On worst days, 911 call takers are there

On worst days, 911 call takers are there

By LIZ THOMPSON

February 23, 2020
This Week News

“Imagine being there for everyone’s worst day, every day. The reward is absolutely knowing you made a difference with each shift.”

These words from Johnna Sells, Franklin County (Ohio) 911 coordinator, tell us what telecommunicators deal with on every shift they work.

Never was I more thankful for the ability to dial those three short numbers to get help than I was 15 years ago, after I went careening backward down my basement steps onto concrete.

Those three numbers connected me with a calm voice that asked me, “Where is your emergency?”

Within minutes, several EMTs were coming in my back door, per my instructions.

I have always wondered about the calm voices at the other end of my calls.

These people are called dispatchers, communications technicians, public-safety telecommunicators or call takers.

The most important name is first responders.

They are the first people we talk to – those who are extensively trained to sort quickly through our emergency and send the correct help our way.

“There is so much more that is expected from our telecommunicators than ever before,” Sells said. “With the constant addition of new and better technology, the job is constantly evolving. The job is anything but stagnant.”

Training is detailed so telecommunicators can triage the diverse situations to get the proper response started.

Dublin, Grove City, Hilliard and Upper Arlington provide Smart911.

Smart911 allows individuals to provide additional personal information on their households, such as names, ages, health issues and pets, for the telecommunicators.

“It is different because it goes beyond the basics provided by a phone company,” Sells said.

When people call 911, they could be panicking, or for other reasons not able to provide all the information needed for the best response.

“Smart911 is a good financial investment for a community to make,” Sells said.

In 1968, the first 911 call was made in the United States. Now, 96% of the United States is covered by some level of 911 service. 911 was established in 1983 in Ohio. Franklin County implemented the services in 1987.

If you need to call 911, the most important information you can give is your location.

“You can give the entire rundown of the bad thing that is happening, but the bottom line is that we cannot help you if we don’t know where you are,” Sells said.

“Rest assured, once we know where you are and what the type of emergency that is occurring, we have started a response,” she said. “If we are still asking questions, it’s because we need additional information to pass to the responders so they can better prepare before they arrive on (the) scene.”

Telecommunicators always are in demand, Sells said.

“It’s hard work, and, traditionally, it comes with long hours, at all hours of the day and night,” she said.

Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and weekends are included, so it is not for everyone.

“We look for people who want to serve their community and work in the public-safety field,” Sells said. “There has to be some passion for the industry to keep someone engaged and dedicated, but we also need people who are empathetic and can talk someone down when they are reaching out for help.”

Telecommunicators are multitaskers. They must be people who can talk, type, anticipate the needs of their responders and keep a steady voice through it all. They put the pieces together for their responders and for their community.

Sells was a telecommunicator for 15 years and said, “They are the first to learn about the emergency, now with growing video technology, sometimes even first eyes on (the) scene, they are the link between the public and the help they need.

“Telecommunicators should be held to the same high standards that police and fire have to meet and maintain, and they should in return be given the same recognition as those they work alongside,” she said.

Thank you all for being there in sometimes our darkest hours.

Call Franklin County’s human-resources line at 614-525-3397 if you want to know more about becoming a telecommunicator.

Empty nest prompts advice for moms, dads

Day by Day: Empty nest prompts advice for moms, dads

By LIZ THOMPSON

January 27, 2020
This Week News

One spring, I watched an adult male robin and a young male robin as they hopped in my yard, pecking at the ground.

I noticed the larger robin was leading the smaller one – obviously papa and son.

I was fascinated. I had never seen that obvious action of teaching in nature before. I wondered how long it took the mama bird to push him out of the nest, and then the papa took over the teaching so he could survive.

Papa’s role had changed; he no longer brought worms to the nest for the babies.

That’s what we want for our children – not so much the worms but the learning and growing. We care for our children when they are young and cannot care for themselves.

As parents, we do our best to teach them by example and in all the ways anyone learns anything. We encourage their talents and provide opportunities as we can. We gradually nudge our children out of the nest so they will learn independence and live the lives they were meant to live apart from us.

The door always is left open with a soft place to land, no matter their age or place in life.

But the day comes when they fly the coop and we wave goodbye, helpless to stop time. A mixture of sadness, pride, love and hope rises within when we comprehend we have been working toward this day since they were born.

The time with them has moved far too rapidly, we realize, as we blink away tears.

My husband and I became empty nesters in 1995. All three children were grown and out on their own. When our youngest, Mary, waved goodbye to us after her wedding, I was told it was OK to cry.

But I said I was fine and very happy for her. She had married a nice man whom we loved.

The moment I landed in the passenger seat of our car to go home, I burst into tears.

How had time moved so fast?

I recovered on our drive home. I reminded myself again how happy we were for her.

Later that evening, I walked into our bedroom and found a framed picture of Mary with us, taken when she was about 3 years old.

A letter had been placed next to it.

As I read the letter, my hands shook with emotion and the tears once again fell. She was thanking us for being her parents.

The litany of mistakes I’d made over the years could have canceled out her loving words. So often I felt that I had messed up and had done things wrong as a parent.

If I could do it again today, I would do things differently. This same daughter went on to successfully homeschool all three of her children, and now she’s on the verge of being an empty nester, too.

That day, in 1995, as I read and reread her letter and then shared it with my husband, the old regrets melted away.

The letter is still tucked behind the photo. I have shared it with a few close friends, and each time, the tears return.

A quote from the book “Live and Learn and Pass It On” – described as “a collection of wisdom from people aged 5 to 95″ – states, “I’ve learned that simple walks with my father around the block on summer nights when I was a child did wonders for me as an adult.”

Pastor and author Gordon McDonald agrees: “All effective fathers learn the importance of a wise and flexible response to their children’s calls for attention. No busy signals here. No hold button.”

That also holds true for mothers, stepparents, grandparents, foster parents, adoptive parents or any adult in a child’s life who can offer the simple things to our children that involve time.

Talk and listen, cook, read, laugh and solve problems together.

Help with homework and attend their sports games, plays, concerts, art shows and science fairs.

Show up. Be present.

As ordinary people, we can show extraordinary love as we see each child as a unique gift, pecking his or her way through life, looking for an example.

City wasting less food, but work remains

City wasting less food, but work remains

Day by Day

By LIZ THOMPSON

January 4, 2020

This Week News

The holidays are over, and in many cases, our stomachs show the evidence of their feasts and bountiful sweets.

But buffets with mounds of food always have squelched my appetite. It might be the huge selection, the mixture of food aromas or that I was taught to eat all the food on my plate at a meal.

I also know many people go without even a portion of that bounty.

Although the United States is considered a land of plenty, many live with food insecurity. We all should ponder how we manage the food we buy.

As my husband, Bob, and I gradually moved from a household of five down to two, we continued to cook for five. Our freezer often was full of leftovers. But I confess to throwing food away in the past.

Over the past 25 years, we learned to cook for two. We subscribed to Cooking for Two magazine from Taste of Home. I found allrecipes.com, where you can choose the number of people you want the recipe to serve, and it adjusts the measurements.

Ty Marsh, executive director of the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio, said in Franklin County alone, nearly a million pounds of food waste enters the landfill every day.

Dr. Allan Lines, Ohio State University professor emeritus and a Worthington resident, taught courses in farm management, farm finance and agribusiness finance. He remains active as an agricultural consultant in Ohio, the U.S. and in international agriculture.

“There is a lot of food wasted here and in the rest of the developed world,” Lines said.

He said he was shocked in 2018 when he took a group of visiting professors from Ukraine to a food-distribution company in central Ohio.

“The managers of the warehouse told us that of every 100 semitruck trailers coming into the distribution center with fresh food, four truckloads were separated as ‘unusable’ and sent on to the landfill,” he said.

“This was largely because of spoilage or conditions, such as blemishes, poor coloring, unripe, overripe and misshapen or other attributes the consumer is unwilling to purchase,” Lines said. “So it is not just the waste at home. We have a long way to go to train families, young and old, that fresh foods don’t need to be perfect to be edible and nutritious.”

We each can take measures to become better at managing our resources.

Bob and I have a small compost bin in our yard that we fill with food scraps. This becomes soil rich with nutrients for our garden. SWACO recommends shopping with a list — I have heard never to shop hungry — as well as freezing leftovers or feeding them to your dog (if they’re safe for animals).

Our dog has refused only a few foods, but check with your veterinarian for recommendations. Like people, all dogs are different.

I was encouraged to learn that a year ago, SWACO launched the Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative, a group of more than 60 organizations working together to reduce food waste. The initiative is concentrating on three areas: food-waste prevention, food rescue (getting extra food to those in need) and food recycling.

This group will release the results of a feasibility study and kick off a consumer-education campaign this year, including a food-waste-reduction program in schools.

SWACO grants support residential compost options across the region. The cities of Bexley, Worthington and Upper Arlington have instituted the pilot program.

In November, SWACO released new numbers that show central Ohio has surpassed a 50% diversion rate. This means residents and businesses are keeping more than half of the waste they create out of the landfill by recycling, composting and reusing materials.

When you see that not-so-perfect piece of fruit dangling from a tree or in the produce department, give it a try. Think of ways to be wise with the food available to us.

Make our only footprint in that compost-rich soil of our garden, with a lifestyle of guarding our land’s resources.

Check out swaco.org and look for places to dispose of products. To learn about the initiative, go to cofwi.com.

Ocean’s sound spurs waves of thankfulness

Day by Day
Ocean’s sound spurs waves of thankfulness

By LIZ THOMPSON
December 1, 2019
This Week News

 

The wind was blowing the trees sideways.

Leaves were falling like rain as I waited for the actual rain to begin.

Early last month, autumn in its glory of color and cool temperatures were blowing out of Ohio. Winter was close behind.

My friend, Sonja, called me while the winds blew.

“Liz, have you listened to the leaves? They sound like the ocean.”

“The leaves on the ground?” There were plenty of those.

“No, in the trees. Go listen.”

So I did. It took me a moment to match the sound with the idea of the ocean.

Then I got it. The wind blowing the drying leaves in the trees sounded like the ocean surf as it rolled onto the beach. I could almost smell the saltwater and feel the cold waves splashing over my bare feet.

Never once had I thought about how one distinct sound could remind me of another – especially two so different. Dry leaves and ocean surf? Yet there it was flowing into my brain. I could close my eyes and remember being at the ocean and figuratively lapping up the sound.

In 1976, I was in the ocean at Martha’s Vineyard. My 2-year-old daughter played in the sand. The surf drowned out all other sounds, except for the squawking seagulls as they swooped through the sky.

By 1992, sounds were elusive, and by 2000, they had gone silent.

In 2002, though, I received my first cochlear implant. When I visited my daughter and her family in California, of course, I went to the ocean.

That’s when I stood in the surf once again and heard the waves rolling onto the beach. The water washed over my bare feet, and I sunk partly into the sand as I stood there soaking in the beautiful sound. The rhythm hummed in the air and vibrated in the sand.

During December, I’m especially aware that another year is ending and a new one is peeking around the corner. With the joy of Christmas closing out the month, I often find myself counting my blessings.

I review the year and see what I, and others in my life, have come through.

Irving Berlin might have thought of this when he wrote “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep),” sung in the movie “White Christmas”:

“When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep, and I fall asleep, counting my blessings.”

When I think about counting my blessings so I can go to sleep, I think I might never get to sleep because the count would be so high.

What a lovely problem to have.

Typically, we think of a blessing as something we have or have received.

Hindsight gives us 20/20 vision. As we age, we have many more experiences to review and are able to see the world with perspective.

Many of my experiences have included struggles. While riding the wave of troubles, all I could see was the long to-do list, the endless what-ifs or the physical or emotional pain and uncertainties.

Now I can see the blessings derived from getting through these times. I came out stronger and more appreciative.

As the seemingly endless waves roll to shore, we wonder if we can withstand the rush of life pressing in. Often, we feel we are sinking and all hope is lost.

One of my favorite hymns also talks about counting our blessings. Written in the early 1900s by Johnson Oatman Jr. and Edwin O. Excell, “Count Your Blessings” begins:

“When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed, when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, count your many blessings; name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”

The true reason Christmas exists is that God came down to reveal his love and ultimate blessing.

Love for pets connects us with humans

Day by Day: Love for pets connects us with humans

By LIZ THOMPSON

November 3, 2019

This Week News

We know unconditional love when a warm, furry pet in the shape of a dog or cat cuddles with us.

It has been proven that such cuddles lower blood pressure and ease feelings of loneliness.

Over the years, my family has kept myriad dogs and cats as pets. Many of our family stories – happy and sad – revolve around these animals. We are not alone in this.

While camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee last month, my husband, Bob, and I met people from Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Virginia and, of course, Tennessee. Still others we talked with but never learned their home state.

Our dog, Toby, was a perfect conversation starter during walks. He is friendly and loves meeting new people, as do we.

Lou and Dan Farrow from Sugar Tree, Tennessee, told us they have owned three dogs: Queenie, Duchess and Princess. Despite the royal names, one was “an all-American mutt,” Lou said; the other two were Keeshonds.

Dan went into their trailer to get a photo of Princess, their last dog. The beautiful animal was perched on his favorite rock, Dan told us.

“It’s right down this road,” he said. “She would go there every time we walked.”

Princess has been gone two years, yet they spoke of her as if she might be nearby.

We understood and we talked about our past dogs, too, with the same affection and sweet memories.

As we spoke, Toby was waiting patiently in a pile of leaves, facing toward our campsite.

“I think he is ready to go h-o-m-e,” I said, spelling the last word.

Dan and Lou both laughed and said they had to do the same thing with their dogs: spell such words as treat, ride and walk.

That’s because saying certain words made our dogs anticipate that action.

We joke that Toby has learned to spell, so we need to change such words as walk to stroll.

A veterinarian told me years ago that dogs can learn up to 100 words, but I didn’t ask if they could learn to spell.

Sunny was an 8-year-old golden retriever we met with his owner from Tennessee. I guessed they were from the Volunteer State because their canopies and coats were all orange.

An Ohioan might have scarlet and gray.

I didn’t get the owner’s name, but she told me Sunny was a little skittish and didn’t leave her side often.

Her story reminds us that we provide comfort for our dogs, too. I know Toby is happiest when Bob and I are with him.

William and Tamarra from Spottsville, Kentucky, talked about Buster, their black Lab, when they walked onto our campsite to meet us. While Tamarra petted Toby, William pulled out his phone to show us photos of Buster.

“He traveled with us for 12 years,” William said. “We were actually in this campsite last time we were here with him.”

That was two years ago; sadly, Buster is gone.

Kristina Reed of Virginia camped next to us for a few days.

It was her first time camping without her daughter, now in college.

She especially loved seeing Toby because she had to leave her dachshund home with a friend. She hikes, and no dogs are allowed on trails.

Kristina shared photos of her dogs, including one who died a couple of months ago.

Dogs and cats are with us for a short time.

They give us many reasons to be thankful they walked into our lives, offering comfort and reasons to smile and remember.

On the morning we were leaving, William came to say goodbye. He had watched us with Toby, and when Toby gave him a doggie goodbye, William said, “You sure do get attached, don’t ya?”

That we do.

 

Bob, Toby and me in the Smokies

Ever-evolving class reunions ‘bittersweet’

Day by Day: Ever-evolving class reunions ‘bittersweet’

By LIZ THOMPSON

Oct 6, 2019
This Week News
 

Some people might wonder why, 50 years after my high school graduation, any of my 370 classmates would want to reunite.

But some 68 graduates from Westerville (South) High School (Ohio) did just that in August.

Many of my classmates traveled all 12 years – 13 if you count kindergarten – alongside each other. If we didn’t attend the same elementary school, we knew some classmates at our church, in Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, Campfire Girls or through mutual friends.

Surely, we all spent many hours at Jaycee swimming pool, which opened in 1958, or Glengarry’s round swimming pool, which closed in 1979. I would miss the center diving board at Glengarry, but my siblings and I could ride our bikes or walk to Jaycee – and they had swim teams.

But like most children, we wanted to be refreshed with cool water during our summer days.

I remember classmate Dee Weaston Standish’s sister, Diane, giving us each a nickel to jump off the high board. A nickel would buy us a candy bar. Westerville was a typical small town, like so many in the 1950s and ’60s across America.

One draw to the reunion for me was all these shared memories that made us who we are. We might not have a lot in common today, but we easily laughed at our junior high photos and memories of living in a small town.

We were thrown back in time when Ron Kenreich, music director during our senior year, led us in singing “Happy Birthday to You” to Nancy Lindsay Coder.

Dee, the reunion chairperson, asked, “Mr. Kenreich, will you lead us in singing ‘Happy Birthday?’ ”

Without a moment’s hesitation, Ron raised his arms and motioned for us to sing. I felt 17 again, as I’m sure the others did, too. My guess is that Ron also felt younger.

Music is a great memory keeper. Ron had been teaching only a few years when he walked into our school to lead us in a glorious year of music.

Dee, now living in Marietta, told me later why she thought the reunion was so special.

“As life gets in the way with work, family, children and grandchildren, I find it hard to see all the classmates I would like to see,” she said. “The two evenings we spent together were a wonderful opportunity to see so many friends. The years melted away with smiles, hugs and laughter.

“Five years is too long to wait to do it again.”

Our class has held reunions many times in five-year intervals. Now we are talking about a 70th birthday party in two years. I’m sure the idea will gain momentum as 2021 nears.

Classmate Jeff Fields moved to Nevada 30 years ago and saw major changes and growth in his hometown.

“Being so far away, our reason for attending was to see our old hometown and the friends who made it such a great place to grow up,” Jeff said. “The irony of it all was saying ‘hi,’ getting a hug and sharing a memory but silently knowing that ‘goodbye’ was also being said. But it was worth every minute.”

Barbara West Rood, in Westerville, said she agreed with Dr. Seuss’s question, “How did it get so late so soon?”

“Seems as though it was just a short time ago at previous reunions we were discussing who married who, careers, children and fun times,” Barbara said. “Further down the line, the discussions became about grandchildren, retirement, travel plans and maybe caring for parents.

“The most recent reunion became Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story” for me. It was the same personality, laugh and smile in friends that I knew from 50-plus years ago.”

I chose to use my cane and not my walker at the reunion. But two classmates used walkers and one was on oxygen.

Physical aging evident, we keep going.

“It was so good to catch up and bittersweet in a way knowing that time is catching up with all of us,” Barbara said, “but, thank God, we’ll get new bodies and another, even sweeter reunion someday.”

 

Class of 1969, Westerville (Ohio) High School

Handcrafted bowls, filled, fight hunger

Handcrafted bowls, filled, fight hunger

By LIZ THOMPSON
September 8, 2019
This Week News

The analogy of whether a partial glass of water is half-full or half-empty has been around for generations.

I heard it when a college classmate had interviewed for the Peace Corps. The interviewer wanted to know if she was an optimist or a pessimist. I’m guessing the half-empty applicants did not make the cut.

But what if we are looking at an empty soup bowl? Is it empty because we just finished eating a hot bowl of soup? Or was it never filled to begin with?

“Hunger,” according to Feeding America, “refers to a personal, physical sensation of discomfort, while food insecurity refers to a lack of available financial resources for food at the level of the household.”

The nonprofit organization adds that one in eight Americans are food-insecure.

According to farmingtofighthunger.com, 41 million people struggle with hunger in the United States, including 13 million children. Teachers state that 62% of students come to school hungry, the website says.

Central Ohio is not immune to food insecurity. According to a 2018 article by Rita Price in The Columbus Dispatch, one-third of families in Columbus experience it.

Locally, people are working to help put food on people’s tables and in their bowls.

That’s where Empty Bowls, an international movement that began about three decades ago and in which many communities participate, comes in.

Now in its 22nd year, a local Empty Bowls project has raised more than $275,000 for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.

“As part of an international fight against hunger, ceramic bowls are made by Columbus (Ohio) Recreation and Parks staff, volunteers and partners of all ages and then put on display at our partner locations,” said Wendy Frantz, Empty Bowls project coordinator and recreation administrative manager.

For a $10 minimum donation, the public is invited to select a bowl and enjoy a meal of homemade soup and bread, Frantz said.

The project is a collaborative effort among the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department, several churches and a variety of businesses and program sponsors, she said.

I still have the ceramic bowl made by a girl in the Grove City Parks and Recreation Department in 2000, the first time I attended an Empty Bowls event. Last year, I purchased another. (See photo below.)

“The funds are nonrestricted funds, meaning they go toward feeding hungry neighbors and can potentially cover other expenses that will allow the food bank to operate,” said Malik Perkins, public relations manager for the Mid-Ohio Foodbank. “When funds are used to purchase food, $1 can buy up to $10 in groceries for the people we serve.

“We are thankful to have a network of generous people who are willing to join us in our fight to end hunger.”

People of all ages can make a bowl at several community centers. Events include:

‒ Woodward Park Community Center, 5147 Karl Road, Columbus, 1 to 2:30 and 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays through Oct. 24.

‒ Far East Community Center, 1826 Lattimer Drive, Columbus, with parent/child bowl-making classes at 6:15 p.m. Tuesdays in October.

‒ Tuttle Park Community Center, 240 W. Oakland Ave., Columbus, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays, Sept. 19 through Oct. 17.

‒ Martin Janis Community Senior Center, 600 E. 11th Ave., Columbus, 2 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Oct. 30.

After the bowls are completed, events to sell the bowls and enjoy soup and bread begin. Events on Nov. 2 include:

‒ Parkview United Methodist Church, 344 S. Algonquin Ave., Columbus, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

‒ Tuttle Park Community Center, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

‒ Woodward Park Community Center, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

‒ Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church, 2213 White Road, Grove City, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For more events and details, go to columbus.gov/emptybowls

My two bowls: L – 2018 and R – 2000