Dressed in Confidence

“When I was in full regalia, all the anxiety and nerves went away,” Keegan Dittmer said. “I felt confidence I hadn’t felt in myself before. I knew I wanted to continue exploring this aspect of my life I hadn’t explored before.” Columbia River High School junior Keegan Dittmer started a monthly drag show in downtown Vancouver last fall for a school project. The show benefits local LGBTQ charities.

View the full story here: Dressed in Confidence

 

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Fighting breast cancer — A momentary sting to obscure the scars

Breast cancer survivor Laura Hottman recently got her first tattoo: flowers and a dragonfly across her breast to disguise the scars of her mastectomy.

For Hottman, the reconstruction and tattooing isn’t about looking like she did before cancer but about doing something for herself, something that she says makes her feel better.

And, just as importantly, when Hottman looks in the mirror now, she doesn’t see the scars.

“I see survivor,” she said.

To read the full story by Marissa Harshman, follow this link. 

Laury Giffin tattoos pink cherry blossoms on Laura Hottman’s right breast. Hottman, 54, was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2015. After a double mastectomy and reconstruction, Hottman opted for decorative tattooing to disguise the scars on her breasts.
Laury Giffin places a transfer stencil on Laura Hottman’s left breast before beginning Hottman’s tattoo. The chain of flowers and dragonfly were Hottman’s first tattoos.
Laura Hottman looks at the tattoo outline of cherry blossoms on her right breast. Hottman said she was drawn to the delicate and feminine look of the decorative flowers.
Laury Giffin, owner of De Novo, works on Laura Hottman’s tattoo of cherry blossoms during their appointment on Feb. 14, 2018, at Giffin’s studio in Vancouver. “You can see my scares a little bit though my tattoos,” Hottman said. “But I don’t think tattoos are really ever meant to completely cover what happened to your body…. for me thats a point in my life that I survived, and so when I look in the mirror and see my scars and my tattoo I think, ‘okay well you know, that was then, this is now and I’m here and I’m okay.'”
Laura Hottman was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer in May 2015. She opted for a double mastectomy to avoid the possibility of a breast cancer recurrence.
Laura Hottman looks at the tattoos on her reconstructed breasts after about two hours in the chair with tattooer Laury Giffin, of De Novo Permanent Cosmetics. The tattoos, Hottman said, help draw her eyes away from the scars.

Pleasant Valley Unicycle

Retired, but still volunteering, physical education teacher Paul White started incorporating unicycles into his Pleasant Valley School P.E. classes about 15 years ago and it took off from there. The school now offers fall and spring skills classes for novices, a unicycling club and a performance team who travel to local basketball games to wow halftime audiences. The current Pleasant Valley Unicycle Team is pictured practicing their routine for an upcoming show.

After you’ve mastered the basic unicycle, consider trying one of these five-foot giraffes. Giraffe newbies usually use a stepladder to help them climb aboard. 

Helmets? Of course they’re mandatory, coach Paul White said. Here, 10-year-old Maddie Steinman adjusts her helmet before joining the action during a Pleasant Valley Unicycle Team practice session.
Amanda Womack, left, and Peyton Palena, both 11, join hands and spin in mutual circles during a Pleasant Valley Unicycle Team practice.
A little color never hurts. Kristina Goldinov, 11, left, and Kate Steinman, 10, said they decorated the spokes of their unicycles with colorful pipe cleaners during Goldinov’s recent birthday party.
Some say that unicycle culture is taking over the Pleasant Valley neighborhood. Here, 11-year-old Peyton Palena rides the sidewalk while waiting for a parental pickup after unicycle team practice.

 

2017 in pictures

Seven months ago I packed up my whole life in my tiny Toyota and drove across the country from Indiana to Vancouver/Portland, leaving only room for my best friend, Myray, to hop in.
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It was a quick but memorable road trip. We survived the strangest B&B in Salina, Kansas where, upon arrival, the owners offered us boxed wine and a freshly baked cookie in a mini cast iron pan. The common room had chicken-shaped foot rests and a mini bar hidden inside a 5-foot metal globe. We couldn’t quite decide if it was haunted or extremely charming. That being said I don’t think I would have survived that B&B or the 36-hour drive without my trusted co-pilot. Thank you, Myray.

Starting my year out in Indiana at The Herald and ending it in southern Washington at The Columbian. It’s been a year of transitions, but I have to say, it’s starting to feel like home. It also makes me smile to see the similarities. It turns out teenagers in Washington love the roller-coaster cheer just as they did in Indiana.

Looking back through photos from the year I feel incredibly grateful for all of the people who have opened up and shared their stories. The intensity of childbirth and the pure love in the moment Cortney held her daughter Klarisa for the first time. The strength and positivity in Erin, who fought breast cancer while pregnant and just got her NED (no evidence of disease) from her oncologist. The vulnerability and openness of the three families who lost children to suicide and shared their stories to spread understanding and help other families. These people are the reason I do what I do.

Here’s a look at a few moments from the year.

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Lisa Stinson, looks up through the reeds as she hears a flock of ducks flying toward the water. Stinson, her family, and a friend arrived at their hunting spot in Petersburg around 6:00am to set the decoys and get situated before sunrise. While many couples may stop hunting together after having kids, Lisa said her and Trent enjoy bringing the kids along with them when they can. They get family time outside and teach the kids about the habitat. “I never watched a sunrise like that until I met Trent and my kids have been raised with that.” Lisa said.
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Forest Park fan Chelsie Still of Chrisney, 6, stretched with the cheerleaders during Tuesday night’s IHSAA Class 2A sectional against Perry Central at Memorial Gymnasium in Huntingburg.
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To follow their long-standing, yearly tradition, the Jasper High School boys swim team gathered after their team dinner Wednesday evening to shave their heads. The swimmers who will most likely make it through Thursday night’s preliminaries wait until right before finals Saturday to shave. Seniors Matt Head, top left, and Nick Pieper, right, buzzed senior Luis Lopez, bottom left, and sophomore Andrew King at the home of teammates Nolan and Max Henke in Jasper. After the initial buzz, they used shaving cream and razors to assure they lose every last strand of hair.
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Memory Care Coordinator Tammy Haley placed a birthday cake and candles in front of Mary Lentz during her 100th birthday celebration on Monday afternoon at Timbers of Jasper. Mary’s son Charlie Lentz of Orlando, Florida, said Mary has always been an active person. “You’d go on a walk with her and you’d be out of breath trying to keep up,” he said.
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Teresa Hopf of Jasper embraced Tim Beck of St. Anthony after she successfully hit a clay pigeon during the shooting workshop last Saturday at the third annual Women’s Wilderness Weekend. Hopf said it was her first time shooting a gun.
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The Northeast Dubois celebrated their win after Tuesday night’s game against Southridge in Dubois. The Jeeps won 42-41.
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Katie Peters of Lamar, 10, danced across the gym floor during Saturday’s third annual dance marathon at Heritage Hills High School. The student-run event raised $18,423.60 for Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.
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Certified Professional Midwife Michelle Sanders of Bedford used a fetal Doppler to monitor the baby’s heart as Cortney Ortega’s daughter, Kyndle, 3, and husband, Jose, right, sat beside them to watch the prenatal visit. In 2013, Indiana became the 28th state to legalize and regulate midwifery. Michelle has around 40 patients a year but only about 1 to 2 of those mothers are Dubois County residents. “Home birth, it sounded good to me because I knew that I could do it naturally and that it would probably be healthier for me and my child,” Cortney said.
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Bree Howard of Ferdinand, 5, watched Tuesday night’s game against Barr Reeve in Ferdinand. Bree’s father is Forest Park head coach Jarred Howard.
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Neighbors of Forest Park High School caught a glimpse of the evening game as they worked in their field Thursday in Ferdinand.
Gov. Jay Inslee greets John Letos, 2, and his mother, Crys, during his visit to Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center in Vancouver on Tuesday, July 18, 2017. Inslee met with families and medical providers to discuss the impacts of proposed Medicaid cuts. John’s twin brother, Glen, has a congenital heart defect and other medical issues that have already required several surgeries.
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Chloe Hinderliter of Battle Ground, 8, prepares for the grand entry before the 47th annual Vancouver Rodeo at Clark County Saddle Club on Friday night, June 30, 2017.
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Washougal and Woodland captains meet for the coin toss before Friday night’s game at Woodland High School on Oct. 13, 2017.
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April Cawer, left, uses an electronic cigarette as her and Zach Liev, both of Vancouver, gaze up at the solar eclipse from Fort Vancouver on Monday morning, August 21, 2017.
McKenna Artino of Canby, Ore., 8, washes her brother’s sheep at the Clark County Fairgrounds in Ridgefield on Thursday afternoon, August 3, 2017. McKenna said one of her favorite parts of fair is winning the ribbons. “If I get a higher one then I know that I’ve been getting better with my sheep,” she said. “It makes me feel really happy.”

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The Skyview football team surrounded coach Steve Kizer to celebrate his 100th win during Thursday night’s game at Battle Ground District Stadium on Oct. 12, 2017.
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Erin Maher kisses her daughter Illianna, 10 months, after changing her at their home in Vancouver on Sept. 11, 2017. Maher learned she had breast cancer in 2016 when she was 14 weeks pregnant with Illianna. Doctors told Maher strong chance of her cancer returning and taking her life in the next three years. “I can’t change it, so what’s the point in worrying about it,” said Maher. “I’ve become a better person, I’m happier. I’m more aware.”
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Ann Bucklin visits her daughter Heidi’s gravestone at Evergreen Memorial Gardens in Vancouver on Tuesday, August 8, 2017. Ann’s daughter Heidi died by suicide six years ago on May 23, 2011.”I have no problem going, but it’s always a little hard to leave,” Ann said. “I think it’s the reminder.”
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Riders take off in the 250MX Moto 1 at the Washougal National Motocross Saturday afternoon, July 29, 2017.
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Washington Department of Natural Resources firefighter Chris Werner of Chehalis works the south fireline of the Archer Mountain fire on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017 in Skamania County.

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About a dozen young adults come together three times a week for a community boxing program at Lord’s Gym in Vancouver. The program is a partnership between Safe Communities Task Force, MFA boxing and Lord’s Gym. Meme Rengechy of Vancouver, 16, gets ready for practice at at Lord’s Gym in Vancouver on Monday, Oct. 23, 2017.
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Travis O’Brien of Vancouver embraces his mother, June, as she becomes emotional during his fitting appointment at Evergreen Prosthetics & Orthotics in Vancouver on Oct. 27, 2017. O’Brien’s arm was amputated Sept. 14 after an untreated broken arm led to an infection in his bone. Struggling with drug addiction, he had self medicated his injury for a year.
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Brett Wilson of Washougal coaxes his goats Om Nom and Nibbles into this car before making a delivery on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017. Wilson started the Shrink Ray Farms’ Goatgrams business this fall, delivering a fresh bouquets of flowers to people’s door, accompanied by his two goats that gladly eat the bouquet.
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Hockinson’s Nick Charles (15) embraces Hockinson junior Isabella Smith after the 2A state football championship game onSaturday, Dec. 2, 2017, in Tacoma, Wash.
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Erica Erland and Mel Buckner work on a puzzle together on Monday evening Nov. 27, 2017, at their home in Vancouver. In 2012, same-sex marriage became legal in Washington. Mel proposed to Erica singing a Karaoke version of Bruno Mars’ “Marry You” in 2012, and a year later they were married on Sept. 1, 2013, in a best friend’s backyard in Vancouver.

Five Years of Love

A medical emergency derailed Erica Erland and Mel Buckner’s honeymoon in New England, but because they were married Erland was able to arrange for emergency care for her incapacitated wife. In 2012, same-sex marriage became legal in Washington. Over the past three days our reporter Patty Hastings shared three stories of couples and how marriage has been important in their lives.

Erica Erland and Mel Buckner work on a puzzle together on Nov. 27 as seen through the front window of their home in Vancouver. Mel proposed to Erica singing a Karaoke version of Bruno Mars’ “Marry You” in 2012.
Erica Erland, left, and Mel Buckner, right, help Erica’s son Oscar Rabideau, top their Christmas tree with a snowflake star at their home in Vancouver. Erica’s two sons, Oscar, 9, and Miles, 11, switch off weeks with their parents, spending one week with Erica and Mel and then the next with their father in Camas. Oscar shrugs when talking about his family. “They’re my parents and I love them.”
Erica Erland and Mel Buckner were married on Sept. 1, 2013, in Erica’s best friend’s backyard in Vancouver. One of their wedding photos, taken by Sarah Morrison, is pictured in their wedding album on Dec. 6, 2017. Below the photo it reads, “Erica and Mel, Each Other’s Wife.”

Mel Buckner, left, Oscar Rabideau, 9, Erica Erland and Miles Rabideau, 11, watch television together.
Mel Buckner and Erica Erland give their dog Pepper an evening snack after eating dinner with friends at their home in Vancouver.
Erica Erland hangs a Christmas ornament with a photo from her and Mel’s wedding on their tree on Dec. 4. 

Mel Buckner, left, and Erica Erland rest on the sofa together with their dog Pepper after sprucing up their home with Christmas decorations on Dec. 4.

To see the full story follow this link.

Fighting the good fight

About a dozen young adults come together three times a week for a community boxing program at Lord’s Gym in Vancouver. The program is a partnership between Safe Communities Task Force, MFA boxing and Lord’s Gym.

“We’re providing an opportunity for kids in the area to learn a skill, and have an opportunity to get good at something and really see that when you put in hard work, commit to something, put time in. The results that you get are because of that,” said Josh Beaman, organizer and county Safe Communities Task Force program coordinator.

To view the full story, follow this link.

Tony Adams, founder of Mind Fitness Attitude Boxing, center, leads a warmup during the beginning of boxing practice at Lord’s Gym in Vancouver on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. The community boxing program is a partnership between Safe Communities Task Force, MFA boxing and Lord’s Gym.
Brandon Billimon, 16, chats with Cris Martinez-Hernandez, 17, both of Vancouver, as they get ready for practice at Lord’s Gym in Vancouver on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017.
Meme Rengechy of Vancouver, 16, puts on headgear before sparring practice at Lord’s Gym in Vancouver on Monday, Oct. 23, 2017. “It keeps me in check,” said Meme. “They check on my grades and it really does keep me on check with my grades and my attitude change about it.”
Assistant coach Mariah Bridger helps Aaron Mino, both 18 and of Vancouver, practice proper form during practice at Lord’s Gym in Vancouver on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. Mariah is a registered USA athlete, coach and official.
Billimon “Birdy” Billimon of Vancouver, 19, spars with Aaron Mino of Vancouver, 18, during practice at Lord’s Gym in Vancouver on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017. Birdy has participated in the program throughout the past three years and has encouraged his brother and many of his friends to join. “Looking back at it, boxing helped me with a lot, like self discipline,” he said. “Looking back at my mistakes, I made sure not to go back because I learned from them.”
Ke’Ohe Tubania, 15, left, and Caleob Sinner, 16, both of Vancouver practice resistance drills at Lord’s Gym in Vancouver on Monday, Nov. 20, 2017. Caleob said he lost interest in sports over the past few years but really likes boxing. “It gives me a reason to do stuff,” he said. “And to go to school.”
Students line up as they wait to practice a defensive drill with coach Tony Adams at Lord’s Gym in Vancouver on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017.

Mom with breast cancer makes most of time

Erin Maher learned she had breast cancer when she was 14 weeks pregnant.
“There’s a very, very likely chance I’m not going to live until my daughter’s third birthday,” Maher said. “It’s the reality of it.”

But that doesn’t mean Maher, 33, has resigned to let cancer win or is wallowing in pity over her uncertain future.

“Quitting isn’t an option,” she said. “I plan to be around for a long time.”

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Erin Maher kisses her daughter Illianna, 9 months, after changing her diaper at their Vancouver apartment on Sept. 11. Maher was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer while she was pregnant and it has a high chance of recurrence. “I can’t change it, so what’s the point in worrying about it,” said Maher. “I’ve become a better person, I’m happier. I’m more aware.”
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Brandon Maher plays with Liam, 3, and Illianna, 9 months, after getting home from work on Sept. 11. Doctors told Maher she has about a 40 percent chance of her cancer returning and taking her life in the next three years. “I am at peace knowing that my children will be taken care of,” she said. “My husband is a great father and my family is really supportive and we have great friends.”
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Erin Maher’s husband, Brandon, feeds Illianna, 9 months, and talks with Liam, 3, as the family eats dinner together at their home in Vancouver on Sept. 11, 2017.
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Erin Maher comforts her daughter Illianna, 9 months, at their apartment in Vancouver on Oct. 2. “There’s a very, very likely chance I’m not going to live until my daughter’s third birthday,” Maher said. Although this is a reality, Maher hasn’t let it overcome her life. “Quitting isn’t an option,” she said. “I plan to be around for a long time.”
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Erin Maher and her son Liam, 3, play with her husband Brandon’s stethoscope at their apartment in Vancouver on Oct. 4. Since Maher was diagnosed with cancer she has tried to erase worry and stress from her day, staying calm and positive if Liam gets upset.
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Brandon and Erin Maher share a playful goodbye as they part ways after Erin’s CT scan follow-up appointment Sept. 19 at OHSU medical office in downtown Portland.
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After being diagnosed with cancer, Erin Maher started two journals. Pictured is a date book, where she makes notes of small things her family did that make her smile or laugh throughout the day. In the other journal, she writes love notes to her kids and husband. (Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian)
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Erin Maher has her vital signs checked before her CT scan Sept. 12 at the OHSU medical office in downtown Portland.
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Erin Maher lies still as she prepares for a CT scan Sept. 12 at Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center in downtown Portland. Maher will have another CT scan in December.

To read the full story by reporter Marissa Harshman, follow this link.

Teen suicide: The ones they left behind

I cannot express how grateful I am to the three families who opened up and shared their stories with us. The families featured let us in, sharing memories, joys and struggles of the teens they lost to suicide.

“It never gets easier,” Ann Bucklin said of mourning her daughter. “It never gets better. It gets different.”

I hope this can help individuals & families who are struggling, and give people a deeper understanding of what families who are effected by suicide are going through.

To view the written story with photos please visit The Columbian.

The National Suicide Hotline || 1-800-273-8255


Ann Bucklin visits her daughter Heidi’s marker at Evergreen Memorial Gardens in Vancouver on Tuesday. Ann’s daughter Heidi died by suicide six years ago on May 23, 2011. “I have no problem going, but it’s always a little hard to leave,” Ann said. “I think it’s the reminder.”
Ann Bucklin holds a photo from 2009 before Heidi attended a dance at school.
Ann Bucklin holds her thumbie necklace, a keepsake with Heidi’s thumbprint that she’s worn since Heidi died.


Gayla Shomler, left, plays Settlers of Catan with her sons, Zeke, 17, center, and Zac, and Zeke’s girlfriend Kieran Linnell, 16, far right, all of Vancouver on Aug. 2 at a friend’s home in northeast Vancouver. Gayla Shomler’s middle son, Zayne, died by suicide Feb. 8, 2016. His favorite board game was Settlers of Catan. At first the family couldn’t imagine playing without him, but two months ago they decided it was time. Now they try to play together every Wednesday night when Zac is home from college. “We make the little jokes that he made,” Gayla said. “He’s still very much a part of the game,” Zac added.
Gayla Shomler sits in her bedroom next to a collection of son Zayne’s possessions. Zayne died by suicide Feb. 8, 2016. A photo of Zayne sits atop his old radio and next to a small lamb that he’d had since childhood.
A pair of Zayne Shomler’s shoes sit outside his home on July 20. His monther said they noticed the shoes and Zayne’s backpack by the door shortly after Zayne’s death. No one has moved them.

Vickie Higgins, from left, Roslyn Franklin, 10, and Eric Franklin hold a framed photo of Heather Brooker-Higgins at their apartment in Vancouver on July 10. Heather died by suicide little more than two months ago, on June 3.
Since Heather’s death on June 3 of this year, her mother, Vicki, said she’s been noticing butterflies everywhere. “I feel like it’s her trying to get my attention,” Vicki said. “Saying, I’m here.”
Gallery

Washougal MX National 2017

Birdseye Fire: Band Of Volunteers

Members of the Birdseye Volunteer Fire Department are close. In such a small town where everyone knows everyone and many people are related, it’s hard for the firemen not to be.

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Members of the Birdseye Volunteer Fire Department worked together during extrication training on April 12 in Birdseye. The volunteer team has 26-active members and about 35 members total. All of the men have other full-time jobs ranging from loggers, mechanics, coal miners, farmers and full-time EMTs. “It’s just a good group of individuals who want something a little bit more out of life than just the regular go to work come home.” fire chief Dave “Smitty” Smith said. “There is always something that’s going on.”
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Birdseye first assistant fire chief Scott Bolden, left, and Swayde Morgan, 16, both of Birdseye held onto the fire hose as the department ran through hose and pump training at their monthly meeting on April 3 in Jasper. Swayde’s dad, Rick Morgan, is on the department and Swayde often joins him for monthly meetings. He hopes to join the department when he’s old enough to go through the training.
Craig Englert and Jon Schepers refilled the truck water tanks after
Craig Englert and Jon Schepers refilled the fire truck water tanks after a hose and pump training session at the department’s monthly meeting on April 3 in Birdseye. With many mechanics on the volunteer department they are able to do most of their own repairs on the station’s vehicles.
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Craig Englert, Rick Morgan, Jason Lueken, all of Birdseye folded the fire hose back onto the truck after hose and pump training on April 3 in Birdseye. The department meets monthly to go over new equipment, plan fundraisers and review training procedures.
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Jeff Jackson, Jon Schepers and Craig Englert all of Birdseye, relaxed after finishing extrication training on April 12 in Birdseye.
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Birdseye fire chief David “Smitty” Smith, chatted with his son-in-law Jon Schepers and his grandson Carter, 2, all of Birdseye after extrication training on April 12 in Birdseye. Many of the volunteers are either family, neighbors or friends. “It’s definitely a family atmosphere,” Smitty said. If someone on the department needs help with something, the rest of the the team is there to help out.
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Clint Cummins of Birdseye put out a fire after extrication training on April 12 in Birdseye.

To read The Herald’s full story, click here.

Women Pastors: Call To Lead

After photographing many christian services in Dubois County, I noticed that most, if not all of the churches I visited had male pastors. A reporter and I looking into this a little further and found that out of around 100 churches in the county, 6 had female pastors.

The road hasn’t always been easy, but the six female pastors in Dubois County have continued to follow their faith and calling to lead. Here is a look at the portraits for this story.

To read the full story, visit The Herald.

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Rev. Mary Poston has been the first woman pastor at each of the six churches she has served at. “To be a woman pastor you have to persevere, and I got my graduate degree in perseverance,” she said. When she came to St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Dubois in 2009 there were two or three women pastors in the area.
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Rev. Jane Hillman has served at four churches over 31 years in ministry and is currently the pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in Jasper. At her first three churches, Hillman was the church’s first woman pastor. Hillman said many people have never seen or heard a woman pastor. “We long to do a public event like a funeral or a wedding where somebody doesn’t come up to us and say, ‘you know you’re the first woman preacher I’ve heard.’ And that’s still the case.”
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Rev. Debbie Roe has been with St. Paul and Augustana United Churches of Christ in Holland since 2008 and was ordained in Augustana in 2013. Roe’s father was a reverend so she grew up in churches and always wanted to follow in his footsteps. “As soon as I could walk I would stand beside him, greeting people … it’s something that I knew I wanted to do,” she said. “I kept persisting at it.”
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Rev. Catherine Burnette has been called to four churches throughout almost 20 years in ministry, including her current role as pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Boone Township. Throughout the years she said she has heard congregations say “we’ve done that before so we deserve a male pastor,” or “we want a real pastor next time,” after having a female pastor. “You hear things that you wouldn’t hear as a male,” she said. “I think it’s a little harder for women to move upwards.”
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When Pastor Karen Husby entered seminary school, she was the only female in her class and after graduating she was the fourth woman to be ordained in 1981. “No one told me when I was in the eighth grade you should be a pastor. They told me I should be a parochial school teacher or marry a pastor. It just wasn’t an option.”

Winter Update

It’s hard to believe spring is already here! Here is an update of some favorite features from the end of winter.