Amid negative news, altruism spurs gratitude

Day by Day:
Amid negative news, altruism spurs gratitude

By LIZ THOMPSON
November 21, 2017

This Week News

Giving thanks means different things to different people.

I’m thankful for each new day as I wake and put my voice processors on and sounds rush in that eluded me for years as I became deaf.

Thanks to cochlear-implant technology, I hear and understand speech, along with all the beautiful sounds — and the annoying ones — in our world.

I put my feet on the floor and push to stand, and I’m thankful my multiple sclerosis didn’t steal that ability as I slept.

The fragrance of coffee greets me as I arrive in the kitchen and see my husband of almost 40 years.

As I do a mental scan over my years, I realize many people encouraged my faith and ability to be content no matter my situation.

Years ago, I broke my ankle and a fellow Battelle secretary sent me a card with this Scripture from Philippians 4:8: ” … whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.”

Negativity abounds, and it can be a challenge to stay positive. The news, in general, seems to focus on crime, politics and disasters without the balance of good news and both sides of the story so we can form our own opinions.

Many people selflessly gave of their time to help those affected by the storms and fires this year. These people-helping-people stories are a breath of fresh air.

It would be naive to close our eyes to problems and not watch the news. I do recommend sifting through the blast of media to find the truth, when possible, and not the hype or the short sentences that don’t tell the whole story. Do some research to seek “what is true and what is right.”

Some of that searching will show stories in our own town.

Last year, I wrote about the Stitching Sisters formed in 2004 by nurse practitioner Joanne Lester and 10 oncology patients.

This group of quilters has grown to nearly 400 people working on these blankets in some capacity. They started making quilts for oncology patients at James Care in Dublin.

The good news about this group, whose members work year-round, never seems to stop.

Lester told me, “We’ve surpassed 17,000 quilts since 2005. We are now providing quilts for nearly all the outpatients receiving chemotherapy at the James Cancer Hospital (at) the Ohio State University.”

For each of these cancer patients who snuggle into a quilt during treatment, this group of people works to make each day more bearable. Patients and quilters alike probably were able to think, at least for a moment, about the good things.

Chuck Rees is president of the Gahanna (Ohio) Lions Club. He joined in December 1983 after he had this experience:

“I was assigned to take turkey, ham and groceries to a woman who was mother to seven boys. The 4-year-old gave a big hug and said there is a Santa Claus. I started crying and so was everyone else. I asked the mother why it was so cold in the house. She said the electric and gas had been turned off due to nonpayment.”

This Lions Club dug deep into their pockets to collect $200 to pay her utilities.

Speaking of cold, it is upon us. The Knitting/Crochet Ministry of St. Matthew the Apostle Catholic Church in Gahanna is making hats, scarves, blankets and more for those in need. This year, the ministry will exceed 15,000 handmade items as it gives to 48 different organizations. Members also made 50 fleece blankets, 100 men’s hat sets and 60 women’s sets for homeless or needy veterans in the Stand Down program.

More than 150 people knit and crochet for this ministry, and not just in Ohio.

Efforts such as these are happening all around us. You likely have a story of your own.

We may not see your story on the news, but many people are helping to create a thankful attitude our nation needs.

 

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Trades deserve attention from new graduates

Day by Day
Trades deserve attention from new graduates

By LIZ THOMPSON

Oct 23, 2017
This Week News

I like to watch “This Old House” on PBS. I have always respected people who build, make and fix things.

The show is working with Mike Rowe, known for “Dirty Jobs,” on a Generation Next campaign to fill the skills gap in trades, which affects each one of us.

To think that every high school graduate should automatically go to a four-year college is short-sighted.

A 2016 survey by YouGov showed fewer than one in 12 students ages 15-18 attending school or college are being advised to seek work-related apprenticeships, according to Electrical Construction & Maintenance magazine.

In contrast, the survey reports, some 85 percent of students are encouraged to pursue further education after graduating high school. Just 7 percent are encouraged to consider finding a job in a skilled trade.

This compares to 31 percent encouraged to seek careers in medicine, education, law or finance, and 36 percent advised to consider careers in engineering.

For at least 30 years, the labor-market data reports only 25 percent of professions require a four-year degree, said Steve Lipster, director of the Electrical Trades Center in Grandview Heights.

“It’s gratifying to see a young person come into our program and realize they can do this — to feel that sense of accomplishment that they created something,” he said.

“The word is getting out about trades, but we still have a long way to go. We get applicants with bachelor’s degrees.”

After completing an electrician apprenticeship, people can earn $80,000 a year with full benefits and lots of overtime, Lipster said.

“It’s a very common attitude for schools not to encourage trades,” he said. “We can’t get in the door of most schools to talk with advisers or students. There is no more shop class or home economics.

“We have seen youth who cannot read a ruler or know how to use a socket set.”

“Made in America” ran for five seasons on the Travel Channel. It was hosted by actor John Ratzenberger, who became a carpenter at a young age, trained on the job. In an interview in Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Business magazine, he said:

“While I still had my show … I toured the country and noticed the average age of skilled tradesmen was 55-58. I started asking around, and wondering why there weren’t younger people coming into the trades that offer great salaries, futures, pensions and health insurance.”

He discovered a big reason was because schools canceled shop classes.

Knowing a trade is invaluable. It’s a misconception that skilled trades are for people with bad grades. In truth, trades are for creative people who like to work with their hands. Tradespeople need strong skills in reading, writing, math and science.

All careers are valuable. We want doctors, lawyers, teachers and others to have a college education.

What’s missing is the balance of people who build our infrastructure and keep it working — electrical, roadways, airports, water systems and sanitation, telecommunications and energy — and those who provide services, such as chefs, mechanics, dental technicians and beauticians.

Lipster said parents are starting to accept and understand the need. The onus of college debt is helping to swing the pendulum.

The Electrical Trades Center also offers a preapprenticeship that is less intense, in which students can learn if a skill suits them. It also teaches them work ethics for sustaining employment.

“We have students biking from the airport area to come to classes here on Goodale Boulevard. They are never late and work hard,” Lipster said.

“It’s hard to express the self-satisfaction of a job well done — a sense that all craftspeople contribute to society,” he said.

The center partners with Columbus State Community College and Franklin University — which also offer training in trades — and with local, regional and national organizations.

One way to set up our youth for success is to give them all the options for careers, including the skilled-trades route — built by tradespeople.

‘Unadoptable’ label is one no child deserves

Day by Day: ‘Unadoptable’ label is one no child deserves

By LIZ THOMPSON

September 25, 2017

This Week News

We need to give every child a strong foundation. That foundation is family.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of children across the United States are put into foster care through no fault of their own. More than 110,000 still await homes. Franklin County Children Services has 200 children waiting.

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption began 25 years ago and believes every child deserves a loving family. “Unadoptable” is unacceptable.

“Children in foster care have had a tough start to life, but they are every bit deserving of the stability and love that comes with family,” said Rita Soronen, president and CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. “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. To adopt or foster, the conversation has to focus on the child.”

In 2004, the foundation initiated its signature program, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, which provides grants to adoption agencies to hire specially trained adoption recruiters.

These professionals focus solely on finding permanent, loving families for the children most at risk of aging out of foster care: older youths, children in sibling groups, children with challenges and youths who have simply given up hope of ever finding a forever home.

Charlea Mayle, a Lewis Center resident, was adopted out of a foster home at age 12. Today, she is a WWK recruiter.

“I bring a unique, yet familiar, perspective to the youths in my caseload,” Mayle said. “I believe my passion and belief that all children are worthy of having a forever committed family often allows me to engage and advocate with and for our youths in foster care more diligently and effectively.

“These youths experience tremendous challenges and disappointments. Despite it all, they are resilient and loving,” Mayle said.

The WWK program focuses on all the people in a child’s life to find them a family. Case in point: A 14-year-old boy in foster care was able to identify several friends with whom he remained close. Mayle reached out to one of their mothers, who was a past foster parent to this boy but unaware the agency obtained permanent custody of him. She adopted him.

“Being an adoption recruiter allows me to be an advocate and a trusted ally to these youths on their journey towards permanency,” Mayle said.

Mayle said often youths lose hope, believing people do not want to adopt them or that they will never be adopted.

“Since 1992, the foundation has been committed to the vision of our founder, Dave Thomas: to ensure every child has a permanent and loving family,” Soronen said. “Each day, we work to dramatically increase the number of adoptions from foster care. We believe that family is the birthright of every child and that every child is adoptable.”

The foundation was one of the co-founders of National Adoption Day, a grassroots collaborative that is now embedded in all 50 states to raise awareness of the children in foster care waiting to find permanent, loving families.

Franklin County Children Services, the National Center for Adoption Law and Policy at Capital University Law School and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption will celebrate National Adoption Day on Nov. 16 at the Franklin County Courthouse’s probate court, 373 S. High St., 22nd floor.

Chip Spinning, executive director of Franklin County Children Services, will make brief remarks, with staff, caseworkers and families attending the private event.

Last year, Franklin County Children Services finalized the adoption of 13 children to five adoptive homes.

A total of 65,000 children have found families through National Adoption Day.

For information, call the Franklin County Children Services Adoption Division at 614-341-6060; the Dave Thomas Foundation at 800-ASK-DTFA; or visit davethomasfoundation.org or childrenservices.franklincountyohio.gov.

 

 

 

 

Storytellers’ tales deserve our attention

Day by Day
Storytellers’ tales deserve our attention

By LIZ THOMPSON

August 2017

ThisWeekNews

My late father-in-law loved to tell stories of the “old days” — coal mining in southeastern Ohio, life during the Depression and more.

He would be well over 100 years old if he were still alive.

When we learned of his cancer, one of his granddaughters gave him a cassette recorder and blank tapes so he could record his stories.

My husband, Bob, grew up listening to stories not only from his parents, aunts and uncles, but from others who lived near their farm and had emigrated from eastern Europe.

Recently, Bob was telling some of the stories to our grandchildren. They laughed and asked questions and were amazed at how different things were for their Pappy and his family than they are today.

Our granddaughter, Elizabeth, said she wanted to write down the stories, and that she did. With pencil and pad of paper in hand, she wrote the stories passed down from her great-great-grandparents and great-grandparents.

Intertwined were stories of her Pappy’s childhood and his experiences with all the former storytellers. It was a joy to listen.

Since Elizabeth is a writer in her own right, I have a feeling a version of these characters will show up in a novel or two in her lifetime. At least, she will carry the history on to the next generation.

I grew up listening to stories, as well. I never knew either grandfather, so my grandmothers, aunts, uncles and parents provided tales of life in the same old days. That might be where I learned to love weaving words into stories.

We moved to Grove City in 2005, when we came back from the West Coast. This town was my first beat as a reporter in 2000. I loved the feel of the town. The people were amiable and seemed to work hard for a living.

I had heard history revealed in personal experiences of the early days in Grove City from people like Pudge — that’s the only name I knew him by. I could listen to people like him for hours and never glance at my watch.

Our neighbors are friendly, much like those in the Westerville neighborhood in which I was raised.

In 2007, one neighbor, Ann, hosted a get-together. We were in for a real treat when Ruth Sawyer Jividen, who lived around the corner, was a guest.

Turns out she was the last direct descendent to the first settler in Grove City. She started talking, and I started writing. She was a female version of my father-in-law.

Ruth and I enjoyed our time together writing the “Ruth Remembers” columns, which were published for a few years in a local newspaper, now gone. I was fascinated with her experiences growing up in Grove City, and so were the readers.

Around the same time, Janet Shailer and Laura Lanese published “Images of America: Grove City,” and Ruth’s family homestead history is included.

Ruth is now with her maker, in whom she firmly believed. Her home has been refurbished, but it’s just a house. I’m blessed with my memories of my time with Ruth.

As a reporter in Upper Arlington, I met Pete and Marjorie Sayers, lifetime residents and true storytellers. Marjorie was the driving force for the book, “The History of Upper Arlington,” published in 1988.

A new edition, in honor of the town’s centennial next year, will be available in the fall. The authors interviewed Marjorie and others to give it a conversational tone, along with the historical facts.

Soon after I wrote a story about Pete and Marjorie, the editor of the newspaper asked them to write a column about Upper Arlington history.

The late Patricia Orndorff Ernsberger wrote “Bicentennial Journal” and later added an updated version, including “Uptown: People, Places and Events” about Westerville history.

Most towns have their own local historians, and families have their own storytellers. People of this generation are all but gone. Their stories remind us of different times — not easier, but simpler.

All we need to do is listen.

Ruth Sawyer Jividen

Bob and me with our granddaughter Elizabeth. Our dog Toby joined in.

Education can balance seniors’ risk of falling

Day by Day
Education can balance seniors’ risk of falling

By LIZ THOMPSON

August 1, 2017

This Week News

Watching children intentionally fall on the ground, doing somersaults and hand springs, is delightful. They might end up with a scratch or two, but it’s all a part of childhood.

Falling in love is another way to fall painlessly. We retell the stories over and over again, like children doing somersaults.

Too many years have passed to remember when I fell down intentionally.

Now when I fall, it’s an accident — and I end up with a lot more than scratches. I have broken bones, bruises and aches and pains that last for weeks.

I adapt daily to stay upright and encourage others to do the same.

Ohio statistics are discouraging: In 2014, Ohioans age 65 and older accounted for 84 percent of deaths by falling and 74 percent of nonfatal fall hospitalizations.

More than 60 percent of these falls happen in the home.

Falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury in Ohio residents in this same age group. Usually when I fall, I hit my head, which terrifies me. It makes me rethink how I motivate through my day. I’m selective about when and where I go outside the home.

Each week, there are more than 1,500 emergency department visits, close to 400 hospitalizations and 22 deaths due to fall injuries of this same Ohio population.

In 2015, 537,222 of Ohio adults ages 65 and older reported having fallen.

According to the National Council on Aging’s STEADI project, causes of falling include leg weakness, mobility problems, balance issues, poor vision, multiple medications and risky behavior.

“Risky behavior” in this population can mean, as we age, we forget we can’t do things the way we had for many years. It becomes unsafe to carry heavy items while walking, to use ladders, or to stand up and walk before we’re ready.

It’s not worth the risk.

I’ve learned that when I ask for help, most people lend a hand with a smile. They want to help, but don’t know what to do.

Risk factors we can modify include removing clutter and tripping hazards; adding grip bars near commodes and in showers and tubs; installing handrails on staircases; and improving lighting. Those who need mobility aids should use them.

I no longer worry about how I look using a cane, walker or one of my motorized chairs. I’m in the age bracket I’m writing about, not just one of thousands with multiple sclerosis and other conditions that give us reasons to use assistance — conditions that also add to our likelihood of falling.

Do I always listen to my own advice? No.

The phrase “Too soon old, too late smart” suits me, yet I’m determined to become determined about each step I take.

The Upper Arlington Commission on Aging is partnering with Mount Carmel Health to present information on the topic of fall prevention and balance. The free program is set from 9 a.m. to noon Sept. 20 at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church, 2300 Lytham Road.

Quality of life diminishes once a fall occurs. Prevention is an important key to aging well, and that is one goal of these speakers at the program.

Dr. Victor Dizon, trauma medical director, will present a case scenario involving an older person who fell and sustained multiple injuries to demonstrate how badly someone can be injured from a “simple fall.”

Audiologist Lisa Hansel will discuss an underlying and treatable balance impairment that may cause falling.

Angie Caplinger, a physical therapist, will conduct balance screenings to assess people’s ability to maintain balance in various conditions. The screening indicates if a person is at risk for falling.

Lori Candon, who practices inner nature yoga, will have a short tai chi demonstration between educational speakers. Tai chi has been shown to help improve balance.

Registration is required; call 614-583-5326 by Sept. 13.

“Fall” in line to learn more. With knowledge and care we can lower the statistics and live more fully.

‘Aging out’ of foster care can bring difficulty

‘Aging out’ of foster care can bring difficulty

By Liz Thompson
July 3, 2017
ThisWeekNews

Her mother died of cancer when she was 10. Her father was physically abusive and she was removed from the home. In foster care, she lived in an emergency shelter, an all-girls group home and a co-ed group home.

Lisa Dickson was inspired by these experiences to become an advocate for change. At 16, she was accepted into college — her lifeline into the future.

“I remain forever grateful to Randy Mills, former admissions counselor at the University of Kentucky, for literally walking me down the hall to financial aid and telling them, ‘This girl has no family to help her — this girl needs grants,’ ” said Dickson, now a Westerville resident.

“It sounds great to say that I started college at age 16 — but by age 17, I was homeless due to trying to rescue my former roommate from a group home. This urge to rescue others is so strong that we Ohio foster-care (alumni) currently lead a workshop called ‘When Helping You Is Hurting Me,’ ” Dickson said.

During her time in foster care, Dickson said she often had no voice. Today, she listens to the voices of current and former foster youth. They stand side by side to improve outcomes for people in and from foster care.

Dickson considers it an honor to volunteer as communications chairwoman of Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now Ohio, and as co-facilitator of the Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board. She helped create both groups in 2006. Their initiatives include annual trips to Washington, D.C., to share their hard-won experiences and advocate for policy change, such as ending the “pipeline” from foster care to homelessness.

“What I don’t get is this: I aged out of foster care in 1989 and ended up homeless,” Dickson said. “Why are today’s youths still aging out into homelessness? We could and should and must do better.”

U.S. Rep. Michael Turner (R-Dayton) created the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Act as a direct result of one of those visits to Washington.

This act, with no additional spending required, allows foster-care youth who are close to “aging out” of foster care to jump to the front of the waitlist for housing assistance when they reach 16 years old.

ACTION Ohio’s Suits for Success program provides professional attire to current and former foster youths who are preparing to enter the workforce. Suits for Success needs a future storage location for donated suits. The organization welcomes suit donations on an ongoing basis. It often pairs distribution of the suits with job-interview simulations and resume practice.

“Time and time again, our young people tell us that it’s not enough to know what the resources are — they need coaching and guidance regarding how to access them effectively.”

Two such places are Capital Law School’s free Family and Youth Advocacy Center (http://familyyouthlaw.org/fyac.php) for current or former foster youths and Columbus State Community College’s Scholar Network. (http://www.cscc.edu/about/ssi/)

“Even after graduating college, as a foster-care survivor, it can feel lonely to be ‘one of the ones who made it,’ ” Dickson said. “Our young people today deserve to have campus liaisons like Randy to support them.”

Holidays and birthdays can be lonely for current and former foster youths, when many families gather to celebrate.

“I’ve been married for 17 years and have two beloved stepdaughters, but I don’t expect them to understand what the foster-care experience was like for me,” Dickson said.

On Thanksgiving 2007, Dickson and other former foster youths from across the nation traveled to Washington to encourage the federal government to extend foster-care support to age 21. They shared Thanksgiving dinner on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

From 2008 onward, Ohio has held statewide and regional early Thanksgiving dinners for foster-care teens and alumni. Dickson serves as lead planner.

“When we come together as brothers and sisters of the foster-care system, we can encourage and support one another. We celebrate each other’s success and continue to improve outcomes for the next generation.”

Much needs to be done, as an average of 150 children in Franklin County (Ohio) alone age out of foster care every year.

For more information, email info@fosteractionohio.org.

 

 

Life’s curving path affords chance to learn

Day by Day:
Life’s curving path affords chance to learn

June 5, 2017

By Liz Thompson
This Week News

In 1969, I graduated from high school, like so many students did last month.

My granddaughter was one such graduate; she was home-schooled. That decision came about mostly because her father was in the military and moving was inevitable. The admiration I have for my daughter — my granddaughter’s teacher — runs deep.

All my grandchildren are musical and have their own band, with friends included. My granddaughter plans to study music and become a teacher. She already has young piano students.

Academic and music scholarships found her because of her hard work and God-given talent.

Choices were different for young women when I graduated. Typically, but not exclusively, if a girl went to college, she would choose nursing, teaching, social work or secretarial studies — all important professions.

Memories of my graduation day are few, but I recall feeling undeserving of the honor.

I was in a different place, by the time I was a senior, from where my granddaughter is today. My grade-point average was embarrassingly low — in part, I’m certain now, due to the hearing loss that kept me struggling to know what was going on.

Had it not been for music and drama, I likely would have failed.

The love of music was in my heart with every note I sang. Even with my hearing loss, I was active in church and school choirs and musicals. I went to the only state college that accepted me and chose music as my major — because people assumed that’s what I would study.

I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.

My second year, I switched to special education, with music as my minor.

But I never graduated from college. Out of necessity, I worked as a secretary at many levels of responsibility until my hearing loss prevented me from fully doing the job.

I became an unwitting advocate for myself and others. Thanks to a newspaper editor who believed in me, I became a deaf reporter.

A cochlear implant in 2002 made me a hearing person again. Words are clear, though the complexities of music are lost. Along the way, I learned tenacity, sign language, a healthful stubbornness, computer and writing skills and patience — for myself and others.

At 51, the Ohio University Experiential Learning Program allowed me to equate my life experience to more than 50 college credits, making me a college senior.

My last job as a teacher’s assistant for children with disabilities was a favorite because when you teach, you learn.

I learned that children with Down syndrome love to hug, and I had to brace myself and move them off to the side to be appropriate. These children show unconditional love — something they can teach all of us.

One child couldn’t speak, so I was her sign-language teacher. We hugged more than one palm tree (we were in Arizona) using her tactile skills.

Another child had muscular dystrophy. When it came time for a fire drill, I’d say to him, “Let’s hobble out to the field together!” My multiple sclerosis was beginning to slow me down enough to appreciate his struggles.

One boy had hearing loss but wanted to ignore it, or at least not talk about it. I’ve met adults with the same attitude.

My plans to be a music teacher failed, but I will cheer my granddaughter on as she pursues the same goal with a stronger foundation and more talent than I had. My grandchildren will carry on the music that I lost.

The best-laid plans often fail. Looking back, I see unexpected twists and turns in my path through life and obstacles I’ve overcome, with God’s help.

I didn’t finish college, but I never stopped learning. I’m still at it.

Day by day, figuring out how to build a bridge over obstacles to get to our goal and greeting the changes with open arms is worth the effort.

Hugging palm trees is optional.