Communities shouldn’t forget fostered youths

Communities shouldn’t forget fostered youths

May 8, 2017

By Liz Thompson

This Week News

At age 18, I had a home and family. I still do, 47 years later.

But each year, more than 23,000 18-year-olds age out of the foster-care system, never having been adopted, with neither home nor family.

That is more than the population of Worthington and Canal Winchester combined.

Don’t believe the myth that children are in foster care because they have done something wrong. They are victims who were removed from their families because of abuse or neglect. In 2015, almost 428,000 children were in foster care in the U.S. These children dream of an enduring home.

Ohio Fostering Connection shows grim statistics on Ohio youths aged out of foster care: By age 19, 14 percent have a child; 24 percent work full time; 12 percent work part time; 26 percent had been homeless; 36 percent had been incarcerated; and 53 percent had not finished high school or received their GED.

Rita Soronen, president and CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, said she quotes the foundation’s namesake every day: “These children are not someone else’s responsibility — they are our responsibility.”

Deborrha Armstrong, communications director with Franklin County Children Services, said the goal of the agency’s Youth Transition Program is to assist youth 16 and older to live independently.

“During this time, case workers are still a contact for youth,” Armstrong said. “Some families opt to keep children after 18, providing housing and life-skill instruction as a host home. Many more are needed to serve in this capacity or as foster parents.”

Many, at 18, just want out.

“Many opt out of the emancipation transitional program thinking they can do it on their own — they want out of the (welfare) system,” Soronen said.

Ann Bischoff, executive director of Ohio State University’s Star House, agreed with Soronen. The Star House is a drop-in center for people in transition, ages 14-24, who are experiencing homelessness.

“We have a place for everybody,” she said. “Our goal is to establish a relationship with the youth and then help them seek permanent solutions.”

At Star House, young people are able to do laundry, eat, rest, bathe and receive clothing. It also is a place to connect to the services available through other agencies that provide educational, health, financial and food subsidies along with chances to build job-seeking skills.

“Imagine being 18 and walking into a shelter with 110 grown men,” said Sue Villilo, executive director of Faith Mission. “We have a partnership with Huckleberry House to help young adults with the transition into shelter.”

The Huckleberry House has a transitional living program that provides a safe, furnished place to stay for 12 to 18 months while residents work on independent living skills, along with counseling to help with educational and employment goals.

“They shouldn’t have to come back (anywhere) and ask for help,” Soronen said. “Many think, ‘Was I not good enough to be adopted?’ ”

People considering fostering or adoption often fear they won’t get the support they need or feel like they’re jumping into the unknown.

“The adults need to genuinely believe it’s worth it to give a child a home and consider the child’s needs before their own,” Soronen said.

Children Services’ mentoring program helps teens and college-age youths feel connected with positive adult role models in the community.

“We need to bring community back for our children and families. This used to be natural in neighborhoods,” Armstrong said.

“We have a moral obligation to provide a safety net and the core of a safe community for our children,” Soronen said.

Call one of these numbers or visit the websites: mentoring, Children Services, 614-275-2690; foster parenting and serving as a host home, fostercare.fccs.us; adoption, davethomasfoundation.org or 800-275-8832; Star House, 614-826-5868; Huckleberry House 24/7 crisis hotline, 614-294-5553; transitional living program, 614-294-8097.

 

Why write? Motives vary; need universal

Day by Day
Why write? Motives vary; need universal

April 10, 2017
This Week News

By Liz Thompson

I pushed the loaded cart of ancient records, videotapes and books into the used bookstore.

Standing at the cash register, where employees would look through my personal stash and give me a dollar value, I saw books piled so high, they looked as though a breeze would topple them.

Late author and humorist Erma Bombeck once said, “It is probably true that every person has a book in him fighting to get out. What is crucial is that if something is going to happen, the wannabe writer has to commit by putting all those hopes and dreams on the line. It’s time to stop talking about clever titles and get the book written.”

I was overwhelmed — and as a writer, a little discouraged — by the number of books I saw, all these “hopes and dreams” people had put to paper, tape or film. I wondered about my own motivation to write.

I love writing — but bestsellers? Not likely. I write to inspire and inform.

I posted this question on a Goodreads author group: “What motivates you to write with so much competition?”

Sue, who lives in Canada, replied, “My motivation in writing my first book was my desire to achieve wellness. (My book) was never written with the intention to become a bestseller, but rather to reach those who could benefit from the information … and for those who did read it, that is exactly what they reported that it has done for them … mission accomplished.”

Leonide, an Oregon resident, said it seems the world has enough books, so why write another to add to the excess?

“I continue to write books because it is a creative drive inside of me that demands expression,” she said. “There are stories that simmer within and insist on being cooked fully and set out for the feast. Whether they get consumed and appreciated is outside my control.”

She markets, like most authors.

“I certainly hope others will read and enjoy my books; writing the book itself is the most important thing,” she said.

Jim, a cartoonist, said, “As a kid, once a week I would head down to the bookstore for a portal into another world. Every week I’d get to tour an exotic location and imagine another life. I just want to give that experience to someone else.”

Lily in San Francisco writes because if she doesn’t, she feels as if part of her has checked out.

“It’s as important to me as food,” she said. “The words are like a communion wafer that melts on my tongue, nourishing body and soul.

“Writing itself is a mysterious act. Putting symbols on a page not only connects us with our own inner worlds but also with others.”

Kate loves used bookstores.

“I still remember the joys of rooting through the secondhand book shop … hunting for a Georgette Heyer novel that I didn’t already have (since they were out of print). Sheer joy to find one and hold it close … until I got it safely home. It was a ticket to another world.

“We authors capture what’s in our heads in words. Black on white. It has no substance until the reader re-creates the people and the world inside their own head. It’s a kind of miracle. No images provided … only words, yet their imagined movie of your book will have scenery, props and characters fashioned by them from just words.

“With 7 billion people on the planet, there’s a good chance that at least one of those people will connect with your story.”

Don of New York said, “I must write, and I even wake in the middle of the night to pen down a thought that comes to me, or risk losing an amazing idea for a story or a book.”

Rita, who lives in Australia, said simply, “I write because I can!”

I left the bookstore $5 richer. My discouragement fled soon after and new words swirled in my head.

A writer friend a little closer to home, Janet Shailer of Grove City, said, “My mind always has ideas flying around, like a plane waiting for clearance to land.”

Eventually, our ideas land and words appear on the page. And so our story begins.

I might fall, but I won’t lie down for MS

Day by Day

I might fall, but I won’t lie down for MS

March 13, 2017

ThisWeekNews

By LIZ THOMPSON

Falling is hard. Suddenly my body is moving downward, either forward or backward, with nothing to grab onto to stop the fall. Impact is imminent and it will be painful.

I fall like a tree in the forest.

For some reason, many with multiple sclerosis don’t have the ability to react fast enough to fold our bodies for a closer fall or recover from a stumble, like the average person would.

I do know that imbalance, weakness and muscle spasms cause most of my falls. Other people with MS might have vision and fatigue problems.

Last year, I fell too often and fear of falling became my new reality. I’ve overcome that fear before.

After this last series of falls, I thought back at what I was doing when I fell to determine how to prevent a repeat.

I came to these five conclusions: I must always touch something when leaning over; carry nothing while walking; use my cane or walker; scope the landscape before that first step; and ask for help.

If you have ever fallen or watched someone fall when you couldn’t help them, you understand that helplessness is part of the pain.

All through our lives, we adapt — most of it’s good. Change and challenges are a part of life.

People with chronic illnesses, such as MS, tend to look at life with a unique perspective. As our illnesses wax and wane at their own volition, daily we learn to see what’s most important and are in a constant state of adaptation.

I see my circumstances as positive, urging me to make the most of each moment. When people ask how I am, I hope to be able to say, “I’m upright!”

So if you don’t have MS or know someone with it, why would you want to read about it? By writing about it, or sharing my experiences, I hope to build a bridge to understanding.

Years ago, when my daughter was in nursing school, some nurses were quietly joking about another nurse who walked like she had been drinking alcohol. My daughter saw this and asked them, “Did you ever think she might have MS?” I don’t know their response, but I knew my daughter showed compassion.

It’s easier to jump to conclusions than to learn the facts.

My MS was diagnosed in 1987 when I lost partial vision. Hindsight tells me I had symptoms as early as 1970. In 1987, there were no disease-modifying drugs for MS, proven to slow down relapses; now there are 14. There was no Internet. Today, patients easily can become overwhelmed with information. I always suggest to newly diagnosed people to talk with their doctors, and those with MS to visit nmss.org.

MS isn’t contagious. The immune system thinks the myelin sheath (a substance that protects nerve fibers) in the central nervous system, as well as the nerve fibers themselves, are foreign objects and attacks them, causing damage. The signals from the brain to parts of the body are interrupted, like a frayed electrical cord. The result can be vision loss, numbness, weakness, spasticity, motor-skill problems, fatigue and more, with varied degrees of disability.

My worst relapse since diagnosis was in the early 1990s. The numbness started in my toes and moved up my body. In a matter of minutes, my entire body was numb.

Six weeks later, the numbness disappeared, except for my right hand and forearm.

But I can’t live in a rubber room, so to speak. I have to be smarter than this disease and constantly reinvent how I go about doing the things I love.

I still cook, bake, garden, knit, read, write, visit and go to church, and I “walk” the dog using my scooter or power wheelchair to get around safely. Learning to adapt is part of life. I don’t sit home crying or being sedentary. That works against all reasoning for physical and emotional health.

I am one of more than 2.3 million worldwide living with MS. March is MS Awareness Month. The next time you see someone walking “funny,” offer a strong arm or a listening ear. That’s the kind of help we all need.

A century in, service still vital for Lions

Day by Day

A century in, service still vital for Lions

Feb 13, 2017

By LIZ THOMPSON
ThisWeekNews

This year marks 100 years of service for the Lions Club International, the world’s largest service organization.

A total of 46,000 clubs with more than 1.4 million members — men, women and youth — do whatever is needed to help their local communities.

In 1917, a Chicago businessman named Melvin Jones, whose personal code was, “You can’t get very far until you start doing something for somebody else,” founded the Lions Club International. The slogan, an acronym, became “Liberty, Intelligence, Our Nation’s Safety.”

In 1925, Helen Keller (See photo at end) challenged Lions at the club’s convention at Cedar Point.

“The opportunity I bring to you, Lions, is this: to foster and sponsor the work of the American Foundation for the Blind. … Will you not constitute yourselves Knights of the Blind in this crusade against darkness?”

Her speech marked the beginning of an era of vision service and support that would come to define Lions for decades.

Bill Schultz, chairman of the Ohio Lions Marketing and Communications Committee, said the club will re-enact the speech during May’s State Lions Convention in Sandusky. Canal Winchester member Jackie Christensen will present the speech in character as Keller, Schultz said.

Locally, the Westerville Lions Club was chartered in 1928 and is the oldest service organization in Westerville.

“This past Christmas, at our holiday gathering/meeting, we found out about two families in need and on the spur of the moment we passed the hat and raised $400 to provide a better Christmas for those families,” said Lion Howard Baum. “The generosity of our members is amazing.”

Mike Kerek of Reynoldsburg said, “Being a Lions Club member … is an attitude, a belief, in service to others.”

Since 1948, the Reynoldsburg club has raised more than $500,000 to be reinvested into the community.

Although helping those with vision problems is their main focus, each club looks for what is needed in its community.

Kerek said his club supports a plethora of organizations, including Special Olympics, the Central Ohio Diabetes Association, Pilot Dogs, disaster relief foundations, eye banks and vision-related business. Club members also have made several trips to West Virginia with donations for flood relief.

“As a Lion since 1999, I have had many moments where the intrinsic rewards made me understand how important the services we provide are,” Kerek said.

Bob Scheetz of Worthington said his dad was a charter member of the Lions Club for 30 years in his hometown of West Lafayette.

“Clubs focus on needs of their particular community,” he said. “Our club (also) has a focus on the Worthington Food Pantry and young children’s literacy through Worthington Libraries. We sponsor the Worthington Summer Reading Program.”

Duane Shaul said the Grove City club began in 1939. Every year, its members set aside funds to be able to help someone get a Pilot Dog. The cost is $10,000. Each week, Shaul and others walk Pilot Dog puppies, helping them learn social skills.

“I would love to let more people know who we are and what we do,” Shaul said. “We do not keep any funds for administrative expenses.”

This club helped fund e-sight goggles — computerized goggles with a camera that relays images to the brain — for a blind Grove City student to see his parents for the first time.

Bob Dotson has been a member since 1998, starting in Athens County before he moved to Powell. The Olentangy Lions Club is four years old.

“Many hands make light work,” Dotson said. “The biggest need of Lions, and other service organizations, is members. Get involved. Make a difference.”

My personal interest in Lions began in 1997 when they trained my first Hearing Dog, then my second in 2009.

I was delighted by the enthusiasm of these members who gave me an abundance of information. Since I cannot write it all here, I encourage you to seek information at lionsclubs.org, support their fundraisers and donate eyeglasses.

As Dotson said, “Maybe you can be the one person that makes a difference in someone’s life.”

 

Helen Keller (right) reads the lips of First Lady Grace Coolidge in 1926. Her husband, Calvin Coolidge, was president from 1923-29. Image from the Prints and Photographs Division of the U.S. Library of Congress.

Helen Keller (right) reads the lips of First Lady Grace Coolidge in 1926. Her husband, Calvin Coolidge, was president from 1923-29.
Image from the Prints and Photographs Division of the U.S. Library of Congress.

Artist’s life spurs thoughts of appreciation

Day by Day
Artist’s life spurs thoughts of appreciation

January 16, 2017
By Liz Thompson

 

As we start a new year, it would serve us well to appreciate what we have.

My son-in-law once jokingly asked if his wife — my daughter — ever did anything wrong. We were recalling funny memories of her youth. I told him, “Sure, but we just choose to remember the good things.”

Memories can haunt us, if we let them, or they can be a catalyst to do something different.

One of my grandmothers had a farm, and I made some of my best memories there. I remember standing on the floor register in winter to warm myself and staring at a painting of a winter farm scene. I loved the colors and simplicity. One of my cousins and I think it was called “Sugaring Off.” (See art below.)

Recently, I read in my daily devotion about this artist’s hardships and I remembered the painting.

Born in 1860, Anna Mary Robertson led a hard life. She grew up as one of 10 children on her parents’ farm in New York. She left home at age 12 to work as a hired girl for a nearby farm until she was 27, marrying a hired hand, Thomas Moses. They ran a farm and raised five children. The couple lost five other children as infants.

Years later, arthritis made it difficult for her to hold a needle to embroider, but she could hold a paintbrush. She began painting to overcome the grief of losing her husband in 1927. She was completely self-taught and, therefore, called an American primitive artist.

By now, you might have guessed that she later became known as Grandma Moses, famous for her nostalgic paintings depicting rural American life.

According to The New York Times, she said, “I’ll get an inspiration and start painting, then I’ll forget everything, everything except how things used to be and how to paint it so people will know how we used to live.”

When I think about her life and how her art was so pleasing to look at, I realize that even during difficult times, we can find a way to celebrate life. There are many ways to look for the good in our memories.

In the mid-1940s, Grandma Moses’ images were reproduced on greeting cards, which introduced her work to many. Even today, with a click of your computer mouse, you can find her artwork in many formats.

When I think of the way of life more than 100 years ago, then look at the relative ease in which I live in today, I count my blessings many times over. We no longer have to grow our own food to eat. My husband and I have a garden, but nothing like days gone by.

When I read about people such as Grandma Moses and think about the few left in what is dubbed the Greatest Generation, I’m reminded of their tenacity. Grandma Moses, like so many people I know and have known, chose to emphasize the good things in life.

When we look for the happiness of simple times with loved ones — a good harvest, a healthy child, freedom and a loving family that sticks together through the difficult times — each day is worthwhile.

In years past, hard work was an expected way of life to provide for families. Calloused hands were a sign of honor, and still should be.

Today, many of us have it so easy we tend to forget the labors that bring food to our stores — the hours spent tilling the earth (albeit with sophisticated machinery most of the time), planting the seed and harvesting the crops.

“I look back on my life like a good day’s work, it was done and I feel satisfied with it,” Grandma Moses said. “I was happy and contented. I knew nothing better and made the best out of what life offered. And life is what we make it, always has been, always will be.”

Her obituary said she was survived by one daughter-in-law and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She died at age 101 and apparently outlived all her children, painting memories till her last days. She painted more than 1,500 pieces in her life — 25 of those in her 100th year of life.

We can pick up our figurative paintbrush to share our valuable memories and, in our unique way, be content and persevere.

Grandma Moses' Sugaring Off

Grandma Moses’ Sugaring Off

Quilting group supports James cancer patients

Day by day

Quilting group supports James cancer patients

By LIZ THOMPSON

December 12, 2016

Snuggling into a quilt on a cold day or night is comfort, pure and simple. But making a quilt is anything but simple.

Those who take the time to choose a pattern, cut out shapes of fabric, buy the batting that goes between layers of material to keep the user warm and then thread a needle to stitch a quilt have my respect.

People going through cancer treatment are especially vulnerable to being cold.

The oncology patients at James Care in Dublin complained that their rooms were drafty. Nurse practitioner Joanne Lester of Grove City heard them, and in the summer of 2004, she and 10 oncology patients formed a quilt group.

“We started in my basement,” Lester said. “In February 2005, we had our first quilt day where we made quilt kits. Two hundred fifty people came that day. There was no registration, they just arrived.”

These 250 were patients, friends, family and others who had heard of the effort. That is incredible in itself, but more amazing is that within months, 300 quilts had been made.

“It was like manna from heaven,” Lester said.

That June was their first distribution day. These quilts, most 4-by-5-feet, were given to oncology patients.

The Stitching Sisters moved out of Lester’s basement and worked in space donated by Nationwide Realty Investors. This space became their sewing center, where they worked and stored supplies. It eventually looked like a quilt shop.

“In 2015, we were blessed with new space in Westerville,” Lester said.

Thelma Vargo of North Columbus said, “As one of the original members and as a breast cancer survivor myself, the Stitching Sisters has given me a sense of fulfillment and an opportunity to give back to others afflicted with cancer. I have met and continue to work with a wonderful, caring group of women who exemplify a generous and caring attitude.”

Over the years, they have distributed 12,000 quilts to patients at the James with newly diagnosed and advanced breast cancer as well as lung, brain and gynecologic cancers.

“We make the quilts and amazingly have never run out before every patient has a quilt,” Lester said.

Each year, 250 people attend the quilt day, making blankets from kits. At least 350 to 400 people work on the project.

“From my first contact with Joanne until now, I have marveled at the commitment, creativity, productivity and camaraderie of the group,” said Carol Fornof, also of Grove City. “I am far from a veteran quilter, but all skill levels have a place in the group. There are many expert quilters and quite a number of cancer survivors.”

Fornof said the annual spring quilt day is remarkable.

“Quilters from all over the state (and even other states) convene at a large venue for a full day of piecing.”

She said husbands assist in moving all the required components for the day and in setting up for the event.

Patients’ comments confirm the end result is comfort and a giving spirit.

“The word ‘cancer’ is a scary word and your quilt keeps reminding me of the hope for a cure.” — P.D.

“Thank you so much for the quilt that was stitched with love. Thank you all for your kindness. Just knowing that you have been where I am today is helping me face the unknown of the days and weeks ahead.” — P.B.

“[My quilt] is so beautiful and I can feel the love and concern that went in to every stitch! I have it in the living room and my friends and family all admire it.” — C.I., quilt No. 37’s owner.

“Thank you ladies for hugging me with the warmth of love and concern with a quilt! You’re all an inspiration to me.” — B.T.

“The quilt did take the chill off when I got my infusion, but more than that, it warmed my heart to think of the loving, patient hands that created it. I say thank you from the bottom of my heart.” — R.W.

“Thank you for the beautiful lap quilt. I have nearly a year of treatments left and it will be used every week. It was a real bright spot in the midst of chemo when you delivered the quilt.” — J .F., No. 195’s owner.

Thank God these women understand the spirit of Christmas happens year-round.

For more information, go to glester111.wixsite.com/jamesstitchingsister. To donate fabric or money, call 614-519-8995.

 

Joy comes from hearing other people’s stories

Day by Day

Joy comes from hearing other people’s stories

By LIZ THOMPSON

November 14, 2016
This Week News

Every day I’m reminded there are miracles.

When I put my cochlear implant voice processors on my ears, sounds of life flood my brain — voices or music on the radio, water running, the coffee pot dripping and my husband talking to me or our dog — and I smile.

All these sounds were happening, even when I couldn’t hear them. They went on much like people’s lives, even though I don’t know them.

One important fact I learned as a reporter years ago is that everyone has a story with many chapters. The stories range the full spectrum, from celebration to sorrow.

Before my first implant, in 2002, I was a deaf reporter relying on several things: one ear that had some hearing with a hearing aid, my ability to lip-read, pen and paper, computers and people’s patience.

I let people know I wanted to hear their story and they all complied, doing whatever was necessary to get the story right.

My favorite interviews were when friends and family gathered to remember a loved one. I looked at photos, old newspaper clippings, scrapbooks and more. I heard and saw laughter and tears while writing a story of a legacy worth remembering. Legacies born of hard work, loving their families and respecting life.

Once I had my first implant and the ability to understand speech made conversations possible, I treasured interviewing others even more. The strain was gone for both parties, and I developed a deeper interviewing style that was a joy for me.

The local politicians might not have liked that I could understand, but I did. News also ran the full spectrum, and 15 years ago, I reported the facts — both sides, unbiased and without commentary.

Especially since my second implant in the other ear, I love engaging in conversations with others. When I ask, “How are you?” I really want to know and wait for an answer.

Last month, we were camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. One day, we stopped at a picnic grounds by a creek for a snack. A woman was reading a book, and I asked what she was reading.

“A book by Lisa Wingate,” she said. “I love her writing!”

“I’ve read all her books and am one of her early readers,” I replied.

She saw my cane, I think, and came over to our table. We chatted for a bit and she sat down. She was Junella from Indiana, named for relatives June and Ella. I told her Ella is the name of the protagonist in my fiction book I’d recently finished, and she smiled.

I felt I’d known her for more than the moments we talked about books and life in general. All too soon, we had to be on our way. I left her my card and told her I’d love it if she emailed me.

This conversation would have been impossible prior to 2002, unless she knew sign language, and I was never proficient in that.

Throughout our camping trip, we had various conversations with people from all over the U.S. We talked weather — it was much warmer than usual and very dry — and about our dogs, campers, music, children and grandchildren, trips we’d taken and even politics, which was a hot topic this year.

It thrills me to be able to catch every nuance of the conversation and hear the different accents and still understand the words.

Most of us know the tradition of Thanksgiving began as a way to show gratitude for the harvest. In an era of at least presumed plenty, we need to think of those who don’t have enough to survive well. There are many ways to help — food pantries and missions, to name a couple.

But the need might be on your street or nearby.

The list of what I am thankful for is too long to write here, but hearing and understanding again tops the rest. Each new day, I’m reminded of this blessing. I don’t take it lightly.

If you tell me your story, I will listen. Count on it.

When I start asking people questions, my husband teases me that I’m in my reporter mode. But the truth is, I’m interested and intrigued by other people’s experiences. I may not write one of your stories, but I’ll count it a blessing that I understand your words.

Local author Liz Thompson writes the Day by day column for ThisWeek News. Reach her at lizt911@gmail.com.