal, he became a priest.

Local group looking for ways to help hardworking families on financial edge

Individuals from the new ALICE community work group discuss the latest ALICE report and ways in which they might assist those in the community who are working hard, yet still struggling financially. Pictured are (from left) Love INC ministry coordinator Kyle Metzger, United Way of Huntington County executive director Jenna Strick and Love INC executive director Joey Spiegel.
Photo by Joni Knott.

Originally published June 4, 2015.

In recent months, a new manner for describing middle class living situations has been heard around Huntington County: ALICE.

“The acronym stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed,” says Jenna Strick, executive director of the United Way of Huntington County, “and it represents households that earn more than the United States poverty level, but less than the basic cost of living in Huntington County.”

Family documents young ‘change-makers’ in year-long trip

Eva and Matt Webb stand with their children (from left) Jack, Solveig and Evie, in front of the van and trailer that have served as their home for the past nine months as they document young change-makers across the United States.

Originally published June 1, 2015.

Home, for the Webb family, used to be a four-bedroom home in California.

These days, Matt, Eva and their three kids are on wheels, and home is wherever the wheels stop rolling.

“We’ve had some hard days and we’ve had some good days,” says 11-year-old Jack.

But most of the days are good, his mom says.

“We’ve gone from treading water to dreaming again,” Eva says. “The rewards outweigh the stress.”