Kankakee Valley REMC - December 2022 Indiana Connection

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PAGES 18-21 DECEMBER 2022 IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT LETTER helpers Santa’s Kankakee Valley REMC’s Are you the next KV REMC board member?

from the editor

A gingerbread Christmas

I’m obsessed with gingerbread houses.

I love how, by judiciously purposing gumdrops, candy canes, M&Ms, and royal icing as architectural and landscaping details, a cookie can become so much more than baked dough (albeit delicious baked dough!). Of course, I’m totally intimidated by creating my own gingerbread house (maybe I’ll finally try my hand at cookie architecture next year!), but what I can master is creating a whole family of gingerbread people suitable to inhabit the gingerbread home of my imagination.

Gingerbread cookies are some of my favorite holiday treats. I love the sweet and spicy taste of ginger, allspice, cloves, cinnamon and molasses. I love the satisfying crispy crunch. And decorating them with icing, raisins, sprinkles and candy is not only fun, it’s actually therapeutic for me. I’m reminded of how I’d create clothes out of wrapping paper for paper dolls or when I’d draw faces on paper chain people cutouts when I was a child. Each cookie becomes a unique individual at decorating time thanks to flourishes of “buttons” and icing bows, curls and cuffs of different colors, and a never-the-same expression.

I invite you to block some time this holiday season to make a batch of gingerbread people, perhaps with your favorite little ones. Every part of the experience is enjoyable, from mixing the ingredients together, to rolling out the dough and cutting out the shapes, to the scent of the freshly baked cookies just out of the oven, to decorating each cookie, one by one … and finally, to the well-earned snack after the kitchen is cleaned up.

To help you “get your gingerbread on,” I’m offering an appropriately themed gift to a lucky reader: a gingerbread man platter, apron, spatula and cookie cutter. See below to find out how you could win this prize

I urge you to make sweet memories at home with those you love this Christmas!

Three ways to contact us: To send us recipes, photos, event listings, letters and entries for gift drawings, please use the forms on our website indianaconnection.org; email info@indianaconnection.org; or send to Indiana Connection, 8888 Keystone Crossing, Suite 1600, Indianapolis, IN 46240-4606.

VOLUME 72 • NUMBER 6 ISSN 0745-4651 • USPS 262-340

Published monthly by Indiana Electric Cooperatives

Indiana Connection is for and about members of Indiana’s locally-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives. It helps consumers use electricity safely and efficiently; understand energy issues; connect with their co-op; and celebrate life in Indiana. Over 304,000 residents and businesses receive the magazine as part of their electric co-op membership. Member’s cost per issue is approximately 32 cents, plus postage.

CONTACT US: 8888 Keystone Crossing, Suite 1600 Indianapolis, IN 46240-4606 317-487-2220 info@indianaconnection.org IndianaConnection.org


Steve McMichael Vice President Dr. Richard Leeper Secretary/Treasurer Tom VanParis Interim CEO

EDITORIAL STAFF: Emily Schilling Editor

Richard George Biever Senior Editor

Holly Huffman Communication Support Specialist

Lauren Carman Communication Manager

Kiley Lipps Graphic Designer

Amber Knight Creative Manager

Mandy Barth Vice President of Communication

ADVERTISING: American MainStreet Publications Cheryl Solomon, local ad representative; 512-441-5200; amp.coop Crosshair Media 502-216-8537; crosshairmedia.net Paid advertisements are not endorsements by any electric cooperative or this publication.

UNSOLICITED MATERIAL: Indiana Connection does not use unsolicited freelance manuscripts or photographs and assumes no responsibility for the safe keeping or return of unsolicited material.

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CHANGE OF ADDRESS: If you receive Indiana Connection through your electric co-op membership, report address changes to your local co-op.

POSTAGE: Periodicals postage paid at Indianapolis, Indiana, and at additional mailing offices.

POSTMASTER: Send change of address to: Indiana Connection, 8888 Keystone Crossing, Suite 1600, Indianapolis, IN 46240-4606. Include key number.

No portion of Indiana Connection may be reproduced without permission of the editor.

On the menu: March issue: Indiana’s famous recipes, deadline Jan. 1. April: Healthy toast topping ideas, deadline Feb. 1. If we publish your recipe on our food pages, we’ll send you a $10 gift card. EMILY SCHILLING Editor eschilling@indianaec.org Giveaway: Three giveaways this month: Emily’s gingerbread themed gifts, a St. Elmo’s prize pack featuring sauces and a $150 gift card, and a copy of the book “Letters to Santa.” Visit indianaconnection.org/talk-to-us/contests or send your contact information to the address below. The deadline to enter is Dec. 30.

On the cover

cover story food 14 contents 4 DECEMBER 2022 DECEMBER 03 FROM THE EDITOR 05 CO-OP NEWS Energy news and information from your electric cooperative. 10 ENERGY How to keep your December energy bill in check. 11 INSIGHTS 12 COUNTY OF THE MONTH Steuben County. 14 FOOD Loco for cocoa. 16 INDIANA EATS Host your own version of the St.
Eating Contest. 18 COVER STORY Santa’s letter helpers. 22 SAFETY Keeping warm with heating pads, electric blankets and space heaters. 23 CAREERS Jason Clemmons embraces co-op values. 24 HOOSIER ENERGY/ WABASH VALLEY NEWS 25 DIY HOME Make it a ‘green’ season with eco-friendly giftwrapping ideas. (NOT IN ALL EDITIONS.) 26 TRAVEL Hop aboard the tinsel lines. (NOT IN ALL EDITIONS.)
Elmo’s Shrimp Cocktail
25 energy diy FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA Indiana Connection 10
Pat Koch is all smiles as she prepares the reply to a child who’d written Santa. Koch, who’s been ghostwriting for Santa since 1943, is the chief elf of the Santa’s Elves, a nonprofit workshop of volunteers who answer the avalanche of mail Santa receives at Santa Claus, Indiana.




Toll Free: 800-552-2622 Local: 219-733-2511


7:30 a.m.– 4 p.m. Central Time Monday-Friday

STREET ADDRESS 8642 W. U.S. Highway 30 Wanatah, IN 46390

MAILING ADDRESS P.O. Box 157, Wanatah, IN 46390


Power outages can be reported by calling 800-552-2622 or through the SmartHub app.


Scott Sears, Chief Executive Officer

Alissa Tucker, Executive Assistant Angie Swanson, Office Manager

Amanda Steeb, Communications and Marketing Director

Dave Howell, Purchasing and Facilities Manager

Scott Hanson, Director of Operations

Bri Travis, Director of Engineering

Like us on Facebook facebook.com/KVREMC


Kankakee Valley REMC employees and directors wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. The co-op office will be closed on Dec. 23, 26 and 30, and Jan. 2.

co-op news

Why do we encourage energy efficiency?

Whether we’re talking about restaurants, car dealers, or department stores, most businesses work pretty hard at encouraging you to spend more. So why would the company selling you electricity instead keep talking about spending smarter?

Unlike businesses that focus on rewarding shareholders, Kankakee Valley REMC is a non-profit that exists solely to serve member-consumers like you. If we can help you make the most of your energy dollars by changing the way you do things, we’re happy. For example, we offer a rate option that can reward you for making wise energy choices.

Making changes around your home or office can help you spend smarter, too. For example, you can switch from old-style incandescent and fluorescent lights to today’s LED lamps, which use a small fraction of electricity to provide even more light. Caulking around your windows and doors

can eliminate those sneaky drafts that make your heater and air-conditioner work harder.

We also offer programs through PowerShift that put money back in your wallet when you install a WiFi thermostat or take part in the co-op's load control program. The PowerShift program allows the co-op to make brief adjustments to your home’s temperature when demand is high. There are even more rebates available through the Power Moves program. Information about both is available on our website.

The best way to start spending smarter is to use your phone and give us a call! While there are many large-scale changes that you can make to your home to make it more energy efficient, you can also make small changes to your habits and save energy and money through the time-of-use rate option. Call us today and we will be happy to explain how simple changes in the way you use energy can reward you. Best of all, there’s no charge for our help!


Chief Executive Officer


Crews in the Community

In this section, we’ll tell you where our maintenance and construction crews will be and what they will be doing.

Substation Maintenance: To improve performance, reliability, and the growing electrical demand, preliminary work has begun to upgrade Porter Substation. This substation feeds part of Lakes of the Four Seasons and rural Hebron areas. The upgrades will include a larger capacity power transformer and reclosures.

Pole Maintenance: Our crews conduct regular pole inspections and replacements as part of our year-round maintenance. Member-consumers in the Kouts and Morgan Township areas will see crews performing tests on the poles. Pole replacements are occurring in the areas of Hebron, Winfield, southwest of Valparaiso, Washington Township in Porter County and Wanatah and LaCrosse areas in LaPorte Co.

AMI Meter Deployment: Meter technicians continue to deploy Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) meters throughout the system. When an employee visits your home, they will remove your existing meter and replace it with new equipment. The process may cause your electricity to blink.

System Inventory: Contractors with Global Mapping Solutions (GMS) will complete the system inventory project this month. This project has involved physically taking inventory of each pole, transformer, etc., on the system to update the mapping and system inventory.


BOYS & GIRLS CLUBS OF LAPORTE COUNTY received a $2,000 grant. Boys & Girls Clubs of LaPorte County offer free afterschool programming that supports academic success, character and citizenship, and healthy lifestyles. This grant will help support supply costs for two years of programming at the Westville Boys & Girls Club. The club anticipates serving 80 children in kindergarten through eighth grade during the school year.

OREGON-DAVIS PTA will be able to add new equipment to its three playgrounds at OregonDavis Elementary School with a $10,000 grant. With the support of the Oregon-Davis School administration, the PTA playground project will remove current equipment and replace it with appropriate play structures for all age groups.


COUNTY received $10,000 for its VNA Meals on Wheels of Porter County program. This program provides nutritious home-delivered meals along with wellness checks to those in need. Last year alone, nearly 500 seniors throughout Porter County received a hot lunch and optional light supper, all geared toward each client’s particular health and dietary needs.


As costs continue to climb, many families are turning to food pantries for help. The Operation Round Up board of directors continues its commitment to assist area food pantries. With the holidays approaching, the board committed a total of $7,500 to help local pantries purchase food for residents in need.

6 DECEMBER 2022 co-op news
The Porter County VNA Meals on Wheels program was awarded a $10,000 grant to provide nutritious home delivered meals. Amanda Steeb, director of marketing & communications for KV REMC, presented the grant to VNA Hospice CEO Bob Franko.


Kankakee Valley REMC is not owned by far-away investors or an appointed board of directors. It is run by a democratically elected board that is given the privilege to serve its fellow co-op member-consumers, neighbors, and friends. If leading your co-op interests you, consider running for directorship in the 2023 election.

At the member appreciation day/ annual business meeting, taking place on June 15, 2023, we will be electing directors for District 4 and one of the at-large positions. To be eligible to run for directorship, member-consumers must reside in a township within one of the districts up for election. In addition, director candidates are required to meet certain qualifications.



Director qualifications are available by contacting the KV REMC office.

The following townships are included in each district up for election in 2023:

• District 4: Davis, Center, Oregon, Washington and North Bend townships in Starke County and Union and West townships in Marshall County.

• The At-Large Position: Any area served by Kankakee Valley REMC.

Interested member-consumers will be required to attend a directorship meeting in late March, complete a petition requiring signatures from 15 member-consumers and consent to a background check. Director

information packets will be available Jan. 9, 2023 online at kvremc.com or by calling the KV REMC office. Nominations for director positions will not be accepted at the annual meeting. Elected directors will each serve a three-year term. If playing a significant role in leading your cooperative interests you, consider running in the 2023 board of director election.

Visit kvremc.com for more details.


Tree trimming maintenance is a year-round program for KV REMC. Trimming back trees, especially during the winter months, decreases outages caused by fallen tree limbs during storms with high winds, heavy snow, and ice. A properly executed tree trimming program will provide our member-consumers with safe and reliable electricity.

Our contract crews are trimming in the following townships:

• Porter County-Union and Porter townships and all areas served in Lake County

• Starke County-Portions of Center, Davis, Washington and Oregon townships

If you have any questions regarding the rightof-way maintenance program, please contact our office. We appreciate your cooperation.

co-op news


Each month we ask three questions from the KV REMC articles.


$75, $50, $25

Each month, one name will be drawn for each dollar amount. The winners will receive a bill credit on their next electric bill.


Congratulations to:

• $75: Joshua U., Valparaiso

• $50: Cory N., Westville

• $25: Ronald Z., Crown Point


u Last year alone, nearly ________ seniors throughout Porter County received a hot lunch or optional light supper.

v Which two positions will the KV REMC membership be electing directors for at the 2023 member appreciation day/annual business meeting? __________________ and ____________________.

w You can make small changes to your habits and save energy and money through the ___________ rate option.


KV REMC Account No. Address:___________________________________________


Enter online by visiting kvremc.com/quizcorner or mail your answers to: KV REMC, Attn: Quiz Corner, P.O. Box 157, Wanatah, IN 46390

8 DECEMBER 2022 co-op news

How to keep your December energy bill in check

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… until you get December’s utility bill. What happened?

Consider this: More family members are home from work or school, colder temperatures require more heat, there’s lots of cooking for work and family get-togethers and last, but not least, holiday decorations are shining brightly.

When you consider the rising utility prices this year, your bills can send your holiday bonus up the chimney faster than Kris Kringle. However, there are some ways to be more efficient and keep the costs of holiday cheer to a minimum.

Light the way

Start by getting rid of those old incandescent bulbs and replacing them with LED lights. While LEDs are more expensive to buy, they’ll improve your energy efficiency by 70 to 85%. Plus, LED lights are brighter and will last nearly 50 times longer than traditional lights. You can even connect 24 strings of LED lights to a single wall socket without overloading it, and the lights stay cool, reducing the fire hazard.

While you’re at it, put those lights on a timer. You won’t have to remember to turn them on or off and the timer will allow them to be on during the hours when people can look at them instead of just putting on a light show for neighborhood wildlife.

Decorating differently

While light shows grab all the attention, there are other ways to celebrate the holidays. Reflective ornaments, garland and tinsel can create sparkles of their own. Use sleigh bells and wreaths to get everyone in the spirit, and employ

the kids to create unique decorations — trees, candy canes, reindeer and more.

If things aren’t quite bright enough, some strategically and safely placed candles can also help do the trick. By the way, inflatable yard decorations are among the holiday’s largest energy consumers.

Cooking smarter

There are plenty of ways to cook up savings in the kitchen during the holidays.

First, cook multiple dishes at the same time when possible.

Second, the oven isn’t the only device to use. A microwave is much more energy efficient, as are slow cookers and pressure cookers. If you do have to use the oven, open the door as few times as possible to prevent heat loss.

The same is true with the refrigerator, as limiting the number of times the door is opened and closed will save money.

When all is said and done, remember to completely fill up the dishwasher to maximize the load and, if possible, allow the dishes to air dry rather than using the dishwasher’s heat setting.

energy 10 DECEMBER 2022

Time to get creative! CHRISTMAS BREAK?

With Christmas break coming up, this is the perfect time for students to start working on their entries for the next Cooperative Calendar of Student Art contest.

The deadline for students in grades kindergarten through high school senior to submit artwork to illustrate the 2024 student art calendar is March 24, 2023. First place winners will each receive $200. Their artworks will illustrate the calendar’s cover and the 12 months of the year. One “artist of the year” will be

chosen and will earn an additional $100 prize. Judges will also select honorable mention winners whose artwork will also appear in the calendar. Those student artists will receive $75 each.

The contest is open to Indiana public, private and home-schooled students. They must be in grades kindergarten through 12th grade during the 2022-23 school year. A complete set of rules and required entry forms are available at indianaconnection.org/for-youth/artcontest


Price includes shipping and Indiana sales tax. Make check payable to “Indiana Electric Cooperatives.” Send a note and check to Indiana Connection Calendar; 8888 Keystone Crossing, Suite 1600; Indianapolis, IN 46240.


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Please contact Cheryl Solomon, 847-749-4875 or cheryl@amp.coop , for other small business advertising opportunities in Indiana Connection.

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Steuben County County Facts

Creating the northeast corner of Indiana, Steuben County is a border county touching two other states, Michigan and Ohio. The county’s natural beauty of lakes and forests truly makes it a transition county as Indiana gives way to the more naturally majestic Great Lakes landscapes of Michigan. And, to underscore its outdoorsy wintry feel, it’s the closest Indiana county to Canada, about 100 miles eastby-northeast as the crow flies.

During the last Ice Age, unimaginably massive glaciers up to a mile high slowly flowed out of northern Canada and covered the northern two-thirds of Indiana. When they melted, they left their marks: most notably the Great Lakes. But they also left smaller landscape features, especially all across Northeastern Indiana.

The earth-moving and gouging glaciers gave Steuben County more natural lakes — called “kettle lakes” — than any other county in the state. The many lakes make the area unique. They harbor wildlife and provide recreational opportunities. It’s a perfect place for a state park.

Surrounded by two kettle lakes, Lake James and Snow Lake, is Pokagon State Park. Named for Leopold and Simon Pokagon, father and son leaders of the Potawatomi tribe of Native Americans who lived in the area in the 1800s, Pokagon is one of the state’s first parks. It was dedicated in 1925.

The park and the Potawatomi Inn (built in 1927) are year-round destinations. The inn, with its up-north fishing-lodge theme, is one of the Midwest’s most popular resorts and conference centers. The park offers a winter wonderland of activities: crosscountry ski rental, sledding, ice fishing and a twin-track toboggan run.

While natural beauty, wildlife, and outdoor activities abound, it’s the manmade toboggan track that garners the most attention around Pokagon in winter. The toboggan run began its 84th season of chills and thrills the day after Thanksgiving and will run through February. The run attracts some 90,000 visitors during its annual three-month season.

The old-fashioned J-shaped toboggans reach speeds of 3540 mph on the quarter-mile, refrigerated run. The twin tracks begin atop a 30-foot tower built on a steep hill known as a “kame” — a pile of rock and debris deposited by the melting glaciers. It is one of only two such refrigerated facilities in the Midwest.

This attraction that iced the park’s reputation as a winter destination


NAMED FOR: Baron Frederick von Steuben, a Prussian military officer who played a leading role in the American Revolutionary War by shaping the Continental Army into a disciplined and professional fighting force.



began simply as an amusement for the young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps who built many of Pokagon’s other lasting shelters and features during the Great Depression of the 1930s and early 1940s.

Steuben County’s natural beauty, manmade rustic cabins and inn, and old-fashioned wintry fun offer a hearty “Up North” feel for visitors without venturing to northern Michigan or Canada or even leaving Indiana.

For toboggan hours and information, and to take a virtual ride, visit www.tobogganrun.com

county feature 12 DECEMBER 2022
Pokagon, Indiana’s “Up North” state park, gets more snow than most of Indiana, but it’s not necessary for the toboggan track. It’s refrigerated. PHOTO PROVIDED BY JAIME WALKER


In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla extract; beat until fluffy. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder; add to creamed mixture. Stir in nuts if desired. Spread in a greased jelly roll pan. Bake at 350 F for 15-18 minutes. Sprinkle marshmallows evenly over cake and return to oven for twothree minutes. Using a wet knife, spread the melted marshmallows evenly over the cake. Cool. For the topping, combine chocolate chips, butter, and peanut butter in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is melted and well blended. Remove from heat; stir in cereal. Spread on top of cake. Chill. Cut into bars to serve. Makes three dozen bars.

food 14 DECEMBER 2022 ADD SOME CHOCOLATE-Y SWEETNESS TO THE HOLIDAYS Loco for cocoa FOOD PREPARED BY EMILY SCHILLING, RACHEL MCFADDEN AND AMBER KNIGHT PHOTOS BY KILEY LIPPS ¾ cup butter or margarine 1½ cups sugar 3 eggs 1 t. vanilla extract 11⁄3 cups all-purpose flour ½ t. baking powder ½ t. salt 3 T. cocoa powder ½ cup chopped nuts, optional 4 cups miniature marshmallows 11⁄3 cups (8 oz.) chocolate chips 3 T. butter or margarine 1 cup peanut butter 2 cups crispy rice cereal
Becky Metz, Greensburg, Indiana


Linda Hubbard, Corydon, Indiana

1¼ cups sifted powdered sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour

1⁄3 cup unsweetened cocoa

1½ cups egg whites (from 11 or 12 large eggs)

1½ t. cream of tartar

1 t. vanilla extract

¼ t. salt

1 cup sugar

Sift together powdered sugar, flour and unsweetened cocoa. Repeat sifting for a total of three times. In a large mixer bowl, beat egg whites, cream of tartar, vanilla extract and salt

on medium speed of electric mixer until egg whites form soft peaks (tips curl over). Gradually add sugar, about 2 T. at a time, beating at high speed until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). Sift about ¼ of the flour mixture over the beaten egg whites. Fold in lightly by hand. Repeat with remaining flour mixture, a quarter at a time. Turn batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake in a 350 F oven for about 1 hour or until cake tests done when inserted with a toothpick. Invert cake in pan. Cool thoroughly. Loosen cake and remove from the pan. Makes 12 servings.


Amelia Patrie, West Lafayette, Indiana

1 T. unsweetened cocoa

2 t. dark brown sugar

¼ t. cinnamon

1⁄8 t. nutmeg

1 T. boiling water

1 cup 1% milk

½ t. vanilla extract

1⁄8 t. almond extract

In a large mug, stir together cocoa, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the boiling water and stir until smooth. In a small saucepan, heat the milk for three minutes over low heat or until hot. Stir the milk into the cocoa mixture until well combined.

Stir in vanilla and almond extracts and serve. Makes one serving.

food DECEMBER 2022 15

Indiana eats


The origin of the shrimp cocktail is a little fishy, but Indianapolis’ St. Elmo Steak House has been serving their own delicious version since 1902. According to writer Nick Kindelsperger, another one of the earliest recorded mentions of the dish was an advertisement in the Nov. 30, 1914, issue of The Chicago Daily Tribune. Along with turkey cutlets and beef goulash, the ad mentioned a “fresh shrimp cocktail.”

As most folks know it today, a shrimp cocktail is an array of shelled, cooked shrimp perched in a glass, served with a ketchup-based cocktail sauce and perhaps a lemon wedge or two. Depending on the amount of

horseradish in the aforementioned sauce, the taste can range from mild to sinus-clearing.

If you have friends who enjoy seafood and a good challenge, why not invite them over for a shrimp cocktail eating contest? You can make the sauce as spicy as you dare and offer a trophy or certificate to the winner. The Indiana Connection team held its own in-house championship, and after one minute of fast and furious eating Indiana Electric Cooperatives President Randy Kleaving emerged victorious, having eaten 11 shrimp.

Visit goiec.org/shrimpcertificate to download your own printable award

At-home contest tips

Be sure to buy plenty of shrimp. We bought 20 large shrimp per person, but you can adjust the amount depending on the time limit you set for your competition. (Our contest lasted one minute but we suggest hosting a competition lasting at least two minutes.) Cut the tails off beforehand. Pour the

cocktail sauce in individual large baking pans (one for each competitor) and place shrimp in the sauce before the competition starts.

Milk helps calm the heat of the spicy cocktail sauce. Have glasses or small bottles of milk available for the competitors to drink after (or perhaps

certificate — and make your party “shrimply” the best!

The 9th annual “World Famous St. Elmo Shrimp Cocktail Eating Championship” will be Saturday, Dec. 3, in downtown Indianapolis. It will feature the historic St. Elmo Steak House’s signature shrimp cocktail — which includes an ultra-spicy, horseradish-laden sauce. Competitive Competitive eater Joey Chestnut, who lives in Westfield, Indiana, is undefeated since the contest’s inception; last year he consumed 17 pounds, 1.6 ounces of shrimp in eight minutes to win. Chestnut also set a world record in 2018 by eating 18 pounds, 9.6 ounces of seafood.

during) the competition. Make sure each contestant has a bottle of water nearby as well.

To determine the winner, count the number of shrimp that are left in the baking pan. The person with the fewest number of shrimp left is the winner.

16 DECEMBER 2022
Left: Jon Elkins, Indiana Electric Cooperatives’ vice president of safety, training and compliance, and Indiana Connection Editor Emily Schilling gorge themselves with cocktail sauce-covered shrimp during an in-house shrimp eating contest. Below: Indiana Electric Cooperatives President Randy Kleaving was able to beat the heat and win the contest.
a pack of St.
cocktail sauces and a $150 gift certificate LEARN MORE ON PAGE 3 ENTER TO WIN
Elmo’s shrimp

LETTER helpers Santa’s


Five minutes into one of their first sessions of the season answering Santa’s mail, Santa’s Elves were stumped by a child’s undecipherable scrawl.

“Boy, I'm having trouble with this name,” said Joyce Robinson, a volunteer elf of 20 years. She handed the letter to Pat Koch, the chief elf who’s been answering Santa’s mail for almost 80 years. “Tell me what you think.”

Looking up from her stack, Koch glanced at it and said, “You’re having trouble with this name?” Then, without a hitch she read off the first name — the one printed legibly.

“No, I mean the last name,” Robinson said.

Koch hemmed on the closer, second look, “B … I … hmmmm ....”

‘Hmmmm,’ yeah,” Robinson laughed. “It's B-I-something. An ‘A’? ‘T’? … Oh, man.”

And, so it goes for Santa’ Elves, a group of letter-writing volunteers stationed in the back room at the original post office building in Santa Claus, Indiana. Each year, these elves gather there to answer tens of thousands of letters written to Santa that arrive from around the U.S. and the world.

If Santa were there, there’d be no problem. He’d check his list twice and discover the child’s name. But he’s in high demand this time of year. He entrusts his elves — his ghostwriters, his “Christmas spiritwriters” — to carry on in his stead.

Reading the wants and hopes of children earnestly expressed in “Dear Santa” letters, and then penning a short personal reply is a wondrous and weighty task for the volunteers. “As we work, we cry and we laugh,” Koch said.

The elves take the responsibility seriously. So, they spend several minutes trying to figure out one child’s name to ensure they spell it correctly on the return letter. Or they Google a partial address or a missing city in hopes of discovering a full address to ensure the reply’s delivery. Every child’s letter is important; every letter to Santa deserves a greeting in return.

“To me, it's a ministry. It's a work of love. It’s the joy it brings in a world that isn't always joyful,” Koch noted. “It's a miracle that children still believe in Santa Claus

with all their ability to access so much information. And that belief in things we cannot see and things that are almost miraculous is so precious.”

Elves at work

While Koch, now 91, remains the energetic chief elf helping corral, train and encourage the Santa’s Elves volunteers, Kathleen Crews, director of the Museum & Village, organizes the massive letter operation.

This is her first Noël at Santa Claus. Previously, she and her husband owned and operated a buffalo park to the west of Santa Claus, and before that she was lead ranger at the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, Spencer County’s other claim to fame.

She’s been amazed at the volume of mail, which arrives year-round, and from where so much of it comes: Taiwan, China, Europe. “When I first started, all these letters from Russia were coming across my desk. That was back when the invasion into Ukraine had just started. I was thinking, ‘Russia, grrrrr,’” she said, feigning some hostility before softening her tone. “But the kids were writing letters to Santa. It’s about the kids.”

Most of the foreign letters are written in English, she said. When they’re not, the elves turn to assistance from area universities to help translate.

18 DECEMBER 2022
“… that belief in things we cannot see and things that are almost miraculous is so precious.”

Though volunteers from around the community work the 8 a.m.-8 p.m. daily shifts through Dec. 21 (the last day letters are mailed to meet a Christmas deadline), Koch said there’s a core group of about a half dozen regular volunteers. Scheduling can be tricky; they never know if a day’s mail will bring 200 letters — or 2,000.

The elves gather around two tables in the old post office’s back room. They can choose from four preprinted letters for the correspondence. Then, they write a short personal note that references the child’s original letter. They never promise what Santa can do or tangible things he can bring. But they assure Santa’s love.

As letters are opened, some are read to the group for a chuckle or for a sigh. Funny letters are the best. The elves recall the time a child mailed the family’s house key for Santa to use because they didn’t have a chimney. Another without a chimney wondered if Santa could use the dryer vent.

“We do have some that are so sad you almost break down,” said Ed Rinehart. He's the “chief mail elf” because he helps take letters to and from the post office. He’s also one of the few males active with the core group.

“Sometimes a child will say ‘I don’t want to live with Dad,’ or ‘My mom is dying of cancer,’” Koch said. “So, you have to be very careful. Most of the time I write something like, ‘Santa loves you and believes in you,’ just to let them know somebody cares about them.”

Sometimes a child will be worried about a loved one in the military overseas. “Santa will dip down to see how he‘s doing when over that base,“ Robinson will write. “Just something to say that Santa will definitely look in on him.”

“They’re almost like a prayer on a paper,” said Crews. “If it‘s something that seems impossible, sometimes, they ask Santa for it. And that’s heart tugging. And some just want to wish Santa a happy day, or that they’re thankful for Santa.”

Santa: The post office and ma n

Post offices have always been town centers in rural America. But no town has probably had its future so inextricably

linked to and so mapped out by the postal service as Santa Claus, Indiana.

The Spencer County hamlet was originally known as Santa Fee. When it was large enough to apply for a post office in 1856, the Post Office Department in Washington, D.C., rejected the application because Indiana already had a similar town — Santa Fe in Miami County. Another name had to be selected.

Various tales have grown over the decades of how Santa Fee became Santa Claus. One oft-repeated one is that the town held a meeting to decide its new name on the snowy Christmas Eve of 1856. A gust of wind blew open the

Santa goes through stacks of mail. In 1930, Jim Yellig began to assist the Santa Claus postmaster responding to letters. In 1946, he became Santa Claus Land’s resident Claus, a title he had until he died in 1984.

STORY CONTINUED ON PAGE 20 Children young and old stop in the Post Office at the Santa Claus Museum & Village to write a letter to Santa on old school desks. Volunteers with Santa’s Elves, Myran McCoy, left, and Deann Siegel read the letters to Santa and work on responses.
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doors and folks heard sleigh bells in the distance … “It must be Santa Claus!”

The more likely story of its moniker is mundane. The postmaster in Fulda, about five miles due east, was handling the application. It's believed, perhaps on a whim, he wrote “Santa Claus” above the rejected “Santa Fee” on the official application. Koch likes to point out that maybe it wasn’t all coincidence … his name was Nicholaus, … Nicholaus Fisher.

For more than 50 years after, Santa Claus, the town, hardly was noticed.

In the meantime, Santa Claus, the legend embodying Christmas spirit, grew. An article in the Smithsonian Magazine in 2015 noted that artist Thomas Nast’s depictions of Santa in Harper’s Weekly during and after the Civil War personalized and popularized Santa. And as letter writing became more common, the practice of writing “Letters to Santa” did too, especially after Nast’s 1871 depiction of Santa poring over letters from boys and girls. With no place to deliver them, the post office dumped the letters in the “Dead Letter Office.”

By 1913, bowing to requests from newspapers and organizations upset that the letters children had written went unanswered, the postmaster general allowed local post offices to release Santa letters to charity groups that wanted to answer the letters as Santa. In Santa Claus the town, Postmaster James Martin took it upon himself to begin responding to the letters that arrived.

At about the same time, according to a town history Koch wrote, post offices around the country began forwarding letters addressed simply “To Santa” to the Santa Claus post office. In 1929 and 1930, the Santa Claus post office was featured nationwide in two “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” newspaper panels. By late 1930, an avalanche of mail, 100,000 pieces in all, poured in for Santa from all over.

That’s when Jim Yellig, Koch’s father, a native of nearby Mariah Hill and restaurant owner, offered to help Martin with Santa’s mail.

Because Yellig received letters post-

marked from Santa Claus while in the Navy during World War I, he was asked to portray Santa by his ship's crew who threw a party for underprivileged children when they docked in Brooklyn. Yellig loved the experience and seeing the smiles Santa put on children’s faces. He vowed and prayed if he survived the war, he would forever portray Santa.

Returning home after the war, Yellig kept that promise. He enlisted the help of the American Legion and other local veterans, church groups, and other organizations to help the Santa Claus postmaster — and was instrumental in perpetuating the Santa’s Elves mission in 1930. In 1943, 12-year-old Pat also joined the Elves.

Santa Claus comes to town

After World War II, Louis Koch, a retired industrialist from Evansville, was disappointed that a town named after Santa had little to offer visiting children. He then developed an amusement park he called Santa Claus Land. The world’s first “theme park” opened in 1946 with a few rides, a toy shop and displays, a restaurant, and, of course, Santa.

Koch tapped none other than Yellig to become the park’s resident Santa, a position Yellig kept for 38 years until his death in 1984. In the meantime, Louis Koch’s son, Bill, came home from military service and took over the park’s operation.

In 1960, Bill Koch was reacquainted with Yellig’s daughter Pat, a nurse who had moved home to support her mom and dad after he suffered a heart attack. The old family friends soon fell in love and


This special picture postmark is different each year, chosen from entries submitted by art students at nearby Heritage Hills High School. The top design becomes the featured picture postmark to cancel postage stamps on holiday mail out of the Santa Claus, Indiana, Post Office. The design is revealed in early November.

It is the only post office in the world with Santa’s name. The post office began offering the postmark Dec. 1. It will be available on working days until Dec. 24.

There is no charge for postmarking. However, don’t forget to apply regular postage to your holiday mail before getting the postmark.

To get the postmark on your mail, you can go to the small- town post office to hand cancel your own mail, but you can also mail your Christmas cards to the post office. Just put your cards in a package (sturdy envelope or box), with postage stamps already on each piece of mail, and mail to: Postmaster, P.O. Box 9998, Santa Claus, IN 47579-9998. Be sure to include a note requesting the Santa Claus postmark.

To ensure a good postmark imprint, allow a space in the stamp area of about 2” by 4” (this goes on top of the regular postage/ stamp); and do not enclose large or bulky items inside your mail.

married. Under their oversight, Santa Claus Land matured into Holiday World. Today, Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari is internationally recognized for its wooden roller coasters, water park, and amenities. It’s still operated by Bill and Pat Koch’s children and grandchildren.

Several years after Bill Koch died in 2001, Pat founded the Santa Claus Museum & Village to begin preserving the history of the town and the legacies of her late husband and her late father. At that time, she also merged Santa’s Elves with the museum. The town’s historic first post office, moved to the museum grounds in 2012, became the official headquarters for the letter-writing organization.

Keeping Santa’s spirit alive

In the fall, students from nearby Heritage Hills High School used their Senior Volunteer Day to help at the Museum & Village. They planned to paint wheelchair ramps at the post office and the 1880 church, also moved to the grounds in 2012. Instead, rain brought the six young women inside where Koch introduced them to writing for Santa’s Elves.

Two of the seniors, Aminy Miles and Ashanty Reyes who returned during fall break to help paint, reflected on their ghostwriting experience.

“Oh, it was amazing,” noted Miles, who said not so long ago she had been on the receiving end of Santa’s greetings. “I absolutely loved it. You get all the little notes like, ‘I've been trying to be good,’ and all that.”

Reyes said it was nice to share the love Santa represents with others. “Santa is just something you believe in in your childhood that gives you hope — that there’s someone out there doing good. It’s that inner Christmas spirit. One letter that really got to me was a girl in middle school. She was afraid of growing up and going to high school,” Reyes continued. “It’ll be OK,” she wrote her. “Everything will work out fine. Just think positive.”

“When we do letters, it helps keep alive that childlike belief we should all have,“ Koch said. “I believe in Santa Claus because Santa is a spirit. Santa Claus will live forever — if we keep him alive.”

Richard G. Biever is senior editor of Indiana Connection.

Mail Santa letters to:

Santa Claus P.O. Box 1 Santa Claus, IN 47579

Please mail your letters by midDecember to ensure a response before Christmas.

The letters from Santa Claus are made possible through Santa's Elves, Inc., a non-profit organization. The elves happily accept donations to offset the cost of postage. Donations may be sent to Santa's Elves, Inc., at the above address. For more information about Santa's Elves and the Santa Claus Museum and Village, please visit SantaClausMuseum.org.

Enter to win:

Indiana Connection is giving away a copy of “Letters to Santa,” a beautifully bound book of letters dating back to 1930.


DECEMBER 2022 23
DECEMBER 2022 21


Electric space heaters and blankets are great ways to stay toasty warm when the temperature drops. But don’t forget about safety before you plug in these chill-chasers.

During these winter months, when space heaters and electric blankets come out of hibernation, home fires increase.

“Heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires in the United States,” said Jon Elkins, vice president of safety, training and compliance at Indiana Electric Cooperatives. “More than 65,000 home fires are attributed to heating equipment each year. These fires result in hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries and millions in property damage.”

Remember: An electric space heater is a temporary option for supplemental heat. Many homeowners may use this option to heat specific rooms while they sleep, but this is unsafe. When you leave a room or go to sleep, it is important to turn off your electric space heater. If you’re leaving it unattended, it could overheat or fall. It is also important to always plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet — never use an extension cord, which can cause overheating.

Electric blankets and heating pads are also popular during the cold months. Never fold them and avoid using them while sleeping. Inspect them for dark, charred or frayed spots, and check to see if the electric cord is cracked or frayed. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels carefully before using them in your home.

While there is no risk for carbon monoxide poisoning with an electric space heater, it holds many other safety hazards if not used properly.

To be safe, install smoke alarms on every floor of your home and outside all sleeping areas. If you already have them, be sure to test them once a month.

Don’t let your guard down if you keep yourself or your home warm with an electric space heater, electric blanket or heating pad. By following these tips, you and your family have a better chance of avoiding significant fire and electric shock hazards.


• DO read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels carefully before using any space heater or electric blanket.

• DON’T leave a space heater or electric heating blanket unattended. Turn it off when you’re leaving a room or going to sleep.

• DO inspect heaters for cracked or broken plugs or loose connections before each use.

• DON’T use the heater if plugs are frayed, worn or damaged.

• DO keep heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including papers, clothing and rugs.

• DON’T use electric blankets while sleeping or as a mattress pad.

• DO plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet. Do not use an extension cord or power strip, which could overheat and result in a fire.

• DON’T fold an electric blanket when it’s in use. Folded or tucked blankets could overheat and cause a fire.

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cooperative career

Professional progression:


After college, Jason Clemmons worked as a high school guidance counselor in his hometown of Rushville. He also facilitated a young mothers’ group and worked with at-risk youth through the Mayor’s Youth Council at the Boys and Girls Club. He had a full plate.

These were 80-hour weeks, he said, giving him little time to spend with his wife and their young family. But it was important work – work to make the lives of others better. He was also a community volunteer for various boards and organizations.

Today, Clemmons is starting his second year as the CEO of Clark County REMC in Sellersburg. While leading an electric utility may seem a long way from his passionate community roots, for Clemmons it was part of a natural progression of growth and an opportunity to further practice the electric cooperative values he embraced when he took his first cooperative job in 2004.

“As I look back, each and every thing I did was not just about the job. It was about impacting people’s lives, making their life just a little bit better every day. Becoming a CEO gave me the ability to really work with the employees and work with the departments and just really try to affect their lives in any way

2004 Hired Manager of Member Services

RushShelby Energy

we could.”

Clemmons’ first cooperative job was manager of member services at his local electric cooperative, RushShelby Energy in Manilla, Indiana. After seven years working for the school system, he loved what he was doing and wasn’t interested in applying. But Rushville’s then-mayor encouraged him to apply. He knew the electric cooperative was a great place to work and would provide job stability for Clemmons, who was still working year-to-year on a grant.

Clemmons did apply, and he got the job. It was life altering, providing job security and more typical work hours. But, in many ways, he found that the co-op values of commitment to the community and cooperation allowed him to continue his passion for community service.

At the cooperative, he continued his close ties to community organizations. He continued working with young people through the statewide electric cooperative network that included youth programs. Plus, he gained new experiences and leadership skills through educational opportunities the cooperative provided.

2015 Promoted

Vice President of Member Services RushShelby Energy

Chief Executive Officer

Clark County REMC

“What kept me there was just the cooperative spirit – the cooperative way of life. That’s something I just put a huge amount of value to, and each day I try to live those values,” he said.

As the years passed, Clemmons took on new responsibilities and roles. He rose to vice president of marketing/ member services in 2015. When the CEO at Clark County REMC retired at the end of 2020, Clemmons was awarded the position.

“For me, the cooperative way of life is just part of everyday life,” he said. “Electric co-ops are here to make people’s lives better. We’re here to be a part of our communities and make our communities better.”


Visit WePowerIndiana.org to learn about available careers or tell us about yourself.


Chief Executive Officer

Clark County REMC

profile DECEMBER 2022 23

energy past, present,

Plan for the wastes of and save on energy costs

and future

This holiday season, while preparing for the fun that comes from the enjoyable winter holidays, you also can prepare for the higher bills caused by the wastes of energy past, present, and future. By overcoming these energy phantoms, you can make amends for past wasted energy and prevent them from taking more from your wallet in the future.


This one frequently raises its head around this time of year. The holiday decorations and lights hibernating in attics and garages 10 months a year typically emerge each winter to smile at neighbors and passersby. Yet, these decorations often show their age on your energy bill. If your decorations are five years old or more, they may

be gulping significantly more electricity compared to their newer, more energy efficient counterparts. You also can add timers for your decorations to ensure that they are turned on when it makes the most sense.


With families spending more time at home during the holidays, you can expect energy bills to reflect the increased energy use. There are options you can consider (or even gift!) that can help lower that energy use. Options range from advanced power strips that turn off idling equipment to minimize energy waste all the way to ENERGY STAR ® -certified appliances that can replace older, more inefficient devices that may be toward the end of their life cycle.


It’s never too early to plan for the future! You can contact your local electric cooperative’s energy advisor for insights on your home’s energy use and ways you can improve. Your energy advisor may even recommend that your home receive an energy audit, which includes an in-depth review and will provide you with action items to reduce your home’s energy use. You can ensure that you and your guests are comfortable while minimizing your energy use, regardless of how frightful the weather is outside.

With a little planning, you can take steps to lower your energy use this holiday season and beyond. And much like the Jelly of the Month Club, smart energy use is the gift that keeps giving all year long! Learn more tips about saving energy year-round at www.PowerMoves.com

Wabash Valley Power
24 DECEMBER 2022

Make it a ‘green’ season with eco-friendly gift-wrapping ideas

THAT’S A wrap

With a bit of creativity and preplanning, those holiday gifts you bought for everyone can be wrapped both beautifully AND in an environmentally conscious way. Here are 10 eco-friendly tips to try when it’s time to wrap things up!

1Embrace one of the “buzziest” trends in gift wrapping: furoshiki, a Japanese method that uses fabric to sustainably make any item presentworthy. Napkins, tea towels or scarves work well for wrapping smaller gifts. If you have a larger present to wrap, head to the fabric store to pick up the size of fabric needed in a holiday print. Or, you can recycle an old sheet by cutting it into appropriately sized furoshiki cloth. The cloth can be reused over and over again to wrap presents in the years to come.

year. These decorations can be added to the compost pile after the gift is unwrapped. 4

Elevate your gifts with snazzy package tie-ons like thrift shop costume jewelry, Christmas tree ornaments or jingle bells.

items. The jars can be decorated with washi tape and the aforementioned package tie-ons.


Turn an empty potato chip bag inside out and wipe the greasy residue clean with a towel. Voila! You now have a silver gift bag that no one would guess once held munchies.


Got an old T-shirt or flannel shirt headed for the rag pile? Instead, cut the shirt into ribbon-width strips to use to tie around your package. Or, tie an old tie into a package bow. 3


Another way to decorate your package: use natural elements like evergreen or thyme sprigs, cinnamon sticks, dried flowers or dried citrus peel. Tie them on your packages with twine or recycled ribbon from last

Old maps, colorful pages torn from old magazines, and yesterday’s newspaper can all be used as gift wrapping. Or, use some of your kids’ artwork as gift wrap. (This is a perfect idea when wrapping gifts for the grandparents!)


Colorful washi tape not only gives packages an artistic flair; the tape is biodegradable and thus environmentally friendly. 7

Glass mason jars are a cute, trendy and recyclable container for small gifts and, of course, food


Turn old postcards and the fronts of old Christmas cards into gift tags. You can also cut festive shapes out of corrugated cardboard shipping boxes and use those as gift tags. Try attaching the gift tags with clothespins.


A pillowcase can be used as a gift bag that can actually be utilized for its original purpose once the holidays are over. Even novice sewers can make pillowcases from festive seasonal fabric in just minutes. They’d look just as good on a bed as they would stuffed with goodies under the Christmas tree.

do-it-yourself DECEMBER 2022 25


Train events deliver Christmas magic

Something magical happens when trains couple with Christmas. Be it a model electric train circling the base of a Christmas tree firing up a child’s imagination or a genuine old-fashioned steam or diesel engine chugging through a winter’s night to real holiday delights, trains add to the nostalgia and memories of the holidays like no other form of mass transportation. And for the masses of Hoosiers looking for some railroad whimsy, there come opportunities both large and small.

Experience the tradition of Jingle Rails Indianapolis

Hoosiers can travel vicariously through the West aboard Jingle Rails: The Great Western Adventure which continues its annual run through Jan. 16, 2023, at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in downtown Indianapolis.

Jingle Rails is a G-scale model train wonderland containing nine working model trains that wind through a stunning miniature landscape, creatively built out of all-natural materials and decorated with holiday lighting. The exhibit features miniature versions of local treasures of Indianapolis, including the Eiteljorg Museum, Monument Circle and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The trains then head through the national parks of the American West, passing legendary sites including grand railway lodges, Northwest Coast Native villages, and wonders both natural and human-made.

Over nearly 1,200 feet of track, the trains whistle and chug past Old Faithful geyser which actually erupts, Mount Rushmore, the Hoover Dam, and much more.

Now in its 13th year, Jingle Rails is included with regular museum admission. Members are free. Children ages 4 and under have free admission. For non-member advance sale tickets, visit Eiteljorg.org/JingleRails.

THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride is a re-creation of the classic children’s story on board a real train. During the interactive 70-minute long experience, passengers are served hot chocolate and a treat by dancing chefs, enjoy a reading of the book by Chris Van Allsburg, and receive the first gift of Christmas (a silver sleigh bell) after Santa boards the train to greet families. Elves lead passengers in caroling and fun holiday activities on the return trip to French Lick.

Each coach is dressed in festive holiday décor and features color-changing lighting synched with the activities on board. Families are encouraged to wear their pajamas for the ride!

Unfortunately for this year, as every year, all tickets are sold out by December. But now is the time to be thinking of the 2023 ride. Public sale for the 2023 season will begin Jan. 10, 2023, at 9 a.m. First class and dome class tickets sell out quickly. So, make plans and purchase your tickets in January. The rest of the seats generally are sold out by November when the Express starts running.

The 2023 schedule begins Nov. 3 and continues until Dec. 23. For more details and to order your 2023 advance tickets, visit FrenchLickThePolarExpressRide.com.

travel 26 DECEMBER 2022
THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride French Lick