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a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength. Jasper/Newton County Progress 2021 focuses on the current condition of the communities. Businesses and residents were met with many hurdles from quarantines and face mask mandates to loss of income and homes. The economic and social disruption as well as the mental wellbeing of the community was devastating to all. Students missed graduations, stores and manufacturers were unable to keep up with the demand of many necessities, and businesses closed or furloughed employees. As we pass the one year anniversary of the pandemic we see a light at the end of the tunnel. A vaccine is now available, social distancing restrictions have been lessened, relief packages have been released and unemployment extended and increased. Restaurants and small businesses are open and a feeling of normalcy (whether new or old) is returning.

Zachary Melda (far right), NextEra Energy Resources Project Director, is shown going over the project map with Stephen Eastridge (far left), Jasper County Economic Development Organization Executive Director, and Ally Sexton, NextEra Energy Resources Project Manager.

Dunn’s Bridge Solar Project poised to ease the loss of Schahfer Generating Station By GREGORY MYERS nceeditor@centurylink.net

WHEATFIELD, Ind. — Once completed the Dunn’s Bridge Solar Project will be the biggest solar array east of the Mississippi River. The two-phase project coming to 5,000 acres in and around Wheatfield will combine up to 700 megawatts of clean, solar energy with 75 megawatts of battery energy storage. The project will be located near NIPSCO’s Schahfer Generating Station, its coal-fired The two-phase project power station in coming to 5,000 acres Wheatfield, which in and around Wheatis planned for shutfield will combine up down over the next to 700 megawatts of few years. clean, solar energy The Dunn’s Bridge Sowith 75 megawatts of lar Project is a subsidiary of battery energy storage.

NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and the sun. “With the existing coal facility coming offline this area provides a great opportunity to take their place with clean energy,” said Zach Melda, NextEra Energy Project Manager. “Transmission infrastructure is already in place and the land surrounding the facility is farmland that is not as productive as most areas in the county due to soil content. Jasper County was very open to this type of project and landowners were very eager to talk with us, and partner with us.” Phase 1 of the project calls for a $308 million investment of a 265-megawatt solar project with an estimated 900,000 solar panels that will be capable of producing enough energy to power 79,500 homes. While Next Era Energy is currently negotiating the contract with the General Contractor for the project, the project is in position to start construction this August. Plans call it to be mechanically complete by Septem-

ber 2022 and online in late 2022. The solar panels at the Dunn’s Bridge project will be equipped with a tracker system allowing the panels to move to track the sun across the sky to maximize production. “We are in a good spot as far as the timeline goes and we are ready to execute those plans,” added Melda. Phase 2 will add the capacity to produce 435 megawatts of solar power paired with 75 megawatts of battery storage. The project will include an estimated 1,500,000 solar panels and is expected to be operational in 2023. Dunn’s Bridge II will be capable of producing enough energy to power 130,500 homes. Dunn’s Bridge Solar I and II are expected to generate approximately $59 million in additional tax revenue for Jasper County over the life of the projects and approximately 300 jobs during construction. Additionally, during construction local businesses would have opportunities to supply see DUNN’S on page 5

Creativity key when building foot traffic at some businesses By HARLEY TOMLINSON harleytom20@gmail.com

JASPER COUNTY — Small business owners are a resilient bunch. They are also creative in developing ways to bring more foot traffic to their establishments when times turn tough. A handful of Jasper County businesses have used their creative juices to bring in a new stream of revenue as they follow COVID restrictions that include limited capacity and shorter hours. The Station at eMbers found a way to combat the restrictions and the cold with the continuation of eMberDomes this winter. The domes are

a self-contained outdoor eating and drinking plastic and steel “bubeMbers in Rensselaer began offering its emberDomes in 2019, but they became especially handy durbles” that are heated and ing the COVID pandemic in 2020 and into 2021. cover those ic,” he said. “People just feel more and are temperature controlled and seated inside. comfortable regardless of the outside The domes were utilized by patrons safe and secure in them.” climate, with the exception of exEach dome holds 2-6 guests and for a fee from December through midtreme cold and high winds. can be held with a $25 reservation March. “The decor this year was different fee, which goes towards the final bill. eMbers owner Ryan Musch said from last year,” Musch said. “And Each bill must exceed $100 and food the domes were first used in 2019, we’ll change it up again next year. It and beverage packages are available but proved more advantageous for and presented to the domes prior to just makes it more fun.” patrons this year. the customers’ arrival. Reservations can be made on eM“We started putting them out two The domes have their own decor see CREATIVITY on page 13 years ago without plans of a pandem-

A Special publication of the Rensselaer Republican, Kankakee Valley Post News and Newton County Enterprise. March 2021.


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March, 2021

PROGRESS 2021

J-SAT program helps offenders prep for return to society By HARLEY TOMLINSON

harleytom20@gmail.com

JCSD Sheriff Pat Williamson said the J-SAT pod program at the jail has been extremely effective in drug treatment of inmates.

JASPER COUNTY — The Jasper County Sheriff’s Department has seen encouraging results from an addiction treatment program at its jail. Known in the inner circle as J-SAT or the Jasper County Substance Abuse Treatment program, it is conducted by psychologist Dr. Chad Pulver of Rensselaer with the cooperation of county sheriff Patrick Williamson and his staff. Pulver visits the jail at the end of each week to conduct individual sessions with inmates who sign up for the program. The inmate is brought to Pulver in a secure location at the jail where he or she spends as much as an hour talking through their addiction as well as life challenges. “The doctor talks to them not only about good decision making, but how to develop a plan once you get out of (jail),” Williamson said. “What is your plan? Let’s talk about that. Is it realistic? What he finds out a lot of times is that it’s not very realistic. They want to do a particular thing like get back with their kids or their wife or their girlfriend, but they don’t know how to accomplish it. Believe it or not, some of them don’t know how to seek out a physician to make a doctor’s visit.” Built on psychological research indicating that sub-

stance abuse is connected to mental health and biological issues, J-SAT also improves a person’s ability to find support outside of jail and work to stay clean. A former professor of psychology at Saint Joseph’s College, Pulver assists inmates in transitioning back to society as they finish out their sentences for drug charges or other lower level offenses. Since the program was created in 2018, Pulver has seen 86 inmates at the jail, which is around 10% of the jail’s total population over the course of a year. A volunteer-based program, J-SAT has been a good tool for those looking to stay clean and improving their circumstances once they are released, Williamson said. “The ones we do get into the program, they usually pay attention,” he said. “You talk with Dr. Pulver and you learn very quickly he doesn’t mince words. He’s see J-SAT on page 7

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Through the years, the City of Rensselaer has worked vigorously at being a progressive, growing small city. Intent on providing opportunities for a healthy life style to its residents and visitors. Our most recent project, Parks for People, which added walking trails throughout our parks, and a new dog park, is starting to book Baseball tournaments at our multiple new ball fields located at Brookside park. As time and temperatures permit the tennis courts and basketball courts will be updated. Another ongoing project, is our downtown revitalization. In the summer of 2019: The Rensselaer ArtWalk was established. Artists from all over the world were hired to paint murals on buildings throughout central Rensselaer, with more murals added in 2020. These works of art have enticed many locals and visitors to explore and enjoy our downtown area. We are intent on redoing the brickroads on Harrison and Van Rensselaer Streets in the downtown square once financing is in place. This part of phase one should occur in the next year or so. Rensselaer, unique in many ways is continuing to maintain its mission, of striving to be a friendly small city that is environmentally friendly and economically stable.

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March, 2021

PROGRESS 2021

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Brook Community Meals serving more than 300 meals a week during pandemic By GREGORY MYERS nceeditor@centurylink.net

BROOK — Brook United Methodist Church started serving community meals in 2012 as a way to help people in their area, which they considered a food desert. The numbers have fluctuated over the years, but during the pandemic, the weekly meal has exploded with participants. “When this all started in March we thought it would be back to normal by July,” said Karen Cooper, who now along with her family plans the meals. “We had to step up because we knew people needed us more now than ever before.” However, due to restrictions, the meal had to be done in drivethrough format, which made the preparation even more difficult. People responded to the drive-through concept in an overwhelming way. “We went from serving around 40 to 60 meals per week to sometimes over 300 meals per week,” said Cooper. “There have been times where the line of cars will go from the church all the way to the gas station. We have quite a few people, even in bad weather, that will come through the line walking or by bicycle. We won’t turn anyone away.” The funding to pay for the meals come entirely through donations. “We have some generous members of the community,” added Cooper. “Some will donate as they come through the line as well. It just warms your heart to see how much people care and that they see the need.” The entire vision of the community meals program started in 2010 at Brook United Methodist Church. In 2010, there was a big Youth Fellowship group who always seemed to be eager to eat every snack avail-

able at the weekly meetings. So Pastor Sue Beckett and youth leader Marshall Whaley recruited Beth Kindell and Carol Whaley to prepare a meal once a week for the young people to enjoy. Betty Myers also helped. This eventually expanded to include families. “We served the meals in the church basement where we had tables and chairs and highchairs filled with moms and kids,” stated Carol Whaley. “In a year or so, things transitioned in Brook. The grocery store had closed and the food pantry at Brook First Christian Church closed. It was discussed at an early October 2012, meeting of the United Methodist Women’s group that we might be living in a food desert here in Brook. Different ideas were presented, but the recurring theme was that our group could provide a weekly meal here at our Brook United Methodist Church. We didn’t have the right setup or room for a food pantry, but we had the perfect kitchen and dining room for community meals. The UMW voted to serve one meal per week on Thursday night and donated some money for the startup. It would be open to anyone, whether a member of our church or not. No matter what town they lived in or what their circumstances, all would be welcome.” The group went out and got donations from Murphy’s Food King of Kentland of bread and also grocery bags. Strack and VanTil of Rensselaer donated outdated bakery goods, and Rose Acre Farms donated eggs. “We have never had a fundraiser for this ministry,” Whaley stated. “People have just generously helped and donated money over the years and have kept the project going. The same is true of workers. People just showed up to

“Nothing Better Between the Road and the Load”

(NCE PHOTO/GREGORY MYERS) Karen Cooper is shown preparing food for a recent Brook Community meal. help from the very start and our crew formed and remained faithful throughout the years. Bonnie Strole and Judy Hancock fixed drinks of coffee, water, and milk. Jerry Johnson and Rick Gerts were our official greeters and served the main course and veggies. Peg Lawrence served salads. Judy Washburn, Beth Kindell, and Carol Whaley were the cooks. Don Washburn and Annelies Roggeveen served desserts. Donnie Parrish handed out eggs and bakery goods and bread. Pastor Ken Marsh, and then Pastor Chauncey Lattimer, welcomed people along with Brook UMC’s various pastors. The ladies of Brook First Christian Church made tons of homemade noodles for chicken and noodles and brought in desserts and helped in many ways. There were many other people who helped make this all come together. Some of our most generous donors are not members of our church. Visitors who see what we are doing and want to help or contribute have been a blessing and encouragement to us. When the pandemic hit, the Cooper family was willing to take on

(NCE PHOTO/GREGORY MYERS) Linda Vaughan is pictured placing desserts on a table lined with containers . the responsibility of the planning, purchasing groceries, and preparing the weekly meal.

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Because they were one family unit, they were uniquely positioned to prepare the meal safely. It was decided the meal would be boxed and handed out the kitchen door, so no one would need to come into the building to receive a meal. Since the pandemic started almost a year ago, an amazing 11,500 individual meals have been served “This would not have

been possible without the help and prayers of many, many people,” Whaley added. “We are thankful for the opportunity to serve our friends in this way and we hope we have been a blessing to our community through this ministry.” Brook Community Meals has a Facebook page and regularly keeps people updated on what that week’s meal will be.

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March, 2021

PROGRESS 2021

The three ball fields at Blacker Field in Brookside Park will host a handful of tournaments as well as park league teams for the first time this spring and summer.

City of Rensselaer stays busy even in tough times

“Things are starting to recover. I think this will stimulate it even more. People will get out and spend a little money. It should get the economy back rolling again.” Steve Wood, mayor city of rensselaer

By HARLEY TOMLINSON harleytom20@gmail.com

RENSSELAER — Businesses and organizations faced disruptions for long periods of time over the past year, but it was business as usual for the City of Rensselaer. Over the past 12-16 months, Rensselaer: • installed a new trash removal system that includes the purchase of a new lift truck; • closed its power plant with hopes of selling off pieces to the highest bidder; • began the process of replacing old bricks on south Van Rensselaer Street with new bricks; • bought a new fire truck; • hired its first full-time fire chief in nine decades; • made improvements to its wastewater treatment plant; • accepted downtown property for the use as a park; • assisted Parks for People in developing new parks throughout the city. The closing of the power plant,

which had been generating electricity to the city since 1897, was perhaps the council’s toughest decision. But numbers provided by Mayor Steve Wood to council members showed the plant was past its prime. “We were way past our time with the plant,” he said. “When you can buy electric cheaper than you can produce it, it was a no-brainer. We struggled with it for a long time. I kept giving the council numbers and it came to a point where we don’t have any choice.” The city dissolved its contract with IMPA, which maintained the plant, last year. The city will now rely on solar panels placed strategically in sundrenched areas. “Utilities, the costs keep going up,” Wood said. “We’ve absorbed about all we could absorb. IMPA is our power producer. We’re in a joint service venture. We want to go green. We’ve done some solar farms through IMPA. IMPA owns them, but we get the benefit from them.” IDEM has set up a long-term control plan to get the city away from a combined sewer system. Rensselaer will

need to be in compliance by 2030. “IDEM is making us hold our feet to the fire on all of this,” Wood said. “We’re one of those communities where a large part of it is a combined sewer. There’s a 100 communities in Indiana that have a combined sewer and they’re all on a long-term control plan.” Wood said he testified at a hearing with three other mayors a few years ago hoping to sway the state to go back to the original EPA rulings to lessen the burden on small municipalities like Rensselaer. “DEM has got more stringent rules and regulations than EPA does. We have through 2030. We have to stick with it,” Wood said. The current council can hang its hat on an improved park system. The Parks for People campaign — sparked by a generous donation from the Rex Blacker family — generated enough funds to make improvements at several current parks as well as develop a dog park and Foundation Park on the old Monnett School property. Brookside Park will host a series of tournaments on its new ball fields this spring. “We’ve worked hard on that. Mr. Blacker was a very generous man. He left us seed money,” Wood said. “We’ve raised close to a million and our goal was a million-two. We’re close to meeting that goal right now. Brookside is going to look nice. They’ve scheduled see CITY on page 5

Foundation Park, which sits on the old Monnett School site, features new playground equipment for kids as well as fitness equipment.

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March, 2021

PROGRESS 2021

CITY

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from page 4

games there for April. “Our walking paths at the parks are great also. We’ve had a good administration and good council people; some visionaries and forward thinkers.” The city sought and received grants for the new fire truck. The council is also looking into a plan to put new bricks on Van Rensselaer Street that runs in front of city hall. If it can be funded, the city plans to pursue a Community Crossing grant to help pay for that project. “The quality of life has come a long way here the last two, three years,” Wood said.. “We’re going to do more streets, more sidewalks. That’s the next big thing. We did (sidewalks at) Grace Street all the way to Cullen. We’re doing McKinley to Scott Street.” The federal government’s stimulus package in 2020 and the most recent one in 2021 helps the city pay the bills while improving that quality of life.

“It comes at a good time,” Wood said of the most recent stimulus money. “Things are starting to recover. I think this will stimulate it even more. People will get out and spend a little money. It should get the economy back rolling again.” Even as the city waited for assistance for improvements and sustaining the status quo, Wood felt Rensselaer progressed better than other communities its size. “I don’t think it (pandemic) hit us as much as other communities,” he said. “Some restaurants stayed open through this. If they weren’t doing in-dining, they were doing carryouts. I think most of our light industry worked through COVID. They may night live in Rensselaer, but I’m sure they spent money in Rensselaer and helped our economy. “There were some other communities that we not quite as fortunate as

IMPA provides solar panels in two areas in Rensselaer to help the city stay active during power outages.

Foundation Park, with its main entrance at U.S. 231, opened to the public last winter and continues to see additions and improvements as part of the Parks for People program. we were. But it still affected us budget-wise and things we had to spend money on to get through, such as PPE (personal protective equipment) and supplies. We were allotted some COVID money and that helped us.” Consequently, Rensselaer has been able to function as close to normal as it did before COVID. And the immediate future also looks promising. “The 2021 budget is looking good. I’ve heard rumblings about the 2022 budget, but with the new bill, we’ve been notified we’re going to get some of that for the city. That should help us through the rough spots of 2021-22,” Wood said. “Nobody who works for the city missed a paycheck. We’re pretty proud of that. We kept all of our people em-

ployed.”

vironmental regulations,” stated the company on its website. Utilities across the country are increasingly selecting energy storage and renewable resources as a cost-effective and environmentally sustainable alternative to traditional sources of power generation. No form of energy is free from environmental impact; however, solar energy has among the lowest impacts as it emits no air or water pollution. “Jasper County was extremely helpful and easy to work with,” said Mel-

da. “We want to thank Jasper County for passing a solar ordinance that allows us to build here. Commissioner Kendell Culp, Stephen Eastridge, and Mary Scheurich (Jasper County Planning and Development Director) were all great throughout this process and helped us immensely. We’re excited about the project and we look forward to working in the community and generating low-cost, homegrown solar energy in Jasper County for years to come.”

DUNN’S

from page 1 materials to support the construction of the project. Other businesses such as hotels, restaurants and grocery stores also benefit from the increase in worker activity during construction. “The big thing this project will do is stabilize the tax base in Jasper County with the upcoming loss of the Schahfer Generating Station,” said Jasper County Economic Development Organization Executive Director Stephen Eastridge. “This will let us survive the closing of such a major

factor of our tax base and help us continue to grow beyond that.” The design of the project came after environmental studies so that the panels can be placed to avoid or minimize impacts to environmentally sensitive areas and drainage. NextEra Energy Resources say protecting wildlife and sensitive natural habitats is a priority for them. “As part of our development process, we conduct thorough wildlife studies and ensure each site complies with all local, state, and federal en-

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People seeking nursing degrees spend classroom time at SJC’s Core Building, which is one of a few buildings still in operation on the college campus.

Saint Joe on path to ‘health and vitality’ thanks to donors By HARLEY TOMLINSON harleytom20@gmail.com

RENSSELAER — Saint Joseph’s College continues to raise funds through its 128 Core Partners program, though the money raised hasn’t been used yet, according to SJC officials. The program, which is designed to raise a certain amount of money per year for the next three years to cover expenses in “SJC’s journey back to health and vitality,” was created in 2019. SJC officials said in March that it hosted a pair of Zoom meeting with current 128 Core Partners, updating them on the progress at the college. Mike VanEekeren, chairman of the SJC Board of Trustees, as well as executive director William Carroll, CPA Kimberley Morisette and Beth Graf, director of communications and development, shared information on partnerships, current and new certification programs and financial updates with SJC’s partners. Officials emphasized that all

pledge donations remain unspent and rest in an account for future use. The campaign’s purpose was to provide operating support over a three-year period to “restructure, restart and rebuild.” “To date, with great fiscal planning and mindful spending,” SJC officials said in its March newsletter, “SJC has the cash it needs to run on a day-to-day basis without using the 128 Core Partners donations. Keep in mind, the 128 Core Partners plan document specifically stated the purpose for these funds. To date, we have not had to use any Core Partners campaign payments to fund these operations.” Instead, income has been generated for daily expenses by donations, grants, estate gifts and windmill and farm income as provided by Juanita Waugh and her family. Fundraising efforts are ongoing at the college as it continues its rebuild phase. One objective was to kick-start a certification program, in this case, nursing, which began in 2019 and has had a number of

graduates over that span. School officials added that they are “collaborating with other education institutions for the success of the education future of SJC.” One future officials would like to get to is returning to an accredited college with the Higher Learning Commision, which it resigned when it closed its doors in 2017 due to “lagging enrollment and debt.” “Should the need arise to continue the initiatives as outlined in the 128 Core Partners campaign, those funds may be used for these initiatives in the future,” officials said in a newsletter. 2021 is expected to be a transitional year for the college, which hopes to start a twoyear associate degree Anchor Program that can stand on its own, funnel into a bachelor’s degree at SJC or transfer to institutions that partner with the college. “We hope to start offering these courses with our University Partner(s) in the fall of 2021,” officials said when plans for an Anchor Program were

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2021 will be a big year for Saint Joseph’s College as it continues to rebuild with hopes of securing accreditation in the future. first announced, “with plans to expand the offerings with a four-year bachelor’s program in the fall of 2023.” Most of SJC’s campus remains closed with the exception of the Core Building, which houses certification programs. An apartment building on campus is home to the House of Grace organization, which provides a safe place for women coming out of jail or prison and others who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction.

Officials may soon open the campus up to tours, allowing alumni and their families to meet with classmates while walking the campus grounds. The college is also working with the SJC Alumni Association to create an alumni gathering on campus. Former graduates and students of Saint Joe are encouraged to keep up to date through the college’s website and social media accounts.

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very much for you. He wants your participation. He’s the kind of guy who makes sense and they gravitate to him.” In 2019, a therapeutic pod — between 10-20 inmates who live in the same area — was created as another step in the program. Inmates selected for the pod are assigned tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, gardening, etc. while continuing their treatment to better handle their substance abuse

and emotional and life balance issues. Williamson believes the J-SAT program has been a contributing factor in the county’s recent decrease in arrests. In 2016-17, the county had 1,100 inmates booked into jail, with that number dropping by 112 arrests in 2018 (less than 1,000 overall) in the first full year of the program. In 2019, the number of arrests dropped even further (129 less than ’18)

and in 2020 in a COVID year, “we dropped 280 below what we had in 2017. “We’ve seen a steady drop in arrests each year,” he added. “It’s pretty remarkable.” COVID has presented some challenges to the program, but Pulver continues his onsite visits as needed. “The courts are releasing lower-level offenders quickly and you don’t have as much time as you used to with them,” Wil-

liamson said. J-SAT also helps inmates land a job, Williamson said. Inmates receive job applications and interviews are set up with the hope of securing employment prior to being released. Job security will go a long way to keeping former inmates out of jail. “If they get a job, we’ll tell them when they get out to report for duty at this date and time,” Williamson said. “We place

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them all over the place, so when they get out, they’ve got some hope and they’re ready to go. They’ve got a job and sometimes we’ve supplied them with boots and clothes. The problem is, some of these guys when they get out are homeless and have no place to go. “But we’re trying to transition them out of the jail to places to live, places to work.” Once they find a place to live or secure a job, they are invited back to the jail on Wednesday nights for a group session. Williamson said he doesn’t know of another program that does this. “If you’re in our program and you’re going off to work, we offer the opportunity to you to come back for 90 days, 12 weeks to participate in a group at the jail,” he said. “You’ll be surprised. They do come back into our jail. They want to participate in a group. All that does is strengthens them for wherever they work and with their family. We offer that free of charge.” Not only does the group session help those in the program, it ultimately could assist in whatever family situation someone battling addiction or experiencing a mental health issue find themselves in. “Once they get home and if they remember anything from the doctor about good choices, about things that are nurturing for their families, they pass it onto their kids,” Williamson said. “They use, we’re hoping, better judgement, better decisions. When their kids are going through something, we hope what the doctor gives them they pass onto their children. We don’t know what affect that will have generationally, but we think it will help.” The success of the program — and its continued development — has spread to other departments throughout the state, Williamson said. He added that when the president of the Indiana Sheriff’s Association and

a state mental health department official visited Jasper County recently, they wanted more information on J-SAT. “They said, ‘Sheriff, no one with a county your size is doing this. We don’t have many that are involved to this extent,’” Williamson said. But funding for the program is beginning to dwindle. Williamson said his department was given a grant by the state to help Pulver develop JSAT, but that money is running out. Williamson was on hand at the county council meeting in March to request funds provided by the state — a $71,000 stipend to be used for Level 6 felons held at the department of corrections — be released to his department to help fund the treatment program. He said the county doesn’t have many Level 6 felons and would like to see that money directed towards J-SAT. “Can we get the money to support it?” Williamson asked. “I don’t have enough money in my budget to support the doctor. The commissioners were on board with us three years ago, but that money will be running out shortly. It’s not cheap, but I believe financially worthwhile and worthwhile to the community.” Williamson said the county should do whatever it can to keep J-SAT available at the jail. “It would be a detriment if we get rid of the program,” he said. “If you look closer at it, if you are down 100 inmates a year and times that by $55 a day (the cost to house an inmate). When you take roughly 20 inmates a day times $55 times 365 (days), you will see the kind of money that we save if this is effective and it comes from what the programs are doing. We’re saving the county a lot of money, not only through the grant I got last year (for $89,000), but also through what the doctor is saving us with people not coming in. To me, it’s a no-brainer.”

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PROGRESS 2021

&

The Jasper County Economic Development Organization was founded n 1986 as the county-wide economic development entity for Jasper County. Through our work we seek to grow the county tax base by leveraging increased business investment and job creation.

9

2018 Festiva May • •

Septembe

19 Little 500 • 24-28 Traveling Vietnam Wall •

with Stephen Eastridge

9 Water Tower • Days • July October • 28 Rock The • Trunk or Arts • Sandhill August Paddle • 10-11 Touch of Dutch • Remington Ride •

5 Areas of Focus

• •

June

compared to our neighbor com-

Increasing Small Business assistance Improving existing business relationships • Building workforce development programs change and a facilitator of conver• Enhanced tourism efforts sations in the county. Sometimes • Community engagement those changes and conversations

munities to the North.

will be easy and other times theyin doing business in Jasper County? Interested

JCEDO director: Growing and developing Jasper County the immediate goal Q: What are the challenges

demonstrates the real challenge

the county is facing currently?

rural communities like ours face

A: Like most rural communi-

ties, Jasper County faces many

We can help! For more information, call will be difficult and messy,(219) but 866-3080 or visit jaspercountyin.com

challenges that threaten our ability to grow and build a sustain-

Q: The eventual closing of

we believe it’s our role to push

able future. This includes tran-

NIPSCO has been on every-

them forward no matter what.

sitioning our communities from

one’s mind of late. What do

So that will continue to be our

what has allowed them to grow in

you think the county profile

role going forward, as continue to

the past to what will allow them

will look like once NIPSCO

look for opportunities to grow and

to grow going forward. Access to

closes its plant and we shift to

develop Jasper County.

broadband, water/wastewater in-

other sources to cushion the

frastructure, population decline,

economic impact?

access to childcare, and quality of

A: This is a great point because

Q: What are your hopes for the future of the county?

life amenities are all issues facing

the reality is that the Schahfer

Jasper County.

Station is closing and will no

on building a sustainable eco-

longer exist in the way we have

nomic future for our communi-

expected it to for the last 40

ties in Jasper County. We have

that Jasper County is very

years. However, I don’t think

accomplished a lot like a county

resilient. What do you see as

that will necessarily change our

in the last 2-3 years and there

unique challenges a rural

county profile too drastically, but

is still so much to accomplish

county like Jasper County

there will be changes nonethe-

moving forward. We have great

faces compared to a county

less. The first one is that the

elected officials and civic leaders

like Lake or Porter counties?

emergence of the Dunns Bridge

in our community, so we have an

Solar project will allow the

incredible opportunity to set the

Indiana’s rural communities, face

county to ease into the transition

stage for Jasper County for the

issues related to the availability

away from Schahfer because it’s

next 20 years.

of resources needed to overcome

in the Kankakee Township and

the obstacles we face. Whether

provides the best replacement

it’s capital, labor force, access to

value being that it is in the same

grants, or just general awareness

township as the Schahfer Station.

of our struggles, it’s easier for

Beyond Dunns Bridge, the county

more densely populated commu-

profile will county to take shape

nities to demonstrate their needs.

through the development of our

Just one example of this is rural

five I-65 interchanges, building

broadband. Rural, less densely

on our existing manufacturing/

populated communities struggle

industrial base, and expanding

with broadband connectivity not

our agricultural strengths to cre-

because it’s any more expensive

ate economic opportunities within

to build and install broadband

our community.

Q: You’ve said in the past

A: Jasper County, like most of

A: I hope that we stay focused

Stephen Eastridge has been executive director of the Jasper County Economic Development Organization since 2017.

Best of Jasper County HVAC 2020! HVAC 2017, 2018 Plumbing 2016, 2017, and 2019

infrastructure in Jasper County compared to Lake or Porter

Q: What do you see as JCE-

County communities. There are

DO’s role as we move forward

ultimately fewer end users to

and out of COVID?

spread the cost of construction

A: I don’t see JCEDO’s role

across and therefore these proj-

changing all that much from

ects lack feasibility in rural com-

what it has been since I came to

munities without public partner-

Jasper County in late 2017. We

ship. In my mind, this example

will continue to be the conduit for

We measure our

companies success

by the number of customers that

entrust us with their keys.

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Jasper County REMC begins work bringing high-speed internet to the county By HARLEY TOMLINSON harleytom20@gmail.com

JASPER COUNTY — Jasper County REMC (JCREMC) launched construction of the SmartGrid Ring in preparation of bringing rural high-speed internet to the county. The SmartGrid Ring is an essential component that will pave the way for improved electrical infrastructure. The SmartGrid Ring is a new technology in the early stages of development. With construction beginning in March, the project’s completion is expected by the end of this year. Construction crews will begin installing new communications infrastructure, as well as using existing infrastructure, to make this technology a reality. The broadband service will involve a five- to eight-year building process. The construction of the SmartGrid Ring, an essential technology component of this division, must be completed first. This important piece is set to be completed by the end of 2021. “Jasper County REMC is eager to begin the creation of this division as (we) work to provide faster, more reliable internet at affordable prices to their current members,” REMC said in a press release this winter. Once complete, the SmartGrid Ring will connect substations to our headquarters. By doing this, JCREMC will have more control over communications with our substations, improve line equipment maintenance programs and further minimize outside cyber threats.  

Ring will bring benefits

As construction for the SmartGrid Ring begins, JCREMC eagerly awaits the benefits that will come as a result of this project. New job opportunities in technology and positive impacts to economic development in the area are just two of the many benefits the Ring will offer. Additionally, the SmartGrid Ring has the ability to assist crews in the field with power restoration after an outage. “Depending on the extent of damage, this technology will get the lights back on much quicker than in years past,” says CEO Bryan Washburn. Lastly, the SmartGrid Ring will give JCREMC the ability to provide rural high-speed internet in the coming years. Members can expect to have upload and download speeds up to 100 Mbps with no data caps. In some areas, speeds will be up to 1 Gbps. This will provide broader virtual capabilities for health, education and work for our members. Jasper County REMC understands this need based on hard data it has gathered over the past few years. “The pandemic has brought this issue to light as more and more people rely on technology for their work, education, virtual doctor appointments, and communication with others,” said Washburn.

Stay updated

Stay connected with Jasper County REMC through www.jasperremc.com and the cooperative’s Facebook page for more updates on the SmartGrid Ring and service development. Jasper County REMC is a local not-for-profit electric and technology cooperative. Formed by Jasper County residents who recognized a need for electricity in their homes, Jasper County REMC has been serving the area since 1938. The business is committed to the same values it began with: To serve their members and community with reliable electric and technological services.

Jasper County REMC is currently building a SmartGrid Ring that will help improve electrical infrastructure in the county.

Bringing broadband service to rural areas in the county will be a five- to-eightyear process, according to Jasper County REMC.

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March, 2021

PROGRESS 2021

Newton County Soil and Water Conservation District

Ciara’s first year productive despite pandemic By GREGORY MYERS nceeditor@centurylink.net

MOROCCO — When Bri Ciara took over as director of the Newton County Soil and Water Conservation District (NCSWCD) just a little over a year ago, she hoped that the local residents wouldn’t be scared by her enthusiasm. That enthusiasm and focus on battling through her first year despite a pandemic, which added additional challenges, helped 2020 be a successful one for NCSWCD. “It was definitely more difficult to reach people this past year because so much of what we want to do is inperson, including or workshops and events,” said Ciara. “We were limited in what we could do, so we had to learn new technology to stream events live and hold virtual workshops. It was a learning curve.” However, that learning curve and limitations put into place because of COVID-19 didn’t stop Ciara and NCSWCD from having a productive 2020. In March of 2020, the district put on a pond management workshop that gathered a great turnout. In July, the district along with the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife completed a fish survey for a pond in Goodland that showed the pond needed to re-dug for it to be a lasting resource. A hydroacoustic survey was done on Nov. 16 with Natural Resources Conservation Service. A popular feature Ciara created in 202o that continues today is Field Work Fridays. The program was designed to get to know more people in the area and has highlighted 27 different farms, farmers, conservationists, and partners. “We covered a lot of topics with Field Work Friday as we were trying to show what conservation really looks like,” said Ciara. Another highlight for Ciara was the Grand Kankakee River Paddle trip that took place last October through the Lasalle Fish and Wildlife Area. The paddle trip took participants along a 4-mile stretch of the river where there were some bayous to explore. “It was a great way to show off a beautiful portion of the river and show-

case different river recreation activities,” said Ciara. “It was also a great way for us to show the importance of water quality.” Other programs and events the NCSWCD helped plan and put on included: A 9-part hemp webinar series that took place on the first Wednesday of each month Water testing for the watershed management plan for the lower part of the Kankakee River Septic Smart virtual workshop Information booth at Fair Oaks Farms’ Tractoberfest event in October. “Despite COVID, 2020 was a good year for us,” said Ciara. “We learned a lot and did plenty of training.” Just a few months into 2021, the NCSWCD has a treasure trove of activities and programs planned for the year. “A key and interesting program that Family fun looking at bugs, cover crops, and soil at the Fair Oaks Tractober Fest we will be doing is our Forestry Workshop Series called Newton County October 17, 2020. Woodland Walks and Talks. “It will show landowners how to manage woodland areas on their property,” added Ciara. The first part of the in-person workshop series will be May 6 at 6 p.m. at the Holly Savannah. Gus Nyberg of NICHES Land Trust will talk about timber and wildlife management. Other workshops will be: June 3 at 6 p.m. at Willow Slough talking about the Fecon mulcher. Sept. 2 at 6 p.m. tree and plant identification Oct. 7 at 6 p.m. tree planting and care Nov. 4 at 6 p.m. Invasive Species Demonstration Day NCSWCD is already making plans for its Earth Night at the Newton County Pun’kin Vine Fair which will take place July 14 from 4 to 8:30 p.m. Currently, the NCSWCD office is in the midst of moving locations to the Government Center. They plan on being completely moved to their new spot by the end of April. “I just want everyone to know that we do have grant funding available for Tom Bacula (District 1 IN DNR Fisheries Biologist), Goodland volunteer, and cost-sharing for native plantings in wet Bri Ciara (SWCD) collecting fish during July 1 electrofishing survey at the Town of spots and cover crops in the Kankakee Goodland Pond. River watershed,” added Ciara.

DeMotte church makes Connection Center its new mission By HARLEY TOMLINSON

harleytom20@gmail.com

DeMOTTE — It was two years ago that Calvary Assembly of God pastor James Clark presented an idea for a community center to associate/youth pastor Jeff

Martin. Martin’s reaction? “Wait here. I’ll be back.” When Martin returned, he brought completed drawings and blueprints of a community center he and his wife, Donna, dreamed up five years prior.

The Martins discussed the possibility of purchasing property across from the Oak Grove Christian Retirement Village in DeMotte and building a community center there. But Jeff said, “Once we got to that point, God

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said, ‘No. Wait.’” So the Martins waited until pastor Clark envisioned such an opportunity five years later. “I laid down the drawings and pastor said that’s just confirmation for both of us to have this dream and to have this passion,” Jeff said. “I let mine rest, but pastor, he was praying about it and wondering what we could for this community.” The end result was a Connection Center, with the Health and Wellness portion of the center, which sits to the right of the church, already taking shape. More construction will begin soon, with Von Excavating, of Wheatfield, preparing ground behind the church for a recre-

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This service accepts major insurance carriers, but there will be programs for the noninsured and low income residents, Martin said. Social services will also be available. These professionals will work with people who are looking for state and federal agencies that can help them through difficult situations. “Our program will act as more of a case management function to help those in need as they move forward,” Martin said. “They will also work to see what people may qualify for.” Martin said the center will have great functionality to provide all types of services. “This is going to be nice, but it’s not going to be fancy,” he said. “It’s going to be practical, usable, but it’s going to be nice. It’s a place where people will want to come and hang out.” The 6,500 square foot wellness wing will feature counseling services and — coming soon — student tutoring services and adult education classes, such as GED, finances and computersee CENTER on page 17

Payroll Tax Prep Accounting Bookkeeping

Go to www.jaspercountypolice.com Sheriff, Pat Williamson Rensselaer, IN 866-7334

ational and rehabilitation wing. “Health and wellness and rec and rehab together is the Connection Center,” Martin said. “It’s completely mission-oriented. It’s not about us. It’s about outward. We’re not about numbers. We’re about how we are serving the community. How are we serving others through love, compassion and a heart of Christ because that’s what we’re called to do.” The Hamstra Group will construct the outer shell of the rec and rehab portion of the center. Maps Missionaries — a group of retirees with special construction skills — will tackle interior projects much like it did with the health and wellness facility. “Volunteers have saved us a fortune,” Martin said. “And they’re all skilled workers.” Among the services provided in the health and wellness wing is a medical clinic, which will serve basic needs in health care such as health examinations, vaccinations and nonemergency situations.

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March, 2021

PROGRESS 2021

13

(NCE PHOTOS/ GREGORY MYERS) Shown from left are Kaylee Wireman, Carley Riffett, Tina Durr, Tara Dancer, and McKenna Molden.

Fuel Nutrition employee Kaylee Wireman is pictured adding ingredients to make a shake.

Fuel Nutrition employee Tara Dancer is shown making a drink.

By GREGORY MYERS nceeditor@centurylink.net

Pandemic causes change of careers for new business owner

DEMOTTE — When the state shut down for a few months due to COVID-19 last year, a lot of people had to re-evaluate their life and their careers. It was that time to look inside herself that resulted in a new DeMotte business and a new career for owner Tina Durr — Fuel Nutrition, located at 437 N. Hallack St., opened on Jan. 16, 2021. Fuel Nutrition is a smoothie and juice bar that features healthy meal replacement shakes in dozens of flavors. Loaded teas with healthy energy booster, packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and aloe for digestion. “On my way to work I would stop every morning at a nutrition shop for a shake and a tea up in Lowell,” said Durr. “When the pandemic hit, my workplace was shut down for two months. It gave me a lot of time to think. It was during this time at home when Durr, who worked the past 20 years in Human Resources, decided it was time for a change. “Being at home gave me the time to reflect on what was important,” said Durr. “Reflect on the things I missed

Fuel Nutrition owner Tina Durr prepares a TyeDye Tea

out on with my kids. I was seeking that work/life balance and needed to reevaluate my career and what I wanted to do. As scary as it was leaving what I knew behind for this opportunity, I had complete peace about it. I knew this was the right move for me.” As her vision grew about opening a nutrition shop of her own, she knew the location would be key. “I enjoy a small tight-knit community, and DeMotte just stuck with me,” added Durr. “I lived in DeMotte for a while 16 years ago and I knew it would be a good spot. Over this first month, I have loved getting to know the customers and hearing their stories.” Durr was right about the location, and the response has been great so far. “Everyone has been very receptive,” said Durr. “I was wondering how it would go over and it has been very positive. I am working on collaborating with other local businesses and want to have more of a Grand Opening when the weather gets nicer.” Fuel Nutrition’s shakes, teas, and ice coffees have been extremely popular due to the wide selection of flavors and the additional supplements that can be added to them. “We have 50-plus shakes and more

than 20 different teas,” Durr said. “Then customers can always add to them with fat burners, probiotics, immunity boosters, and collagen shots. We have a new theme each month and we are always trying to create our own recipes, as well.” All of the products used at Fuel Nutrition are from Herbalife Nutrition. Durr credits her team of employees for making the first month such a success. “The team works well together and they are all very hard workers,” said Durr. “They are so friendly and welcoming to the customers, plus they are knowledgeable about what we offer. I really lucked out with them, they are a great group of girls, all from the local area too.” As for future plans, Durr said they are looking into offering some protein bowls with fresh fruit and nuts, and possibly some oatmeal bowls. “I want to thank the community for being so open to us as a new business, they have been great.” Fuel Nutrition is open Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Saturdays from 7:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.

CREATIVITY

from page 1

young males,” said Fountain Stone owner Craig Jackson. “And young females as well. We had a birthday party at the theater and there were six girls who were playing games right with the boys.” Among those hit hardest by the pandemic, theaters like Fountain Stone are currently showing movies on weekends. That allows gamers more opportunities to rent out screens on weekdays. “It not a huge money maker, but we like people coming in and using our screens,” Jackson said. “You’ve got to be creative at times like these.” Jackson said the theater is also allowing groups to bring

in their DVDs and BluRays to hook up to the cinema’s projector for the ultimate wide screen experience. “We’re scheduling things around the weekends when we show movies,” Jackson said. “When Hollywood begins releasing more movies, we’ll show movies on weekdays as well.” Another business that looked to create more foot traffic is the Fenwick Farms Brewing Co. in Rensselaer. With craft beer a major selling point, Fenwick recently completed the construction of a brew house behind its restaurant and bar with the plan to develop even more beers. A business that grew out

You’ve got to be creative at times like these.” Craig Jackson Fountain Stone Theater owner

bers’ website when the domes are reintroduced next year when winter weather hits. The eMbers Venue is also available for reservations, especially when warmer weather settles into the area. Musch said he is also looking to have concerts at the Venue in the future. Movie theaters like Fountain Stone in Rensselaer have also found a new way to bring in a new stream of revenue. With many cinemas across the country closed or providing limited seating due to coronovirus restrictions — they can only open with 50% capacity as of early March — Fountain Stone is one of many that rents its screens to gamers. A group of gamers can rent out a theater in two-hour blocks for $50. They must bring their own system, games and controllers to hook into the theater’s equipment. “Gaming is such a huge thing, especially with

Fountain Stone in Rensselaer rents out its screens to gamers during the weekdays as it awaits word on the availability of more blockbuster movies. People can also rent out the screens for DVD/BluRay watch parties. of the COVID pandemic was Indiana Face Mask in Rensselaer. Housed in the former Greene’s Amish Furniture building on State Road 114, Indiana Face Mask produces face coverings for hospital employees and first responders. It currently employs around 30 workers at the main build-

ing, but plans are in the works to expand with the possibility of employing as many as 15 more. You’ll Never Guess (Y.N.G.), a 3D printing and custom 3D design business in Rensselaer, also produces reusable face masks for individuals.


14

March, 2021

PROGRESS 2021

(NCE PHOTO/GREGORY MYERS) Lining up with shovels for the ceremonial groundbreaking, shown from left, are Kentland Town Councilmember Debby Shufflebarger, Kentland Town Councilmember James Sammons, Kentland Town Councilmember Mike Rowe, Jefferson Township Trustee Jacob Shufflebarger, Lt. Jesse Fausset, Assistant Fire Chief Dustin Standish, Fire Chief Matt Wittenborn, EquiTeam Director of Construction Stan Schutz, Edwin Bussel of KIRPC, and Kelly J. Good, owner of KJG Architecture.

Kentland Fire Department firehouse to be completed this summer By GREGORY MYERS nceeditor@centurylink.net

KENTLAND — Ground was officially broken on Nov. 19 to celebrate the start of construction for the new Kentland firehouse, which will be located on E. Bailie Street near Premium Waters. The construction timeline calls for the firehouse to be completed by mid-Jun, but that depends on weather cooperating. “It has been a long time coming, but we are all excited that it’s now a reality,” said Kentland Fire Chief Matt Wittenborn. “It took a lot of help from a lot of different people and organizations. The citizens of this community have stepped up tremendously to make this project happen.” Last month, the Kentland Town Council approved a bid of $1,497,000 from EquiTeam Construction out of Indianapolis to build the new facility. The funding for the new fire station came from a variety of sources, including a $500,000 grant from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. Newton County also helped fund the project with $300,000 in grant money and a $250,000 zero percent interest loan that will be back over 10 years. Kentland set aside $100,000 for the project, and Jefferson Township, which originally pledged $150,000, increased its total commitment to $350,000 since the project came in over the estimated cost by $200,000.

Community fundraising efforts were widely successful and helped put the project over the top and get a better score to help secure the OCRA grant. More than $90,000 was raised via private donations, which included separate $10,000 fundraising matches from John and Cathy Cassidy, and Don and Abby Funk. The new firehouse will feature five pull-through bays that will be a huge safety relief for the fire department. The new facility will also include workout and training rooms, decontamination centers, and room to expand. “The new firehouse will make it safer for all of us, while also increasing our ability to keep the community safe,” added Wittenborn. Wittenborn thanked many people who had a hand in this project including the Kentland Town Council (past and present), Town Clerk Judy King, Assistant Fire Chief Dustin Standish (who put in a lot of work spearheading the project), all of the firefighters (20 members of the Kentland Fire Department), Jefferson Township Trustee Jacob Shufflebarger and his board, the Newton County Council, the Newton County Commissioners, the Jasper Newton Foundation, John and Cathy Cassidy, Don and Abby Funk, Ken Smith and all of the engineers, the Kankakee-Iroquois Regional Planning Commission (KIRPC), KJG Architecture, EquiTeam Construction, and former Kentland Fire Chief Vince Lowe.

Ground was officially broken on Nov. 19 to celebrate the start of construction for the new Kentland firehouse, which will be located on E. Bailie Street near Premium Waters. Kentland Fire Department members are shown at the groundbreaking.

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March, 2021

PROGRESS 2021

First Church - Hebron, IN

Porter Physicians - Wheatfield, IN

15

White County H\ighway- Reynolds, IN

Dream n Design n Build The Hamstra Group

THREE GENERATION BUSINESS The Hamstra Group has established itself as a leader in the communities of Northwest Indiana and surrounding areas. A three-generation business that has been in the building trade for over 62 years and has constructed homes, hospitals, schools, office buildings, religious centers, shopping malls and VA hospitals all over the United States. The Hamstra Group has a sound track record of integrity, expertise and customer satisfaction. Over the years the Hamstra Group has won many awards and accolades for the diverse structure and beauty of their work. Whether building a new Agricultural Facility or developing Real Estate Properties or General Construction. Hamstra Group has the “Quality & Integrity You Can Build On”. While they have worked with some of America’s leading architectural and engineering firms and are responsible for millions of square feet of commercial construction they continue to serve their local communities. They have the experience to guide small businesses through the construction process and the reputation to make even the most inexperienced client feel comfortable. Whether it is a Fortune 500 Corporation or a family-owned, local business, they understand that the client wants the same thing: A company like The Hamstra Group that they can trust to deliver quality and value. Whether you need a general contractor, construction manager or design/build specialist, THE HAMSTRA GROUP is the single source for all your construction needs. With over 63 YEARS experience Hamstra professionals keep projects moving efficiently from conception to completion. Completing jobs on time and on budget, with a level of quality that is second to none. It’s a heavy responsibility, but, it’s also the reason why successful companies throughout Indiana, Michigan & Illinois return to THE HAMSTRA GROUP for construction services.

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March, 2021

PROGRESS 2021

Big Enough to Serve You... Small Enough to Know You!

Bernard Tysen of DeMotte owned and operated DeKock’s Super Market in downtown DeMotte in January 1970. A new building in what is now known as DeMotte Plaza, Tysen’s Country Grocery was built in 1976 by Hamstra Builders, Inc.

of Wheatfield. The building encompassed an area of over 45,000 sq. ft. Many updates and improvements have taken place over the years to keep offering the best possible products and services to the customers.

At Tysen’s we’re big enough to serve you and small enough to know you. Our team members are always eager to help, and we offer first class customer service. Faces you’ve come to know and trust with products you depend on for your family. Shop local, shop Tysen’s.

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March, 2021

PROGRESS 2021

CENTER

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from page 12

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reserved with the proper paperwork. The rec/rehab wing, which is a 19,000 square foot addition, will include: • A full size gym for skills camps, including basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer, open gyms and community functions • A walking/running track

• A full service cafe • A commons area to interact and watch TV • Conference rooms for business meetings and other community meetings • Commercial kitchen for community meals and catering banquet hall events • Rehabilitation programs with weights and cardio capabilities

• Multiple workout rooms for Zumba, step classes, spin classes, Silver Sneakers (a workout for retired residents) and more • Study rooms for private tutoring • Child care services • Locker rooms and showers The center is modeled after similar facilities in Lafayette and Green-

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wood, located southeast of Indianapolis. “We scaled it down for our population versus their population. It’s remarkable the amount of people they’re helping and ministering to,” Martin said. The cost of the project is substantial, but Martin said it’s being taken care of through monetary and in-kind donations. Grants for various programs offered at the center are also being pursued. “We’re not counting on people’s funds. We’re doing that through the church,” Martin said. “Of course, we’re not going to turn a blind eye to it. Some people come out of the blue and that’s unsolicited. “It’s remarkable the amount of people that are helping and we’re ministering to. This is not just us. We have contributions from other churches who ask how they can help or how they can volunteer. They want to be a part of this.” How much will be charged to individuals who use the center’s many services have yet to be hammered out. But Martin expects it to be a nominal fee. “This will be an oasis for people who feel they have a home and have people care for them,” he said.

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  Brian Volk, General Manager and Chef has continued to  set the bar higher and higher  every year for SP19 American Kitchen & Bar since their  opening in 2011.   From delicious appetizers,  entrees and desserts to the  mixology of new drinks and  old favorites, he is deter-

mined to make the customers  enjoy every moment of their  dining and relaxing experience.    His vision and goal is to 

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make SP19 your favorite  restaurant with your favorite  food. At SP19 there is something for everyone. Families,  children and groups of friends  will find delicious food and affordable prices. From breakfast, lunch and dinner to appetizers, specials and drinks,  SP19 has it all. • New menu and drink  items added often 

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SP19 is a casual, comfortable Restaurant & Bar specializing in American Comfort Food that is complemented by a wide array of Spirits, American Wines and unique Craft Beers.


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PROGRESS 2021

COVID-19 delays owners’ dreams but can’t stop it By GREGORY MYERS nceeditor@centurylink.net

WHEATFIELD — Some businesses had to shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, while others had to adapt to survive. Some new businesses had to delay their opening and in some cases, delay their dreams. A mother and daughter’s vision and lifelong dream came true last spring with the opening of Cakes & Cups, LLC, located at 494 S Main St., Wheatfield. For co-owners Diana Wright and Jordan Kingma, it is more than just a business, they take pride in their work and their creations are more often than not a work of art. “I have been baking cakes since Jordan was a year old,” said Wright. “I bring a lot of cake decorating experience, and Jordan is the barista. We both worked together at Somethin’s Brewing in DeMotte and we made a really good team.” Wright’s baking experience and creativity, along with Kingma’s knowledge and passion for making coffee not only led to the business name Cakes & Cups, but it has also led to a regular customer Diana Wright not only prides herself on being a good baker but she describes herself as a cake artist.

base even though their opening had to be delayed due to COVID-19. “I always wanted to own a bakery,” said Wright. “It is my passion. I’m a good baker but I am also a cake artist. An opportunity presented itself in January 2020 and we decided to give it a go.” They signed the lease on Jan. 14 and were supposed to open in March, but COVID-19 made that difficult, and Cakes & Cups finally opened in midMay. “We had to figure out online ordering, and pickup ordering,” added Wright. “Then we decided to move the counters to the front window and did walkup ordering. We had some outside sitting as well.” While there were still issues with getting needed supplies regularly, the business was a success and they were able to open up limited seating inside in early September. “ T h e community r e s p o n s e has been amazing,” said Wright. They have been so supportive. We managed to survive through the worst of the pandemic, while also k e e p i n g Jordan safe, who was pregnant at the time.” W h i l e the first few months were crazy for the new business

Cakes & Cups owners Jordan Kingma (left), and Diana Wright. owners, little by little they started building up their inventory, and now have their feet under them. “Our menu changes every week because this is a small batch bakery, and I bake every single day,” said Wright. “We do cake by the slice and have customizable ordering with 20plus flavors. We customize everything to your taste.” One of the more popular items at the bakery is the “Oreo” which is made up of soft chocolate cake with cream cheese filling. Other regular items include cupcakes, muffins, sheet cakes, cookies, cake pops, 8-inch cakes, and 3-tier cakes. “We run specials for every holiday,” added Wright. “we were extremely

busy for Valentine’s Day and made 580 dinner rolls for Thanksgiving. The whole reason we opened was for me to have a place to sell my cakes. I needed to work for myself. It brings me joy to put my creative touch on someone’s cake.” Cakes & Cups also make Gluten-free cakes. “The need and want are there,” said Wright. “We are here to serve you. Our motto is — how can we serve you today.” Kingma provides the expertise on the “Cups” side and prides herself on her craft. “I have my own coffee bar at home, and I just love coffee and I love making see DELAYS on page 19

Serving Serving the the community community for for over over 65 65 years. years.

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PROGRESS 2021

NO R E N I A BR

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DELAYS

from page 18

coffee,” said Kingma. “It is more than just combining ingredients, it takes heart and soul to make a ‘good cup of coffee.’ We have our regulars and I have a good rapport with my clients. We are very receptive to their needs and wants.” The owners said that last year they survived and now they are ready to thrive. “We want to be open more, and we want to get back to our original plan to have more inside seating,” said Wright. “I think our key to staying relevant through all of this is that we stuck to our business plan, we focused on making cakes and coffee.” Currently, Cakes and Cups is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. CST, and on Thursdays from 7 a.m. to noon. To make an order the owners say it is best to message their Facebook page through the Messenger app or email them at lovebakincakes@ gmail.com. For coffee drinkers, Cakes and Cups does offer a loyalty program card, where when you buy nine drinks, the 10th drink is free. “We provide ourselves in using the finest ingredients and everything is baked from scratch,” said Wright. “The same with our coffee, Jordan uses the best syrups from France. You have to take pride in what you are doing.”

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PROGRESS 2021

March, 2021

Weak Wifi can make you hate the internet. Don’t be a hater.

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Profile for Rensselaer Republican Special Section

Jasper & Newton County Progress 2021  

Jasper & Newton County Progress 2021  

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