Family

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. “The biggest thing is having a dental home. Without that, things fall through the cracks,” Louderback said. Though some guests came to address immediate needs, the program also addressed needs that can have lasting effects. They were linked up with agencies like Salvation Army, Job and Family Services, the Health District, the Cocoon, the Child Support Enforcement Agency, and senior services. “We try to provide for long term needs so families can deal with whatever they need to deal with,”…


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 will react if they have or had a same-sex partner. Can they feel comfortable negotiating conversations with staff, or in the dining room? Also, from a family perspective, does someone feel comfortable coming out as the parent or grandparent of an LGBTQ relative? There’s a large range of attitudes toward LGBTQ populations, and we want to figure out how to best train senor living facilities to become more supportive of all their residents.” Ohio is a good place to test…


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 helping manage the troupe. Now both girls participate. They both had parts in the recent production of “Cinderella.” John and Elizabeth tried to represent days when not much happened as well, though there were times when a hectic life kept John away from his drawing tools. He had a little help. “Each girl has a page they drew themselves,” Elizabeth said. “It makes them feel proud.” “Migraine 365” is a vivid representation of “an invisible disease.” “You don’t look sick,”…


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, the homes took shape. During the dedication, Mark Ohashi, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Wood County, thanked the Good Samaritans who helped. “I’m amazed at how many people had their hands in the project,” Ohashi said. “This is the case where too many cooks are a good thing.” Many people have never had to question if they would have a safe place to live. But that’s not the case for many others. “We all take decent housing for…


Reports of elder abuse on the rise in Wood County

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Wood County Probate Court is seeing more cases of elderly abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Judge David Woessner who presides over the court, said Wednesday, that he hopes it is because of greater awareness leading to more reports. Raising that awareness was the purpose the program presented by Wood County Job and Family Services after the annual Flag Day Pause for the Pledge observance. Tying the two programs together is fitting Woessner said: “So today when we recognize the flag and all it stands for, we should also recognize our need and our responsibility to help the elderly avoid abuse, neglect, and exploitation.” Mark Briseno, the adult protective services supervisor at Job and Family Services, said that in all of 2016 his office handled 260 cases. So far this year, there have been 149 reports, putting the office on track to handle 300 in 2017. He said that the increase probably reflects both heightened awareness leading to people reporting more readily as well as more cases. “It’s hard to really tell,” he said. “It’s a combination of both. Hopefully the efforts we’re taking to get the word out is contributing to more reporting. On the other hand, the elderly population is growing.” And he knows there are many more cases. Nationally only 1 in 14 cases is reported. “We have abuse by family members, neglect by family members or someone who may be in charge of someone’s care or an elderly person who is neglecting themselves,” he said. This may be because of memory loss or physical conditions that prevent them from taking care of themselves. Wood County, he said, is better situated to handle the situation, he said. His office has a supervisor, two case workers, and six homemakers, who help older residents handle light housekeeping. This service makes it possible for them to stay in their homes “which what we all want,” Briseno said. They also serve as another set of eyes, watching for signs of trouble. They are part of a network of people and agencies combating the problem, he said. They include hospitals, nursing homes, law enforcement, and mental health agencies. “It’s a collaborative effort.” It often takes more than one of those to resolve a case, Briseno said. Woessner said that the state has expanded the number of people now mandated to report suspicions of elderly abuse. The state is offering training on the topic to a range of professionals. Last week, he said, the state’s probate judges heard a presentation on the financial exploitation of senior citizens. Briseno said that the state is developing a database to better track cases. He also said it would be good if other counties had the same resources that Wood County offers.


Painful loss turned into pleasure at pool for children

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Part of Leah Pekarik was dreading Wednesday. That was the day a new splash pad creature was being dedicated in honor of her daughter, Clara, who died last year at just 10 weeks old. But the other part of Pekarik was overwhelmed by the generosity of the community to turn her family’s pain into pleasure for other children in Bowling Green. With the help of community members who love Leah, her husband, Scott, and their son, Bobby, the day of dread turned into a day of joy surrounding Clara’s short life. “Everyone in this community knows Leah and loves her,” said Kristin Otley, director of the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department. “So many community members contacted us and said, ‘We want to do something.’” So the park and recreation program came up with a plan. “We asked people to help us remember Clara and give other children in the community something to smile about,” Otley said. When the new aquatic center was built in City Park, there were not enough funds to furnish the “splash pad” area with “creatures” that spray water on children. The idea was to add a frog creature to the area for $6,000. “We started just with that,” Otley said of the original plan to add a frog to the splash pad in honor of Clara. “We got an outpouring of support from people who knew her and from people who didn’t know her.” So the plan grew, with the Wood County Park District donating money for a “snake” creature spitting water at the splash pad, and the Bowling Green Community Foundation and Bowling Green Parks Foundation paid for “flowers” that dump water onto squealing children. “She had such an impact,” Otley said of Pekarik, who worked for the city parks for 11 years. “People wanted to do something to bring smiles to kids’ faces.” And that’s exactly what happened on Wednesday as the ribbon was officially cut at the splash pad. “We’re here to celebrate a heartfelt project that has a lot of meaning,” for the community and especially for the Pekarik family, said Earlene Kilpatrick, executive director of the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce. As they lined up to cut the ribbon, Clara’s big brother, Bobby, 7, held onto the giant scissors with Mayor Dick Edwards. “This is a grand day,” Edwards said. “This is a wonderful occasion.” Though the day was chilly and windy, children couldn’t resist the new splash pad creatures. And Clara’s mom found comfort in that. “Bobby will not be the only child to get to play with Clara” at the splash pad, Leah Pekarik said. “She’s not with us at home, but we get to see her here.” Leah said Wednesday that her family still desperately misses their little girl who was boisterous, even tempered, and on her way to being a “ginger” like Bobby. There are times, like when she is picking up Bobby from ball practice, when she looks in her rearview mirror to get a glimpse of Clara’s carseat. “She should be here,” Leah feels at those moments. But while she used to hope for strength to get through minutes, those stretched into hours, and now into days. “I’ve got good days with bad moments,” she said….


Reading takes flight with launch of 1,000 Book Before Kindergarten

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Reading a 1,000 books to a child before they enter school seems on the face of it a daunting task. Those little ones who attended the kickoff for the Wood County District Library’s 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten got five books under their belts just listening to Denise Fleming. Fleming’s book “Alphabet Under Construction” was the free book given to each child signed up for the program. Since it was a day made for gardening, as Fleming declared at the beginning of her presentation, the books she read were inspired by nature. Before started she planted a flower in the hair of Children’s Librarian Maria Simon, and then donned a ringlet of flowers. Then she set about cultivating a love of reading in children. She did it by turning the letters in her name into a parade of creatures and flowers. She offered a simple drawing lesson turning a series of ovals into faces of different ages. She stretched the kids’ imaginations when she asked them what they saw in an oval inside a squiggly circle. It could be an egg, a flower, a flat tire, a pancake with a pad of butter in the middle – Fleming added a pool of syrup around the edges. It could be a hot air balloon in a cloud, or the reflection of the sun in water. It could be, the author illustrator said, a story if you sewed those elements together with a narrative thread. Fleming is a big believer in the goal of the 1,000 books initiative. Literacy is essential. Yes, there’s the fun of stories but there’s also the practical side. What if someone couldn’t read a menu or a recipe? She and her husband, David Powers, learned the skills they needed to build a studio from books. When she set about reading her books, she didn’t stop moving, and she got her audience moving as well. She read “Mama Cat Has Three Kittens,” and instructed those on one side of the room act out the parts of the two kittens who did everything their mother did and those on the other side act out the other kitten, who napped a lot. Napped, that is, until he awoke and pounced on his sleeping mother and siblings. “Pounce” is the kind of word Fleming likes. Words that convey action. Words that convey character. “Alphabet Under Construction” is all about those verbs. Fleming said she keeps lists of words, including regional expressions she picks up in her travels. Acting out the words helps bring them to life and make their meaning clear, she said. English as Second Language teachers have said it help embed them in the mind. So there was a lot of acting out, and not just by kids. Fleming recruited adults to help her set the scene before the reading of her book “In the Tall, Tall Grass.” Fleming wasn’t satisfied with the adults simply using the noise makers and props she gave them, they needed to prance about while doing it. Fleming packed her presentation with joy. Later she was asked how long it took her to write a book. She said about a year. Fleming allowed that she could make more money if she cranked out two titles a year. Some of her peers set…


Mothers turn tragedy into efforts to help others hooked on heroin

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Sunday will be agonizing for sisters Kat Cordes and Lori Hanway. It will be the first Mother’s Day they spend without their children who both died from heroin overdoses. “She would have been 24 yesterday,” Cordes said of her daughter, Amanda Haas, who died in March at age 23. “We had a birthday cake for her and let balloons go.” Hanway’s son, Thomas Urhammer died in December at age 35. After years of battling heroin, both cousins lost to their fierce addictions. In an effort to find some hope in their losses, the two mothers have planned a memorial benefit and tribute to their children, this Saturday, at the Eagles Club in Bowling Green. The event will raise awareness and funding for Team Recovery, a group that helps opiate users beat their addictions. “It has to be done. It’s getting out of control,” Cordes said of the opiate epidemic. “It helps me. I feel like if I help one person turn their life around, another parent doesn’t have to go through what I did.” Earlier this week, the sisters took turns talking about their children and their heart wrenching losses as they prepared meals at A Taste of Amish Deli, owned by Hanway in Bowling Green. Cordes said Amanda first started taking heroin when she began dating someone around age 17. “It started as snorting. When that wasn’t a good enough high, they went to IV drug use,” she said. Cordes and her husband soon realized valuables were taken from their home. “I started noticing things missing to support their habits.” Gone were her jewelry, wedding ring, TV and tools. She also noticed a personality change in Amanda. “She was so smart. All her friends asked her to do their math,” her mom said, with tears rolling down her face. The family lives on a farm, and Amanda was a big-hearted animal lover. “She wanted to let the animals go.” “That happens. It turns them into different people,” Cordes said. “She would get clean for a little bit. She’d go to rehab and it always went back to the same thing. It was too strong for her. She couldn’t get away from it. It was heartbreaking. Still is.” “I always envied moms who had great relationships with their daughters. I haven’t had that for so long,” she said, wiping tears. Hanway’s son, Thomas was a jack-of-all-trades with talents in woodworking, carpentry, painting and home renovating. He was a good cook and excelled in hockey when he was younger. “He’d go out of his way to help anyone,” his mom said. Like many, he struggled for years with the addiction. “He was in and out of out-patient services,” Hanway said. “He was going to get help after Christmas, but he died before he could,” she said, wiping tears from her cheeks. Thomas died on Dec. 16, 2016, from a deadly dose of fentanyl. He was helping his mom with a catering job, when he told her he was running home for a few minutes. “It only took Thomas five minutes and he was gone,” Hanway said. “I wish I could have just held him down and said, ‘You’re not going anywhere.’” After Thomas’ death, the family held an intervention with Amanda in an…


New Cocoon can shelter more survivors of violence

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The tour of the new Cocoon shelter was personal for some of those getting their first look Sunday at the safe place for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. As a counselor, Joan Staib worked with a girl who saw her mom stabbed to death by her father. “I could tell you 60 stories of women impacted by domestic violence,” Staib said as she toured the new Cocoon. Places like this, she said, can help prevent the violence or help survivors deal with the aftermath. “The healing can be awesome,” she said. The tour was also personal for Becca Ferguson. Her mother was the victim of domestic violence, at a time when there were few services to help. “Her attorney told her to get in a car and drive to Florida,” from her home in Georgia, Ferguson said. “Violence toward women is a problem everywhere, including Bowling Green and Wood County,” Ferguson said as she stood in the kitchen of the new Cocoon. “I firmly believe we need safe places everywhere, especially for women and children.” The new Cocoon site, located in the former Elks Club at 200 Campbell Hill Road, will include living spaces for those in emergency situations. The shelter portion is scheduled to be open later this month. The building will also have advocacy services for victims of violence who need help navigating the court system, learning financial management skills, and other services. The new site, under director Michelle Clossick, allows all the services and sheltering to be in one location. The shelter portion of the site will be able to house twice as many people as the current Cocoon shelter which opened 12 years ago in an apartment building in Bowling Green. The new site will have improved security, with several cameras, fencing, and entrance by key cards. Unlike the current shelter, the new more spacious site has a large kitchen with a community dining area, a playroom for children, pet-friendly rooms, and handicapped accessible rooms. Plans call for outdoor play areas, a garden, and walking path to create nurturing spaces and reduce the impact of trauma. “It gives us the ability to provide a sense of community,” as well as security and safe places for children to play, said Kathy Mull, program director. “Some people who may be reluctant to come to our current facility may be more comfortable coming here,” said Cocoon board member Paul Haas. “Safety is a huge issue,” Haas said as he led a tour on Sunday. “There are cameras all over this facility.” The shelter section has 24 beds, compared to the current site’s 12 beds which are often at capacity. “We do turn folks away from time to time,” said Courtney Schaefer, director of finance for the Cocoon. The goal is to provide transitional housing to survivors of sexual and domestic violence and sex trafficking. “This is an emergency shelter,” with the goal of 90-day maximum stays, Haas said. “The intent is to help people move back into society in a safe place.” Sheltering makes up just 10 percent of the services provided by the Cocoon. The remaining 90 percent includes counseling, legal help getting restraining orders, programming to help with employment, safety assistance, and financial advice. The Cocoon staffs a…


Author overcomes learning disabilities to become storyteller

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Patricia Polacco, author and illustrator of more than 100 books, remembers the horror of being forced to read in front of her class. She would clutch the book so hard, her nails would break. “To me, that was like being asked to stand in front of a firing squad,” Polacco told her audience of parents and children Saturday at the Literacy in the Park event at Bowling Green State University. “I could not read until I was 14 years old. I could not write. I couldn’t do math,” she said. “I felt stupid. I felt dumb.” Polacco recalled the unintentional cruelty of her classmates. “The whole class started laughing at me,” when she tried to read aloud. “Please don’t laugh,” she told her audience on Saturday. “You have no idea how much you are hurting that kid.” Polacco’s life turned around at age 14 when one of her teachers finally realized that she was dyslexic and dysgraphic. She was also unable to learn when sitting still – something that wasn’t understood till years later. “In my day at school, I had to sit like a rock.” So Polacco is a big believer in the individuality of children and the way they learn. “I believe all children are gifted. The trick is, we don’t open our gifts at the same time.” Polacco, who lives in Michigan, has turned her gifts into beautifully illustrated children’s books. “For me, art is like breathing,” she said. She didn’t started writing books till she was 41. “Older than dirt,” she told her young audience. In the last 31 years, she has written about 115 books. “They come out of me so fast, I can barely keep up with them.” Polacco comes from a family of storytellers – her mother’s people were from Russia and Ukraine, and her father’s people were from Ireland. As she was growing up, her family did not own a television. She asked the children in the audience to guess what she and her brother watched every evening. “My grandmother, that’s what we watched,” she said of her babushka, who loved to tell stories. “I heard all of her stories over 1,000 times.” When Polacco and her brother would ask if the stories were true, her grandmother would look over her glasses at them and say in her Russian accent, “Well of course it’s true story. But it may not have happened.” Many of her beloved babushka’s stories became Polacco’s books. Others found their roots in her “rotten red-headed older brother.” She told her audience to expect more books on her colorful brother. “He’s a never ending source of inspiration.” As a child, Polacco worried about losing touch with her close knit family. Her mother sewed pieces of clothing from several family members into a quilt, so Polacco would always have home and family with her wherever she goes. The quilt was named the “keeping quilt,” which became the focus of one of her books. The quilt became a steady presence of the past at family events – used as a table cloth, picnic blanket, wedding canopy, superman cape, on beds, and to welcome new babies into the family. On Saturday, she held up the quilt and asked for a parent to bring a…


Michigan author Patricia Polacco Literacy in the Park guest

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Bowling Green State University’s annual Literacy in the Park event will feature popular children’s author Patricia Polacco. The Lansing native has written and illustrated more than 115 books for children in addition to being a playwright and penning for adults. She is a much-sought-after lecturer and keynote speaker. Some of her most popular books include “The Keeping Quilt,” “Thunder Cake” and “Thank you, Mr. Falker.” Presented by BGSU’s College of Education and Human Development, Literacy in the Park will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 29, at Perry Field House. The event is free and open to the public. Last year, more than 2,000 people attended the event. Literacy in the Park, which has taken place for more than a decade, promotes the importance of literacy in the lives of children and features more than 40 interactive exhibitor booths and displays. The focus of the event has been expanded to address all of the different ways literacy is important in our lives. In addition to reading and writing activities, families will have opportunities to engage in activities about digital literacy, science and environmental literacy, financial literacy, nutritional literacy, physical education literacy and many other forms of literacy that can be found in their lives and communities. In addition to these literacy-related activities going on throughout the day, there will also be entertainment on the main stage and two presentations from Polacco. Born in Michigan, Polacco’s family on her mother’s side were Jewish immigrants from Russia and the Ukraine, and her father’s people were from the County of Limerick in Ireland. Both cultures valued and kept their history alive by storytelling. Her heritage and the themes of family traditions and storytelling feature prominently in her books, which touch on a wide variety of topics including bullying and understanding differences, learning disabilities, tradition and heritage, family relationships and more. While there is no cost to attend, guests are encouraged to preregister to speed entry into the Field House. More information and registration is available at bgsu.edu/literacyinthepark. Guests with disabilities are requested to indicate if they need special services, assistance or appropriate modifications to fully participate in this event by contacting Accessibility Services, access@bgsu.edu 419-372-8495 prior to the event.


Funding defended for programs Trump wants to slash

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   While President Donald Trump’s administration is attacking the value of federally funded community programs, the proof is right here in Wood County. Local officials suggested the administration look at the seniors kept in their homes by the Meals on Wheels program, the children nourished through the WIC program, and the small villages improved through the CDBG program. When Trump’s budget proposal was unveiled Thursday, the winners were the military and border control. The losers were the arts, the environment, the poor, the elderly and the very young. And the cuts weren’t made with a scalpel, but with a guillotine. Local officials who normally make tempered responses to hot button political issues could no longer bite their tongues. When Mick Mulvaney, the president’s budget director, said the Meals on Wheels cuts were justified because the program was “just not showing any results,” the comments pushed Denise Niese past her normally polite poise. “I heard that last night and I was appalled,” said Niese, executive director of the Wood County Committee on Aging. The local Meals on Wheels program is not as dependent as some areas on the federal funding, but it is vital to local residents, serving 132,000 meals last year. Sometimes it’s difficult to collect hard data on social services, but Niese said the proof is in the pudding – and all the other menu items. “We do know that people with home-delivered meals can maintain themselves in their homes at a much lower cost than going into long-term care,” she said. Considering the fact that the local Meals on Wheels cost an average of $4.92 per meal to produce and deliver, that is a real bargain compared to a senior citizen moving to a nursing home facility. “It is cost effective,” Niese said. “There are people who have been able to stay in their homes for five, 10 or 15 years,” thanks to the home-delivered meals. Wood County Health Commissioner Ben Batey is also worried about the cuts coming from Washington. “Any time we’re talking about reducing social services for people, that’s going to be troubling,” he said. “We all want a strong military,” Batey said, referring one of the winners in Trump’s budget. “But when it’s at the cost of a lot of our programs that help people, it’s concerning.” On the chopping block in the budget proposal is the WIC nutrition program, which helps provide nutritious food for pregnant women, infants and young children. “If we’re not taking into account how we take care of kids, that’s disturbing,” Batey said. Batey is unsure how the funding will look once it gets through the federal process, then goes through the state budget process. He worries that cuts will “drastically affect a program at our level.” Dave Steiner, director of the Wood County Planning Commission, is concerned about the Community Development Block Grants, which appear to be a front row target in the budget cuts. “Given the way the winds are blowing in Washington, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were on the chopping block,” Steiner said. Mulvaney claimed the grants to local communities “don’t do any good.” Steiner has seen otherwise, over and over and over. In Wood County, the CDBGs have been used by small communities to put in…


Citizens sick about losing health insurance

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   More than 20 local citizens crowded into U.S. Rep. Bob Latta’s office on Thursday to tell the congressman they are sick with worry over the looming repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Latta’s staff listened politely and said they would pass on the concerns. But that wasn’t good enough. “I really want to talk to my representative about the Affordable Care Act,” said Sheri Wells-Jensen, who organized the meeting. Others joined in pushing for a face-to-face with Latta. “Rep. Latta needs to have a public town hall meeting. I think he needs to listen to what’s going on locally,” said Laura Landry Meyer. “He needs to get out of Washington.” His staff stressed that Latta has held close to 700 public events during his terms in Congress. “I understand that, but things are changing by the hour now,” Landry Meyer said. Tim Bosserman, Latta’s district representative, said he did not have a current schedule for the congressman. If a local meeting is scheduled, it will appear on Latta’s website, he said. But the group was persistent, and continued asking for a commitment for a town hall meeting. Wells-Jensen offered condolences for the “poor staffers” in the Bowling Green office who weren’t equipped with the congressman’s schedule. Melanie Stretchbery put the staff on notice that this is no longer business as usual. “We are voters. We are taxpayers and we’re not sitting down anymore,” she said. “We want to be heard,” Landry Meyer said. The biggest concern in the room was the possibility of the Affordable Care Act being repealed with no replacement plan in place. “Address the problem, but don’t pull the rug out from under the people who need it most,” Stretchbery said. Nancy Brownell agreed, noting that many of the problems with the ACA are occurring because the Republicans fought against the single-payer system. “We should never have a repeal before we have something to replace it,” she said. “The Affordable Care Act has made an incredible difference. Repealing it now is not an option.” Bosserman was asked about Latta’s position on repealing the ACA. “I can’t speak for him personally,” Bosserman said. But he said Congress is working on a replacement plan. “I don’t have the inside scoop on what the plan is.” Some of the citizens noted the irony of health care being a struggle in the U.S. “It doesn’t make any sense to me that a country such as ours – one of the greatest in the world – and we’re battling over health care,” Lynn Wineland said. The issue is not partisan, they stressed. It is a matter of doing what is right. To repeal would be “irresponsible, immoral and unethical,” Stretchbery said. “What it will really do is abandon the people who need it most,” Andy Schocket said. Among those would be people with pre-existing conditions – many who were unable to get health insurance prior to the ACA. Linda Smead talked about her daughter who had leukemia. Each of her hospitalizations cost at least $100,000, and she stayed in an abusive marriage for the health insurance. The ACA allowed her to leave the abuse and get her own health care, Smead said. Beverly Elwazani told of her oldest son who has controlled asthma and…


Child abuse cases increase locally by 25% last year

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Child abuse investigations increased in Wood County by nearly 25 percent in 2016 – a jump never seen before by the staff at Children’s Services. The number of cases went from 718 in 2015 up to 894 in 2016 – meaning 176 more child abuse investigations. Cases of abuse were reported in every community in the county. The increase is being attributed to more people reporting child abuse or neglect cases when they see them, and to the rising opiate epidemic. The numbers were presented Thursday to the Wood County Commissioners. The number of physical abuse cases investigated in 2016 was 224, the number of sexual abuse cases was 142, the number of neglect cases was 439, and the number of emotional abuse cases was 19. Drugs were involved in 212 of the cases. “The drug cases are much more difficult,” and take longer to resolve, according to Sandi Carsey, director of Wood County Children’s Services. “It’s normal for people to relapse,” added Brandy Laux, assessment supervisor at Wood County Children’s Services. When investigators arrive at homes with drug problems, “there are bigger issues,” of finances, eviction, utilities and loss of employment. Nearly every month last year saw more child abuse reports than the year before. “Every month last year, except for December, we increased,” Carsey said. And this January is seeing the same uptick. “I would hope we wouldn’t have as big of a spike, but we never know,” Carsey said. In expectation of the increases, the county commissioners approved an additional staff person in Children’s Services last year. “That helps with the load for the workers,” Laux asid. Children’s Services will once again be trying to raise awareness by placing a field of pinwheels out in April, with one pinwheel for each case investigated last year. This year, however, separate pinwheels will be placed in communities throughout the county where child abuse or neglect have been investigated, Carsey said. Those pinwheels are intended to make people aware of abuse occurring throughout the county. Following is a list of the number of cases investigated in each community in the county in 2016: Bowling Green – 210 Perrysburg – 186 Northwood – 80 North Baltimore – 73 Weston – 50 Rossford – 47 Walbridge – 26 Fostoria – 26 Bradner – 24 Grand Rapids – 22 Millbury – 21 Pemberville – 17 Rudolph – 15 Custar – 12 Wayne – 12 Cygnet – 11 Bloomdale – 10 Risingsun – 9 Luckey – 9 Toledo (LCCS) – 8 Jerry City – 8 Portage – 7 Hoytville – 5 Haskins – 3 Milton Center – 3


BGSU sociologists’ research garners close to $2 million in grant funding

By BOB CUNNINGHAM BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS Bowling Green State University recently was awarded three grants for sociology research totaling nearly $2 million. The largest grant is $1.1 million from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development/National Institutes of Health (NICHD/NIH) for the support of the Center for Family and Demographic Research. The center was formed on BGSU’s campus in 2000, and has been continuously funded by NICHD since 2002. There are fewer than 25 universities that are funded for a population research center in the country. The other two grants are for the studies “Pathways Linking Parental Incarceration and Child Well-being” for $500,000, funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ); and for the “Social Influences on the Long-term Cessation of Violence” for $384,000, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The grants were written by Wendy D. Manning, Distinguished Research Professor of Sociology, Peggy C. Giordano, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Sociology, and Monica A. Longmore, Professor of Sociology. The three professors, who also are close friends, have been working together on research at the University since the late 1990s. “We are happy to have support for the Center for Family and Demographic Research,” said Manning, who is the director of the CFDR and the principal investigator (PI) on the NIH grant. “The Center grant is an infrastructure grant that provides work space, security, conference rooms and skilled staff to support research at Bowling Green on health and well-being of children, youth and families.” Since its inception in 2000, research at the Center has aligned with the Population Dynamics Branch scientific mission with a focus on family demography, fertility and reproductive health, and social contexts and well-being. The CFDR provides national leadership, and continues to foster an environment of innovation and collaboration that yields high-impact research on cutting-edge issues in demography including new work on same-sex couples, family trajectories of reproductive health, and the role of the criminal justice system in families and well-being. The grants for the Pathways and Cessation of Violence projects will allow the researchers to expand their longitudinal studies. Getting this kind of grant “is something we’re all really proud of,” Longmore said, noting that it places BGSU among elite universities. The NSF and NIJ grants draw on the BGSU researchers’ original work that started with a study of teens who lived in Lucas County in northwest Ohio, and the project has looked at a lot of different aspects of their “growing-up years” ever since. “We have followed them since they were teens,” said Giordano, who has led the project. “We’ve interviewed them five times, and these new grants will allow us to interview them a sixth time. We have had different kinds of focuses throughout the project, ranging from dating and sexuality to intimate partner violence as they got older.” One aspect of the sixth interview will look at the range of their experiences with the criminal justice system, including the experience of being incarcerated. “We are looking at what effect, if any, does parental incarceration and other system contact have on the young people in these families who have had this experience,” Giordano said. “It’s a timely issue with the interest in mass incarceration and then the growth of the use of incarceration. What effect does this have…