Articles by Jan Larson McLaughlin

Grandparents find support raising their grandchildren

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The seven strangers sat around the table, not sure where to start. They had at least one common bond – they were all grandparents who are now raising their grandchildren. The reasons varied. Some parents relinquished the rights to their children because of addictions to drugs or alcohol. But regardless of the reasons, the grandparents – who thought their days of daily parenting were done – were now raising another generation of their family. Last week was the first of monthly support group meetings being held for “Grandparents Raising Grandchildren,” at the Wood County Educational Service Center. Most of the grandparents started their stories by apologizing for feeling lost or complaining about their unexpected return to parenting. Felicia Otte, a school and community based prevention specialist liaison with the educational service center, told the grandparents to stop apologizing. “You have every right to feel that way,” Otte told them. That opened the floodgates, relieving the grandparents from guilt, and allowing them to speak freely about their struggles with those who knew exactly what they were talking about. (Because none of them wanted their grandchildren to be embarrassed, they asked that their names not be used.) One grandma talked about raising four grandchildren. One has attention deficit problems, and the specialists haven’t found the right medications to work for him yet. “I get a lot of phone calls from school,” she said. Another woman has found herself in the “sandwich” generation. At the same time she is raising three grandchildren, she is also struggling with the fact that her own mother is slipping and needs to be placed in assisted living. Then was the woman who has raised her teenage grandson since he was a toddler. She was able to offer words of encouragement and support to those just starting the journey. The only grandfather of the group just recently had two grandchildren move in with him per a court order. “It could be till next week or it could be forever,” he said. Another grandma told of taking in her two grandchildren off and on for years. It was just over two years ago that she realized the children were often home alone and taking care of themselves – so she stepped in. Her story got even…

Historic farm to be jammin’ and cookin’ again soon

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Carter Historic Farm will soon be cookin’ again. The historic farm, which is part of the Wood County Park District, is making its transition to being a working farm. That covers everything from the crops grown in the fields to the foods cooked up in the kitchen. “We’re going from a petting zoo to an actual working farm,” Jeff Baney, assistant director of the Wood County Park District said Tuesday during a meeting of the park board. “Nothing out there is static,” Baney said. Which means equipment like the antique tractors actually have to work the fields. The chickens, goats and farm cats serve a purpose. It’s hoped they will be joined by sheep, cattle and eventually horses. Visitors to the farm, on Carter Road north of Bowling Green, will be able to experience a day in the life of a depression era farm. “At the end of the day, the biggest thing a farm did was put food on the table,” Baney said. But there’s a glitch in that plan. The circa 1930 oven in the farmhouse kitchen has outlived its usefulness. The oven overheats, refuses to shut off, and even turns on all by itself. That poses a problem, since a lot of cooking programs at the historic farm require an oven, according to Corinne Gordon, historic farm specialist with the park district. So on Tuesday, the board heard a request to replace the old oven with a new oven that is designed to look like a 1925 oven. The oven would cost $5,399. “It’s a very specialized piece of equipment,” Baney said. But the oven is essential to programming at the farm, which offers educational programs on “farm to table” canning, using herbs from the garden, pickling and jam making. “For the women of the house, a good portion of the day would be in that kitchen,” Gordon explained to the board. But board president Denny Parish had other concerns. The price tag of more than $5,000 was “a hard swallow,” he said. “I know how this will look to many members of the public,” he said, fearing that citizens may view this as irresponsible spending after the recent passage of the park district levy. “I’m not sure right now that I can support…

Gas leak downtown reached dangerously high levels

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Several businesses and apartments in downtown Bowling Green were evacuated Thursday evening after dangerously high levels of natural gas were detected in the area. Laura Wicks, of Grounds for Thought, said that she noticed the gas smell shortly before 6 p.m. The coffee shop and Coyote Beads, both on the west side of the 100 block of South Main Street, were shut to the public after that because of the gas smell. Owners of those two businesses and Lahey Appliance & TV said Columbia Gas teams were in their stores working on gas lines earlier in the day on Thursday. The natural gas company has been working in the downtown area all summer replacing old gas lines. Wicks said a Columbia Gas employee was on the scene, and told her and Gayle Walterbach of Coyote Beads that he needed to call in more help to handle the problem. However, the Bowling Green Fire Division was not notified of the gas leak until nearly two hours after the smells were noticed, when Columbia Gas called 911. “We were never notified until 8,” Fire Chief Bill Moorman said on Friday. When the fire division arrived downtown, the smell of natural gas was obvious. Atmospheric tests done by firefighters showed high levels of gas. “The gas levels were at a dangerous level,” Moorman said. The fire chief classified the gas levels as being in the “lower explosive limits.” “It was getting to the point that a spark, anything can really set it off,” Moorman said. “Pretty much anything ignites natural gas.” The Bowling Green Police Division joined the fire division in evacuating the businesses and residents in the general area of the leak in the 100 block of South Main Street. The street was also closed to traffic to limit the risks. “Fortunately, after 8 p.m. most of the businesses are closed anyway,” Moorman said. The Columbia Gas spokesperson for the Bowling Green project was not available Friday afternoon, but Moorman said the crew members on the scene Thursday evening said they were having difficulty shutting the leak, and were initially unsure if the leak was from an old or new line. The fire division ventilated the affected buildings and stayed on the scene until about 11:20 p.m. “It was…

Public asked to help set priorities in health plan

(Submitted by Wood County Health Department) Wood County Health Partners is looking for community leaders and other people interested in helping create the county’s next Community Health Improvement Plan. This plan will help inform agencies’ priorities and identify ways to collaborate and improve the health of people in Wood County. Wood County Health Partners recently completed the 2018 Community Health Assessment, which gathered health data from adults, students and children to help determine the area’s strengths and needs. A draft is available at The health assessment and the improvement plan are jointly funded by Wood County Health Department and Wood County Hospital. Wood County Health Partners will conduct four meetings to create the Community Health Improvement Plan. Meetings will take place at Wood County Health Department and be facilitated by the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio. The four meetings are scheduled for 12:30-4:30 p.m. Sept. 20; 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Oct. 11; 12:30-4:30 p.m. Nov. 1; and 12:30-4:30 p.m. Nov. 29. After these meetings, there will be a public event to release the results of both the Community Health Assessment and the Community Health Improvement Plan. Anyone participating in the CHIP process is asked to complete a “Key Issues” worksheet in advance of the first meeting. If you are interested in obtaining the worksheet or more details, contact Alex Aspacher, community outreach coordinator for the health department, at or 419-354-9212.

Mountain biking park and path explored along Slippery Elm Trail

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Park District is hoping to hitch a ride on the off-road mountain biking craze. On Tuesday, the park board voiced support for a proposal to create pump tracks in Rudolph and a mountain bike trail in the savanna area along the Slippery Elm Trail. Park naturalist Craig Spicer presented a proposal for both concepts during the monthly park board meeting held at Harrison Park in Pemberville. The mountain biking park and trail would help the district attract teens and young adults. A survey conducted earlier this year showed only 6 percent of the county park users were college student age. All parks suffer from the same difficulty luring teens and young adults, Spicer said. “They are one of the most finicky audiences,” he said. According to Spicer, off-road and sport biking are growing in popularity. “This is a good opportunity to ride that wave,” he said. The creation of an off-road biking park in Rudolph, and a trail north of the community would also be an investment in a county park in the southern part of Wood County. Currently just five of the county’s 20 parks are south of U.S. 6. “There’s a little bit of imbalance there,” Spicer said. The proposed park would be located in the one-acre area already owned by the park district along the Slippery Elm Trail, just south of Mermill Road. The park board voted last month to have unused farm silos removed from the property. A proposal created by Pump Trax USA shows a park with a “strider” track for little kids, a beginner track, an intermediate and advanced track, and a skills trail for mountain biking. The area would have parking for 30 cars, a bike fix-it station, and a covered shelter house. “This project fits our mission,” Spicer said. “I think it will attract people for years to come.” Maintenance of the park would be similar to the neighboring Slippery Elm Trail, since the bike park courses would be constructed of cement or asphalt. Don DiBartolomeo, of the Right Direction Youth Development Program, told the board he would offer programming for free at the bike park. DiBartolomeo is in the ninth year of running the non-profit youth support program Right Direction, and organizes programming at the…

BG school district sees growth in state report card

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   This Bowling Green report card may make the refrigerator door. The state released its school report cards this morning – a moment that many districts await with great anxiety. Bowling Green City School District shows improvement in student achievement and gap closing for students. It also shows continued “A”s for progress and graduation rates. And overall, the district received a final grade of “B.” The state did not award overall grades last year. But if it had assigned grades, Bowling Green would definitely have scored lower last year, according to Ann McCarty, executive director of teaching and learning for BG Schools. Most importantly, Superintendent Francis Scruci said this morning, is the fact that the district continues to score high for student progress, and has shown improvement in closing the gaps for students. “We are showing progress and we are showing growth,” Scruci said. “We’re showing improvement and that’s the most important thing.” “Our goal is to make sure a kid grows at least one grade level every school year,” he said. “We’re doing straight ‘A’ work in that area.” The state report card gave BG City Schools an “A” for the growth of students from one year to the next. The district received a “B” for gap closing. That looks at how well the district meets expectations for vulnerable students in English language arts, math and graduation. “When you’re looking at measures that mean something, certainly those are areas that mean something,” Scruci said. Though there is plenty for the district to be proud of in the preliminary report, Scruci said he realizes there is still room for improvement. While B is a good overall grade, the district needs to keep aiming for an A. “Until we have that, we’ve got work to do,” he said. The district also scored two “D”s on the state report card. Scruci repeated his belief that the state report cards use a flawed system for scoring schools. “It’s a convoluted formula. It’s a formula with a flaw,” he said. At a special board meeting earlier this week, school board members questioned how the district could receive a grade of “D” in the “prepared for success” category – yet an “A” for graduation rates. That is just one example, McCarty said, of…

Annual Wine & Cheese Social and Auction to benefit Ridge Park

The 23rd Annual Wine and Cheese Social and Auction will be held Friday, Sept. 28, from 5 to 8 p.m., in the Simpson Garden Park Building, 1291 Conneaut Ave., Bowling Green. A live auction will be performed by Jerry Anderson. There will also be a silent auction, autumn mum sale, wine pull and raffle. There will be appetizers, desserts, wine, beer and soft drinks. Featured will be “Parks & Rec Red” from BG Beer Works and other craft beer. All proceeds will benefit the completion of Ridge Park. Admission is $50 per person through Sept. 21, and $60 per person after Sept. 21. No actual ticket is necessary. Once paid, your name will be on a guest list at the door. Checks can be sent to BG Parks & Recreation Foundation, 1291 Conneaut Ave., Bowling Green, 43402, or tickets can be purchased via PayPal by going to, click on Parks & Recreation Foundation, then click on PayPal. Include a note about Wine and Cheese event ticket purchase. Overflow parking will be available at Wood County Hospital, with shuttle service to the Simpson building. For information or questions, contact Cheryl Witt at 419-354-6297 or

BG school board to meet next Tuesday at 6 p.m.

The Bowling Green Board of Education will hold a regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 18, its new meeting time of 6 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Bowling Green Performing Arts Center Lobby, 540 West Poe Road, Bowling Green.

Sock monkey reunion planned at Beeker’s General Store

(Submitted by Beeker’s General Store) Beeker’s General Store in downtown Pemberville is eager to put together a Sock Monkey display as part of our Christmas festivities this year. Many adults have received or given a genuine Rockford Red Heel Sock Monkey in their lifetime. Beeker’s would like to collect any version of the sock monkey, along with written memories/photos that describe this childhood gift. The iconic sock monkeys made from red-heeled socks, known today as the Rockford Red Heel, emerged at the earliest in 1932. This red heel gave the monkeys their distinctive mouth. During the Great Depression, American crafters first made sock monkeys out of worn-out Rockford Red Heel Socks. The display “Christmas Sock Monkey Reunion” will be featured Dec. 1 to Jan. 5 as part of this year’s holiday season. If you are willing to share a sock monkey/collection/written memory/photo; please drop off, postal mail, or email such stories/memories to: Beeker’s General Store, 226 East Front Street, PO Box 273, Pemberville, 43450 or 419-287-3274 or All items will be properly cataloged for proper ownership and returned promptly in January of 2019. Help us celebrate a good luck tradition.

BG transportation and bike safety groups to meet

The Transportation and Safety Committee of Bowling Green City Council is scheduled to conduct a joint meeting with the Bicycle Safety Commission on Sept. 17 at 6 p.m. in council chambers, 304 N. Church St.  The purpose of that meeting is to discuss bicycle safety items identified in the Community Action Plan. Also on Monday, a public hearing about amending various sections of the zoning code regarding fees is scheduled for 6:45 p.m.  Then City Council is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. in council chambers. On Sept. 18, the city’s Tree Commission is scheduled to meet at 4 p.m. in council chambers, followed by the Bicycle Safety Commission to meet at 6 p.m.

Plans unveiled for new $6 million county senior center

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Plans for the new Wood County Senior Center – and its new price tag – were unveiled Wednesday. The schematics showed a building more than twice the size of the current senior center, with more space for programs, an adult day care area, and a community storm shelter. Originally, it was estimated the new senior center would cost about $4 million. However some unexpected issues led that price tag to jump up to $6 million. “We’re proud to be able to roll this out to the community,” Ben Batey, president of the Wood County Committee on Aging Board, said Wednesday. The board viewed the preliminary building plans – designed to meet the growing needs of local seniors – created by Duket Architects. The new 35,000-square-foot senior center will be located at the site of the former school administration building between South Grove and Buttonwood streets, south of West Wooster Street. The new facility will replace the 14,500-square-foot center currently housed in the 104-year-old building on North Main Street that formerly held the post office. The new senior center will have between 80 and 100 parking spaces, will have one-story and two-story sections, and will be designed to fit in with the early-century residential area in which it will sit. “We tried to design the building to fit the community,” said Jerry Voll, of the architectural firm.   The first floor of the senior center will have two main entrances covered for weather protection. There will be a dining and multi-purpose room, five activity rooms of varying size, public restrooms, skylights to let in natural light, and an elevator. The first floor will also have a lounge area that may double as a library, with a gas fireplace, and coffee. Also on the first floor will be an adult day care space, with its own entry. “I’m personally really excited about the adult day care concept. That doesn’t exist in Wood County yet,” Batey said. The Alzheimer’s Resource Center in Toledo has offered to provide the day care services. There will be outdoor patios off the multi-purpose room and off the adult day care. The second floor will have room for administration offices, social services, activity rooms and office space for the BGSU Optimum Aging Institute, which will…

Grief support group to meet at county senior center

(Submitted by Wood County Committee on Aging) The Wood County Committee on Aging Inc. is currently partnering with Lutheran Social Services to hold an educational grief support group, “Understanding Your Grief.” The group is for those age 60 and over. It will run for 11 weeks and be held on Wednesdays from 1 to 2:30 p.m. at the Wood County Senior Center, 305 N. Main St., Bowling Green. This partnership will allow the offering of the group free of charge; however materials are needed to participate. The purchase of a book and workbook total $25. This group will begin on Wednesday, Sept. 26, and will be facilitated by Joan Staib, MSW, LISW. To register for the group, please call 1-800-367-4935 or 419-353-5661 and ask for the Social Services Department. Materials can be ordered through the senior center upon registration. Scholarships available.

Preliminary state report card shows reason to celebrate for BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green School Board got a sneak peek at the preliminary state report card for the district Tuesday morning. If that preliminary report holds, the district will have something to brag about – receiving an overall grade of B. The state did not award overall grades last year, said Ann McCarty, executive director of teaching and learning for BG Schools. But if it had assigned grades, Bowling Green would have likely been in the “D” or “F” range, maybe “C,” she said. “This is a great reflection on the work the curriculum staff is doing” and the teachers who implement the curriculum in the classrooms, Superintendent Francis Scruci said. Scruci added that he still believes the state report card system is far from rational. “I think it’s a flawed system,” he said. But even with all its flaws, Bowling Green City Schools is excelling – scoring repeated “A”s in the categories of progress and graduation rates. “When you’re looking at measures that mean something, certainly those are areas that mean something,” Scruci said. McCarty explained that the state report cards are a “snapshot of the overall grades.” She gave a preview of the preliminary grades at last month’s board meeting. At that point, she cautioned the board that the early results might be too good to be true. But this latest sneak peek looks even better – though McCarty stressed the grades aren’t certain until the official reports come out later this week. The preliminary snapshot viewed on Tuesday gave BG City Schools an “A” for the growth of students from one year to the next. The district received a “B” for gap closing, “which is fantastic,” McCarty said. That looks at how well the district meets expectations for vulnerable students in English, language arts, math and graduation. Though there is plenty for the district to be proud of in the preliminary report, Scruci said he realizes there is still room for improvement. While B is a good overall grade, the district needs to keep aiming for an A. “Until we have that, we’ve got work to do,” he said. Board members had questions about the grades, including how the district could receive a grade of “D” in the “prepared for success” category – yet an “A”…

BG school board changes meeting times to make it easier for public to attend

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   After multiple requests, the Bowling Green Board of Education voted unanimously this morning to change its meeting times to make it easier for the public to attend – at least for a trial period. The board held a special meeting this morning to handle some bookkeeping items, and discuss the proposed change to its regular monthly meeting times. “There has been some support to moving the board meetings to 6 o’clock,” board member Norm Geer said. The later meeting time would make it easier for those with jobs to attend. “It would allow them to observe the workings of the board.” Geer brought up the time change at last month’s regular board meeting, but the matter was tabled to give the board more time to get input from the community. The board has met at 5 p.m. for years in an effort to make it easier for school staff and administrators to attend meetings. Geer recommended a trial period for the time change. “My suggestion was that we try it for the rest of the year,” he said. So starting next week, on Sept. 18, the board meetings will begin at 6 p.m. Board member Bill Clifford mentioned an email from citizen Erin Hachtel that listed the meeting times for other school boards in Wood County. The vast majority start at 6 p.m., with only Perrysburg starting earlier at 5:30 p.m. “I’m open to the trial,” Clifford said. Geer said he expected to have public discussion about the time change at next week’s board meeting. “But most of those people know how to take ‘yes’ for an answer,” Geer said. Also at Tuesday’s special meeting, the board approved the hiring of Christine Kempf as assistant treasurer, with a base annual salary of $58,500. A total of 38 applicants expressed interest in the position, with eight being interviewed. Kempf, who is currently assistant treasurer for Fostoria schools, has 20-plus years of experience. Bowling Green School Treasurer Cathy Schuller said Kempf will be valuable in helping prepare for expected retirements next summer, and with cross training opportunities. “Her experience was outstanding,” Schuller said. “I have no doubt she’ll be a great addition.”