Hospital honors volunteers

The desire to give back to the community was on full display during Thursday’s Franciscan Health Crawfordsville Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon held at the hospital. 

The event honored 33 Red Coats and Pink Ladies who have totaled more than

350 years of service.

Terry Klein, Franciscan Health Crawfordsville Chief Executive Officer, complimented the volunteers. He said they are an important connection to the community.

“These people do not have to be here, but they want to be here,” Klein said. “They are an outreach to our community and are dedicated to our patients. Many times they are helping their friends and neighbors.”

Carol Peterson has served as a Pink Lady for 44 years and was honored for being the longest tenured volunteer. She began her service the former Culver Union Hospital. She said being a volunteer at the hospital is enjoyable. She serves as the scheduler for the gift shop which is operated entirely by volunteers.

“The energy you feel from helping people keeps me going,” she said.

One of the newer volunteers at the hospital is Fred Fruits. He retired from R.R. Donnelley in 1999 and kept busy following grandchildren activities. However, he felt it was time to do something different and he found volunteering is rewarding.

“I felt it was time for me to start giving back,” Fruits said. “It has brought something out of me I didn’t know I had. I can honestly say it is the best thing I have ever done.”

Fruits volunteers in the surgery area as he helps patients and families get through stressful times. He said working with the local hospital staff also is a positive experience.

“The nurses I work with are great,” Fruits said.

Marcie Simpson, Franciscan Health Crawfordsville Human Resource Specialist, works daily with the volunteers. At the luncheon she expressed her appreciation for the volunteers’ dedication and service.

“We are fortunate to have very dedicated volunteers,” Simpson said. 

“We apprectiate our volunteers many of whom worked many years in their job, and now have volunteered many years at the hospital.” 

The hospital is always looking to add to its volunteer staff. Some of the volunteer opportunities include helping in the surgery area, at the information table, gift shop, registration, radiology, emergency room and other areas.

The hospital plans a volunteer reception and open house 2-4 p.m. Aug. 4. Simpson said hopes the event will bring in more volunteers.

“We are always looking for volunteers and the open house will be a good time for people to come out and learn more about volunteering at the hospital,” Simpson said.

For more information about volunteering, call Simpson at 765-364-3114.

Available talent top issue among local businesses

Recruiting and retaining qualified talent is the primary concern among employers today. In fact, site selection firms — consultants engaged by corporations to provide a variety of services to help with location of a new facility or relocating operations — will tell you the number one criteria for their clients is a community with the availability of skilled labor.

Like so many communities across Indiana and the Midwest, unemployment rates are near record lows. According to STATS Indiana, Montgomery County’s May unemployment rate was 2.4 percent, while the state as a whole was 2.8 percent. When one factors in that many economists would suggest an unemployment rate between 4-5 percent is considered “full employment,” and that national statistics show baby boomers across the country are retiring at an average of 10,000 per day, it is imperative communities look at collaborative and sustaining ways to build the future talent pipeline.

In his ongoing efforts to build a first-class city, Mayor Todd Barton hosted the first of what he hopes will be many stakeholder roundtables to discuss workforce challenges, as well as begin to identify ideas and sustainable programming to improve the local labor pool. 

“Based on discussions with the three school superintendents and many of our area employers, everyone agrees we must be more proactive at addressing this issue,” Barton said. “In doing so, we need to look at workforce development from a comprehensive approach that includes not only preparation at the K-12 level, but incumbent workers, trailing spouses and veterans.”

Stakeholders at the roundtable included representatives from nine area industry, a county commissioner, superintendents of Crawfordsville schools, North Montgomery schools, Southmont schools, representatives from Wabash College, Ivy Tech, WorkOne, Crawfordsville/Montgomery County Chamber and the city’s economic development consultant. 

“It’s really powerful to sit in a room with local employers, local schools and local government to see how we can improve our community and make a long-term difference for Crawfordsville,” said Scott Bowling, superintendent of Crawfordsville Schools.

Echoing a similar sentiment about the importance of this initiative, Tracy Mobley, site leader at Pace Dairy, “Workforce development is important because we’re trying to create a positive work environment and investing in the future. This community is the lifeblood of what we do now and what we will continue to do, so it’s important to support each other to ensure that future.”

Examples of work the group will undertake in the coming months include, identifying skills gaps and training needs from area employers, exploring best practice models, analyzing the current delivery infrastructure such as STEM programs in K-12, and certifications and other training offered by higher ed institutions, and discussing ideas for building awareness about industry in the community. 

“We all realize there is no quick fix, so it is my expectation this initiative becomes an integral component of our long-term economic and community development efforts,” Barton said.

Know the law and be safe in regards to fireworks

The National Safety Council reports that in 2016 four people died in the United States from fireworks. 

Another 11,100 people were badly injured enough to require medical treatment from fireworks-related incidents. 

With Fourth of July festivities heating up in the area, Crawfordsville Fire Department fire inspector Brian Bechtel wants to remind residents to play it safe and stay within the law when it comes to discharging fireworks.

“Fireworks laws have changed considerably in Indiana” Bechtel said. “The laws have gotten less restrictive. Residents need to understand what their local ordinances say about fireworks or if they just follow Indiana state law.”

Hoosiers can use personal fireworks 365 days per year. According to state law, fireworks may be discharged between

9 a.m. and 11 p.m. on most days other than holidays. 

On holidays (Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and New Year’s Eve) they can be discharged until midnight. 

On June 29-30, July 1-3 and 5-9, fireworks can be discharged until two hours past sunset.

State law says personal fireworks may be discharged on the user’s property, the property of someone who has granted permission, or at locally-approved special discharge locations. 

Those setting off fireworks are still responsible for any property damaged by their fireworks even if they were discharged from a legal location. 

Keep that in mind when using bottle rockets, roman candles, or any other aerial fireworks.

Local communities have the option to make ordinances that are more restrictive, but not less restrictive than the state law.

By Indiana statute, those found guilty of violating fireworks laws are subject to monetary fines and possible jail time.

Montgomery County communities, including Crawfordsville, do not have fireworks ordinances, meaning their residents must adhere to Indiana law.

Bechtel reminded residents in a press release that “even in the hands of professionals the use of fireworks can be dangerous and risky.”

“A simple solution to reducing fireworks injuries is to appreciate the danger involved, remove any potential risk to children and spectators and the best solution is leaving the fireworks to the professionals and enjoy the show,” Bechtel stated. 

Crawford site still on radar

The purchase of the former Crawford store property on South Washington Street is still on the radar of city officials. 

The original purchase agreement deadline is fast approaching, so the Crawfordsville Board of Public Works and Safety renewed the agreement at Wednesday’s meeting. The extension should allow the city enough time to complete the purchase, city attorney Kent Minnette said.

The property was originally going to be the site of a new Fusion 54 building, a part of the Stellar project. However, the city purchased the PNC Bank building instead and will convert it for the Fusion 54 group.

Plans for the empty lot on South Washington include green space and a trail head for the eventual downtown trail.

Mayor Todd Barton previously announced the purchase of the bank building on the corner of Main and Washington streets would save the city money, thus allowing money to be placed into other Stellar projects. 

Barton added that leases with existing tenants are being scrutinized. He expects most tenants to be out of the building by the end of the year. The bank will remain on the first floor.

City parks and recreation director Fawn Johnson received approval to close roads near Milligan Park for Tuesday’s fireworks. Johnson said the closures are the same as in the past years and are only closed as the city’s Fourth of July event is concluding. 

The closures are to help direct traffic flow as people leave the park, Johnson said.

The board approved a payment of $792,350 to Bowen Engineering for work completed on the new sewage project. The funds will come from the previously acquired State Revolving Loan Fund.

The board also agreed to forgive a total of $7,121 in past due utility bills. Kiley Cornelius, an employee from the clerk-treasurer’s office, said the accounts dated as far back as 2010 and were in small amounts. Barton said the individual amounts are below the amount that would benefit the city placing liens on the property due to the cost of the legal action.

Former students surprise Kochert

Deborah Kochert has no idea how it was all pulled off.

During a recent 25th anniversary Dance by Deborah recital at Crawfordsville High School, dozens of former students threw a surprise performance of their old routines, bringing together alumni from across the country.

“I could not even physically contain my excitement, that’s how cool it was to see these people do this,” she said.

Plans for the tribute began at least three months before the recital, when a number of former dancers said they wanted to reunite for the anniversary.

Ashley Schinker, who now teaches alongside Kochert, put together a 20-minute video of well-wishes from alumni across the globe. 

The students then dug out their old dance tapes. Mallory (Bannon) Kessler, Kathryn (Denhart) Foland and Morgan (Reese) Morris also helped organize the act. Foland and Morris are teaching assistants at Dance by Deborah.

The group re-learned the routines and posted clips on a private Facebook group for out-of-state dancers. They held a team practice at the Athena Center.

“It was a really cool feeling when we all did the dance the first time, and everyone knew where to stand,” said Schinker, a fourth-year pharmacy student at Purdue University.

On recital night, the dancers sneaked backstage, as Kochert rounded up current students for the opening number.

Once the younger dancers left the stage and Kochert had made announcements, one of the former students took the microphone. 

Kochert was asked to sit in the front row, next to her younger sister, Lisa, and mother, Gloria, as the tribute video played.

Then the curtain opened, revealing more than 30 dance alums on the stage.

“How no one actually leaked it to me is a miracle,” Kochert later said, “because a lot of these people actually talk to me, and I do keep in touch with former students and… know what’s going on in their lives.”

The alums also bought customized Nike shoes for Deborah and Lisa,  and gave Grace a special pendant.

Kochert wants to bring together former students again, this time away from the stage. Thousands of dancers, young and old, have taken her classes.

It all began with a pair of dance shoes.

Kochert needed them for a childhood gig with the Sugar Creek Players, and when the play was over, Grace suggested taking dance lessons until the shoes wore out.

By high school, she was teaching dance at the Park and Rec.

After graduation and bound for Purdue — where she didn’t know what to study — Kochert spent a summer as choreographer and backup dancer for an inspirational singer she met in the PRIDE program.

Gloria recommended making a living out of dance and going back to school if it went bust.

By 1992, she was balancing dance classes with choreographing school musicals and show choirs. She was active in Vanity Theater.

When a place on North Green Street came up for rent, she decided to start her own studio.

Friends helped her renovate the building, which opened with less than 100 students and a single dance room.

In the mid-to-late-90s, Kochert borrowed a minivan and drove children to their first dance convention in Cincinnati. On the way over, a window wouldn’t roll up, and coming back they had to rope closed a broken sliding door.

The whole experience was a key moment for the studio’s early days.

“They were learning all about this big world of dance, but so was I,” she said, sitting in the lobby of her studio. “I was learning how to run something.”

A few years later, more than 60 children and their families went to a nationals competition in Florida.

The studio moved to the former Dellekamp’s Department Store at 131 E. Main in 2002. Kochert and her instructors now teach roughly 225 students ages two and up.

Classes are offered in jazz, tap, ballet, pointe, tumbling, hip-hop and cheerleading.

The business is a family affair. Lisa has taught since the beginning, while Gloria orders supplies and keeps the books.

Marcie Morgan, Hannah Rich and Kaitlyn Nordenbrock are the other instructors.

Kochert has thought about expanding the studio so more of her former students can teach. But her 6-year-old son, Sebastian, 9-year-old daughter, Gianna, and 11-year-old nephew, Brenden, seem to have the future mapped out. 

The kids have already picked out which rooms they will teach in, leaving Deborah to run the business side.

“They’ve got it all done,” Kochert said with a laugh. “So I guess I can rest easy.”