Angels care, help, support

April 12, 2012 in Health

As Cathy Summers, a retired grandmother, walked barefoot across the second yard she had mowed that day, Beth Walker Bell turned and said, “This is what I want Community Angels to be about.”

In addition to driving her daughter, Casey Paulin, to multiple doctor appointments for breast cancer treatment, Summers is cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, caring for her two young grandchildren and mowing her daughter’s yard after mowing her own.

Unfortunately, Summers is not the first person Bell has seen with tired eyes.

After a few experiences last year, all with families battling serious illness, Bell quickly realized a recurring theme. Caregivers are exhausted. Those with illness feel guilty about it. And the entire family is in need of at least an occasional pair of caring, extra hands.

“Maybe the dad always did the yard work in the family but the dad had a heart attack,” Bell said. “Or a single mother with cancer needs help with babysitting or haircut money for her kids. But her family doesn’t live in the area.”

With so many of these scenarios on her heart, Bell launched this non-profit program last June, with assistance from the Johnson County Community Foundation.
She hopes the community will reach out with either a few dollars or with volunteer efforts such as building wheelchair ramps or doing some grocery shopping, housecleaning or lawn care.

Other more creative gifts are highly appreciated, too.

Last year, for example, someone donated tickets for an Indians game. Bell gave the tickets to a young family “that had been cooped up for a long time” because of the mother’s illness.

On April 20, Bell is hosting the Black & White Ball to help raise funds. Proceeds will help the Community Angel fund take at least some of the burden off families, such as paying a lawn mowing business to mow one or both yards for people like Summers, whose hands are already full.

Determination keeps cancer survivor in battle mode

April 12, 2012 in Front Page News

Spunk, a wicked sense of humor and a deep love for her family help Casey Paulin of Center Grove stay strong during the most trying time of her life.

She is a 37-year-old wife and mother of two young children. And she is battling breast cancer.

Before the August diagnosis of stage II breast cancer, Paulin had no insurance.

“The day before my mastectomy, I was still fighting for insurance. So I told them, ‘I will not have the surgery if it’s not covered. I will not put that burden, all those medical bills, on my family.’”

Because she was so preoccupied with insurance issues, Paulin didn’t allow herself time to emotionally prepare for the mastectomy.

“I really wish now that I had sat in front of the mirror and just stared at my boobs,” she said with a smile even though tears filled her eyes. “I really wish I had looked at them more. And now they’re gone.”

On the day her life changed forever, Paulin met her best friend from childhood at a local eatery.

Soon after hugging her friend, the doctor called.

Stunned by the news, Paulin glanced out the window and saw her mother, Cathy Summers, driving past. She called her mother’s cell phone and asked her to stop at the restaurant.

The women cried together that day – and many times after that.

Because Paulin also has a blood clotting disorder, recovery and safe treatment options have been a struggle.

Last January, she was hospitalized with blood clots in both of her lungs and her right calf. One morning after Cameron, 10, and Chloe, 5, were off to school, she called home from her hospital bed.

“(Husband) Kevin was bawling his eyes out,” Paulin said tearfully.

In the midst of breakfast and before-school chatter with the kids that morning, the house got very quiet. “And he said it hit him like a ton of bricks — the silence — and what it would feel like for all of them if I wasn’t there.”

While her husband tended to internalize his fears, their son also avoided verbalizing his feelings. Paulin noticed that Cameron frequently played outside, instead of coming in to let her know he was home from school. Finally he admitted he was afraid he might find his mom dead.

Everything normal has quickly disappeared.

Paulin’s mom and husband share a long list of responsibilities: driving Paulin to doctor appointments, doing laundry, cleaning, babysitting, shopping, cooking and completing lawn care.

“I’m so worried about my family,” Paulin said. “I know they are all so tired.”

Because of the blood clot disorder, she is not a candidate for Tamofixin, a frequently prescribed drug for breast cancer survivors. So Paulin will soon undergo a full hysterectomy to stop the production of hormones that feed her cancer. Chemotherapy may soon follow.

Paulin said so many people have rallied around her. One of those rekindled relationships is with Beth Walker Bell of Greenwood.
Last summer Bell launched Community Angels, a non-profit program to offer extra hands to families like Paulin’s.

Bell is raising funds and gathering caring hearts to either provide volunteers or money to help families with specific needs – from yard maintenance to gas cards for hospital visits, haircuts and babysitting.

“She has such a big heart,” Paulin said of Bell. “I really want to help her get Community Angels going. I want to be her second voice.”

Greenwood seniors welcome leader

April 5, 2012 in Front Page News

He’s got petite, powerful shoes to fill, but Bob Goodrum, the Social of Greenwood’s new executive director, is up for the challenge.

Last month, Goodrum took on the role after Betty Davis, executive director for 33 years, decided to focus part-time on program events she created such as the Senior Expo, the annual craft fair, monthly breakfast meetings and monthly day trips.

“She’s built such a great history here,” Goodrum said of Davis. “I want to build on that foundation.”

At 6’5”, Goodrum makes a presence, that’s for sure. A quick sense of humor helps him get acquainted with members of this non-profit program which was formerly known as Greenwood Senior Center.

This is Goodrum’s first experience in a senior-centered environment but his entire career has been committed to people of all ages and all walks of life.

As a college student, he initially planned to study business and hospitality then open a restaurant.

“But during Christmas break, I suddenly thought, ‘This is not where you are supposed to be,’” Goodrum said with a smile.

So he changed gears, became a youth minister and later a teacher and coach with Indianapolis Baptist Schools. During summer break from teaching, Goodrum was asked to help Good News Mission in Indianapolis with a badly needed fundraiser.

“Then they offered me a job,” he said.

First with Good News Mission and later with Lighthouse Mission, Goodrum devoted his time and heart to homeless men who needed shelter and spiritual help.

“I loved being able to meet people where they were and get them to where they were created to be,” he said of the nine years he served as director of Lighthouse Mission.

Now he’s accepted a new challenge at Social of Greenwood. Goodrum is building the internal structure of the program by updating record-keeping, adding a Facebook page, Twitter account and an e-letter. He’s also working with Davis and two other employees, Jill Larson and Linda Honey, to build membership and to expand fundraising opportunities.

A longtime member of the Greenwood community, Goodrum lives nearby. His wife Jennifer and their young daughters, Kaitlyn, 11, and Bailey, 6, visit often. Occasionally Goodrum’s mother stops by with his daughters.

“My daughters love to come in here and play Wii bowling,” Goodrum said with a laugh.

The Social offers a daily lunch program for community members who are older than 65. Through a partnership with the Southside Art League, the café section of the building is also used as a venue for local art.

First on the list, however, Goodrum and volunteers are busy stuffing plastic Easter eggs with goodies, then hiding them in random places inside the building.

Greenwood gardeners on the go

March 29, 2012 in Front Page News

During the early weeks of spring, many Greenwood residents turn into gardeners on the go. Their vehicle trunks turn into mobile garden sheds, loaded with fertilizer, sand, gardening tools and seeds.

Their destination is the community garden, located on Fry Road. For more than five years, the Greenwood Parks department has provided the space, which includes 34 plots.

“By the beginning of March, the plots are (typically) all taken,” said Jeff Madsen, director of recreation. “Right now, we have 10 plots left.”

Most people would prefer to simply walk a few steps out their back door to weed and water a garden space. But many residents live in apartments or condominiums, and few neighborhoods provide enough backyard space for gardening. Making the community garden available definitely fills a need, Madsen said.

Her love for vegetable gardens began in childhood, said Laura Northrup Poland. “My Grandpa grew these wonderful tomatoes and you can’t buy anything like that.”

Because her backyard is too shady for a garden, Northrup Poland plants organic vegetables in two plots at the community garden. Most of the time, she works there early in the morning. Though her husband, Andrew Poland, doesn’t work with her there, he often arrives with a picnic lunch. And she also has made friends and learned valuable tips from other gardeners.

“I make jams and pickles,” Northrup Poland said. “And I dehydrate a lot of my herbs and I freeze some things, too.”
As a child, Barbara Yeager worked alongside her mother in the family garden. Now that she is a busy mom with teenagers and a home in a housing addition, renting space in the community garden provides her with vegetables and stress relief.

“I grow vegetables of all kinds and herbs,” Yeager said. “I like to have some flowers in there too to make it pretty.”

Like Northrup Poland, Thomas Bohn’s backyard was a challenge because of the shade.

“I can’t hardly grow grass back there,” he said with a laugh. “So I knew I couldn’t have a garden.”

Unlike most of the other community gardeners, Bohn’s interest isn’t vegetables.

Instead, he rents two plots — one for herbs and the other is filled with color. As a member of the Indiana Daylilies Society, Bohn’s harvest includes trading numerous varieties of daylilies with other members.

With hoes in hand, he and Northrup Poland have become friends while tending their gardens. They engage in some friendly competitions for who can grow the most beautiful sunflowers. “She always wins,” Bohn said.

Making new friends, trading experiences with other gardeners and watching deer graze a few yards away from heavy traffic — all of it is satisfying, Yeager said.

“Gardening is a stress reliever and it’s something of a religion,” she said. “When you get your hands in the dirt and create, it’s very satisfying. It’s very satisfying to grow your own food and know where it comes from.”

My back is back in business

March 15, 2012 in Opinion

When I was a younger person with all of my necessary body parts working correctly, I wiggled my nose with confusion when I heard someone groan and say, “I can’t get around very well. My back is out.”

As soon as that statement was made, I always thought, “What does that mean? What a dumb way to say that your back hurts. Your back is out? Out where? Your back’s right there where it’s always been.”

Let me just say that I find absolutely nothing cute about that sentence anymore. These days, I also understand every word of that sentence. My back is out. Out for maybe what started to be a little lunch date. But then my lazy old back turned the relaxing time-out into a three-month hiatus.

Yep. My back is out. So are my neck and my left arm. In fact, I never really realized how much I used my left arm until I could no longer move it without peeing my pants from pain. I also took my neck for granted. I assumed that my neck’s only job was to hold my head on.

But that opinion changed the day I could not turn my head to the left, which meant I could no longer look both ways while driving, back out of parking places or cradle the phone between my ear and shoulder so I could take notes with my right hand. So I got a cortisone injection. Then I found myself waiting for an epidural. By the way, I assumed the epidural would be placed in my back. Nope, the plan was for that gigantic needle to stab right through the front of my neck.

Not only do I happen to be the chick who can’t turn my head to the left, use my left arm or get out of a chair without saying swear words I never heard before, I happen to also be the biggest baby about scary stuff being poked into my skin.

“Knock me out,” I said to the doctor.

“Can’t,” he said. “You need to be awake enough to tell me what hurts.”

“Everything hurts,” I said quickly. “So now that you have that information, let’s get busy with the big drugs.”

“Don’t worry,” he said. “We’ll give you something to help you calm down.”

“I can still see you,” I said as my teeth started to chatter. “Don’t take it personally, OK? But as long as I can see you, I am very sure I will not be calming down.”

This turned out to be a pretty darn stressful experience. However, my back has come home. My left arm and my neck have also decided to cooperate … at least some of the time. I’m hoping we can work together more peacefully now … my body, arthritis and me.

Aunt Kate’s great link to unique decor

March 8, 2012 in Community

A stroll through Aunt Kate’s Consignment Shop in Greenwood can sometimes make a customer do a confused and curious double take.
“I have had several unusual items,” said Steve Miller, owner of the shop.

A few items brought in by consigners were so unusual that Miller had to conduct research to explain them to customers.
One of the more unusual pieces was an antique commode table.

“You lifted the table top and there was the pot under there,” Miller said with a laugh.

A beautifully ornate antique bird cage, a unique shoe storage wheel and a signal rescue box kite from World War II are some other items he enjoyed learning about and sharing with customers.

“Our inventory is constantly changing, so I see a wide variety of items,” said Miller. “Many of them are unique and one-of-a-kind.”

After working several years in retail and customer service, Miller was looking for a change. He also realized how frequently he remembered the amazing talents of a favorite aunt. She had a rather uncanny knack of finding something discarded by someone else, something that might initially look like trash, Miller said.

But with some elbow grease, imagination and paint, Aunt Kate created a different something that became useful and pretty. She definitely made thrift an art form.

When Miller decided in August 2010 to venture into self-employment, it seemed only fitting to get into a business his late aunt would have adored. To make the decision even more about her spirit, Miller printed his beloved Aunt Kate’s photograph on his business cards and flyers.

Self-employment has had its challenges, though.

“The up side is the pride of ownership and creative freedom to run the business as I see fit,” Miller said. “The down side is that you work no matter what. There are no sick days. And vacation days are limited, too. Overall, there are more positives to owning your own business then there are negatives.”

He also enjoys the location of the busy storefront on Main Street in Olde Towne Greenwood.

“I am glad I have the opportunity to own a shop in this friendly, picturesque town,” Miller said.

One area of the shop is run by another lover of creativity, local artist and Realtor Tammie Wituszynski. Soon after Miller opened the store, they became friends.

Renting space at Aunt Kate’s finally provides her with a place to display her longtime passion, Wituszynski said.
Like Miller’s aunt, Wituszynski has an eye for turning forgotten items into beautifully unique household pieces. Some of the items she sells include some recreated pieces of an antique door. With the well-loved wood, Wituszinski built a couple of Shabby chic-inspired end tables and wall hangings.

In other areas of the store, customers find artificial trees, dining tables and chairs, wicker and a couple of gently used Broyhill sofas, complete with coffee tables and accent pillows. There’s a nice harmony created by mixing gently used items with unusual antiques, books, dishes and jewelry. Merchandise is priced to sell, Miller said. And consignors are welcome too, as long as they understand that items must be in great condition or they will not be accepted.

“People love beautiful things for their homes and they love to get just the right item at a great price,” he said. “Sometimes it’s the thrill of the hunt. Other times, items bring back memories of days gone by.”

Novices, pros to learn, share hunting skills

March 8, 2012 in Community

By Sherri Coner

Mushroom hunting is a passionate subject for a lot of people, said Bill Doig, Ag & Natural Resources Extension Educator. “Some people will even miss work and cross a property line as well, to find them.”

This early spring event is often a family activity as well.

“It’s an art or a tradition that is passed down from generation to generation,” said Doig, who resides in Shelby County. “I went mushroom hunting with my parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents. We passed on tricks and tips for this time-honored tradition, looking for that elusive Morel mushroom.”

Doig is so committed to keeping the hunt alive that he will host a classroom workshop later this month. Subjects include the necessary combination for mushrooms to bloom, including soil temperatures in the low 50s, mixed with just the right amount of humidity and moisture. Novice hunters will be taught how to identify wildflowers, such as Dutchman’s Britches or Jack in the Pulpit, which often bloom in unison and in close proximity of mushrooms. The agenda also includes discussion about various tree species, such as Dogwood and Red Bud, which begin to bud when mushrooms are in view. He will also explain how to correctly pluck mushrooms from the earth so spores are left behind for next year’s hunt.

Doig also plans to follow up the classroom experience with a guided hunt through Morgan-Monroe State Forest. For this activity, also free, Doig asks seasoned hunters to bring mesh bags to share with novice hunters. But everyone who attends the hunt must first attend the workshop.

Mushroom hunting makes hobby an art: Some keep spongy turf secretive

March 8, 2012 in Front Page News

Some people look at ’shrooming as a hobby. But for Jeff Snyder of Morgantown, it’s an art.

He’s so good at it, that by the end of his monster mushroom hunting experience, Snyder goes home in the early spring with 30-40 pounds of Oyster or Morel mushrooms.

“I freeze a lot of them,” Snyder said with a laugh. “Last year, we had mushrooms from April to January. We like to fry them and eat them with eggs for breakfast.”

Like Snyder, Bernie Green and Larry Wood, both of Franklin, started mushroom hunting as children.

“When the red buds are budding, that’s when I go to the woods,” Wood said. “When the Red Bud leafs, it’s all over with.”

“Nowadays, it’s hard to find a place to hunt,” Green said. “We go to the Morgan-Monroe Forest.”

Although Snyder and Green leak information about their favorite hunting spots, Brian Vandivier of Franklin keeps his hot spots to himself.

“When you hunt mushrooms and you find good places, a lot of people call those honey holes,” Vandivier said. “I’ve got some secret places but I keep them to myself.”

“If people tell you where they hunt, they’re usually lying to you, at least a little bit,” Wood said with a laugh. “And that’s one of the exciting things about mushroom hunting. It’s like Easter egg hunting.”

For years, Vandivier grabbed sacks and accompanied his parents for the hunt. In later years, his oldest daughter, Lindsey Lamphire of Franklin liked to tag along. But these days, Vandivier enjoys solo hunting.

“I like to go alone,” he said. “I like to be out in the woods. I always find a box turtle or a snake. I like to go early in the morning. I think the sun’s angle hits the mushrooms and they are easier to see.”

Snyder, who owns Grandpa Jeff’s Trail Rides in Morgantown, is willing this spring to share his mushroom hunting jackpot.
“I will even rent horses to whoever wants to go with me to hunt,” he said.

Three common varieties of Morel mushrooms, Yellow, Black and Deliciosa, bloom at different times in the early spring, beginning with the Black Morels, which pop into view in late March, usually after a lot of rain, followed by a warm day.

Store-bought mushrooms “never have that woodsy, nutty flavor” of a true, found-in the-woods Morel, said Daina Chamness of Greenwood.

As a child growing up in Morgan County, Chamness and her parents searched the woods on their farm.

“We only looked for Morels. That was the only kind we knew to look for,” she said with a grin. “We didn’t know the other types from toadstools.”

Some mushroom lovers fancy up the batter, but diehard sponge hunters like Green stay loyal to simple preparation.

“We soak them overnight in salt water, coat them with flour, then fry them in butter,” he said.

In many instances, parents or grandparents handed down this tromp-through-the-woods activity, Chamness said. Some of the fun is about filling a sack with spongy treasures. But taking time to enjoy the company of loved ones on a warm spring day in the woods is just plain good for people.

“We have so few folksy things we do these days,” Chamness said of the fast-paced life so many families live. “Mushroom hunting is a fun thing we did as kids. And we need to do a lot more of it.”

“It’s like a date with nature,” Wood said. “You’ve got a two- or three-week honeymoon. And if you don’t find any mushrooms, you’ve got to wait ’til next year.”

Teachers to bring home lesson on humanity: Grant helps take them to lifesaving well

March 1, 2012 in Front Page News

Every day, while American children bathe, brush their teeth, grab a bite of breakfast and sling book bags over their shoulders, women and children in Africa walk several hours to find a water source in a very warm, dry climate where water is scarce.

After dipping buckets into dirty water, they return home in scorching heat. And every time they are thirsty, children are exposed to deadly diseases such as cholera, malaria, polio or hepatitis. In fact, more than 80 percent of ailments are directly related to diseased water. Every 15 seconds, a child in Africa dies from an illness contracted from dirty water.

Each school year, Debby Burton, a seventh grade math teacher, and Casey Voelz, a seventh grade social studies teacher, present a segment to Center Grove Middle School Central students about this terrible truth. They speak to students about how the absence of clean water — something Americans take for granted — takes thousands of lives every day in Africa.

Student Nathan Taylor not only listened intently to his teachers last year; he left the classroom and decided to take action.

With the goal of raising enough money to build one well in Africa, the young man motivated faculty, students and their families to support the cause. More than $3,000 was raised at the school. Then community donors provided additional funds to realize the $6,500 project that provides water for a decade in the area where the well is constructed.

Thanks to efforts made by Center Grove students, a well was built near a school in Eastern Rwanda, providing clean, safe water for 350 people.

This summer, Burton and Voelz will travel to Rwanda to visit the hand-pumped well and the families saved by access to fresh water. They plan to also visit Kitumu village in Masindi, Uganda and a school near Kisumu, Kenya.

“We will take pictures and video of the impact made by this well,” Voelz said. “Then we will bring all of it back to our school to inspire our students to become active citizens of the world.”

This opportunity was made possible by a grant for which the teachers applied in November. Last week, they learned they are two of the 120 Indiana educators who received Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Fellowships. Each teacher was awarded $8,000.
In addition to immersing themselves in a different culture, Burton and Voelz plan to document how a well is constructed and how the access to fresh water so drastically changes lives in African communities.

One example of change is that healthy children can attend school.

“Since their water is usually dirty, it causes illnesses,” Voelz said. “And a lot of kids miss a lot of school.”

Non-profit organizations such as The Water Project and The Living Water send workers into villages to build wells near schools or near the center of towns and villages, Burton said.

They are grateful that a family from Kenya, now residing in Center Grove, is providing lots of information and advice about areas they know well, Burton said.

Burton, a 23-year teacher, and Voelz, who has been teaching five years, welcome that feedback as they prepare for the five-week adventure.

“They are helping us make contact with motels,” Burton said. “They have also told us about a boarding school where we might stay, too. We’re pretty sure we won’t be sleeping in the middle of the desert.”

Photos, videos and stories will be priceless. What they will gain personally and professionally from this venture can only be described as “a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Voelz said.

For more information, visit: TheWaterProject.org and www.water.cc/famine

Just who’s in charge at lunch time?: Freedom to rule has no place on kids’ menu

February 9, 2012 in Opinion

A few days ago, a friend was telling me about how her picky grandson won’t eat anything but chicken nuggets and applesauce, and how he screams and kicks if someone tries to suggest something else — like mashed potatoes and a couple of bites of green beans.

“I don’t remember being asked what I wanted for supper,” I said with a laugh.

“Me neither,” my friend smiled. “And if I had stated an opinion about the dinner menu, I am very sure things wouldn’t have gone well for me.”

So then I thought about the school lunches I had as a kid. I thought about standing in the cafeteria line, waiting for stuff I wasn’t allowed to choose to be plopped on my plastic tray. By the way, I hated white milk, so it was a little bit of Christmas when I could pluck a box of chocolate milk before they were all gone. I wasn’t crazy about what we so fondly referred to as “mystery meat” either, but when I was really hungry, I mustered the nerve to taste it. Many times, I was happily surprised.

Most kids faced the same lunchtime drama. If pizza, chili or hamburgers were on the menu, excitement was in the air.

We weren’t damaged by not having a choice about what was plopped on the lunch trays with ice cream dippers. But it certainly made many of us hate the guts of the snot heads with Partridge Family and Superman lunch boxes. By the way, I did attempt once to join that particular group of snot heads.

“A lot of other kids bring their lunches to school,” I whined. (This was grossly exaggerated, since four of maybe 120 elementary-aged kids brought lunches from home.)

“I don’t care,” my mom said.

“Sally gets to eat peanut butter and honey sandwiches every day,” I said.

“That’s too bad,” My mom said. “Her parents don’t care if her teeth rot out of her head.”

Dang it. My plan was crashing.

“Another kid brings plastic containers filled with chicken noodle soup or fruit cocktail,” I tried again. “What about that?”

“Well, that kid is a spoiled brat,” my mom said. “His mother is obviously raising a little moron who will grow up thinking he’s special. You are lucky since you get to be part of the real world.”

“Lucky?” I blinked. “What’s lucky about eating sweaty, rubber hot dogs?”

“It’s a growth opportunity,” my mom said, and because that vein in her neck was poking out a little, I reminded myself that if I had half a brain, I would stop trying to join the snot head club with cool lunch boxes.

By the way, our schools were not air conditioned either. I loved sitting close to those enormous fans. I loved the breeze from the open windows. Some of us sweat so much that the whole room smelled like the boys’ locker room.

Today’s kids have way too many choices. Maybe that’s why my friend’s grandkid is a screamer. If he doesn’t get asked what he wants to eat, then he never gets the idea that he rules what his parents do in the kitchen. In my opinion, parents don’t dish up anything worthy when they serve chicken nuggets, applesauce and a big sprinkling of, “you’re-the-kid-and-yet-you-run-the-show.”