N THIS SSUE Around Town Veterans Return to Vietnam offers hope for vets looking for closure and more.

Feature Santa’s Helping Hands Santa’s Helpers, Inc. a local non-profit, delivers presents to over 2,000 needy children in the St. Louis region By Nicholas Elmes

Our Thoughts Moore on Life author Cindy Moore wades through unwanted Christmas letters while Avalanche worries about civilization creeping into the wilderness. The 2017 Nissan Rogue enhances its versatility with a hybrid option in this month’s Automobile Alley.

Lifestyle How December became the home of the blockbuster kings in Entertainment. Impress guests with elegant appetizers in For the Love of Food.

Caring Partners Being an advocate for kids’ eye care and more.

Events Calendar Staff Writer - Nicholas Elmes, Cover Photo - Bigstock

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Our Town Volume 07 | Number 11 December 2016


PUBLISHER Robert Huneke EDITOR Mathew DeKinder PRODUCTION Lisa Moran Melissa Nordmann CONTRIBUTORS Avalanche, David Finkelstein, Brian Guerrero, Cindy Moore PHOTOGRAPHER Erica Avellone STAFF WRITERS Brett Auten Nicholas Elmes For advertising information, please contact us at: or

Community News

Avalanche is a functional illiterate who left the St. Louis area three decades ago in search of adventure. He enjoys motorcycling and all things outdoors. He lives with his wife and dogs.


Nicholas Elmes is a seasoned journalist with over 15 years of experience leading the newsrooms of small community newspapers in Virginia and North Carolina. A recent transplant to the St. Louis area, he is excited to get a chance to explore the diverse region while helping to share the stories of all of the good things happing in these communities.

Nicholas Elmes

David Finkelstein

David Finkelstein is a Master/Skill Automotive Service Technician, maintaining that role for over 45 years, coupled with being a shop owner in that time frame as well. He’s also invented a number of garage service tools for mechanics and has served on both National as well as local Automotive Trade Industry Boards. Additionally, he pioneered “Car Talk Radio” over 40 years ago, starting out with KMOX/CBS Radio as well as hosted “Auto Talk” on KFTK/FOX News Radio for some 15-years. David tests and evaluates new vehicles weekly and also does some consulting with various auto manufacturers, both import as well as with domestic nameplates.

Cindy Moore is the mother of three superlative kids, servant of two self-indulgent felines and wife to one nifty husband. Her ficticious occupation? Archeological Humorist: someone who unearths absurdity and hilarity in strange and unusual places including public restrooms, the lint filter, and church meetings. Most recently, she excavated a find in her neighbor’s bird feeder.

Cindy Moore

Brian Guerro

Brian Guerrero is a former resident of Los Angeles and a current resident of New York City with extensive experience in front of and behind the camera for film and television.

Published by the Community News, Our Town is a monthly news magazine covering the cities of Creve Coeur, Maryland Heights, and Olivette. Circulation is 7,000 monthly through over 105 monitored newsstands guaranteeing 100% pickup. Additional issues are distributed online, and a free online subscription is available at www.

2139 Bryan Valley Commercial Dr. O’Fallon, MO 63366 Ph: 636.379.1775 Fx: 636.379.1632 Copyright 2016 Huneke Publications, Inc. No part of the publication may be reproduced in any form without the expressed written consent of the publisher.


Submitted Photo

A Trip of Healing

Mike Snider and other Vietnam veterans visit with Vietnamese villagers on a recent trip to Vietnam. Snider founded Veterans Return to Vietnam and started looking into other organizations that were trying to help vets by letting them go back to Vietnam.

Veterans Return to Vietnam offers hope for vets looking for closure BY NICHOLAS ELMES While people throughout the St. Louis metro area, and the country, take time out on Friday to honor those who have risked their lives to protect the country, one man is working to raise money to help those same veterans deal with the life-long mental and emotional scars caused by their service. Mike Snider, a Vietnam-era veteran who served in the Air National Guard but did not see combat, is now fighting to raise close to $11,000 in order to help two local veterans who did serve in Vietnam return to the country to face the demons that conflict has left them with for decades. The planned globe-spanning trip for healing and redemption started three years ago when Snider reconnected with an old high school friend who has been battling posttraumatic stress disorder and depression since returning from the war. “We started talking every night on Facebook, and slowly he started opening up to me about his struggles and it just shook me to my core what he was going through,” said Snider, noting that his friend could not sleep for more than 45 minutes without being woken up by demons. “Those demons are the men he saw die in front of him and beside him.” Snider started looking for possible therapies that could help his friend, recommending one after another after another. “After about the fourth or fifth one, I asked him if he ever checked them out and he said no,” recalls Snider. “He said

every therapy he had been through had led him to the brink of suicide and he did not trust himself anymore. He said the only thing he wanted to do was to go back to Vietnam.” Snider was shocked. Why would anyone want to go back the place that had caused him so much pain and strife over the years? “He said he just wants to go back to get forgiveness,” said Snider. “That is something that almost every Vietnam vet says. They tell me they feel like they destroyed the country and the people of Vietnam hate them. But nothing could be further than the truth. The country is growing by leaps and bounds and the people love Americans, especially American veterans who were there during the war.” So Snider formed a nonprofit called Veterans Return to Vietnam and started looking into other organizations that


AroundTown give back to the people of Vietnam – helping to build schools, pay for medical care and provide support in a variety of other ways. Organizers also arrange meetings with former Viet Cong fighters and leaders, giving the former adversaries a chance to find healing together. “They do not hold anger, they do

Submitted Photo

were trying to help vets by letting them go back to Vietnam. A long journey “I found an organization in New York called Soldier’s Heart,” said Snider. “It is co-founded by Ed Tick who is a physiologist who has been working with Vietnam vets for over 40 years. He has been taking vets back to Vietnam for 16

The organizers of each trip also find opportunities for the veterans to give back to the people of Vietnam – helping to build schools, pay for medical care and provide support in a variety of other ways.

years. I partnered with him and told my friend that if going back to Vietnam is what you want to do then I will raise all the money for you to go back because you have already paid more than you should.” A scheduling conflict prevented Snider’s friend from going last year, but Snider was able to go on the two-week trip to see what it was all about. “It was amazing,” said Snider, explaining that each trip is tailored specifically to the veterans who are participating in it. “We go as close as we can to the very spot each veteran had their biggest battles and we have a ceremony for them and ask them to share with us and let us help carry the burden of what they experienced physically, mentally and emotionally. We burn incense and when we leave, we leave that incense standing in the ground in a circle in remembrance for them.” Finding Forgiveness The organizers of each trip also find opportunities for the veterans to 6 | OUR TOWN | DECEMBER 2016

not hold grudges,” said Snider. “Last year we went to the Mekong Delta and stayed on an island compound owned by a husband and wife who were both former Viet Cong. “She had joined the Viet Cong when she was 11. When she was 13 she was captured and tortured and beaten,” he explained. “The husband had tried to stay out of the war, forming a school on this island. The Americans bombed the school and he said any country that would bomb a school and kill children he had to fight against.” The two met and married in the jungle, where they also had their first child. “He lived three days,” said Snider. “He was born without arms and legs. They thought it was their karma but it turns out it was the effects of Agent Orange.”  When the veterans visited the couple last year they brought funding to help rebuild the school which had been bombed decades ago. “We had a groundbreaking ceremony

and we are going back this year to have a dedication ceremony,” said Snider, noting that interactions like that one offered a path to healing that no therapy could compare to. “Ed Tick has told me that the most amazing thing is that after the veterans have been in the country for just two to three nights their nightmares totally disappear and when they go home the nightmares don’t come back,” said Snider. “They left their soul in Vietnam all those years ago and we take them back and help them reclaim their soul.” “What is the value of a human life?” But the two-week trip is not cheap, and Snider has been working all year on fundraising to help pay for four people, two St. Charles veterans, a local psychiatrist, and himself, to make the trip on Nov. 28. “It costs about $6,000 per person,” he said, noting he has raised some of the money through mouse races and donations. “Everything I have raised has gone to pay for airfare, trip insurance, visas, TSA pre-checks, and the deposit for Soldiers Heart. That leaves $11,200 that I don’t know where it is coming from.” He said the large price tag per person had made fundraising hard.  “I have had a lot of people ask ‘Why would you spend so much money just to send one man back?” he said. “What really abhors me is that 20 veterans a day commit suicide. Over 65 percent of them are over 50 years old, so a great many of them are Vietnam veterans. “What is the value of a human life?” he said. “What is the value of giving peace to someone who fought and saw men die beside him and have been suffering for many years?” Snider said donations as small as $5 could help because every dollar donated adds up in the long run. Donors can make donations, and read some heart-wrenching accounts from veterans, through his website at “I want everyone to have the opportunity to go if I can get the funding and we can pay for it,” added Snider. 


An Invisible Population

BY NICHOLAS ELMES The holidays are just around the corner, and for many people that means making plans to visit loved ones, trips to grandma’s house, and maybe even making a donation to help children who have been orphaned. But a growing population of people in the St. Louis area have no loved ones to spend the holidays with, no children or grandchildren to come visit for a holiday meal, and are just as alone as the orphans we love to love to buy Christmas presents for. This segment of the population are known as elder orphans, seniors who have no children or spouses who are living the golden years of their lives alone. In St. Louis 41 percent of seniors are living alone according to the U.S. Census. “These people have no one to help provide personal care or support or to help them stay social or active,” said Carol Marak, the editor of who is working to raise awareness of this growing segment of the population. She said the number of elder orphans across the country grows every year as more and more Baby Boomers age into their senior years.  “So many Boomers are divorced, and the Boomers are the largest child-free segment of the population.” She said facing your senior years alone present a variety of issues. “The primary issue is social isolation,” she said. “So many of us live alone and in the suburbs. When we lose our driving capabilities then we have the tendency to stay at home alone. That can develop into depression which can lead to all sorts of issues.” “Affordable housing is another concern,” she added. “Housing is very expensive and if you live alone you are having to pay all the same types of bills as two married people would.” She said that is particularly hard of elderly people if they are living primarily on Social Security benefits.


Elder orphans an increasingly growing segment of our society

Census data shows that the median household income for St. Louis seniors is only $25,029 a year, with the average Social Security income in the area coming in at $13,964 annually. Marak said some seniors face this issue by looking at other ways of sharing living costs. “Some look at opening their homes to renters, or shared housing,” she said. “Another option is co-housing where you buy a home together. Some cities are working to create more affordable housing for seniors.” But Marak said the most important issue for elder orphans is raising awareness that this segment of the population is out there. “Many people are not aware that we exist,” she said. “If you go to church with your family, start noticing who is attending and start engaging with that person. Just start becoming aware of the elderly people in the community. They probably have no one to count on for help if they are living alone.” Marak said there are some organizations the Agency for Aging which helps provide services for senior orphans, but noted that she is using social media to help senior orphans connect with each other. “I have a Facebook group of elder orphans (https://www.,” she said. “We give each other a lot of support and answers. I am amazed at how useful it has become.” She gave the example of a woman who recently posted that she was getting ready to have knee surgery. “She lives alone and was asking for help,” said Marak. “People who had had the same surgery walked her through what to expect and how to prepare for it.” Marak said elder orphans in some cities are also using Meet Up to connect with other senior citizens. “It is a chance for them to meet in a public place during daylight hours and get to know each other,” she said. DECEMBER 2016 | OUR TOWN | 7

AroundTown St. Louis County health officials are encouraging the public to get an annual flu shot BY NICHOLAS ELMES St. Louis County health officials are encouraging the public to prepare for the 2016-17 flu season by getting an annual flu shot. “It is important for everyone six months of age and older, and without severe allergic reaction to influenza vaccine, to receive an annual influenza vaccine,” said Saint Louis County Department of Public Health Manager Jenelle Leighton. “The most important thing to do to avoid catching the flu is to get vaccinated.” Leighton said this year’s vaccination would provide immunization against three or four strands of potential flu strains. “Vaccine virus strains included in the 2016–17 U.S. trivalent influenza vaccines will be an A/ California/7/2009 (H1N1)–like virus, an A/ Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)–like virus, and a B/Brisbane/60/2008– like virus (Victoria lineage),” she said. “Quadrivalent vaccines will include an additional influenza B virus strain, a B/Phuket/3073/2013–like virus (Yamagata lineage).” While in previous years nasal vaccinations have been an option, Leighton said this year health officials were recommending people receive an inactivated flu shot. “In light of concerns regarding low effectiveness against influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 in the United States during the 2013–14 and 2015–16 seasons, for the 2016–17 season, ACIP makes the interim recommendation that live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV4) should not be used,” she said. Leighton said that while getting a flu shot is recommend for the majority of the population, a few people should not receive the vaccination. “Children younger than six months are too young to get a flu shot,” she explained. “For individuals with egg allergies, 8 | OUR TOWN | DECEMBER 2016


Get Ready For The Flu

there are guidelines that are stratified by the type of allergy reaction an individual has to eggs. Individuals with egg allergies need to inform the person administering the flu vaccine of their allergy and may need to consult their physician prior to the administration. A previous severe allergic reaction to influenza vaccine, regardless of the component suspected of being responsible for the reaction, is a contraindication to future receipt of the vaccine.” Other potential ingredients in the vaccine, which could cause an allergic reaction, include gelatin and antibiotics, and Leighton recommends people suffering from those allergies consult their physician before get a flu vaccination. “There are influenza vaccines available for individuals 65 years of age and older, those with egg allergies, and preservative-free influenza vaccines,” added Leighton. She said flu vaccines were available at a variety of locations around the St. Louis metro area, including pharmacies, grocery stores, discount stores, primary care providers, pediatricians offices, and health departments. To find a location for a flu vaccine, please visit  https:// “Many insurance companies will cover the cost of the vaccine and many of the locations in which you can obtain a flu vaccine will direct bill the insurance,” she said. “In addition, some of the large hospitals within the St. Louis area has a schedule which they offer free flu vaccines.  For further information, you can visit the SSM website and/or the Barnes Hospital website.  You can also check with your local health department.  St. Louis County Department of Public Health offers flu vaccines and will work with each individual to provide them the flu vaccine.” Flu season typically runs from October through early spring with the incidence of infections reaching a peak between December and March. “To avoid spreading the flu you should stay home when ill, and at least for 24 hours after the fever is gone,” she said, noting that those who have the flu should also practice frequent hand washing and good respiratory etiquettes. “Don’t share eating or drinking utensils while ill, limit contact with others when ill, clean and disinfect surfaces, and avoid touching your eyes and nose.”


Finding HOPE Humble Humphreys lends helping hand with HOPE food pantry

James Dunbar recently recalled a conversation he had about his aunt with Joe Humphreys. “I told Joe that my aunt was really struggling and that she could use some food,” recalled Dunbar. “He said come by the pantry and he would get her some food.” Enter Humphreys, the director and founder of HOPE food pantry, which is an acronym for Helping Our People Everyday. Dunbar was just hoping to get a few basic items to sustain his aunt’s nutritional needs for a brief time. Nevertheless, much to his delight, Dunbar’s visit exceeded expectations. “Man I left there with three bags full of meat, pasta, mac and cheese, produce, bread..... When I got to her house and showed her everything I had, that woman had tears in her eyes,” recalled Dunbar   I laughed and told her she’d better stop crying. That’s one of the best food pantries I’ve ever seen so far in St. Louis. They have everything and the people are so polite.” Operating out of the gymnasium of City of Life Christian Church, at 8333 Fullerton Avenue in University City, HOPE serves about 100 patrons every Saturday morning. Several members of the church give their time at the pantry, including a couple of the ministers. The volunteers along with the high quality of donated goods and supplies, give HOPE more than token credibility. “We are full-fledged,” asserted Humphreys. “We average 30, 35 volunteers normally but this week (in late June) we had over 60 volunteers because we had a youth group with the church helping out. Our only requirement is you must have a state ID.”  To that end, the most anxious clients at HOPE start parking early and “posting up” later. “Man we have people who start waiting in their cars as early as one o’clock in the morning,” said Humphreys, explaining that patrons can sit in their cars on the parking lot overnight until a volunteer arrives around 6 a.m. to start compiling a waiting list of the early arrivals. “We open our doors at nine, but if you actually get here at nine, you would be about 90th on the list. Of the 256 food pantries, we are one of the top five in St. Louis.” As director, Humphreys gets a salary from grants, but he is the only salaried person from the pantry. City of Life, like other area pantries function under the auspices of the local Operation Food Search network, although Humphreys does a lot of independent solicitations. Humphreys acknowledged

Dorthy Humphreys


(From left) Ministers Vicki Coleman and Jerome Harris withpantry director Joe Humphreys, display the wide array of food available at City of Life Christian Church in University City.

that the depth and quality of his pantry have helped dispel myths about the services. “The biggest misconception people have is that the food is stale and old,” he explained. “But I have no government food and everything I get is from high-end grocery stores like Whole Foods or Schnucks in Clayton and Frontenac We are one of the few pantries that actually have raffles for TVs and other items like refrigerators.” Vicki Coleman, who is one of the associate ministers at City of Life and a regular volunteer at the Saturday pantry, said Humphreys’ mere disposition sets a positive tone. “It’s a blessing and it’s a blessing to have him,” said Coleman. “He’s good people. He’s kind. He’s friendly. He always has positive things to say about everybody.”  Phillip Hall, another associate minister at City of Life, spoke of the spiritual and intrinsic values of the pantry. “Seeing God’s hand at work is the biggest joy we receive in our hearts,” explained Hall. “We serve people who may not have Christ and those who do. We’re giving out of our hearts through God. This about serving people. It’s not about us. This is joy.” All of the items are well inspected by the volunteers before they allow customers to be claimed by the customers. “Our motto is ‘if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it out there’,” said volunteer Essie Jackson. “I came here one Saturday and I have been volunteering ever since. If we wouldn’t eat it ourselves we don’t put it out.” Anyone seeking additional information on the HOPE pantry should call Humphreys at 314-680-9101 or City of Life at 314-995-9753. For information on starting a pantry call Operation Food Search at 314-725-5307. DECEMBER 2016 | OUR TOWN | 9


New Station Approved Creve Coeur residents approve Proposition P to build new police station On Nov. 8 Creve Coeur residents voted to approve Proposition P, a bond measure to fund construction of a new police station on the north end of the Government Center Property at 300 N. New Ballas Road. A general obligation bond totaling $10.69 million will be issued finance the new facility. The $0.08 personal property tax levy will sunset after 20 years. With the bond measure approved, the city will begin the process of hiring an architect to design the new police station. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2017 with the police department moving into the new building in November of 2018. The new police station will

address several deficiencies with the department’s current facilities in the Government Center building. It will provide much-needed additional work space for police staff; address inadequate police training facilities,

storage space and private interview rooms; eliminate the unsafe parking lot configuration which creates hazards between police vehicles and community center patrons; address safety, security and accessibility deficiencies; and provide an improved Emergency Operations Center. “The new police station will equip our officers with the resources they need to continue providing high-quality service to the Creve Coeur community,” said Chief of Police Glenn Eidman. “The men and women of the Creve Coeur Police Department take pride in serving the citizens of Creve Coeur and are sincerely grateful for their unwavering support.”

Holiday Fun at Westport Westport Plaza Transforms into a winter wonderland for the holiday season Westport Plaza announces its exciting p.m.  line-up of holiday events occurring  “Santa Claus is Coming to throughout the month of December.  Westport” occurs on Saturday, Dec. 3 From a visit by Santa to New Year’s from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.  All families Eve fireworks, Westport Plaza has are welcome to join in on fun holiday something for every family this holiday activities, including face-painting, season. balloons and live entertainment by  “Each holiday season, we look DaySpring School of the Arts.  In forward to providing events and return, Westport Plaza asks guests to attractions that make Westport Plaza bring an unwrapped gift to be donated a great, family-friendly destination.  to Ranken Jordan Pediatric Bridge With multiple winter-themed offerings, Hospital.  visitors to Westport will have a  Westport Plaza then wraps up the memorable holiday experience,” said month (and the year) with a familyCraig Cobler, Senior Vice President of friendly fireworks display in the outdoor Development for Lodging Hospitality village to celebrate the New Year on Management. Dec. 31 at 6 p.m.  Free carriage rides  Throughout December, explore will also be available following the Westport under twinkling lights from fireworks from 6:30 - 9:30 p.m. the back of a horse-drawn carriage  Westport Plaza is located at I-270 each Saturday from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 and Page Ave. 10 | OUR TOWN | DECEMBER 2016

AroundTown Advertorial

Summer Fun Fair Saint Louis announces 2017 dates

IT’S A GIFT, WRAP IT UP BY RUSS PATTON, OWNER OF BYERLY RV As 2016 draws to a close and the gift-giving season approaches we are thankful for another record year at Byerly RV. I am especially thankful for the quality of giving employees that make up the corps of Byerly. Our final event of the year will be the motorhome caravan from Byerly to Jellystone Campground’s winter light display. Byerly motorhomes, filled with customers, go to the head of the line to meander through the magical journey. Participation is by reservation and space is limited so check out our website for details. Our fall campout for customers was another popular success. Watch for details on the spring campout in April. Again, I thank the involvement of our employees for making these events possible. Selling “hardware” is important and necessary, but sharing the “software” side of the RV experience is what makes Byerly unique. RVs have become second homes. In fact, in many cases interest costs on RV loans can be deductible just like mortgage interest. But RVs have also become more sophisticated. That is why Byerly RV has created the monthly “RV School”. Employees conduct educational topics in a non-selling format to answer questions and explain the operation and maintenance of your RV. An RV can be a big investment, so the purchasing experience should be pleasant, but thorough. Byerly’s open lot, “free range” environment gives you opportunity to shop leisurely and often. Over the last 65 plus years Byerly has learned how to shop for quality. We like to think that visitors are not “processed,” but “assisted” in making the right decision. Even at the entry level, first time buyer price niche, the difference in price can be very little, but the difference in quality can affect ultimate satisfaction. Follow us on Facebook and check us out at for upcoming e th th r events and product information. o W e D riv

Byerly RV 295 East Fifth St. | Eureka, MO 63025 800-878-3325 | 636-938-2000 |

Returning to St. Louis’ iconic Forest Park for the fourth year, Fair Saint Louis has announced its 2017 dates. The 37th annual Independence Day celebration will be held July 2, 3 and 4, 2017, as fans pack the grounds that once hosted the 1904 World’s Fair. Fair Saint Louis has also announced volunteer leaders James Boldt, 2016 vice chairman, as general chairman for the 2017 event, and David Estes,

2016 venue management chairman, as vice chairman. “With nearly 235,000 attendees and a dozen entertainers at Fair Saint Louis 2016, we’re looking forward to an even bigger and better 2017,” said Boldt. “Forest Park is truly an incredible venue to host America’s Biggest Birthday Party, and we’re once again looking forward to showcasing America’s No. 1 city park to St. Louisans and visitors alike during next year’s celebration.”

Donations Needed The Saint Louis Crisis Nursery is looking for donations Saint Louis Crisis Nursery is looking for Holiday Heart Partners to help cover many high priority needs and special wishes of Nursery families who are experiencing financial hardship. Typical donations include toys, diapers, housing and utility assistance, transportation assistance, household needs, food and formula, and shoes and clothing.  You and your family, your employer, your place of worship, your friends and associates or any group you belong to may choose to help at risk children and families in need.  There are three different ways in which

you can help: sponsor a family, purchase holiday wish list items and donate to the Crisis Nursery. “It’s the 30th year of Holiday Hearts! Just think – 30 years brightening the holiday season for thousands of children” said DiAnne Mueller, CEO of the Saint Louis Crisis Nursery.  “You are invited to help us continue this wonderful tradition by becoming a Crisis Nursery Holiday Hearts angel!” To participate in the Crisis Nursery 2016 Holiday Hearts Program, please contact Saint Louis Crisis Nursery at 314-292-5770.  DECEMBER 2016 | OUR TOWN | 11

Santa’s helping hands Santa’s Helpers, Inc., a local non-profit, delivers presents to over 2,000 needy children in the St. Louis region


es, St. Louis, there is a Santa Claus. You might be surprised, however; to learn that he, or she, might be living right next door to you. For the past 49 years, volunteers from throughout the St. Louis region have been working year-round to make sure that economically disadvantaged children in the area get something to celebrate during the holidays. This year Santa’s Helpers, Inc., a local non-profit, will provide presents to over 2,000 children from over 600 families in the area during the holiday season and help an additional 50 families during their Christmas in July event in the summer. 12 | OUR TOWN | DECEMBER 2016

It all started when founder Rita Swiener heard about a family in need when she was in college. “One of my professors told us about a family that had fallen through the cracks,” Swiener remembers. “There was a single mom with six kids.” She asked her student council to help the family, providing gifts to every family member, but the experience had a lasting impression on Swiener and the next year she got a group of friends together to help another family. “Now it has grown to over 600 families per year,” said Swiener. “In the beginning, I had a lot of friends who came to my house and helped wrap the stuff. I always worked

two jobs and the paycheck from one job would go to buying presents for the needy each year. Then in the 80s we became a non-profit and started getting grants and it just started growing and growing and growing.” Today, the organization holds an annual Trivia Night fundraiser and accepts donations on its website, using a volunteer staff to stretch their funds to help as many families as possible. “All of the charities in St. Louis know us,” said Swiener. “The schools, the Children’s Hospital, they all send us referrals. Whatever they send us we do.” Volunteers dress as Santa and deliver a big sack of toys directly to Christian families on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning. “For Jewish families, we deliver on the first day of Hanukah and for Muslim families, we deliver unwrapped presents either two days before or two days after Christmas,” said Swiener. “For the Christmas deliveries, everything is bagged in a big bag for each family with their name on it. Each Santa has a zip code and they go to the house and open the bag and everything is labeled to the child from Santa. Every child gets toys and clothes and three books.” The Santas deliver from 4 until 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve and then start back at 7:30 a.m. on Christmas morning. “It is really fun to wake the kids up and Santa Claus is standing in their living room with a bag of toys,” said Swiener. “We have some Santas who have been with us for 25 years and they do it every year. We have a lot of volunteers from the Jewish-Muslim Day of Caring and they will come down and put on Santa suits

“We realized this was an organization that we could really help and that could really help us,” said Waldman. “We began looking for ways to volunteer and started going down to the warehouse.” The warehouse is the center of Santa’s Helpers during the non-holiday season. “It is donated to us by CK Welding Supplies,” said Swiener. “They are phenomenal. They won’t even let us pay utilities.” The warehouse is so important because Santa’s Helpers, unlike other toy donation efforts, takes advantage of natural shopping cycles to spread their funding as far as they can. “We start shopping for toys on the day after Christmas,” said Swiener. “We shop a lot between Christmas and New Years and then in February when they clearance everything. We also shop a lot in May when all of the winter clothes go on sale. We get most of our stuff at 75 to 90 percent off. That is the only way we can cover 2,000 people a year.” “Every toy we buy has to be at least 50 percent off,” she added. “We also have a lot of people who go shopping for us on Black Friday. We run down to the

and go out and deliver. It is really neat to see.” One of those Santas, also known as Jeff Waldman at other times of the year, got involved with the group about five years ago when he was looking for a volunteer opportunity to help teach his son about the importance of giving. “We wanted him to realize that not everyone was as fortunate as he is, and how wonderful it was to help those who otherwise would not get gifts,” said Waldman. “We participated that first year and were hooked.” Now the Christmas giving has become a tradition for the Waldman family, who are Jewish, with Waldman dressing as Santa Claus, his wife going as Mrs. Claus and their son playing an elf.

warehouse two to three times a week to empty our car and van loads. When we find a good deal everybody calls each other and says go there.” In September, Santa’s Helpers opens the warehouse for volunteers to come and start getting ready for the holiday season, wrapping presents, putting on labels and sorting gifts into piles for all of the needy children. “There are numerous volunteers who spend hours every weekend down at the warehouse wrapping and coordinating DECEMBER 2016 | OUR TOWN | 13

the whole thing,” said Waldman, who in addition to being a Santa now also serves as the president of the Santa’s Helpers Board of Directors. “There are so many people who have made Santa’s Helpers what it has become, but none that can match the passion and drive of Rita.” “When people donate to us, I make sure it all goes right to the kids because we have no salary and no overhead,” said Swiener. But all of that work is worth it when the volunteers get a chance to share their passion with needy children. “It is extremely gratifying,” said Waldman. “I was not sure what it would be like. Some of the children are little scared, but, for the most part, we are greeted with squeals of joy and hugs. I have eaten my fair share of cookies and consumed some milk. When you

“These children, by no fault of their own, would not be getting any gifts, they would not be celebrating the holidays the way you would like all kids to celebrate, if it were not for our efforts,” ~Jeff Waldman see the smiles on their faces it makes it all worthwhile.” “These children, by no fault of their own, would not be getting any gifts, they would not be celebrating the holidays the way you would like all kids to celebrate, if it were not for our efforts,” he added. “I am Jewish and it had never crossed my mind that I would be doing this. I don’t have white hair or a beard, but on Dec. 24, from the perspective of the families, we are representing the essence of Santa Claus and Christmas.” To volunteer with or donate to Santa’s Helpers visit their website at Submitted photos Santa Claus visits with children at the Santa’s Helpers, Inc. Christmas in July celebration. Santa’s Helpers, Inc. will provide presents to over 2,000 children from over 600 families in the area during the holiday season. 14 | OUR TOWN | DECEMBER 2016




appy holidays! And that means it’s time to reflect on what we’re thankful for in this season of cheer. So let’s raise a glass to good health and hope we’re all strong and vigorous in the coming New Year. And to keep mind and body in working order, a few things to avoid are excessive eating, smoking, too much drinking, watching the Kardashians for a period any longer than it takes to say, “Quick, turn the channel!” and most dangerous of all…coming within a state’s distance of Miley Cyrus’ tongue. If you wanted a more extensive list, I would recommend The Encyclopedia of Common Diseases. But because half of the population doesn’t even know what an encyclopedia is, I instead refer at this festive time of year to something that contains most every ailment known to mankind…the mailbox! Why the mailbox you ask? Because for some strange reason certain people just love to talk about their aches and pains and surgeries in vivid Technicolor and graphic minute detail. Especially in their yearly family update letters. You can bet anything which oozes, has to be popped, lanced, drained, has a growthy tumor or needs to be surgically removed is fair game for these people to discuss. With that in mind, it is time for the letters to arrive…by the buttload. Speaking of colonoscopies, let’s begin with Aunt Fiona’s, which she described extensively and even included color photos. If possible, she would give us all a gift card to get one and I can’t say I wouldn’t like to pass one on to a few politicians I know. Perhaps they might even find their heads up there while the colonscope roots around in their downyonders. Then there’s, Cousin Gert, who’s never been married and to compensate, collects things. In particular, she has a strong fondness for furry beasties that meow. I don’t want to call her a crazy cat lady, since we stand to inherit a few bucks

after she crosses over to that great litterbox in the sky, so let’s just say she indulges a bit too much and has a female feline fetish. Okay, that wasn’t much better…moving on. Gert decided to include in her cheery Christmas letter, the full disclosure of one particular Mr. Fuzzybump’s latest surgery in all its gory detail – the removal of his kitty manhood. She was proud to announce that Mr. Fuzzybumps even received an official hardcopy certificate of castration. The surgical procedure was such a success that because of it the cat’s name had to be changed to just, Mr. Fuzzy. Then of course there’s crazy uncle Hank. We stand to inherit no money whatsoever from Hank so crazy is a completely acceptable term. Hank wrote to inform us that his knee replacement had gone awry and that he would need an additional one. In the meantime his kneecap would be splayed open so much so that all the tendons and vital bone structure could easily be viewed through the gaping hole. Now I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing that brings more joy to the season than imagining Uncle Hank’s ligaments drying out in the open air like so much beef jerky. It’s all we need to add that certain warmth and hearty appetite to the holidays….unless of course you tossed in Mr. Fuzzy’s bumps! So please, for the sake of those who can read, stay well and Merry Christmas everyone! DECEMBER 2016 | OUR TOWN | 15




he little pull-out along the highway was overflowing with cars again. Located next to a small, natural hot spring, the wide spot along the road has been occupied only rarely in times past, usually in the winter, by ice climbers soothing their frozen toes and frayed nerves. Alas, the little spot received mention in a guidebook on hot springs, sold at a big-box discount store. From there, social media fanned the flames of notoriety, and now there are always vehicles there, regardless of time of day or day of week. Seeing the crowded parking area on my drive home highlighted the fact that over 300 people per day have been moving into this state for the last couple of years. The hot springs have waxed and waned in popularity over the years. At one point a small bath house was constructed nearby, along the highway easement. The adjacent landowner tore it down, and did his best to discourage use of the spot. Known locally as the “Hippy Dip,” it was an offthe-grid attraction, with some of the attendees eschewing the niceties of bathing suits. The landowner couldn’t see the debauchery from his home, but he and his wife were concerned that their cows could see naked people. Large rocks were piled into the small hot pools next to the river, and later, tar was liberally applied to the rocks. The feud eventually died down, the landowner sold out, and the more rambunctious regulars lost interest. The Dip had settled into being a nice, quiet little spot along the river with an excellent view of the surrounding mountains and wildlife. It’s still nice, but crowded now. Driving across the state recently, I found that the interstate, which used to be busy during holidays near the big cities and ski areas, is now a 200-mile urban corridor, complete with bumper-to-bumper traffic just about all the time. While the volume of traffic has been steadily increasing for decades, it seems that critical mass has been reached. Multi-car pileups, stop-and-go gridlock, trash along the roadside and urban levels of crime and trouble have accompanied this influx. A local police chief stated that while his town generally has a low crime rate, the “open air sewer” that is A walk along the river in the evening is a good remedy for a long day’s toil. the interstate runs right through town, and who knows what 16 | OUR TOWN | DECEMBER 2016

kind of mayhem will come through on any given day. Serious crime around here used to happen only occasionally, with robberies or violent assaults involving weapons being semi-annual events. Now such atrocities are monthly, if not weekly hazards. To those who recently moved here, crime is “much lower” than where they came from. To those of us who are used to a peaceful community, such sentiments are of little comfort. Wildlife too, has been impacted by the influx of twolegged critters. Deer numbers have been on the decline for at least a decade, with hunting permits being tightly restricted for several years now. Elk numbers are beginning to decline as well, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear. Clearing ranchland and building subdivisions, strip malls and golf courses is certainly a contributing factor. New fences have restricted or even halted the seasonal migration of local elk herds between summer and winter ranges. Interestingly, the introduction of fat-tired mountain bicycles has had a big impact on elk numbers. The new bulboustired contraptions allow people to easily travel over snow and get much further back into the areas where elk shelter during the winter. The increased human activity stresses the animals, and reproduction rates have plummeted. Forest Service personnel have noted that visits to the local wilderness areas have more than doubled in the last decade. Most of that increase is focused in just a few very popular spots which, fortunately for me, are not in the immediate area. Returning from my recent trip, I turned onto the lightlytraveled highway leading to my home, and felt the trafficinduced claustrophobia fade away, along with the city lights in the rearview mirror. Despite the relentless creeping of “civilization” nearby, it’s still quite peaceful here. And even with the struggles of the local elk, none of them have yet complained about uncovered bathers at the hot springs. With that said, we’re hoping for a harsh winter or two to thin out the two-legged herds, and drive some of them to warmer climes.





Versatility With Hybrid Option With the thought of being quite versatile, Nissan Automotive just launched the heavily refreshed 2017 Rogue compact sport utility vehicle. It’s positioned in one of the mostpopular automotive segments as it tends to compete with the likes of the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV-4, Kia Sportage and the Subaru Forester.   Rogue has been celebrated with three straight years of sales growth since the introduction of the completely redesigned second generation which was introduced back in 2014. For the ‘17 model year, it now has a new exterior look about it, enhanced utility and an expanded suite of Nissan Safety Shield technologies throughout.   As with the previous models, the redone Rogue is offered with their optional three-row/sevenpassenger seating configuration. Yes, you’ve read correctly. Threerow seating in a compact SUV in itself is quite remarkable. Of course, the third-row seating isn’t 100 percent ideal for adults but regardless, when transporting the little ones, it’s a much welcomed enhancement. Rogue further has exceptional passenger and cargo flexibility with its innovative factory-installed EZ Flex Seating System and Divide-NHide Cargo System, although it’s not available with the 2017 Rogue Hybrid due to interior packaging, which allows room for the under-floor hybrid battery pack.  This 2017 model offers updated exterior styling with a new front fascia assembly and integrated fog lamps. This also includes a newly designed bumper, Nissan signature “V-Motion” front grille assembly and revised headlights with LED signature daytime running lights. As we transition towards the rear, you’ll also discover a new bumper as

well, plus revised rear-combination lamps with LED boomerang signature taillights. Welcomed new chrometrim side door moldings further help to enhance the overall freshened appearance. Very stylish 19inch aluminum alloy wheels are also available on their SL models.  Rogue also has desirable interior roominess. For example, there is close to 10 cubic feet of usable cargo space behind the third row, coupled with a total of 18 possible configurations with the two-piece rear cargo organizer. Attention to detail is evident with the wide opening rear passenger doors for easier entry and exit.  As  for as noise reduction advances; annoying wind, mechanical and road noises are now more in line with premium automobiles. Two powertrain choices are offered. This includes their “first ever” gas/ electric hybrid system. Standard is their conventional gasoline powered, 2.5-liter four cylinder engine. Both powertrains are nicely matched with a CVT automatic transmission. The FWD hybrid model shows 33-mpg city/35-highway. The gasoline engine with a FWD chassis has EPA numbers of 26 mpg city/33 mpg highway. Every Rogue also includes their unique tire pressure monitoring system plus a host of other rolling technologies. The 2017 Nissan Rogue comes in three well-equipped models – S, SV and SL, each in a choice of frontwheel or all-wheel drive. Rogue Hybrid is offered in two grade levels – SV and SL, in FWD or AWD. Pricing starts out at $23,820 for the base version which excludes shipping charges posted at an additional $940.  The 2017 Nissan Rogue is assembled in either Smyrna, Tennessee, Kyushu, Japan or Busan, Korea. DECEMBER 2016 | OUR TOWN | 17


DECEMBER: HOME OF THE BLOCKBUSTER KINGS Home of the Blockbuster Kings Will “Passengers” become the next December-record-breaking king of the box office? office The movies of the summer are usually the ones intended to bring in the most money in ticket sales. Historically, though, it’s the few number of films that opened in December that produced the biggest records in millions. Before “Passengers” breaks out into theaters, here are the previous kings of the box office.

“Titanic” (1997)

Just two years earlier, “Waterworld” came out as a movie that made about $90 million – a lot of dough for a 1995 film. It was, however, considered a huge disappointment, being the most expensive movie ever made at a cost of 180 million. So when the $200 million “Titanic” was postponed from its 1997 summer release to December, people got extremely skeptical. The reason was because James Cameron and the production team needed more time to work on the special effects. That extra time paid off handsomely and we were rewarded with some of the most incredible visuals ever achieved – especially the epic collapsing of the big ship itself. To the surprise of many – especially the skeptics – the Academy Award’s Best Picture winner became the highest grossing film of all time with a $600.8 million take at the box office (domestically). It was No. 1 on the box-office charts for fifteen weeks straight - a feat we may never see again. It was the king of the world (at the box office) for twelve years.


“The Lord of the Rings Trilogy” (2001, 2002, 2003)

Out of nowhere, “The Fellowship of the Ring” (grossing $313.4 million) opened in 2001 and surprised the pants off of all of us, signaling that fantasy films can be excellent enough to garner 13 Oscar nominations. Fantasy films have never received recognition like this, but this go-forbroke trilogy, by New Line Cinemas, also premiered during one of the most underperforming years at the movies – the summer season was the worst part (not counting “Shrek”). “The Two Towers” broke the first film’s domestic gross record with $339.8 million in 2002, but in 2003 the third film outdid them all with $377 million. “The Return of the King” was the ultimate charm of the three and it did what none of the previous films could do by winning the Oscar for Best Picture. Peter Jackson, the trilogy’s director, took home his first Oscar win for the “King” – a perfect way to wrap up the hard work of this unforgettable journey.

“Avatar” (2009)

Director James Cameron managed to beat himself in making the biggest hit in the world with “Avatar” – the first film to top (his own) “Titanic.” It became the new highest grossing film of all time with a $749.8 million domestic gross ($1.636 billion worldwide). This super-blockbuster contender took at least four years - or so - to make, with groundbreaking visual effects that

required stop-motion animation at its finest (good enough to be believable in a live-action film). Like Cameron’s “Titanic” it was a blockbuster that was also a major contender at the Academy Awards with nine nominations including Best Picture and Best Director for Cameron.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015)

No “Star Wars” film had ever opened in the last month of the year, until last year. J.J. Abrams directed the first follow up to the original trilogy that completed its course in 1983. You can understand the anticipation from the franchise’s massive fan base. This film remains the highest grossing film in box office history at a domestic total of $936.7 million and $1.799 billion worldwide. “The Force Awakens” managed to nab four Academy Awards nomination (in the technical categories) including one for Best Editing. Abrams is a master of secrecy of his films and pulled off this amazing stunt with this well-known franchise. He successfully managed to complete a film without giving away, hardly, any clues of the parts or identities of the two new lead characters – an insanely difficult achievement on its own. This movie was more than a welcome return to form – bringing back that magical touch the original trilogy had while also paving a new path for what’s to come next.


Entertainingwith Ease Parmesan Crisps with Basil and Sun-Dried Tomato

Spinach and Artichoke Stuffed Mushroom Caps

Recipe created by Art From My Table on behalf of Milk Means More

Prep: 10 minutes | Cook: 15 minutes | Servings: 8

Recipe created by The Lemon Bowl on behalf of Milk Means More Prep: 20 minutes | Cook: 25 minutes | Servings: 24 Ingredients: 24 large mushrooms, stemmed and reserved 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 clove garlic, grated 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 2 cups chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained 1 can artichoke hearts, roughly chopped 2 cups crumbled feta cheese 1/2 cup minced onion 1 pinch chili flakes 1 pinch minced scallions Directions: Heat oven to 350 F and place mushroom caps in single layer on baking sheet lined with foil.

Holiday Baked Brie

Recipe created by Foxes Love Lemons on behalf of Milk Means More

Prep: 10 minutes | Cook: 14 minutes | Servings: 8 I ngredients: 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 8 ounces button mushrooms, sliced kosher salt ground black pepper 1 Brie round (8 ounces) 3 tablespoons honey 1/4 cup pomegranate arils 1/4 cup shelled pistachios crackers or toasted bread Directions: Heat oven to 350 F.

Mince reserved mushroom stems and heat olive oil in large saute pan over mediumhigh heat. Add garlic and mushroom stems to pan along with salt and pepper. Saute 2-3 minutes, or until mushrooms are softened. Add spinach and artichoke hearts to pan and cook until heated through, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and place mixture in large mixing bowl. Stir in feta cheese and onion. Adjust seasoning, to taste.

In large skillet, heat butter over mediumhigh heat. Add mushrooms; cook 8-10 minutes, or until deep golden brown, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper; remove from heat.

Using small cookie scoop, add 2 tablespoons filling to each mushroom cap. Bake mushrooms 20-25 minutes, or until mushroom caps are softened. Sprinkle with chili flakes and minced scallions to serve.

Transfer Brie to serving platter; top with pomegranate arils, pistachios and mushrooms.

Place Brie on parchment paper-lined rimmed baking pan; drizzle with honey. Transfer to oven and bake 5-7 minutes, or until inside of cheese is softened, but outside remains intact.

Serve immediately with crackers or bread.

I ngredients: 6 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar 2 tablespoons sugar 8 basil leaves 8 sun-dried tomatoes, jarred Directions: Heat oven to 375 F. On baking sheet, make eight flat circles out of 1 1/2 tablespoons cheese each. Bake cheese 5 minutes, or until just beginning to turn golden. Using metal spatula, remove crisps from pan immediately, placing on rack or plate to cool. Place vinegar and sugar in small saucepan and boil until mixture is reduced to about 1/4 cup and is thickened. Top each crisp with 1 fresh basil leaf and 1 sun-dried tomato. Drizzle balsamic reduction over top. DECEMBER 2016 | OUR TOWN | 19



outines help keep us focused, organized and healthy. However, if your health care routine doesn’t include preparing for Medicare’s Open Enrollment, now’s the time to kick-start a new healthy habit. If you have a Medicare health or prescription drug plan, Open Enrollment runs Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. During this time, you can make changes to your plan which will take effect Jan. 1, 2017. Even if you’re happy with your current coverage, you might find something that’s a better fit for your budget or health needs. If you miss the Open Enrollment deadline, you’ll most likely have to wait a full year before you can make changes to your plan. Here are five important things every Medicare beneficiary can do to get into the Medicare Open Enrollment routine each year: 1. Review your plan notice. Be sure to read any notices from your Medicare plan about changes for next year, especially your “Annual Notice of Change” letter. Look at your plan’s information to make sure your drugs are still covered and your doctors are still in network. 2. Think about what matters most to you. Medicare health and drug plans change each year and so can 20 | OUR TOWN | DECEMBER 2016

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Make Medicare Open Enrollment a Healthy Habit your health needs. Do you need a new primary care doctor? Does your network include the specialist you want for an upcoming surgery? Is your new medication covered by your current plan? Does another plan offer the same value at a lower cost? Take stock of your health status and determine if you need to make a change. 3. Find out if you qualify for help paying for your Medicare. Learn about programs in your state to help with the costs of Medicare premiums, your Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance) deductibles, coinsurance and copayments, and Medicare prescription drug coverage costs. You can do this by visiting or making an appointment with a local State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) counselor. 4. Shop for plans that meet your needs and fit your budget. Starting each October, you can use Medicare’s plan finder tool at to see what plans are offered in your area. A new plan may: Cost less Cover your drugs Let you go to the providers you want, like your doctor or pharmacy If you find your current coverage still meets your needs, then you’re done.

Remember, during Medicare Open Enrollment, you can decide to stay in Original Medicare or join a Medicare Advantage Plan. If you’re already in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you can switch back to Original Medicare. Check your plan’s Star Rating before you enroll. The Medicare Plan Finder is up-to-date with the Star Ratings for Medicare health and prescription drug plans. Plans are given an overall quality rating on a one to five star scale, with one star representing poor performance and five stars representing excellent performance. Star Ratings can be used to compare the quality of health and drug plans being offered. For more information, call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) and say “Agent.” TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048. Help is available 24 hours a day, including weekends. If you need help in a language other than English or Spanish, let the customer service representative know the language. You can also visit a local SHIP counselor, who can provide free, one-on-one, non-biased Medicare assistance. Find one at medicare. gov/contacts/. Additional information about Medicare is available on the Medicare Facebook page and by following @MedicareGov on Twitter.

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Advocate For Kids’ Eye Care



tudies repeatedly emphasize the importance of diagnosing vision problems at an early age, but that’s something many parents assume is being covered by their children’s school system. In reality, an estimated one in four American school-age children have vision problems that – if untreated – can affect learning ability, personality and behavioral developments, adjustment in school and, ultimately, could lead to blindness. While it’s true that schools may provide vision screenings for younger children, one study found that even if a child failed such an exam, 50 percent of parents were unaware of the failure two months after the screening. Furthermore, these screenings do not adequately test for prevalent vision disorders such as amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (crossed eyes) or significant refractive error. These disorders can, if left untreated, have an economic impact, too – children’s vision disorders cost an estimated $10 billion annually in the United States alone. These issues can be addressed early on if children are given comprehensive eye examinations by eye care professionals, and the sooner they’re identified, the better.  A recent study from The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine evaluated the status of vision in the U.S. health care system and recommended comprehensive eye exams as the “gold standard” in identifying potential vision disorders for children before they enter school – even though this is something only three states currently require of their school systems. What’s more, research has shown that of children in the 9-to-15 age group, only 10 percent who needed eyeglasses actually had them.

Through the Kids See: Success initiative, a partnership of the Vision Impact Institute, Optometry Giving Sight and VSP Vision Care, experts in the eye care field are working to educate parents, legislators, child advocacy groups, school nurses, teachers and administrators about the social, educational and future economic benefits of comprehensive eye exams for children prior to entering kindergarten. Regardless of whether your local schools require eye exams before entry into kindergarten, your child and children you know deserve to start school with a baseline for academic success. One eye exam could change your child’s academic future forever. In the meantime, watch for these signs that your child may benefit from glasses and schedule an eye exam promptly: • Squinting is a classic symptom of either nearsightedness (not seeing well far away) or farsightedness (not seeing well up close). • Closing one eye to see better could indicate a structural problem like astigmatism. • Eye rubbing may be the result of eye strain. • Sitting too close to the television or lowering the head while reading a book are signs of nearsightedness. • Losing place while reading due to skipping lines may mean there is an eye muscle problem or vision problem, such as astigmatism. • Frequent headaches or brow aches are often a result of uncorrected farsightedness. Find more information about the importance of early eye exams for children at visionimpactinstitute. org. DECEMBER 2016 | OUR TOWN | 21



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Go Hand-in-Hand M

ost people recognize the importance of a healthy lifestyle when it comes to physical and emotional well-being, but you may not realize that some health-related activities can pose a safety risk if you don’t take proper precautions. Making safe habits part of your healthy lifestyle can help ensure you’re able to enjoy the results of your efforts. Warm up your workout. Exercise and physical activity are essential to a healthy lifestyle, but failing to approach your workouts with the proper warmup and know-how can really backfire. According to the experts at WebMD, a warmup is important because it gets blood circulating and eases muscles into more vigorous activity, getting them loose, warm and ready for the challenge. Know that technique matters. Another potential safety pitfall when it comes to working out is improperly using weight machines or employing improper technique for activities like yoga or core training. Failing to execute your exercises correctly can not only produce sub-par results, you may actually end up hurting yourself by causing a sprain or other injury. Even if you tend to be a loner when it comes to working out, enlist the expertise of a trainer or coach who can show you the ropes before you set out solo. Exercise caution outdoors. A few hours spent in the great outdoors can leave you feeling refreshed and invigorated; fresh air is good for your body and your spirit. However, 22 | OUR TOWN | DECEMBER 2016

spending too much time soaking up the sun can have a detrimental impact on your health – overexposure to UV rays is a major risk factor for developing skin cancer. Exposure to the elements, such as strong winds or harsh cold, can also take a toll on your body. The American Melanoma Foundation recommends lathering up with a sunscreen that has a Skin Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 any time you’ll be outdoors for more than 20 minutes. Even winter conditions pose a threat to bare skin, as snow can actually reflect UV radiation. Be wary of expiration dates. Most people at least periodically use prescription drugs or overthe-counter medicines as part of their commitment to staying healthy. However, for people who rarely use medicines, their cabinets may be filled with potentially dangerous, expired medications. According to the FDA, both prescriptions and over-the-counter meds can lose their effectiveness over time and even become

CaringPartners unsafe. Especially concerning are the medicines that can change chemical composition or become a breeding ground for bacteria over an extended period of time. That’s why it’s important to properly discard medicines after their expiration dates have passed. Make reasonable eating choices. With countless diet options available, it may seem impossible to know which is most likely to help you achieve your desired results. When evaluating eating plans, be careful to avoid diets that are excessively restrictive, as these can have a serious impact on bodily organs that rely on nutrients to function. Also be wary of diets that recommend cutting entire food groups; a balanced diet with moderate portion sizes is the best approach for delivering your body the nutrition it needs for top performance. Committing to healthier living is an important step, so be sure you can reap the rewards by making your journey to better health a safe one. Find more tips for living a healthy lifestyle at


With nearly 41 million adults in the U.S. wearing contact lenses as a safe and popular form of vision correction, there is a growing trend among Americans to alter the appearance or color of the eyes by using decorative contact lenses. However, if these lenses are bought illegally and without a prescription from your eye doctor, they could lead to serious health issues and potentially damage your eyesight permanently. “Many consumers consider these lenses a fashion or costume accessory when, in reality, decorative lenses are also classified as medical devices and still pose the same potential safety and health issues as corrective contact lenses and require a prescription,” said Andrea P. Thau, O.D., president of the

American Optometric Association (AOA). The AOA recommends contact lens wearers take proper steps to protect their eyes and maintain a consistent hygiene routine, including: See a doctor of optometry for a comprehensive eye examination and proper fitting and prescription for decorative contacts lenses, even if you don’t require lenses to correct your vision. • Never buy lenses from retail outlets or online sites that don’t require a prescription. • Always follow the recommended contact lens replacement schedule prescribed by your eye doctor. • Wash and dry hands before handling contact lenses. • Carefully and regularly use cleaning solution to rub the lenses with fingers and rinse thoroughly before soaking overnight in multi-purpose disinfectant solution. • Use fresh solution to clean and store contact lenses – never reuse old solution. • Only use products recommended by your eye doctor to clean and disinfect lenses. Saline solution and rewetting drops do not disinfect lenses. • Store lenses in the proper storage case and replace your case every three months. In addition, cases should be rubbed with clean fingers, rinsed with solution, dried with a tissue and stored upside-down when not in use. • Remove contact lenses before exposing them to water. • See your optometrist immediately if you experience redness, pain, irritation or blurred vision while wearing your lenses. For more information about contact lens hygiene and safety, the risks associated with decorative contact lenses and to find an optometrist near you, visit DECEMBER 2016 | OUR TOWN | 23



Candy cane hunt Candy canes have been hidden in Queeny Park by the park deer for children to find. Hunt begins promptly at 10 a.m. Advanced registration is required. Call 314-6158472 to purchase tickets.


St. Nicholas’ Day


Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day




Blood drive Maryland Heights is hosting a blood drive from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Government Center at 11911 Dorsett Road. Walk-ins are welcome but there are two ways to schedule an appointment: contact Gabby Macaluso at 314738-2204 or Visit Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center’s website: and use the sponsor code 9407.


Wright Brothers Day


First Day of Winter


Christmas Day


First Day of Hanukkah


New Year’s Eve

Candlelight tours of Thornhill Come experience the beauty of a holiday at Thornhill, the home of Governor and Mrs. Frederick Bates located in Faust Park. The customs of the 1820s will surround guests on this self-guided tour through the festively adorned rooms with historically dressed docents in attendance. Call 314-6158328 or 314-615-4386 for tickets Cost is $8 per adult; $5 per child (ages four-12); children threeand-under are free.

National Guard Birthday

OurTown: December 2016  
OurTown: December 2016  

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