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Project Connect begins hooking up volunteers & donations

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Project Connect Wood County is more than a one-day event. Project Connect provides direct services to people who are homeless or in poverty, or in danger of becoming homeless or in poverty. The benefits accrue to the guests all year, and to the volunteers who make it happen. “It’s very gratifying. I see people in the store, and they ask if we’re doing this again,” said volunteer Marisa Hutchinson. She’s happy that she can answer yes. And she’ll be there to help out again. “Once you volunteer,” she said, “you start planning for the next year.” Planning for Project Connect gets started months in advance. About 30 people gathered for the kickoff meeting Thursday morning at St. Mark’s Church. The church will host Project Connect on Oct. 17 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Project Connect was started in 2013, launched by the Continuum of Care Wood County. It was spurred by concern about homelessness. But shelter insecurity has many dimensions. People also need food, sanitary products, mental health services, legal assistance, and haircuts. Rhonda Stoner, a social worker with the Wood County Community Health Center, said she was surprised to see the change in people after they’d gotten their hair cut. The guests reported just that made them feel so much better about themselves, she said. Last year project volunteers cut the hair of 118 guests. Those seeking help are not clients, they are guests, neighbors stopping over for a helping hand from other neighbors. “We approach everything from the aspect of hospitality,” said Erin Hachtel, one of the co-chairs for the event. Each guest first talks with someone to determine what they and their families “need to be healthy, safe and secure,” Hachtel said. Then they are assisted by a host who guides them through a maze of stations to help find just what they need most. What brings them in varies. Last year, the biggest need was help getting through the holidays, Hachtel noted. That was the first time this was mentioned. The survey of the top reason they came included seeking employment, desire for more education or training, stress management, legal assistance, mental health treatment, housing, and internet connectivity. By having hosts and guest navigate the event together, Hachtel said, “we’re saying we’re all in this together. Let’s walk together to find what will help you and your family.” In 2017, Project Connect helped 574 individuals from 278 households. More than 200 people volunteers and 52 providers and agencies set up shop. During the day 235 bags of food were distributed. Also 44 people had their vision checked and 84 received blood pressure and blood sugar screenings. More than 200 hygiene kits were distributed, and 110 people were able to get birth certificates. The ability to get their birth certificates…

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At BGSU, Clarence Page reflects on Middletown & “Hillbilly Elegy”

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Clarence Page is a story teller. That’s what all good journalists are, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner said. On Thursday at Bowling Green State University, though, he reflected on someone else’s story, J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.” Vance’s book has been selected as the university’s Common Read. Page was invited to BGSU to discuss Vance’s book. Meant to bring everyone together to read the same book and spark discussion, this year’s selection has done the trick. Social media is full of commentary on the book, and even its appropriateness as the Common Read. “Hillbilly Elegy” arrived at the same time as Donald Trump was elected to office, and many reviewers touted it as the book to read if you wanted to understand Trump voters. Vance takes a hard look at his people, who feel displaced in America and are plagued by dysfunctional families and unemployment. This demographic is the most pessimistic of any in the country.  Poor whites are more pessimistic than poor blacks. “Maybe because we’re used to it.” Page, who like Vance comes from Middletown, Ohio, said the book gave him a look at what was happening on the white side of town. Page noted he started out as “colored,” and has been a Negro, black, African-American, before now being a person of color. His family, he said, was “po’” because, according to his father, they were too poor to afford the “or.” But, he added, “ we were rich in spirit.” Page, 70, said he’s told Vance that save for the difference in age and race, it could be his story. But there were differences. Unlike Vance who chronicles a difficult family life, Page said his family was boring, a quality he’s come to appreciate as he’s gotten older. Like Vance’s grandfather, Page’s family moved north from the south to work in northern industry. Page’s people were part of the Great Migration that brought blacks north by rail seeking an escape from the segregated south and seeking greater opportunities. And Page remembers the lure of the railroad, looking down the tracks imagining an escape from Middletown. He succeeded in large part because of what he learned there.  He wanted to be an astronaut but his vision, “being four-eyed” ended that dream. But he was also captivated by seeing the reporters during a whistle stop in the 1960 campaign by then presidential candidate Richard Nixon. Others watched the vice president; Page had his eyes on the press. The high school newspaper advisor Mary Kindell recruited him for her staff. “Bless her heart, she saw some talent in me.” He did it to meet girls, but he found “I was pretty good at it. I enjoyed it.” He liked meeting people. He liked telling stories. …


Astronaut Mark Kelly was guided by the women in his life

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News To hear Mark Kelly tell it he’s lucky to be alive, never mind standing before an admiring crowd speaking. In his Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives talk Tuesday at Bowling Green State University, he spoke glowingly of his wife, former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, and his mother, and spoke with wry self-deprecation of his own failings and how he overcame them. Growing up in New Jersey he lacked motivation, he said. His father was a stereotypical Irish detective who’d come home about once a year cast on his hand. ”Fighting crime,” he would tell his twin sons, Mark and Scott. They would later learn that these were as much the results of bar fights as crime fighting. Kelly’s mother worked as a secretary and waitress before she decided she too wanted to become a police officer. A small woman she would have to scale a seven-foot, two-inch wall in nine seconds to qualify. Unbeknownst to her, her husband made it an inch taller. When it came time for the test, she scaled it in under five seconds, faster than most of the male candidates. She became one of the first female police officers in New Jersey. “That was the first time in my life I saw the power of having a goal and a plan and what it meant to work really hard for something,” Kelly said. “It certainly motivated for me.” He set a goal of becoming a Navy pilot and beyond that a test pilot and beyond that an astronaut. His ultimate goal was to be the first person to walk on Mars. After graduating from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in 1986, he headed off for pilot training There were snags along the way. He was not a gifted pilot. After his first go at landing on an aircraft carrier, the instructor pilot asked him: “Are you sure this career is for you?” Still, “I did not give up,” Kelly said. “How good you are at the beginning of something you try is not a good indicator of how good you can become. I’m a prime example of somebody who’s able to overcome a serious lack of aptitude with practice, persistence, and just not giving up. Always remember effort, that counts twice” Later on his first combat mission during the Gulf War, he made an almost fatal decision. In order to avoid running a gauntlet of Iraqi missile defenses after attacking his target, he decided to return to his aircraft carrier by heading through Iranian air space. His navigator questioned the decision, but he continued anyways. As he flew back, he heard radio traffic about an enemy fighter heading out of Iranian air space and fighters on their way to intercept it.  That Iraqi plane had no chance, he thought to himself….


Project Connect serves with no strings attached

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   They started lining up in the darkness at 6:45 a.m. – waiting for Project Connect to open Wednesday at 9 a.m. “Before the doors opened we had a line around the building,” said Erin Hachtel, co-chair of the fifth annual Project Connect coordinated by local social services and held at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Bowling Green. The one-day event is a one-stop shop for goods and services for people in the Bowling Green area. “It’s to bring together people who have needs with people who can provide for those needs,” Hachtel said. The needs were varied. People came for a warm meal and bags of food to take home, for dental exams and vision checkups, for flu shots and birth certificates, and for winter coats for entire families. They went home with all that and more at no cost to them. As always, those seeking help were not called patients, consumers or clients. They were called “guests.” “Project Connect is a hospitality event where everyone is welcome,” Hachtel said. Help is offered with no strings attached. “We don’t ask at the door for them to prove they are in need.” Each guest was assigned to a volunteer, who helped them navigate through the sea of services offered. Barbara Ramsay, of Bowling Green, had come to the program before – but this year she was using a wheelchair. Her goal was to get food, a winter coat for her “grandbaby,” some leads on rental housing that is handicapped accessible, and a copy of her birth certificate. The Wood County Health District printed off the certificates for 110 people, with a donor paying the costs. “I think it’s awesome,” Ramsay said, holding her certificate. Further down the hall, Danielle Lashaway, of Rudolph, was getting her hair cut for the first time in more than a year. “I always wear my hair up. It’s time for a change,” she said, smiling. Lashaway also had plans to pick up some food and winter clothing for her seven children. She was hoping to find winter coats for all of them, aged 10 to 4. “It really helps tremendously,” she said of Project Connect. “Stuff is expensive.” Alva Barnes, 71, of Weston, said he came to Project Connect because his daughter brought him. But while there, he planned to get help with his checkbook, and get his eyesight checked since it had been several years since his last eye exam. “I think it’s a good idea,” Barnes said of the event as he waited his turn for the vision testing. A couple doors down, another guest was having her teeth checked by Dr. Scott Louderback. In the makeshift exam room, the dentist was primarily screening for oral cancer and trying to direct people to a dental center….


BGSU Optimal Aging Institute looks variety of issues affecting elders

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Bowling Green State University faculty and students are working to improve the lives of people across the lifespan, through teaching, research and engagement. To help expand our understanding of the needs of the older generation, the University’s Optimal Aging Institute is supporting research projects related to the health and well-being of older adults. The institute is funding four internal BGSU grants this year that look at a range of timely issues, from LGBTQ individuals in senior living facilities to people who had planned to retire but who for financial reasons cannot. “We’re seeing dramatic cultural and societal changes,” said Paula Davis, director of the institute. New needs are being revealed, along with the appropriate ways of addressing them. This is nowhere more apparent in nursing homes and other senior-living facilities, she said. One of the OAI grants is focused on helping these facilities better serve LGBTQ individuals, a population not previously acknowledged. Moving into such a facility is a dramatic change for all people, and LGBTQ individuals may face additional challenges and stress. “For many LGBTQ seniors who have lived openly, moving into a nursing home or assisted living facility may mean going back into the closet,” said Dr. Laura Landry-Meyer, an associate professor of family and consumer sciences. She and Dr. Elizabeth Holman, an assistant professor of human development and family studies, are examining how best to provide diversity training for employees of senior living centers so that they can understand and be sensitive to non-heterosexual residents. Holman and Landry-Meyer are partnering with Brookdale Bowling Green to pilot an educational program and then to test its effectiveness, using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Their project, “Creating Contextual Support: Barriers to Implementing LGBTQ Diversity Training in Senior Living Facilities,” will implement face-to-face training adapted from existing models. “The training is out there, unique to the needs, it’s just that nobody is using it,” Holman said. “Except for in a few states, nobody markets their facilities as LGBTQ-friendly. They may fear it’s too political to take a public stance, or there may be other fears that create hesitation on their part. “We want to know what types of support these facilities need to implement this training, and what we need to do to help get people over that hump of acceptance,” she said. “We also want the staff to feel more secure in knowing how to relate to people. Being silent about LGBTQ issues doesn’t enhance the support and feelings of being in a safe space that promotes healthy aging for this population. “When an LGBTQ person moves into a senior living facility, they may face discrimination or experience a fear of discrimination. All that stress unique to LGBTQ people can make them more vulnerable. They worry about how their neighbors and the staff…


Local artists promote awareness through book “Migraine365”

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Elizabeth Roberts-Zibbel doesn’t take her migraines lying down. Migraine disease may immobilize her at times, but she’s resolved to be a voice for others who suffer. It means being active on social media as Lady Migraine at ladymigraine.com. It means writing for migraine.com, and appearing in videos being the face for the many tormented by the silent demon. It means teaming with her husband John Roberts-Zibbel to write a graphic journal, “Migraine 365,” that looks at daily life for someone with migraine disease and their loved ones. In their case that includes two daughters Isobel, 8, and Alexandra 12. The book was self-published and can be purchased at blurb.com. “I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have them,” she said of the severe headaches and array of symptoms that accompany them. She was diagnosed when she was a child and remembers always having at least one per week, but the headaches didn’t become chronic, fifteen or more per month, until she was 30. “It was always a big problem,” Roberts-Zibbel said. “It took me a lot longer to get through college.” She persisted, but so did the migraine disease. Her first pregnancy was debilitating, and her second even worse. “Sometimes the pain gets so bad you want to shoot yourself in the head.” The disease forced her out of jobs. Now as a partner in Zibbel Media, she is a key player on the BG Independent News team, handling advertising, posting obituaries, and occasionally contributing articles. John Roberts-Zibbel got the idea for “Migraine 365” in 2014 while the family was on vacation in Cape May, New Jersey. Everything was going wrong, including no air conditioning in the middle of summer. And weather, Elizabeth said, “is one of my worst triggers.” John has been involved in the world of fantasy and comics for years, both as an illustrator and with his live rapping character The Mechanical Cat, who makes regular appearances at local clubs. Drawing during that hellish vacation, he got the idea of chronicling the daily life of the family, and how migraine disease weaves through it, and how the various members, including the children, maneuver through it. Elizabeth provided the narrative and poems. “The idea is to show what it is to live with migraine disease,” John said. He also launched a website for the project, which he said has reached 3,000 families touched by migraine disease. “And people are still visiting it.” “Migraine 365” isn’t just about the headaches. The book starts on the first day of the Ferguson riots. The year was an eventful one. Elizabeth Roberts-Zibbel started participating in drug trials to find better medications to treat the pain and symptoms of migraine disease. On the family front Alexandra started participating in Horizon Youth Theatre with her mother becoming involved in…


Families find solid, supportive homes through Habitat

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Two families who never believed they would be homeowners, were recently given keys to their new homes. They are very different families. Olivia Rice grew up in Weston, in the same town where her Habitat for Humanity home was built. Love Ezell and Addam Currie are from Cleveland, Detroit and now Bowling Green, and will be living next door to Rice. But they also share some fundamental similarities. They both dreamed of the day they would own a home, and they both look forward to raising their small children in their Habitat houses. And both families recently gave strangers tours of their new homes and thanked people who they grew to know as they worked side-by-side on their houses. “Without all of your help, we couldn’t be here right now,” Rice said, as she accepted the keys to her home. “Now I get to raise my son in this town that I grew up in.” Currie also offered his family’s gratitude. “Thank you for everyone’s efforts,” he said. “Thank you for all the blessings. I appreciate all of this.” The homes are modest, but they are solid. They are in a good neighborhood and come with family support from Habitat for Humanity. During the dedication of the two homes on Brooke Lane, the new homeowners were welcomed by Weston Village Council member Penny Taylor. “Welcome to Weston,” Taylor said. “We love Weston, and what a day to celebrate – gorgeous weather and brand new neighbors.” Donna Mertz, a Habitat volunteer, presented the families with Bibles that former volunteer Harriet Rosebrock made arrangements for before she passed away. “You’ve been waiting a long time for this, haven’t you,” Mertz said to Ezell about her new home. Ezell and Currie will share their home with their 2-year-old twins, Nia and Qadira. Though far different from her previous home in Detroit, Ezell said that Weston suits them just fine. “I like the small town feel,” she said as she stood in one of her home’s bedrooms. “And you don’t have to constantly be worried about the landlord increasing the rent.” Ezell works at Dollar General, and Currie works at DOWA. But without Habitat, the couple had little hope of ever affording their own home. Rice was in the same situation. She works for Wood Lane Residential and has a 2-year-old son, Andrew McKee. “I actually grew up in Weston,” Rice said as she pointed out how she is planning to arrange her kitchen, and how Andrew’s room will have a Mickey Mouse theme. “I am excited,” she said. “Andrew’s going to have his own backyard to play in.” “Not in a million years did I think I’d ever be able to afford a house,” Rice said. But with the help of Habitat and its volunteers,…