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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Honor guards. Fitness instructors. Children’s librarians. Coaches, clerks and janitors.

These are the men and women you see every day – the ones who make you feel better with a kind word and heartfelt smile. They’re the backbone of our service, law enforcement and nonprofit industries and without their knowledge and dedication, our towns and cities would surely not be the communities they are today.

We’re known for our people here in East Central Indiana. In a community like ours, you must be extraordinary to stand out among the crowd.The special men and women featured throughout these pages do just that, setting the example for the rest of us.We’re proud to know them.They are our …




2 • The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 3 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Now 80 years old, Vernon Ward still runs his own business and does occasional free work for the city

Career as electrician keeps him busy

Vernon Ward reflects on his life at Ward’s Electrial Services, a business he started in 1963. (Kurt Hostetler / The Star Press)

that stuff,” explained Ward, a trim man who looks younger than his years. “Mostly just worked.” here was a time, as a kid, when VerWhen the Korean War came along he ended non Ward used his electrical skills to up in the United States Air Force, where his shock people.The son of a tool grind- considerable technical skills saw him routed er, he spent endless hours working to work as an airframe and engine mechanic, in his father’s rural garage, a bright and in- radar technician and, later, an expert on rockquisitive youngster who learned some of the et and bomb guidance systems. rudiments of electrical work when the two of With the war’s end he went to work for them wired his grandmother’s log cabin down electrical contractors, studying how they did in Modoc. business. He also served an apprenticeship It probably wasn’t surprising, then, that he at Warner Gear, eventually leaving there for figured out a way to rig the coil on a Model Chevrolet Muncie and finally Delco-Remy in T Ford so anyone who tried to start it was Anderson, where he stayed on the job more shocked. than 28 years. “It surprised some Between factory hours and people, yes,” the softrunning his own business, “Some of it I do for spoken 80-year-old said, which served residential, comnothing. I had the time with just a hint of a mercial and industrial customsmile and a twinkle in ers, Ward’s predilection for and material left over his eyes. work served him in good stead. from other jobs. ... I As he spoke, he was Filling a work week, he hinted, didn’t see no need to seated in the office of was never a problem for him Ward’s Electrical Seras he and his late wife, Carobill them.” vices, the West Second lyn, also raised two boys and — Vernon Ward Street business he starta girl, Eric, an airbrush artist, ed back in 1963. Against Diana, a Kmart assistant manone wall, equipment and ager, and Kevin, an electrician supplies were stocked at Ball State University. on wooden shelving. Across the aisle, a woodWard also did extensive traveling hereen cabinet was covered with scores of family abouts, much of it wiring self-service gasoline photographs. station pumps with the devices that automati“Kids and grandkids,” he said of them. cally cut the service once the pre-paid amount “Mostly grandkids.” is reached. On the desk by which he sat, meanwhile, a “I’ve been almost to every city in Indiana mound of haphazardly filed letters, envelopes, doing work,” he said, plus cities outside our invoices and such threatened to tumble to the state. floor, a testament to the length and strength Tough times? He lost nearly a year of work of his business dealings and his personal filing with burns suffered when an electrical panel system. he was working on in a local restaurant blew. A Central High School graduate, he also at- He also dealt with heart trouble, getting seven tended Muncie Trade School between grades bypasses in one operation. nine and 12, gaining a background in electriStill, he continued, he has enjoyed his cacal work. reer. “I was just trying to get an idea of what I’d These days he is aware the end of it is apdo later,” he said. proaching, and has made plans for what will He was one of four kids, and he and his fam- then happen to his business. That said, though, ily didn’t have a lot when he was growing up, the octogenarian is in no big rush to hang up a financial fact that did much to dictate his be- his tool belt. havior. “I like to be active in something,” Ward said, “I never did worry about playing games and meaning work. By John Carlson


For him, that’s been no problem. “I know enough people so if they have problems, they’ll call me,” said Ward, a member of the county’s electrical board, adding that includes officials in government. Among other work, he has installed a backup generator in a building for the city, done rewiring to fix lights in Tuhey Park, plus raised and lighted a statue of no less an honored local personage than our original newspaper founder, the late George F. McCulloch. “Set him up and lit him up,” Ward said. What’s more, he has been known to work for free for the government when the need arises, as was the case on a Park Department job when there was no money to pay him. “Some of it I do for nothing,” confirmed Ward, who has never been picky about the hours he works, either. “I had the time and material left over from other jobs. ... I didn’t see no need to bill them.” Meanwhile, he makes it a point to keep up on advancements in electronics that have made his job more computer-oriented, and more female-friendly for electricians than it once was. It used to be more “muscle work,” he said, and is now more “head work.” After all these years on the job, surely, Ward has known some leisure-time interests, and when he thinks about it, he does recall his former racing career, a short while driving Super-Sixes at Anderson Speedway, and a while in the drags. But what about now? Ask this busy man about his time away from the job these days and he brings up the 30 acres he bought near Albany along the Mississinewa River, land inclined to flood. In response, he has planted hardwood trees on it. We’re not talking 10 or 20, though. Ward’s campaign has been as energetic as the man himself. “Me, kids and grandkids have planted probably close to 15,000 trees,” he said, with maybe the smallest hint of pride in his voice. “The most we ever planted was 3,000 a day. ... Good weather and long days. We’re getting some pretty good-sized trees over there now.” Contact feature writer John Carlson at 2135824.

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 4 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Peggy Fisher serves local organizations — and is as an example for others

Dedicated volunteer likes being a ‘worker bee’ By Ben Breiner

“It’s not out of a sense of ‘I have to do this,’ but it really is her soul wanting to take care of those who may be on the fringes or that just don’t have. That’s


all State University communication studies professor Peggy Fisher might have the title of chairman of the board of directors for Feed My Sheep Muncie, but she sees her role as something far more involved than just being in charge. “We’re the worker bees,” Fisher said. That means hands-on work with Thanksgiving meals, food drives and bringing interns into the organization. It seems when it comes to community service organizations, Fisher never loses the worker-bee mentality. She’s been involved with Feed My Sheep and volunteered at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital since 1999 and has been involved with numerous other community service organizations as well. Fisher isn’t exactly sure what first drove her into involvement with community service. As she pondered the question in her office, she went back to her parents and her memories of them standing on street corners to raise money for the Knights of Columbus or Rotary Club. “I think they were really good role models,” Fisher said. “And it’s very important for me to be that kind of role model for my children.” That’s certainly come to fruition; all four of her children and her husband help out with Feed My Sheep, and two of her kids are junior volunteers at the hospital. Feed My Sheep is a local organization that provides Thanksgiving meals to the needy. Fisher said when she started, the group was serving perhaps 50 families, but in the past few years it has served more than 1,000 meals and expanded well past the first food line at Central High School. Fisher started on that line, and her role expanded five years ago when founders George and Teresa Huggins moved to Atlanta. At that point, Fisher took over the organization’s food drive, which collects goods to hand out to families in grocery bags at the Thanksgiving meal. Last year, 723 bags of groceries were handed out. Fisher has also helped guide the organization as it incorporated and moves toward non-profit status. At the ho ital, she’s helped in the emergency department, cancer center and cardiac care unit, but now she’s settled into a different role. “For the past three years, I’ve been a cuddler up in

her passion.” — Jeff Veatch

Peggy Fisher holds Broady Burrus on Feb. 21. Fisher volunteers at IU Health Ball Memorial in the neonatal unit. (Patti Blake / The Star Press)

the neonatal intensive care unit,” Fisher said. “So my job when I’m up there is, first and foremost, is when there’s a baby crying or in some kind of distress to do whatever I can to help the nurses, whether that’s feed somebody or change a diaper or rock somebody. “I just love it. I just love it.” She also helps with Habitat for Humanity builds during the summer, and said one of her favorite aspects is working with volunteers and getting Ball State students involved with community service. It all starts with a mindset Pastor Jeff Veatch, an organizer with Feed My Sheep, characterized as helping “wherever they need me.” He said she helps keep the organization focused on its mission and grounded. “It’s not out of a sense of ‘I have to do this,’ but it

really is her soul wanting to take care of those who may be on the fringes or that just don’t have,” Veatch said. “That’s her passion.” Another aspect of her passion is sharing it with students and trying to break down some of the barriers between the Ball State community and the town around it. Much of her work involves immersion learning, with groups of students leaving campus to do projects with local organizations. She said she believes it’s important to show the city of Muncie there are students who want to help off campus, and to show students there’s a broader community outside the confines of the university. “I guess one of the cool things that I really love about being involved in community service is getting students involved, getting them off campus,” Fisher said. “It shows them that there’s life outside of campus because so many of them, all they know is campus.”

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 5 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Looking for part-time work in retirement, Leon Fetters found his perfect match

Former farmer keeps Randolph Y running

By Ashley L. Conti


he first thing you notice when you step into the Randolph County Y is how clean the building is. The 23-year-old building looks as if it could have been built a few years ago. With a tidy lobby, clean locker rooms and shining gym floors, the building’s age is hidden well. All that is due to one person, Leon Fetters. For the past six years, the Winchester native has kept the building spotless. The former farmer, school board member and Lions Club president is no stranger to hard work. But after developing heart issues, Fetters was forced into retirement from farming. Bored with staying at home, Fetters decided to find a part-time job. “When (the Y) asked me if I would be interested in working part-time out here, I said sure, I’ll try it for a couple weeks, and I’ve been here ever since,” said Fetters with a chuckle. “I’m sure the day will come when I have to retire from here, but right now I enjoy doing this. It’s a good exercise job; my cardiologist likes this job for me.” Modestly, Fetters doesn’t think he does anything special. “I don’t know that I do anything any different from any other person that cleans and is a janitor,” said Fetters. But his co-workers disagree.


“He is amazing,” said Ceann Bales, executive director and CEO of the Randolph County Y. “When people visit us from other Y’s, they are amazed in what great shape it is in, and how clean it is. It’s because of him; he has pride in his work.” Now Fetters works 8 a.m.-noon Monday through Friday. Before starting his daily routine of mopping, sweeping, vacuuming and disinfecting, Fetters works out at the same facility where he spends so much time cleaning. “He comes and works out in the morning, goes home, has breakfast and comes back and helps clean the building,” explained Bales. “He gives 2,000 percent every day. He comes here and he not only cleans, but with his mechanical background and his farming background, he can fix about anything. So when something breaks, he fixes it. He helps load stuff up in his truck to haul stuff places, and just volunteers his time. He’s even sat in at the front if a staff member is running late.” Fetters says he just enjoys his job. “I really don’t want a full-time job; I’ve had that. I’m trying to be in retirement but yet do a little good and help out a little bit. It’s been a good gig. I’ve enjoyed it,” he said. Contact photographer Ashley L. Conti at 213-5817.

Leon Fetters cleans at the Randolph County Y. Staff members have noted that Fetters goes above and beyond his job duties and the 23-year-old building looks like new because of his hard work and dedication. (Ashley L. Conti / The Star Press)

To learn how Leon Fetters keeps the Randolph County Y so clean, check out our video and photo gallery at

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 6 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Janis Mote is a familiar face to anyone who visits the classic soda fountain at Haines Hallmark

Family business part of promoting and preserving downtown Winchester

Janis Mote visits and fixes drinks by soda fountain at Haines Hallmark and Gift Shop in Winchester. (Kurt Hostetler / The Star Press) By Robin Gibson


hen Janis Mote scoops ice cream for a milkshake, she’s doing it for her late father — and for downtown Winchester. The daughter of Wallace “Wally” Haines, longtime owner of what was once Haines Drug Store on the Randolph County courthouse square, Mote is one of the friendly faces greeting people who stop by the family business. And perhaps the place you’re most likely to encounter her in what is now Haines Hallmark and Gift Shop is behind the counter of the old-time soda fountain, serving up a vanilla Coke or a cup of coffee along with friendly conversation. Mote and the Haines family business are actually the same age; her father bought an existing Rexall Drugstore in downtown Winchester on the very day she was born, Nov. 14, 1954, and moved the family from Tipton to Winchester when his daughter was three weeks old. That original drugstore was actually up the street from the current site at the corner of Washington and Meridian streets, Mote said. In 1976, Haines moved to its current address, a former furniture store, for more space. Mote was in both stores regularly from her earliest days, she recalls. She started working the store around age 12; her father “made me do a little bit of everything,” she recalled. By her senior year of high school, she was attending school a half-day, and spending the other half on the job at the pharmacy, which was also a Hallmark store by then. Mote was accepted to the pharmacy program at Butler University, but opted instead to train as a dental hygienist. Even while working in that field and raising three children, she continued to work at Haines off and on over the years. Her brother, Tom Haines, joined the family business and is the current owner of the store; their father continued to work there until his retirement in 1997. Wally Haines died in 2005, but the store continues to be very much a family business; Maxine Haines, wife of Wally and mother of Tom and Janis, still stops by the store regularly and does the bookeeping. Tom Haines credits his sister’s attitude and work with having helped the store to increase its sales in 2012 over those of previous years. Mote returned to work at the store and the soda fountain full-time a year ago in October 2011. She opens the store at 8 a.m., serving up coffee and doughnuts to a crowd of regulars. “We pretty much know who they are and what they want,” Mote said one recent morning, noting that extends to noticing when someone doesn’t come in for a while and checking on them. “But that’s small-town,” she added. That small-town aura is much of what Mote values about still being in the family business in downtown Winchester. The only one remaining of four locally owned pharmacies that were once downtown, Haines Hallmark has seen the downtown business scene ebb and flow, and is part of a push to get it back on the upswing.

“I admire her more than anybody because of what she’s doing here, because I know that she’s doing this for her father and for the community.” — Janet Fowler

Mote noted the store is part of the local chamber of commerce, and was named Small Business of the Year for 2012 by the chamber. “I’m trying to be as involved as possible in downtown,” Mote said. As for what Mote does at the store each day, she joked, “I sweep, I dust, I’m a soda jerk.” Standing behind the counter one winter morning, Mote and Dusty Shannon also performed the important duty of serving up some good-humored chat to customers, along with refills on coffee. Wally Haines is always there in spirit, however. “When I get a big dip of ice cream, I can hear my dad saying, ‘That’s too much ice cream,’” Mote said with a laugh. She’s not kidding about his policing of correct portions, either; a typed memo from Wally Haines to the “girls” who worked the soda fountain from years ago, now on yellowing paper saved in a file, reads, “A 10 cent dip of ice cream is (a) 10 cent dip, not 11 cents, not 15 cents, not 12 cents but 10 cents!” She still (generally) won’t make a marshmallow

Coke, either, a drink Wally Haines took off the menu after too many resulting explosions behind the counter. Though the soda fountain doesn’t serve meals, the lemonade, shakes, malts, flavored Cokes and coffee are enough to serve as a draw, particularly for people who’ve been going there for years as well as newcomers. The fountain’s presence in the store is one reason the business isn’t a Hallmark Gold Crown store, since it wouldn’t conform to the standard Gold Crown template, Mote noted. The soda fountain is known as “the command post,” Haines noted, because “you can see everything going on out of those front windows.” Mote expresses some regret at not being able to keep the business going as a pharmacy for the level of help her father used to provide to local residents, up to opening if someone needed a prescription after hours or delivering to local nursing homes. But the Haines family sees to it that the business in its current incarnation contributes to the life and vitality of the downtown. Janet Fowler, a former Haines employee herself and wife of a former Winchester mayor, spoke of Mote in glowing terms while enjoying a coffee at the counter recently. “I admire her more than anybody because of what she’s doing here, because I know that she’s doing this for her father and for the community.” Touched by Fowler’s words of praise, Mote agrees with those priorities. Keeping Wally Haines’ business going “is probably the No. 1 reason that we keep things going — and to keep the downtown going.” Contact Robin Gibson at 213-5855.


The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013 • 7

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 8 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

“It’s kind of typical, where we’re at in our little spot in Muncie. It’s slow, steady, positive momentum. It’s not big splashes. Five years ago, it was stagnant. I thought it could go either way. The direction it’s going is steady, positive news.” — Jason Brooks

Jason Brooks is busy with a growing business, downtown investment and community involvement

Jack of all trades By Keith Roysdon


ason Brooks has his hand in a little bit of everything. The proprietor of a thriving business, Brooks is also the co-owner of one of downtown Muncie’s most prominent buildings. If that wasn’t enough, he’s also serving on a local government board and his business donates services to local organizations. Brooks likes to keep busy, in other words. It’s a practice that began when he was attending Ball State University nearly 20 years ago and founded what would become his landscape and lawn care company, Jay-Crew. The Yorktown High School grad was working toward an accounting major at Ball State when he began working in lawn care at the Players Club, the golf course at Woodland Trails. “Although I knew I would finish my degree, I couldn’t see myself working in an accounting firm for the rest of my life,” Brooks said. Flash forward to the present; Jay-Crew employs 10 people throughout the year and during peak season — early March through early December — employs 37 people. “During the winter, the 10 of us that stay all year are fixing equipment and selling jobs for the following year,” he said. Jay-Crew has steadily grown since Brooks founded it. “We just came off two record-breaking years for our company history,” he said. “Things have been good for us. We went from a million dollars in business to just shy of $3.5 million.” Two major initiatives in the past three years have paid off, Brooks said. The first was an expansion into chemical lawn application. “It’s not a service we had done before.” The other was a foray into the Indianapolis-area lawn care market. “It’s grown enough in three years that we’re looking for a second location,” he said, adding that Jay-Crew’s customer base is pretty evenly split between commercial and residential. It might be expected that, in a tough national economy, customers would retrench and cut expenses like landscaping and lawn care, but Brooks said that’s not been the case. “We’re looking for a full-service customer who wants us to do everything,” he said. “Those type of incomes, they still have money. And the recession did take a toll on companies that were not well-run. Everything I read said the recession would weed out some people, and I think that’s true. Some of our competition has gone away.” But there’s more to Brooks than just his business.

Jason Brooks, owner of Jay-Crew Landscape, Inc., keeps busy with business — and helping the community. (Kurt Hostetler / The Star Press)

Partnerships with organizations

Jay-Crew’s success has given Brooks the opportunity to provide services for local organizations at no cost or in an in-kind capacity. Brooks’ workers maintain the Cardinal Greenways island where the walking and biking trail crosses busy McGalliard Road. “We’ve done that for 10-plus years,” Brooks said. “I think they called and asked us. We’ve taken that on ourselves to help out. We have it on our basic maintenance program. Once every two weeks we make sure all the weeds are out of it, mulch it and try to keep it consistently looking nice.” Brooks said Jay-Crew has also “donated quite a bit of work” at Cornerstone Center for the Arts, and the center’s executive director, Robbie Tompkins, said the relationship was a good one. “They installed planter boxes at our main entrance, on our north parking lot,” Tompkins said. “They provide, through a sponsorship, in-kind services for us. We thank them in our marketing materials and list them as a partner. “They’ve been very diligent in taking care of the plants there and keeping them watered. We’re looking at an expansion of our parking lot and redoing it, putting a greenbelt along Madison Street. Jason will be doing that for us. We have a great partnership. We at Cornerstone love utilizing local businesses and want to support them in any way we can.”

Downtown and economic development

Brooks also co-owns, along with Phil Wills, one of the most prominent buildings in downtown Muncie, the Heath Iron Building along Walnut Street. Downstairs, the building is home to Muncie Ballet Studio and photographer Rick Hunt. Upstairs are 12 apartments in three floors that are regularly occupied. Before the ballet studio and photography studio,

The money woman:

the commercial space downstairs was home to a short-lived and unique downtown feature: A food court with several eateries. The food court opened in February 2005 with four businesses, but the effort didn’t last. The final business in the food court closed near the end of 2006. “The retail was our tough part,” Brooks said. “The food court didn’t make it, and even after that went out, we had trouble finding people. Now we have Rick Hunt and Muncie Ballet Studio. They’re steady and it works out really well.” Brooks, who has co-owned the building since 2003, said downtown Muncie’s growth is about what he expected. “It’s kind of typical, where we’re at in our little spot in Muncie,” he said. “It’s slow, steady, positive momentum. It’s not big splashes. Five years ago, it was stagnant. I thought it could go either way. The direction it’s going is steady, positive news. If you drive around Carmel or Westfield, they’re building buildings. We’re not going to have that growth, but the momentum is good.” Brooks’ latest effort is serving as a board member of the Delaware County Redevelopment Commission, which participates in local economic development efforts. Although his voting record, as Brooks noted, was Republican, he was appointed by Democratic Party-majority Delaware County officials to be their representative on the board. During redevelopment commission meetings, Brooks is notable for asking questions and seeking fuller explanations than many who are appointed to some boards. “There’s a tendency to get in there and rubberstamp everything,” Brooks said. “You get put on this board, the next thing is you get asked to vote on things that are really complicated. I abstained a couple of times until I understood.” Contact Keith Roysdon at 213-5828 and follow him on Twitter at @keithroysdon.

Donna Patterson has all the answers when it comes to budgets for local governments and schools

By Keith Roysdon

“I’ve worked with her for many years … I can’t imagine how that part of the office would function without her.”


t some point during most Delaware County government meetings, a lot of heads turn toward Donna Patterson. That’s because Patterson is the go-to woman for budgets and taxes in Delaware County. While county officials turn to Patterson — a longtime settlement clerk and deputy in the auditor’s office — when they’re uncertain about their budgets, she’s considered the woman with the answers for almost everyone who collects taxes and spends tax revenue in Delaware County. She oversees the process of dispensing property tax revenue — tens of millions of dollars — to dozens of local governments, schools, libraries and other taxing units. Without Patterson’s meticulous work, all those entities wouldn’t have a true and accurate handle on the money they use to fund the budgets they need to operate. “Let me tell you about Donna,” said Mark Burkhart, chief financial officer of Muncie Community Schools. “You know the old saying that nobody’s indispensable? She comes about as close to being indispensable as anybody I’ve ever worked with.” For Patterson, it’s all part of the job she’s had since not long after she graduated from high school.

‘I liked math’

Patterson, who was born in Muncie, graduated from Cowan Junior-Senior High School in 1973 and, within a few

­­— Mark Burkhart

Donna Patterson works in the Delaware County Auditor’s office. (Patti Blake / The Star Press) years, was working as a clerk in the auditor’s office under then-County Auditor Jerry Thornburg. His successor, Jack Donati, moved her to the office’s bookkeeping division. “He may have known I liked math and liked working with figures,” she said. Patterson works with 42 separate taxing units — governments, schools, libraries, waste districts and related variations — that generate revenue from property taxes each year. As part of her duties, she distributed $82 million in tax revenue last year. Normally the county, which collects taxes, distributes all that money by direct deposit. Sometimes that doesn’t happen and Patterson finds herself writing checks. Big checks. She wrote a few million-dollar checks last fall. “Most of them are in the hundreds of thousands,” Patterson said. “I’m just

so used to it now it doesn’t bother me anymore.” The challenge of taming all those numbers is her favorite part of the job, she said. Her least favorite? Politics and the uncertainty that a newly elected auditor brings. But Patterson has worked for a half-dozen different auditors, Democrats and Republicans, and hasn’t lost her job.

Considering a run?

Patterson said county government’s annual budget process is less enjoyable now than it once was. “It used to be a lot of fun doing the budgets. But with money so tight, it’s gotten stressful. A lot of times (council members) didn’t agree with what I said and I didn’t agree with what they said, but you go on and get over it.” Delaware County Commissioner

James King — who for the past two years was president of Delaware County Council, county government’s fiscal body — has dealt with Patterson as closely as anyone in local government in recent years. “We butted heads with budgets,” King acknowledged. “I think Donna does a great job. All the girls down in that office do a wonderful job.” Burkhart noted that he had “the honor” of presenting Patterson with an excellence in public service award from the Muncie-Delaware County Chamber of Commerce a couple of years ago. “I’ve worked with her for many years as far as filing budgets and getting assessed values certified and getting tax settlements where they ought to be,” he said. “I can’t imagine how that part of the office would function without her.” Patterson, who’s 58, has been married to husband Floyd since 1974. He worked at BorgWarner Automotive and lost his job when the plant closed in 2009. He’s “basically retired,” she said, and devoting his time to raising horses. Patterson has considered a political campaign of her own. “It’s not been ruled out,” she said, adding that she’d like to run for Delaware County Council. Why? “Just because of the financial part,” Patterson said. With any luck, if Patterson were elected to office she’d have someone who understands taxes and budgets as much as she does to advise her. Contact Keith Roysdon at (765) 213-5828 and follow him on Twitter at @keithroysdon.


The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013 • 9

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 10 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Ray Pugh helps keep kids safe on their way to school

Crossing guard likes being his own boss By Seth Slabaugh

Name: Ray Pugh Age: 61 Occupation: School crossing guard at Main and Hackley streets, Muncie Personal: Southside High School graduate, Air Force veteran How did you get this job? “I had an aunt who was a crossing guard here years ago. I used to go to her corner and talk to her. I wasn’t working at the time, so I asked her ‘how do I get going with you guys?’ She told me how to do it through the police department.” Police department? Is that who hires crossing guards? “We are employed by the Muncie Police Department. I went down to the police department and applied. They gave me an interview, and I took my test. A drug test, of course. That was eight years ago. They ask about your criminal record, your family life. They want you to do a urine test. They check you out. You’ve got to be who you say you are.” What other jobs have you had? “After I graduated from Southside in 1969, I joined the Air Force. I was in the Air Force out in California.” That was during the Vietnam War. Were you drafted? “I didn’t get drafted. I joined.” Why? Everybody I knew was trying to get out of the war? “I wanted to go. I just thought it was going to be exciting. I knew I wasn’t in the Army. I knew I wasn’t going to fight. I jumped on it. I wanted to go to Vietnam, not to fight but to be in the military. As long as you’re not a fighter pilot you don’t have to worry about it. I wanted to go, but they wouldn’t send me.” How long did you serve in the military? “I got out of the Air Force in 1974 and stayed in California for 20 more years. I worked for a company, a shuttle company, that drove customers from the airport to their homes and from their homes to the airport. I worked in a color tile factory. I got married. I had little odd jobs here and there. I had family out there, but we split up. My dad got sick here and had a couple strokes. Then I came back here in 1994.” What did you do after returning to Muncie? “I worked at a steel factory over in Portland back in the 1990s. I did some work for The Star Press

Ray Pugh stops traffic for children to cross South Hackley Street and East Main Street . (Ashley L. Conti / The Star Press)

“I like the guy I work for Sgt. (Bruce) Qualls is my boss. The parents love me. I get cards for Christmas, sometimes money. Don’t tell Qualls. I like what I do and I like my people. It just makes my day.” — Ray Pugh

before, packaging newspapers. It was through a temporary agency.” Do you like being a crossing guard? “Basically, I’m my own boss. Don’t have to look over my shoulder situation. At my age, it’s a good fit. I like it. I love it, except the weather. Like a postman: snow, rain or heat. I like the guy I work for, Sgt. (Bruce) Qualls is my boss. The parents love

me. I get cards for Christmas, sometimes money. Don’t tell Qualls. I like what I do and I like my people. It just makes my day.” I heard you get theatrical out there. “No, I don’t get theatrical. Just wave, that’s it. I don’t make a dance out of it. I basically wave at them, smile at them, speak to them.” Contact Seth Slabaugh at 213-5834.

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 11 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

As outreach coordinator for the IU Health BMH Foundation, John Disher sees the impact on public health

Disher is hospital-community connection By John Carlson


ou won’t find a coffee mug emblazoned with “I Love My Job” in John Disher’s office, but he doesn’t need one to make that point. “I wear it on my sleeve,” he said, figuratively yet emphatically, from behind a small table in his office at the IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital Foundation. “I love it here. I have rubbed shoulders with so many incredible people over the years.” Having grown up in Muncie, the Northside High School graduate earned a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications and a master’s degree in information and communication science from Ball State University, and has worked for the hospital for 29 years. As the foundation’s community outreach coordinator, his job is to promote the hospital’s efforts denoted by his title, plus to track the hospital’s benefit to our community. That, Disher said, means “the things a not-forprofit hospital does outside the normal scope of care to improve the health of the community.” Examples, he explained, are things like charity care, financial assistance to patients, the training of future medical professionals and promoting community healthimprovement services such as health fairs, medical screenings and support groups. “We do a lot of those kind of things,” said Disher, whose daughter, Kaitlin, is a student nurse and whose wife, Tracie, owns Muncie Electrology Clinic. An amateur photographer now, he earlier shot photos and videos as an employee working in hospital marketing and publications. Doing so, he said, was an education. “It really became incredible to me how much we’re doing ... just how tremendous this hospital is,” he said. If he needed a reminder, and he probably didn’t, a recent Community Health Needs Assessment provided one. Based on interviews with community leaders and a community survey, five community health areas were pinpointed to focus on in the next three years, including obesity prevention, access to health care, mental health, tobacco/smoking and infant health factors. “Essentially we’re working with community partners to tackle some of these priorities we’ve identified,” Disher said, noting that on the obesity issue, hospital personnel are working to get people to eat healthier and increase their activity levels.

It was the latter passion that joined her with Disher in promoting the Friends Who Care program, featuring Barney the bear and Calvin the coyote. For 15 years they did anti-smoking programs in local schools. “If she were still alive it would “Our hospital is probably be going on today,” full of experts who Disher said. “She are not only good cared so much at what they do, but about people, and she was just so they’re very caring passionate.” and they want to His point? “Her spirit make a difference. lives on,” he We have to be a continued, saying there is no shortpositive influence. age of people at We want to be out in IU Health BMH the community.” who share that same zeal for — John Disher helping today. (pictured at left) Doctors, nurses, dietitians and others pitch in, he said, noting, Patti Blake / The Star Press “We’re just chock full of people who want to help. ... We want to keep people healthy.” Partners in these efforts include groups such as His role in all this, meanwhile, is to serve as a Healthy Living, Women of Influence, Poverty Aware“conduit.” ness Year with Molly Flodder, Muncie Action Plan, “I’m connecting our experts with our community,” plus the YMCA and The Star Press, which promote a Disher said. “In a lot of cases, it’s outside the walls of more active lifestyle through Walk Indiana. Disher, the hospital.” who helped create Walk Indiana, is a key component Speaking of outside the walls of the hospital, in his of the success of the program, organizers say. free time in nicer weather Disher likes to go bike Working with Minnetrista on its Eat Well, Play Well riding with his wife, bringing along their Yorkshire effort is another one. terrier Ferguson in a bicycle basket. He also still It’s hard to overestimate IU Health BMH’s potenloves to take pictures. tial as a resource in this work, Disher added. “I shoot a ton for fun,” he said. “Our hospital is full of experts who are not only Still, it’s the work for the hospital he dearly loves good at what they do, but they’re very caring and that drives him. they want to make a difference,” he said. “We have “We’re a safety net for our community,” Disher to be a positive influence. We want to be out in the said. “Our doors are always open at the hospital.” community.” Nevertheless, it’s working outside its doors and This is nothing new, he added, citing the example in the community that he thinks will be even more of Nicki Turner, a widely-respected local physician important in coming years. who died in 2002. Issues about which she was a tire“We’re more powerful when we work together,” he less worker included caring for animals and turning said. children away from tobacco use. Contact feature writer John Carlson at 213-5824.


12 • The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013


The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013 • 13

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 14 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

‘I’ll do it as long as I can,’ the Vietnam-era vet says of honoring fellow veterans

José Gaitan proud to serve with Honor Guard

By John Carlson


he vagaries of Indiana weather notwithstanding, José Gaitan is a man used to being exposed to the elements. After all, the first time the San Antonio, Texas, native came to Muncie back in 1964, it was as a migrant worker at a farm near here. “We helped plant and we helped harvest,” he recalled reflectively, seated at a table inside American Legion Post 19, the green bandana around his forehead helping hold his long gray hair in place in a ponytail. “It’s hard work, but it can be fun.” His first venture here came to an end in 1966, with a call to his mother back in Texas. “She told me I had a letter Gaitan waiting, beginning with the word, ‘Greetings.’” he said, smiling slightly at the memory. It was, of course, Gaitan’s Army draft notice. At that time, the fighting in Vietnam was reaching a fevered pitch, with hundreds of Americans killed in combat each week, but he ended up stationed in Germany, “pole climbing” as he called it, as a member of the 32nd Signal Battalion. Even there, though, the emotional cost of the war in Southeast Asia was raw. “I lost a lot of good friends in Vietnam,” he said. Patriotic all his life, Gaitan nevertheless was also angered to encounter discrimination when he returned to Muncie in 1968, his Native American heritage visible in his features. “I had my share of discrimination,” he said. Why? “Because it was me,” he continued, noting that an effort to join the Eagles was thwarted by what was then its “no blacks, orientals or otherwise” policy, something that particularly rankled him as a veteran. “I was ‘otherwise,’” he explained. That was long ago, though, Gaitan having spent more than 33 years working here between time spent at Broderick and doing general labor with Laborers Union 1112. But that sort of work and his earlier field work, not to mention his Army service scooting up utility poles, undoubtedly hardened him for what now totals 24 years spent as a member of the Delaware County Honor Guard, which provides military rites to the burials of local veterans. Last year, Gaitan and fellow members of the Honor Guard served at 199 burials. With them firing their M1 rifles in salute to the departed at each one, that’s a lot of .30 caliber blanks. Delivered to them two boxes at a time, with 2,500 round each, those blanks don’t necessarily get the men through a year’s worth of services. “I participated in probably 90 percent,” he noted of those services, checking his cellphone’s calendar to find it already booked with several more set for coming days.

“It’s an honor, actually, for me to do it for a fellow veteran.Maybe when my time comes, they’ll do it for me. I hope they have to wait a long time, though.” — José Gaitan

At top, the Delaware County Honor Guard fires off a salute for a deceased Navy veteran. The Delaware County Honor Guard had performed 18 services for deceased veterans in 2013 as of Feb. 2. Above and left, José Gaitan has served with the Honor Guard for 24 years. (Patti Blake / The Star Press)

All this is, to be sure, a real commitment on their part, requiring the Honor Guard members to gather for the funeral service and then at the grave site for the burial afterward. Weather, as already noted, is simply something to be endured. “We’ve done it in the rain,” Gaitan said. “In the cold. In the heat. We’ve stood out there when it’s 8 below.” The memory of a funeral service for a fellow Honor Guard member brought him a laugh, that man having expressed the hope that the weather at his own service would be exceedingly miserable. What’s more, that man got his wish, much to to his former colleagues’ chagrin. The payoff from this service comes in knowing they have honored a fellow veteran, and helped that veteran’s family. “They appreciate it,” Gaitan said, of the survivors. Sometimes, he continued, family members or others will see the Honor Guard having lunch at Bruner’s Family Restaurant or Sirloin Stockade, and

pick up their tab. In a way, though, the members of the Honor Guard also do this for themselves. “It’s an honor, actually, for me to do it for a fellow veteran,” said Gaitan, the room’s overhead lights reflecting dully off the Saint Christopher’s medal hanging from a chain around his neck. “Maybe when my time comes, they’ll do it for me. I hope they have to wait a long time, though.” That he’ll eventually have the same military honors as the others seems assured. Besides his work with the Honor Guard, he is commander of Post 19, the 10th district vice commander, chairman of POWMIA issues for the post and district, and more. That level of service means something, but so does withstanding the rigors of the Honor Guard as they go about their duty. Gaitan, after all, is 71 years old, and the other members are people with adult medical histories. His, by the way, includes two strokes, two heart stints, bad knees and a couple of encounters with Bell’s palsy. Still, he can’t see himself retiring from the Honor Guard soon. “I’ll do it as long as I can,” Gaitan said with a nod. “Even now, when you sound ‘Taps,’ I still get a tear in my eye.” Contact feature writer John Carlson at 213-5824.


The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013 • 15

Jack Cox talks to The Star Press at Farmland Auto Parts, the store he started and handed over to his sons. (Kurt Hostetler / The Star Press)

Farmland’s Jack Cox proud of his hometown By Douglas Walker


ack Cox will observe his 80th birthday next month. For 75 of those years, he’s been a resident of Farmland. And proud of it. While the Randolph County town’s population has grown by a few hundred people over the decades, “basically, it’s the same as it’s always been,” Cox said recently as he sat near the wood-burning stove inside Farmland Auto Parts, his family’s business for the past 45 years. Cox ran the store from 1968 until 2003, when his sons — Kevin and Kristin, who now operate the business — persuaded him to retire. “When I quit working, I knew about everybody that lives (in Farmland),” he said. While he might not know every resident of the town a decade later, you’ll likely find few Farmland citizens without a friend or relative who is acquainted with Cox. And he’s certainly no stranger to the store, stopping by most mornings to check in with his sons and visit with some regulars who come by to chat, frequently in front of that stove, one of 305 sold at Farmland Auto Parts a few years back. “I like to come down because invariably when I’m here, there will be two or three people I haven’t seen for a long time,” Cox said. Cox’s enthusiasm for his hometown has been reflected on his volunteer work — and that of his wife, Marcia — in helping to keep the flowers in 16 downtown planters watered. Those planters, and their contents, are a key element of what is generally considered one of the more picturesque small towns in Indiana. “We just try to help out a little bit,” said Cox, who was quick to note the efforts of others, primarily Greg Beumer, in tending to the planters. “We’re proud of the town.” A couple of summers ago, the planters didn’t contain flowers. Instead, to the expressed delight of several residents and visitors, they were used to grow “corn, tomatoes, peppers, different things,” Cox said. “We figured it is Farmland (so) we might as well have farm products,” he recalled. “We tried to figure out what would be a little unique.” Cox’s civic efforts also include helping to keep the town’s green spaces free of debris and making certain the signage welcoming visitors to town or promoting upcoming events is in good condition. His morning rounds frequently include a stop at Farmland’s municipal building, where his efforts to help the town — and share a funny comment — are always welcome. “He loves telling jokes,” said Farmland’s clerk-treasurer, Bernice Herndon. “He’s a nice person.” Cox was born in rural Monroe Township, but moved with his family at age 3 into Farmland. He was one of 15 members of the Farmland High School Class of 1951. (Nine members of that class survive, he said, and several still live in East Central Indiana.) Four years later, in 1955, Cox graduated from what is now Ball State University, married Marcia and began a two-year stint in the Army. When he returned to Farmland, the rebuilding of Ind. 32 west to Muncie forced the demolition of a roadside gas station and garage operated by his father-in-law. The two men decided to open a wrecking yard a half-mile down the road. About a decade later, concerned about the impact then-first lady Lady Bird Johnson’s highway beautification efforts might have on that business, Cox and his family decided it was time for another change. At his mother-in-law’s suggestion, Cox opened Farmland Auto Parts in a building, then owned by his wife’s parents, that had housed a furniture store. “Running a small business is not easy,” he said. “I used to work 6:30 in the morning to 5 at night six days a week. But I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the people.” Cox said the small-town store had built a regional reputation for being able to promptly fill its customers orders. “They claim we’ve got one of the best stocks of belts and hoses of any store in the state of Indiana,” he said. “And we do.” In an active retirement, Cox devotes considerable time to his interest in woodworking. He and Marcia also keep track of their family, which in addition to their sons includes three grandchildren and, as of last year, a great-granddaughter. She’ll be the recipient of one of a small collection of Christmas ornaments her great-grandfather is crafting in his home woodshop. “I like it here,” Jack Cox said of Farmland. “It’s not a Garden of Eden, but it still has a lot of good things. ... By force of habit, we’ve stayed here. And I’m glad we have.” Contact Douglas Walker at 213-5851. Find him on Twitter at www.twitter. com/DouglasWalkerSP.

“We just try to help out a little bit. We’re proud of the town.” — Jack Cox


16 • The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013

Paula Justice, secretary for Mayor Dennis Tyler, gets a busy start to her day on Feb. 7, including giving a tour to Boy Scouts and reminding the mayor to have lunch. (Kurt Hostetler / The Star Press)

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 17 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Paula Justice is the mayor’s secretary, but Dennis Tyler names her best quality: ‘She understands we’re in the people business’

The gatekeeper

By Keith Roysdon


he phone on Paula Justice’s desk at Muncie City Hall is ringing. Again. “You want the county health department,” Justice tells the caller after listening to a question. “I’ll give you that number.” A few minutes later, Justice is on the phone again, setting up an appointment for someone who wants to meet with her boss, Mayor Dennis Tyler. “I’ve got it on his calendar,” Justice assures the caller. Justice is weeks into her second year as the secretary of Muncie’s mayor, but she’s already found there are a lot of elements to the job that few people know about. Muncie City Council member Alison Quirk stops in the office and Justice helps her submit an order for more business cards. A few minutes later, Justice makes sure an executive session of the Muncie Redevelopment Commission gets started smoothly and prepares for an influx of onlookers for the MRC’s open meeting that follows. The mayor’s office, not surprisingly, has only a few quiet moments each day. Most of the time, Justice deals with a nearly constant stream of members of the public, local officials, attorneys and others who want a little — or a lot — of the mayor’s time. Sometimes the people coming and going include the community’s movers and shakers. “We’ve had CEOs and state reps and Gov. Pence was in before the election,” Justice said. “I’m so busy that I’m not starstruck.” After all, Justice has seen real celebrity firepower. She worked in Muncie Police Department offices a few years ago and got to see the likes of Erik Estrada and Jack Osbourne.

‘Famous’ days

Justice has lived in Muncie since her family moved here when she was 3 years old. Her work history includes years working at a car dealership as well as the license branch in Albany. While she was there, new, tighter restrictions on state ID went into effect in the wake of 9-11. “Almost every single one of the terrorists in those

“I’d be lost without her. She keeps me on my schedule and keeps me on track. And she makes sure I have lunch.” — Mayor Dennis Tyler

planes had drivers’ licenses,” Justice said. After the license process fell under the oversight of Homeland Security, she said, bureaucracy increased and so did the stress for employees and customers. After the state closed the Albany BMV branch, Justice found work as a secretary at the Criminal Investigations Division of the Muncie Police Department. She was at CID during the 2006 filming of the short-lived “Armed and Famous” reality show, which depicted celebrities including Estrada and Osbourne working as Muncie cops, and she was working at a CID desk in 2009 when Osbourne, who periodically returned to Muncie after the show was canceled, called his father, rocker Ozzy Osbourne, to ask for $9,000 to replace a former police dog on the force. “I was impressed with his generosity,” Justice said, adding that she wished the final episodes of the CBS show had aired because her kids were filmed for a bowling alley scene. In retrospect, it’s hard to imagine the producers of the show passed on any opportunity to have a Muncie police employee named Justice appear in the program.

Big changes

Justice was still working at CID in 2009 when city spending cutbacks by then-Mayor Sharon McShurley forced layoffs of employees. Justice was among those laid off. The timing was fortunate, in a way. Her mother had just had a stroke and Justice suddenly had time to take care of her. “It was a life-changing experience for both of us,” she said. Taking care of her mother and stepfather is an ongoing part of Justice’s life. Justice’s family has had its share of ups and downs. Two of her four children have served in the military. One survived an explosion that killed and injured

colleagues and his return to civilian life has been a “rollercoaster,” she said. Her youngest son, a high school athlete, recovered from a serious injury that sidelined him for a while. In the summer of 2011, Justice was called back to work by the city but not in a secretarial position. She was hired by the city parks department and, in December of that year, was part of a crew removing seasonal piers at Prairie Creek Reservoir. While her husband, Randy, had done some maintenance work for Tyler, Justice said she didn’t know a lot of political players and was somewhat surprised to get a call from the mayor-elect in late 2011 about a job as his secretary. “I don’t have any idea why he chose me,” she said. The first few days in the mayor’s outer office were “intriguing and overwhelming at the same time. I felt like somebody put me in an airplane and said, ‘Drive.’” But Justice adjusted quickly. When she worked at a local auto dealership she earned the nickname Michael Phelps. “I would just jump in and swim,” she said.

Closing the city?

How many people ask to see the mayor? “That’s an infinite number,” Justice said. “Everybody wants to see the mayor.” Any offbeat requests? At the height of the winter flu season, Justice said, she took an urgent call from a local woman. “She said the mayor had to close the city because of the flu outbreak,” Justice said. “She had not had her flu shot. I told her it was not an option to close the city and told her there were still flu shots available.” The mayor has a real appreciation for Justice’s efforts. “I’d be lost without her,” Tyler said. “She keeps me on my schedule and keeps me on track. And she makes sure I have lunch.” The mayor added that Justice works into the evening when he meets with the public in his recurring “Five Minutes with the Mayor” sessions. Justice’s most important quality, according to the mayor? “The way she communicates with our constituents. She understands we’re in the people business.” Contact Keith Roysdon at 213-5828 and follow him on Twitter at @keithroysdon.

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 18 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Faith guides athletic trainer Troy Hershman

Ball State athletics in good hands By Thomas St. Myer


hen-Ball State University coach Ronny Thompson irked Troy Hershman and virtually every other athletic trainer with ties to the university when he removed Tony Cox as the basketball athletic trainer for what Thompson cited as trust issues. Yet, after some soul searching, Hershman resigned from his position at Central Indiana Orthopedics in 2007 to replace his mentor Cox as the Ball State basketball athletic trainer. That decision left another one of his mentors, Ball State head athletic trainer Neal Hazen, asking him, “Do you really want to do this?” Hershman recalls telling Hazen, “I want to make sure those kids have someone that will take care of them.” Thompson is now long removed from Ball State. He resigned after the 2006-07 season. But Hershman remains, putting in 50 to 60 hours a week to treat Ball State studentathletes who are nursing a variety of injuries and pains. Hershman somehow juggles that time commitment with the demands of raising two young children — 3-year-old Carolyn and 1-year-old Sam — and participating in activities at First Baptist Church in Muncie, where he served on the leadership council for the past three years before stepping down in January. “He’s a good husband, he’s a good father, a good provider and just an outstanding individual, and as you move down the priority list, he’s just a fantastic athletic trainer,” Hazen said. Hershman deflects the compliments toward his wife, Cindy. He met Cindy when he served as an athletic trainer at St. Joseph’s College 1995-98. The couple then moved to Terre Haute, where he spent five years as an assistant athletic trainer for Indiana State before returning to Muncie to take a position at Central Indiana Orthopedics. Ball State employs Cindy, too, as an employer relations/special events coordinator. Between her career and raising two children, she juggles just as hectic a schedule as her husband, who assists her whenever possible. “This time of year she’s doing a lot of the work, putting kids to bed, taking care of kids, picking them up,” Hershman said in reference to the basketball season. “I know she’s pulling double-duty, so I try to do as much as I can when at home.” This past basketball season, Hershman put in his share of 12-hour plus shifts, taking care of players with back and hip injuries, concussions, bruised calves and tailbones and

Ball State University athletic trainer Troy Hershman (left) tapes up BSU basketball player Jesse Berry before the start of their game on Jan. 23. (Ashley Conti / The Star Press)

“He’s a good husband, he’s a good father, a good provider and just an outstanding individual, and as you move down the priority list, he’s just a fantastic athletic trainer.” — Neal Hazen

other assorted physical ailments. “It almost becomes sometimes a thankless job, because you’re on call 24-7 for the guys,” former Ball State basketball coach Billy Taylor said. “For Troy, he’s got 15 more sons that he’s dealing with, whether it’s sickness — you just go down the list of things we’ve had this year: sickness, surgeries, injuries. We’ve got a ton of stuff and it all falls to Troy, and it’s up to him to work to get those guys back.” Injury-prone Ball State forward Matt Kamieniecki sometimes feels as if he lives in the athletic training room. He describes Hershman as professional but at the same time caring. He senses that Hershman cares about him as a person, not just as an athlete.

“Throughout that whole time, you just get to know him a whole lot better, and he doesn’t just help you with just injuries and stuff like that, but he’ll help you if you’ve got something wrong or if you just need to talk to somebody,” Kamieniecki said. Hershman walks around with a smile etched on his face and he treats everyone with respect. He is energetic, yet there is an easiness about him that relaxes everyone and gravitates them toward him. Hershman even has maintained a cordial relationship with the enigmatic Thompson. Taylor replaced Thompson in August 2007 and he and Hershman connected instantly through their shared faith in Christianity. They just com-

pleted their sixth season together, and Taylor considers Hershman an ideal role model for his players. “It’s another great bonus to our coaching staff, to men who are around our program, to have coaches and trainers in our program that are men of faith and that really try to walk out our faith,” Taylor says. “When you get that consistent approach it really sends a positive message to our student-athletes in how you need to live your life as Christian men, and as a father and as a husband.” Hershman says his faith guides him through every step of his hectic life. God called on him to step in as the Ball State basketball trainer six years ago, and every day he is in that training room, he is serving Him. “It’s (God’s) plan that’s going to play out, not only in my life but the lives of the people I’m working with,” Hershman says. “God is going to direct these people. My extension as an athletic trainer is to help people the right way. The way God wants. “I’m not someone who lays my hand on people or anything like that, but I do pray for athletes. It’s important I don’t lose that perspective.” Contact sports writer Thomas St. Myer at 213-5816. Follow him on Twitter @tstmyer.

Special deputy: ‘It’s been a good career for me’ By Douglas Walker


aylon Collins didn’t know what he was in for when he began work as a corrections officer at the Delaware County jail nearly a dozen years ago. There are likely few experiences to prepare one for employment in a facility where people are being held against their will. “It was definitely a shock where I first started there,” the 34-year-old Collins, now a special deputy who works out of the sheriff’s office, but remains affiliated with the jail. “My mind frame had to change, my alertness. ... Knowing my surroundings. “It was definitely a different atmosphere. There’s a lot of pressure on you as an officer to uphold the standards of the jail and make sure everybody’s staying in line and doing what they should be doing.” Collins — a Muncie native who divided his childhood between Florida and Delaware County, and a Wes-Del High School graduate — started out pursuing a career in carpentry, but a work-related injury soon had him “looking for a new career field.” That’s when his grandfather, Joe Campbell, who had a long history of involvement in local government and politics, suggested Collins consider entering the fields of corrections or law enforcement. “They were taking applications through the jail, and I applied,” he recalled. His dealings with inmates — many of whom are reasonably cooperative with jail staff — provided some quick lessons. “You always have those few who try to test everybody,” he said. “Obviously they have nothing but time to figure you out. ... They’re observing everything you do, and what you do and how you do it, and how you react to things.” Challenges during his seven years of full-time work in the jail included at least one incident where an unruly prisoner spit in Collins’ face. He resisted the natural inclination to respond

In the courtroom, a regular task is reminding friends and relatives of detainees that it’s not an appropriate setting to communicate with the defendants. Jason Walker, chief deputy of the Delaware County sheriff’s office, said the jobs Collins and other special deputies do in providing courtroom security, and other tasks in the Justice Center, allow more merit deputies “You basically have to to be assigned to road have a strong mind and patrols and investigawill and look past those tions. As for Collins, he at little things they’re trying times has contemplated to test you on, and do pursuing appointment your job. ... I guess it’s as a merit deputy, but he admits it would be diffilike anything else. You cult to leave his current treat a person the way job and co-workers. you want to be treated.” “I like my position down here,” he said. “I — Waylon Collins can’t beat the people I work with. The administrative people who work here are great. It’s hard Special deputy Waylon Collins escorts a prisoner at the to give that up.” Delaware County jail. (Kurt Hostetler / The Star Press) And with 12 years on the job, he would like to remain with the department for at least eight more. physically. “I definitely want to stay 20 years if I can,” he “You’ve got to hold yourself to a better standard said. “If it goes beyond that, great.” and just walk away from it,” he said. “You can’t be He does get the opportunity to do some “policing,” the aggressor. You’ve got to be the defender. “You basically have to have a strong mind and will as a reserve with the Eaton Police Department for and look past those little things they’re trying to test the past decade. Collins, who is engaged to be married, said he you on, and do your job. ... I guess it’s like anything would recommend the career track his late grandfaelse. You treat a person the way you want to be ther put him on all those years ago. treated.” “It’s been a good career for me,” he said. “It’s For the past five years, Collins’ primary duties helped me establish new friends, new associates, peohave kept him a floor below the jail, providing secuple I would never have imagined meeting when I was rity in Delaware County courtrooms. There are also younger. ... It gets you involved in the community.” administrative tasks in the sheriff’s office, and he Contact Douglas Walker at 213-5851.Find him on still has regular contact with prisoners, who he and his colleagues escort from the jail to court hearings. Twitter at


The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013 • 19

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 20 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Former teacher Maria French engaged in school activities

Back to school ... as a volunteer By Michelle Kinsey


aria French, the mother of an elementary student and a high school student, heads up the Superintendent’s Parent Advisory Council for Muncie Community Schools. It’s just one of the many ways French is involved in the local school school district. She’s also coordinated PTO fundraisers, went on too many field trips to count and, most recently, made eggs for nearly 40 students as part of an ISTEP breakfast. We asked her some questions about her volunteer efforts (between efforts, of course). How did you get involved with the Superintendent’s Parent Advisory Council? I began attending the meetings to learn more about what was happening in the school district. I think it’s important to be involved in your child’s local school, but being involved in SPAC takes it a step further. It helps you know what is going on corporation-wide in the school system. It gives you a chance to hear ideas from other parents. It is an opportunity to have the ear of the superintendent to address any concerns you have, but also to learn about the good things happening in our schools. My understanding of the dynamics of public education, and our district, has changed significantly since I started attending SPAC. For those who have not attended a SPAC meeting, tell us about what goes on there. We meet monthly during the school year on the Monday prior to the first public school board meeting. This year we have had guest speakers at most of our meetings to address topics of concern to parents. We have discussed standardized testing, discipline and tardy procedures, health and nutrition (school lunch changes), curriculum issues, and technology. At every meeting, Mr. Heller gives an update on issues related to our local schools or public education. At the close of the meeting there is always time for open discussion of matters that interest parents. You are an active parent volunteer. Why do you feel it is important for parents to get involved at their child’s school? Our children spend the bulk of their time inside the walls of their schools. On a personal level, it is important to me to be acquainted with what’s happening in my child’s life. Taking time to volunteer

“Before I moved to Muncie, I spent a few years as a public school teacher … For me personally, any time a parent or community member gave me any thanks or encouragement, it was like a nugget of gold: priceless.” — Maria French

is an opportunity to get to know the staff and the environment that is shaping his educational experience. On a grander scale, I know that the work of educating children is not the sole responsibility of the teachers or the schools. It is up to the parents to help. Our schools face so many challenges today, and parents offering their time and resources to make things easier is one of the keys to making our schools successful. Tell us about some of the ways in which you help out at your sons’ schools. I can’t volunteer as much as I would like, but I try to attend the PTO meetings, and I do my best to be available when the Parent Volunteer Coordinators need help for special events. I try to at least volunteer for events in which my children participate — like working the concession stand at their sporting events, or helping at class parties. I also try to help during school-wide events such as festivals or reading nights. My husband is also an active volunteer, and often steps in in places I can’t. He coaches soccer at the MACC, and often volunteers in the schools as well.

Maria French speaks before the Muncie Community School Board during a recent meeting. French is an active parent volunteer in the district and serves as the spokesperson for the Superintendent’s Parent Advisory Council. (Michelle Kinsey / The Star Press)

What have been some of your best volunteer moments at a school? Any time you get to see joy on the faces of the kids or the staff is a special moment. Seeing a child’s face light up with a new experience is priceless. You started a program at East Washington Academy designed to thank teachers for what they do. Tell us about that? The Staff Appreciation aspect of the PTO is not original to me. The idea was in place at a school my children attended before coming to EWA. What we strive to do is to encourage the staff as they work so hard in teaching our children. We have found that they respond very well to food! Therefore, we try to have something special for them each month. It may be a lunch, or it may just be some chocolate and grading pens on Valentine’s Day, but regardless of the gesture, we just want them to know we appreciate what they do day-in and day-out. What do you personally get out of helping at the schools? Before I moved to Muncie, I spent a few years as a public school teacher. There are times as a teacher I felt as if people were not really aware of or engaged in the work we were doing with their children. For me personally, any time a parent or community member gave me any thanks or encouragement, it was like a nugget of gold: priceless. If we can help our staff feel as if they are not in this alone, that they are supported by the parents and the community, then that is the greatest reward for me. Contact Michelle Kinsey at (765) 213-5822.

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 21 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Vickie Reed ‘treats people with respect and dignity’

Probation officer ‘can’t imagine doing anything else’ By Douglas Walker


s a Delaware County probation officer for the past 18 years, Vickie Reed has found herself dealing almost daily with people who, at the very least, have made some bad decisions in their lives. But Reed remains convinced that most people, including those who have run afoul of the law, are salvageable. “I don’t really think there are very many ‘lost cause’ people,” she said during a recent interview. “A lot of the people I deal with are just normal people who have made some mistakes. Drugs tend to be the majority of people’s problem. Drugs or alcohol.” Since 2008, the 47-year-old Reed has been the county’s chief probation officer, responsible for “all the administrative stuff, discipline, policy and procedures (and) hiring,” while also sharing the responsibility of monitoring about 1,500 probationers with her staff, which now includes 10 other officers. A graduate of Central High School and Ball State University, Reed served a three-year stint in the U.S. Army before she became an employee of Delaware County government, first on the staff of then-County Clerk Jack Donati. Her duties for the clerk’s office included processing paperwork for what was then Delaware Superior Court 4, and when that court’s probation officer stepped down in 1995, she was hired for that job by then-Judge Robert Robinson. She is now assigned to Delaware Circuit Court 1, presided over by Judge Marianne Vorhees. The judge recently said she was most impressed by “how well (Reed) treats people, with respect and dignity,” extended to both those she oversees on probation and others in the court system. Reed said she talks “to my probation people like I would talk to you.” “As soon as I start yelling, they’re going to shut me down, But I can be firm. If they violate (the rules of probation), that’s a different matter. “I think a lot of people have a hard time digging out of the situation they’re in. You get somebody coming in, maybe they’ve lost their kids, maybe they’ve already burned all their bridges with their family, so they’ve lost all of their support. ... Sometimes it’s hard to dig out of that.” Asked how dealing with those on probation has changed over the years, Reed said, “I think the job situation’s changed. You don’t have the factories

“I love this job. I can’t imagine doing anything else. ... I like it when (ex-probationers) come back and say, ‘I’m really doing good now.’” — Vickie Reed

Vickie Reed, chief probation officer for Delaware County, works in her office. (Kurt Hostetler / The Star Press)

you used to have. ... You do the best you can. Right now our biggest obstacle is getting people jobs. Or getting them jobs because they’re felons. We give them suggestions. ‘You might try this, or you might try that.’” The drugs most frequently used by substance abusers have changed as well. Cocaine used to be the substance of choice for many, Reed said, but now “we’re seeing a lot of heroin; you see the meth.” In many felony cases, probation officers prepare pre-sentence reports on a defendant’s background, and make sentencing recommendations to the judge. Reed’s administrative duties includes pursuing grants to help the probation department do more

with fewer tax dollars at its disposal. “The worst part is we don’t have money to pay for people to get treatment,” she said. “I think the biggest obstacle is they don’t have money, and it costs money to get treatment.” Vorhees praised the probation officer for “thinking out of the box,” saying Reed was always looking for ways to “do more with less.” Despite her many work-related duties, Reed has found time for membership at a local American Legion post, service with civic organizations such as the Delaware County Community Corrections Board and raising three daughters, one now a nurse at an Indianapolis hospital and the other two in college. “They would tell you that I wasn’t so much strict, but I lectured a lot,” she said, adding that she made an effort to leave any troubling aspects of her job at work. Which is not to say she doesn’t enjoy being a probation officer. “I love this job,” Reed said. “I can’t imagine doing anything else. ... I like it when (ex-probationers) come back and say, ‘I’m really doing good now.’” Contact Douglas Walker at 213-5851. Find him on Twitter at


22 • The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013

Retired Liberty-Perry Community Schools administrator Tom Childs. (Star Press file photo)

Former principal’s positive impact still far reaching By Thomas St. Myer


rincipal Tom Childs greeted Selma Elementary School students with a friendly smile each morning as they walked into school. He left those students with that same friendly smile each afternoon as they departed for home. Childs served as an administrator in Liberty-Perry Community Schools for 36 years before he retired in 2006. The school district hired him as the Wapahani High School principal in 1970, and he remained there until 1981, when he moved over to Selma Elementary. His positive influence on students over the course of those 36 years still registers today in Delaware County. Wes-Del Principal Derick Bright graduated from Wapahani, and he identifies Childs as one of his role models. Bright recalls how Childs took an interest in each of the students, and he says Childs still remembers details he shared with him back when he attended Wapahani. “As a principal, he genuinely cared about everybody,” Bright said. “He knows his kids. It’s been 25 to 30 years ago, and he’ll ask about me, “He’s just a great my sister, how our family is doing.” guy that does a lot Countless numbers of his former students, fellow Delaware County Athletic Hall of Fame of things quietly inductees and fellow Eaton Church members but positively describe Childs as a caring individual whose influences a lot of positive impact on the community is far reaching. lives. He’s a real “He’s an incredible man with off-the-chart people person. character,” said Mike Lingenfelter, the WapaHe understands hani volleyball coach and a former athletic director and physical education teacher at the how to work with high school. a wide variety of Lingenfelter befriended Childs when he first people.” started teaching at Wapahani. The two men share a passion for education and athletics, and — Kaye Harrell in particular the advancement of girls’ sports. Childs played basketball at Jefferson Township (now part of Eastbrook) and later coached the Wapahani girls basketball team for three years. Childs started serving on the Delaware County Athletic Association when he came to Wapahani, and he still serves, now in his 34th year. “We really saw the growth of girls’ athletics as well as keeping the boys’ programs going,” Childs said as he reflected on his tenure with the Delaware County Athletic Association. The Delaware County Athletic Hall of Fame committee took note of how Childs positively impacted sports in the county through the DCAA and inducted him into its prestigious fraternity in 2000. Childs now serves on the hall of fame board. “I’ve been a 10-year board member, and I hope I can do another 10 years,” Childs said. Central teacher and former girls basketball coach Kaye Harrell serves on the board, too. She first knew Childs 40 years ago when he taught her in drivers’ education class. That student-teacher relationship developed into a friendship in the years since through their mutual interests. Both coached girls basketball, both received induction into the county athletic hall of fame, both serve on its board and both attend Eaton Church. Harrell knows Childs as well as probably anyone outside of his family, and she agrees with Lingenfelter that he is a man of extraordinary character. “He’s just a great guy that does a lot of things quietly but positively influences a lot of lives,” Harrell said. “He’s a real people person. He understands how to work with a wide variety of people.” Harrell said Childs’ wife, Nancy, complements him perfectly. The couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last October. Nancy is a musician and professional singer. She sang “The Star Spangled Banner” back in February at one of their grandson’s basketball games, and Childs said she has sung at about 15 Indiana Pacers games. The couple have watched thousands of sporting events in their 50 years together. Their three children, Lori, Angela and Rob, all played sports at Delta, and Tom and Nancy Childs attended virtually every one of their contests. Now, as grandparents, they still watch their share of basketball games and tennis matches. “I loved watching my kids play sports,” Childs says. “I tried to never miss a game. Same with the grandkids. I really enjoy it. I wouldn’t trade it.” Childs is nearly seven years removed from greeting those Selma Elementary students, but with retirement treating him so well, that smile is still etched on his face. Contact sports writer Thomas St. Myer at 213-5816. Follow him on Twitter @ tstmyer.


The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013 • 23


24 • The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 25 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Firefighter, coach positively influencing lives Troy Dulaney sacrifices money, time for others By Thomas St. Myer


ellow Muncie firefighters laud Troy Dulaney for his extraordinary character. Same for virtually everyone associated with the Yorktown High School and club wrestling teams. They describe him as dedicated, passionate and caring, and his actions back up those descriptions. For example, Dulaney walked away from a $108,000 annual salary at the Chrysler plant in New Castle to risk his life instead for less than a third of that pay as a firefighter. “It allows me to do my favorite hobby, which is helping people,” said Dulaney, a 1987 Southside High School graduate who served in the Army from 1987-92. Dulaney turned his back on thousands of dollars, but in all probability found his calling as a firefighter. Muncie Fire Department Battalion Chief Jim Clevenger presented Dulaney with the “Grace in Time of Need” Award back in September, and described him as, “strong, aggressive, smart and fearless.” Clevenger recognized Dulaney for risking his life to save the lives of puppies locat“For him to go and ed upstairs of a do all of the things burning two-story building. he does to support The fire melted my kid, and not just his helmet and my son but the entire blistered his ears, but Dulaney only team, is amazing. noticed after he I don’t think he tossed the puppies down to other fireever gets thanked fighters waiting at enough.” the bottom of the — John Baysinger stairs. “At the time I was so goal-oriented to locate the dogs, I was not thinking about the heat,” Dulaney said. His selflessness in putting his own life at risk to save dogs is par for the course. The Yorktown assistant wrestling coach puts in his share of back-to-back shifts and sacrifices any potential holidays off from the fire department to free up his schedule to mold young minds at wrestling practices and meets. “There’s been multiple times where I can tell he’s come straight from the fire station and he’s had no sleep for almost 48 hours or 36 hours,” Yorktown junior 138pound state qualifier Chandler Carroll said. “And then you’ll see him three days a week staying after practices running an elementary practice for the elementary kids.” Carroll first started wrestling for Dulaney as a 4-yearold, and 12 years later, he considers Dulaney to be a second father. “There’s nothing the guy wouldn’t do for you,” Carroll says. “He’d do anything in the world for me.” Anderson Police Dept. Patrolman John Baysinger said Dulaney is practically a second father for his son, Yorktown senior 132-pound state qualifier Dalton, too. John Baysinger credits Dulaney for passing on valuable life lessons to his son and for taking time out of his hectic schedule to be there for the kids. “For him to go and do all of the things he does to support my kid, and not just my son but the entire team, is amazing,” John Baysinger said. “I don’t think he ever gets thanked enough.” Baysinger pointed out that Dulaney challenges the wrestlers to strive for excellence and be just as committed as he is to the program. The next time Dulaney calls in sick at the fire station or misses a Yorktown wrestling practice for whatever reason will be the first. “We have a saying at Yorktown: the guy who does it every day does it best,” Dulaney said. Dulaney is just as influential with the student-athletes off the mat. His high school wrestlers attend mandatory hour-long study tables twice a week throughout the season, and he occasionally takes them out to dinner or invites them over to his house to watch pay-per-view Ultimate Fighting Championship cards. Dulaney is the proud father of two children. His son, Jordan, wrestled for him at Yorktown and is now a senior at Wabash College, and his daughter, Lacie, is a junior at Ball State University. His two children take priority in his life, but he considers his hundreds of current and former wrestlers to be family, too. “It’s a love for the relationships I’ve developed with these kids,” Dulaney said. “I can tell you their parents’ names, siblings’ names, their hobbies. For me, it’s so much more than the sport of wrestling.” Contact sports writer Thomas St. Myer at 213-5816. Follow him on Twitter @tstmyer.

Troy Dulaney holds his gear in the garage at Fire Station 7. Dulaney works for the Muncie Fire Department. (Patti Blake / The Star Press)

Penny Vore holds her pet pug, Sophia, in the front office at the Muncie Animal Shelter. Below: Vore pets a black cat as its cage is cleaned. Vore works at the Muncie Animal Shelter. (Pattie Blake / The Star Press)

Shelter staffer puts animals, people at ease By Patti Blake


hey call me the crazy pug lady,” said Penny Vore as she cuddled a panting pug named Sophia on her lap. The two sat comfortably behind the front desk at the Muncie Animal Shelter. Vore manages the office at the animal shelter and is best known as the first human face that most people see when they walk past fenced-in rows of barking dogs and through a heavy glass front door. Anyone needing attention at the office can usually look over her shoulder to see a pug snoozing on a pillow or chasing after her feet. “I love having a job where I can take my pugs to work,” she said. “They think they’re going to daycare.” Her love of animals, however, doesn’t stop with pugs. Vore processes almost every animal that is dropped off or adopted out of the shelter. “Usually when the dogs come in, people are pulling them.” she said. Cats and dogs are almost always apprehensive about their new surroundings at the animal shelter. The new smells and noise level can sometimes stress the animals out even further. She also noted the shelter workers do everything they can to get the dogs in the door of the shelter and comfortable. If an animal is stressed out, she will often take it into the quiet office where it can calm down for a short time. “A lot of dogs are frightened when they get here,” she said. Her love for the animals hasn’t gone unnoticed with other workers at the animal shelter. “She loves all the animals like they are her own,” said Muncie Animal Shelter Director Phil Peckinpaugh. “She has a bubbly personality that makes going to the

MORE ONLINE Check out what life is like with the “pug lady” behind the front desk at the Muncie Animal Shelter at Penny Vore talks about what it’s like to have a job where she can bring her dogs to work and the joys of seeing other animals get adopted in a fun video.

shelter a good experience,” he said. When asked about the type of impression she tries to leave with people who visit the shelter, she watched a fairly new shelter

dog timidly whine for attention and smiled. “I like to give people a good impression when they come to the shelter,” she said. “I want them to know that we are here to help the animals get adopted.” What’s the best part of working at the animal shelter for Vore? “I think the highlight of our job is when we get to see the animals adopted,” she said. “The dogs just seem to know that they are going home.” Standing at the front counter, she put Sophia on the floor before turning back to some paperwork. “People sometimes ask if my pugs are up for adoption,” she said as Sophia tapped a symphony of toenail clicks on the floor by her feet for attention. “I have to say ‘No, that one is mine,’” she said, reaching down to scratch the perfect spot behind Sophia’s ears. Contact photographer/ reporter Patti Blake at 765-213-5874.

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 26 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Cindy Morgan dedicates time year round to 4-H and Relay for Life


By Robin Gibson


f there’s one cause Cindy Morgan cares about as much as 4-H, it’s the Relay for Life. Or maybe it’s the other way around. A 4-H leader since her days as a Ball State University student and throughout her career as an educator, Morgan more recently became a participant in, and then an organizer for, the annual Relay to raise funds for and awareness of the fight against cancer. Noting both the Relay and 4-H competition ultimately have her arriving at the Delaware County Fairgrounds on designated days each summer, Morgan joked, “It’s like the car knows where to go.” Morgan’s involvement with 4-H dates back further, beginning as a nine-year member of the program during her time as a student at Wes-Del High School. Having always competed in clothing, she reluctantly became a 4-H leader in foods — with some guidance from a home economics student teacher who “kind of took me under her wing” — when a 4-H foods leader position at her alma mater opened up between her freshman and sophomore years at Ball State. The next year she took a foods class at Ball State and “that kind of got me going,” Morgan said. She remembers having more than 100 Wes-Del 4-Hers gathered at the school working on cooking and sewing projects when she started as a leader, well above the numbers that participate in those areas now. After graduating from Ball State in 1972, Morgan began teaching home economics at Wes-Del, and continued her work as a 4-H leader there as well. “School and 4-H was my life,” she said, noting that she enjoyed the particularly close bond shared with her students during the school year who competed in 4-H in the summer. After several years at Wes-Del, Morgan moved on to teach at Mississinewa High School. Missing local schools, however, she returned to Delaware County after getting certified as a school counselor at the suggestion of a friend. Teaching home ec and counseling weren’t entirely different, she noted; the girls taking her home ec classes often confided in her while working on cooking or sewing projects, Morgan said: “I think they felt a safe haven with home economics.” Morgan worked as a counselor for Cowan and then for Delaware Community schools. She retired five years ago but still has a close bond with Wes-Del, her alma mater, site of her first teaching job and now the

Above: Cindy Morgan speaks at the Relay for Life kickoff party at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church on Feb. 12. Top: Morgan comforts Lori Newell during the Relay for Life kickoff party. (Patti Blake / The Star Press) school where a niece is now a middle school cheerleader, “so I can start wearing my Wes-Del things again,” Morgan joked. Particularly through her single years, Morgan found that school and 4-H “filled my life.” After working with 4-Hers in the summertime, she added, she would tell their parents, “Thanks for letting us have your kids for the summer!” She’s now involved in 4-H at the countywide level rather than as a leader for a particular club, but still in foods and consumer clothing, the same areas where she was a leader and judge for her club for many years. Morgan’s involvement with the Relay for Life grew out of 4-H. Prompted by the death of an aunt — who had also been a 4-H leader — after a 10-year battle with breast cancer, Morgan got together with other 4-H leaders as a team to walk, and the group raised $2,000 that first year. She continued walking with a team, even serving

as team captain for five years. Dissatisfied “Cindy is the with how the memorial service was hanone that, if no dled one year, Morgan one else wants joined a committee helping to organize the to do it, she Relay, and has contindoes it.” ued to work on the annual event ever since, ­— Lori Newell including a stint as cochairman. Working on Relay for Life “gets in your blood,” Morgan said of her continued dedication to the event. “Cancer has hit my family as it has hit so many others. ... This is something I can do to help fight back.” Her family members, including Morgan’s husband, Steve, and various other relatives, help out with the Relay as well. She smiles recalling one year when her nephew, Marine Cpl. Mason Clock, who had helped since he was 13 made an unexpected visit from San Diego, where he was based, on Relay day to help, as he always did, with setup for the portable stage Steven Morgan had built. (That sort of visit is perhaps less likely now that Clock is serving in Milan, Italy, guarding the U.S. Embassy.) Apart from her involvement in Relay and 4-H leadership, Morgan also spends her time post-retirement volunteering with in the IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital hospice office, staying involved with her church and spending time with her nieces and nephews. As current Relay for Life co-chairman Lori Newell puts it, Morgan “has a hard time with the word ‘no,’” when it comes to agreeing to help out with something. “Cindy is the one that, if no one else wants to do it, she does it,” said Newell, whose friendship with Morgan goes back to a time when Morgan was her 4-H leader at Wes-Del. Morgan’s inability not to help out is particularly true with the Relay for Life, which Newell characterized as “her love and her passion.” Morgan was the one who first recruited Newell for the local Relay shortly after it started, and has served as a highly effective recruiter with others as well; “She knows the people it will touch,” Newell said. When health issues prevented Newell from fulfilling a previous two-year stint chairing the event, Morgan stepped up to fill in for her. “God has blessed Relay with her,” Newell said fondly. Contact Robin Gibson at 213-5855.


The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013 • 27

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 28 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

‘I really feel like I am helping people here’

Heart of The Star Press By Michelle Kinsey


ou can hear it — an audible groan — when Renee Jennings lets her coworkers know she is about to go on vacation for a week. “I have been told before that I am not allowed to leave. Ever,” said Jennings with a laugh from her desk in the center of The Star Press. Right in the middle of it all is a fitting place for Jennings, who is often credited with keeping things running smoothly here. Jennings is the “We really are all friendly voice you one big family here. hear on the other Even though our end of the phone when folks call personalities are about a story idea all different, I just or soggy newspadon’t think I’d fit in per or the world’s greatest Whatzit. anywhere else like I She’s the one do here.” who gets the honor — Renee Jennings rolls and birthday wishes and church chicken-noodle dinners in the paper every week. And, thankfully, makes sure all of the employee time sheets are turned in. On time. And she’ll tell you — with a warm smile that never wavers — that she loves every minute of it. “I really feel like I am helping people here,” she said. She’s been doing just that since 1989, when she took a job at the switchboard for The Muncie Star and The Evening Press. After a few years, she was recommended for the job as the newsroom receptionist. Since then, she has worked for four publishers, two general managers and too many editors to name. Her job has changed a lot over the years — as paperwork became web work — but she has taken each transition in stride, even the merging of the morning and afternoon papers. What has never changed is that fact that hers is a job that requires an even temper and patience that most here would say she has beyond measure. (More, certainly, than anyone else in the room.) “I guess I’ve always been naturally easy going,”

Renee Jennings works recently at The Star Press. (Kurt Hostetler / The Star Press) she said with a smile. No one has ever seen her lose her temper, or raise her voice for that matter. She claims she probably has, with a laugh, at least once in her life. “But I’m not sure,” she said. Jennings said she takes about 50 calls a day. Truth be told, some people call just to hear her voice and, if she has a few minutes, chat with her about this or that. She takes the time to listen to each caller, connecting them with the reporter, or advertising sales representative or editor who can help if she cannot. When she’s not keeping The Star Press — and its employees — together, she enjoys writing — specifically poetry. And singing in church, well, that lifts

her spirit like nothing else. And when she has a few hours to herself, it probably means another viewing of “Roman Holiday,” or maybe “Random Harvest.” Jennings was born and raised in the Muncie area and has never strayed too far from her mother, her sisters, her cousins. “We have a close-knit family and we all get along really well,” she said. “We enjoy getting together whenever we can, whether it be a holiday or birthday or just going out to eat or visiting.” She calls The Star Press her extended family. “We really are all one big family here,” she said. “Even though our personalities are all different, I just don’t think I’d fit in anywhere else like I do here.” Contact Michelle Kinsey at 213-5822.

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 29 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Despite just one win in three years, the Warriors’ girls coach charges on

Wes-Del coach Sarah Parker unfazed

Wes-Del girls basketball coach Sarah Parker directs her team through shooting and movement drills at Wes-Del High School in early March. (Jordan Kartholl / The Star Press) By Sam Wilson


arah Parker’s halftime speeches are somewhat predictable. The Wes-Del High School girls basketball coach will go into her locker room and mention some positives from what she’s seen of her team’s first-half performance. Then, wanting to maintain something of a democracy, she’ll ask her players to list some of the things the Warriors could improve on for the second half. She’s found they’ll usually mention the same things she’s been seeing and would want them to improve upon. Parker, a Wes-Del alum, just finished her third season as the Warriors’ girls basketball coach. She remains passionate about her job, though she has

yet to be rewarded with wins. Her team went 0-21 this season, and she’s won just one game in her three seasons. She’s undaunted. “The girls know, and I know, yeah it’s hard right now, but it’s going to get better,” she said. “It’s going to get better, and I have an extremely, extremely great group of girls that are willing to work hard. And I don’t ever have a pr oblem with any of them saying, ‘I’m tired of losing, I quit.’ “It would be so easy for any girl to come out for the team and quit and never come back. And join the volleyball team where they win a state championship and we don’t win a game. It would be easy for anybody to do that, but truthfully I think they all know in their hearts that it’s rough now, but if we continue to push like we have, that by the time like I said they’re juniors and seniors, we’re going to get

to winning.” For Parker, coaching at Wes-Del runs in her family. Her father, Larry Mitchell, coached Parker when she played for the Warriors. She’s patterned much of her coaching style from the way he led. He had a set of guidelines she had to follow to avoid any perception of nepotism, so calling him “Dad” during a practice was a definite no-no. She even had to wait in his car for a ride home, not in the gym. Parker is expecting her first child, a daughter, and said she would likely have the same guidelines if she coached her own daughter. One of Parker’s first moves when she became the coach was to re-invest in the school’s elementary girls basketball program, which had been reduced PLEASE SEE PARKER ON PAGE 30

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 30 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

YMCA membership director is committed to members’ goals

Tonya Locke’s smile lights up the Muncie YMCA By Ivy Farguheson


f you’ve ever been inside the downtown branch of the YMCA of Muncie, you’ve seen that smile. Whether it’s been behind the counter, walking with you around the track or working alongside you while you’re sweating your heart out, that smile has given you the strength to know you will achieve your goals. Not only your fitness goals, but your spiritual and emotional ones as well. That smile belongs to Tonya Locke, officially the membership director for the Y, unofficially the heart of the agency. “When she’s not here, the members know. It puts a stop into their day when they don’t see her. That’s how you know how important someone is to the members,” said Jordan Knox, the youth program and sports director at the downtown Y. “She’s a blessing to work with every day. She’s just so positive and passionate and that’s genuine. That’s for real.” Behind that smile is a woman who wants to do everything she can to make a person’s day better. And she will “She’s a blessing to do it with persistence. work with every day. Don’t feel like She’s just so positive working out today? and passionate and Locke will check on you as she does her that’s genuine. That’s walk-throughs to for real.” chat with you about — Jordan Knox getting that work finished. Haven’t been to the Y in a few days? Don’t be surprised to get an email from Locke telling you to get your body to the gym. Walking a faster pace isn’t what you feel like doing today? Fine, you will walk, with her moving right along with you, encouraging you to finish what you’ve started. “I feel like I was called to be here,” Locke said. “And I love it! I love everything about being here, and I especially love the members and seeing them on their journeys. Seeing them come in here with a goal and then trying to help them reach that goal ... I love that. I just get so proud of them!” Locke came to the Y four years ago as a volunteer, hoping to fill her time being near people and doing what she could to make their days better. Having been laid off from a job in the insurance industry, she wasn’t sure what her next move would be. But she wasn’t worried. Her strong faith in the Lord helped her get through that period. Her family, including her husband David — “He’s my biggest cheerleader,” she said — and her two children encouraged her to keep going and believe that God would bring her something where her gifts could be best used. After a year of volunteering at the Y, she was offered a job as the membership director, a move CEO Cathy Clark has never regretted. “She just connected to the members ... and she is so compassionate,” Clark said. “Back in the day, we used to say, ‘It’s not a job; it’s a ministry.’ Tonya embodies that. She’s a hard worker, she’s persistent, she has a ton of energy, she’s compassionate. She’s great. And for our younger employees — and even our older ones — she’s a great example of who we are at the Y.” Any visitor at the Y could be confused by her title, however. Is it common for membership directors to create walking clubs and participate in them? Are these directors expected to teach strength-training classes

Tonya Locke leads a strength training class. Locke works at the Downtown Y. (Patti Blake / The Star Press) and maybe fill in for cycling teachers when they’re ill? What about serving as a co-instructor to a fitness class intended to get members and non-members enjoying this fitness lifestyle? And facilitating Bible classes? Is that in the job description? “She does so many things when she’s not wearing that Y logo on her shirt, it’s incredible,” Knox said. “She is truly committed to seeing people through their goals, that’s for sure.” These days, Locke is walking through her own goals, continuing to ride her bike (although she’d love to ride more often), trying to make the Y the best place it can be, promoting a healthy lifestyle

and, as a grandmother to 2-year-old Cayden and new granddaughter Harmony, traveling to see the new members of her family as much as she can. Believe that smile, when she shines it your way. She’s flashing it because she cares, deeply and truly. She is the embodiment of helping others acquire a healthy body, mind and spirit. “I believe in the work we do at the Y, and I care so deeply for our members. They’re each like a part of my family,” Locke said. “I want my life to be meaningful, more than about getting a paycheck. I can do good work here. I love it!” Contact news reporter Ivy Farguheson at 213-5829


CONTINUED FROM PAGE 29 to a summer camp. Her father heads up the program, called Jr. Pro, which includes taking the young players to a league in Fairmount among other measures. It wasn’t a hard sell to get her father involved, she said. In fact, when Parker told him she was applying for the job, he already began talking about what could be done at each grade level in the elementary school. She describes her father as a “plotter.” Yet when Parker talks about her vision for a future with varsity players who have been involved in her program since elementary school, she concedes she sounds like a “plotter” as well. By the time her players get to middle school, she wants them to know her playbook. And by the time they’re playing varsity, she wants them to have three years’ experience working in her system. “That’s the goal,” Parker said. “If you’re not organized like that, and you don’t have things planned out, and you just kind of push kids through, then by the time they get to varsity, you’re going to run into kids that say, ‘I have no clue what you’re talking about.’ Then I’ve got to take all the girls and I’ve got

Wes-Del girls basketball coach Sarah Parker patterned much of her coaching style from her dad and former Warriors’ coach Larry Mitchell. (Jordan Kartholl / The Star Press) to bring them back, and I have to take all the girls to show one girl something that she should have already known.” One of Parker’s benefits is time. She had no seniors this past season, and she expects strong retention next winter. When the squad has to practice at the elementary school due to gym space, Parker has difficulty finding players with drivers’ licenses to shuttle team-

mates to the other gym. The hope is that as the group develops, wins will come along. Junior Melanie Whitesel was the team’s main veteran last season. There was one other junior on the squad, though it was her first time coming out for the team. The rest of the players were freshmen and sophomores. To sophomore Haleigh Greer, Park-

er is the right coach for the current squad. Parker insists on maximum effort, even when the Warriors are behind by 50 points, Greer said. “She definitely understands that we’re a young team and that’s what a coach at Wes-Del needs,” Greer said. “She’s teaching us things that other schools, they’ve had experience. And we’re such a small school, and there’s not a variety of people that go out to play basketball. And she just wants us to come out here, try our hardest and do what we know how to do.” Parker has made her players an offer that sticks out in sophomore Makayla Johnson’s mind. The coach has told her players they may call her if they need something. It’s an openended offer Parker says could take many forms. If a player needs a ride because her car broke down, Parker is willing to come pick her up. If she needs a recommendation for a job, Parker will write the letter. Johnson said she’s had other coaches who felt accessible if she had ever needed something. But none has ever been so forward about it like Parker. “It makes me feel that she really cares about me and the team,” Johnson said. “And that I can really trust her.” Contact Sam Wilson at (765) 2135807.


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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 32 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Little Red Door’s breast health coordinator says she gets excited when she is able to help someone

Denise Hurt serves as agency’s Superhero By Ivy Farguheson


enise Hurt has done more than make Muncie her home. She’s made it her heart, serving the community in more ways than one. The Gary native and Ball State University graduate has taken advantage of every opportunity that’s come her way, whether it’s at Little Red Door — Cancer Services of East Central Indiana, where she works as the Reaching Out Breast Health coordinator, or on stage at the Muncie Civic Theatre. It’s nearly impossible to think about Little Red Door without seeing Hurt’s smile flash across your internal screen. She has held almost every position but executive director at the agency, but more importantly, she has been there for families who think all was lost. Hurt is also a foster mother, a role she adores. She encourages others — clients, family members, fellow actors — to believe in themselves and their higher power. In many ways, she’s the agency superhero.

their breast health. The majority of black women I know and run into go to church, so I thought it was important for us to use the church as a way to reach them. That was, I thought, the best way to spread the message. It’s not only for women of color. It’s for all women. But as long as we get the word out about mammograms, early detection and screenings, we’re doing a huge job.” Why did you decide to be a foster mother? “I always thought it would be fun. I knew when I eventually moved out of my apartment and into a house, I would apply for it and I’ve been a foster mom for four years now. I don’t have any children so this is my way to parent and to be a good role model for young people. I want to show, especially young girls, that you can be a single, black woman and be successful if you want to. You can do this. You can have a positive attitude and do well in school and be loving. That message is really important for me to spread. “Plus, with the younger kids, we get to play a lot. I don’t think we play enough when we get older. I love that about being a foster mom.”

Why is it so important to you to give back to the community? “I like helping people. I really do. When I think about helping someone, I get butterflies in my stomach because I’m so excited. Knowing you’ve helped someone — especially when they don’t know you helped them — feels great! I don’t think people realize that. It’s not all about telling everyone or doing it for you ... except the feeling good part. That feeling makes it all worth while.”

What do you love about being in Muncie? “Serving others is really important to people here, and I enjoy that. Being in a community where others want to just help, however they can. That’s been great! Sometimes, in other places, people you help want to know what you want in return. They’re kind of suspicious of why you want to help. Here, it seems that everyone just wants to do something for someone else. That suspicious attitude isn’t here as much.”

You’ve also assisted in coordinating the annual “Pink, Power and Praise” event, an opportunity for local churches, especially the area’s black churches, to openly discuss breast cancer and breast health. Why did you want to add that to your plate? “It’s not just me. There are so many people who are a part of that and we really wanted to reach out the minority community here, to get them to think seriously about

What’s your life’s motto? “Everything happens for a reason. I’m an easygoing kind of person so I look at every experience as an opportunity to learn and enjoy, somehow, what’s going on at that particular moment. I know that’s hard and it is. But life is golden. I really believe that. And the best way to enjoy it is to be there for each other.” Contact Ivy Farguheson at 213-5829.

Denise Hurt at the Little Red Door. (Kurt Hostetler / The Star Press)


The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013 • 33

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 34 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Jim Carmichael grew up on his family’s farm, and now shares a glimpse of farm life with kids who didn’t

Farmer willing to ‘take the good with the bad’ By Robin Gibson


im Carmichael grew up on a family farm, so he knows firsthand where our food comes from. For all those kids who don’t have that background, he helps them to learn a bit about that at the annual Delaware County Farm Festival. He got his start in farming as a kid, working on his family’s farm near Prairie Creek Reservoir. It was a different operation back then, more generalized than even many family farms are today. “Back then everybody had a few milk cows,” plus a variety of other crops and livestock, Carmichael noted. He would help out around the farm, feeding the animals and, by the time he was 12, driving the tractor. “It got me hooked, I guess,” he said. His father, Robert Carmichael, died last September; his mother, Barbara Jean Carmichael, still lives on the farm with her big yellow labrador — and the 40 or so cows Jim Carmichael milks “Jimmy has always every day. been one of the first The Carmichael family farm is a different operation now than ‘on scene’ in the it once was. It’s now mainly a Community Building dairy and grain farming opto help Mike and eration, with about 500 acres of corn, soybeans, wheat and hay, I get set up for the Jim Carmichael preps his dairy cows at his farm in Muncie. (Jordan Kartholl/ The Star Press) in addition to the cows. festival …” Watching kids seeing farm knew each other in school, but didn’t really connect The milk is currently going — Dee Chambers animals for the first time or even again until their 10th reunion, he noted. into Dannon Yogurt in Ohio. Of trying to milk a cow is always fun, the corn raised, about a third Their son, Zach, is working on a doctorate in hishe added. goes to feeding the cows, and tory at the University of Texas at Austin. Proudly “Jimmy has always been one of the rest goes on the market, listing his son’s academic accomplishments, Carmithe first ‘on scene’ in the Community Building to help chael notes that Zach had allergies as a youngster, Carmichael said. Mike and I get set up for the festival, whether it is As a student at Wapahani High School, Carmichael “so farming wasn’t going to work for him.” moving equipment into place, building the canopy for found he didn’t like “bookwork” that much, preferFor Carmichael, however, farming is “all I’ve ever the cracklin’s and kettle corn or helping to hang old ring the hands-on work of farming. “You can just done,” and it’s where his heart lies. Among changes hand tools on the side of the barn wall for display,” kind of be your own boss,” he said of his lifelong he’s seen over his years in agriculture, he cites the Dee Chambers said in an email. career as a farmer. options of pest-resistant seeds and changes to equip“We don’t even have to call Jimmy, he just shows Regarding drought, a rainy spring, other unconment, which in turn has led to “astronomical” costs. up, because that is just who he is!” trollable elements that affect farmers, Carmichael A retired brother lives nearby and helps out, As his father used to, Carmichael also provides noted, “You just kind of have to take the good with but Carmichael said he does much of the work some of Robert Carmichael’s antique tractors for the bad.” (And carry crop insurance, of course.) himself. The regular demands of farming, and Farm Fests, Chambers added. “We always seem to get it done,” he added. particularly livestock, dictate his schedule, to Carmichael said the tractors are always a hit with Carmichael got started working on the annual the point that he can help out with setup or some kids, who like to sit on them and pretend to drive Farm Festival through friends such as Michael and daytime things at the two days of Farm Fest at the them. “You have to remember to take the key out of Dee Chambers and Marshall Moore. Delaware County Fairgrounds, but not with the it so they won’t try to start it,” he noted with a smile. He appreciates how the event gives youngsters a evening activities. “Evening time, that’s milking Carmichael is married to Jennifer (Norris) Carlook at agriculture — and showing how a hitherto-untime for me,” he said. seen world connects to their lives. “They don’t have a michael, a speech therapist for Muncie Community Contact Robin Gibson at 213-5855. Schools and a fellow Wapahani graduate. The two clue where their food comes from,” he said.


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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 36 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Susan Lankford enjoys her involvement in the theater, even behind the scenes

Costumer’s work adorns stage at Civic By Ben Breiner


usan Lankford knew the feeling of performing on stage before she ever took a role at the Muncie Civic Theatre. She spent a portion of her undergraduate time at Indiana University as a clarinet major, but admitted there was a whole different sort of creative outlet when she stepped out from sitting among a group of musicians and took the center of attention that comes with acting. She came to theater looking for a new creative outlet, and now she takes a larger role in shaping the look of performances. Lankford currently serves as the costume coordinator for the Civic Theatre, managing a stock of costumes she said numbers well more than 1,000. During the day, she works “Susan puts in quite at Ball State University as the director for a bit of time and the Center for Historic Preservation, but when it comes to at the theater, she’s a board member and volunteer staffer. shows, she’s here As coordinator, she handles the duty cosevery night. Before tuming of some of the theater’s shows — a show opens, she she pegged the number between one-half and one-third — but that allows her to put comes in a couple a creative imprint on the show, while also nights a week, and working collaboratively with the director, Susan Lankford is the costume coordinator for the Civic Theatre. (Jordan Kartholl/ The Star Press ) spends some late production manager Sid Ullrich. But to reach this at the theater. “We all talk about the overall concept for nights every once point, she came down an She said she has not acted in a show since last the show,” Lankford said. “Sometimes we’ll and a while mending, unlikely path. spring, but planned to audition for “Fiddler on the do a show in a very traditional way, ... but especially evenings Lankford, an EvansRoof.” sometimes we might put a different spin ville Ind., native, started The most complex show she’d ever done was a on it.” before a show.” her college career as recent production of “Mame,” which called for 200 She described the role of costume coordi— Chris Griffith a clarinet major, but costumes, four or five for each chorus member and nator as mostly running the costume shop realized she really didn’t 15 for the titular character. and finding work for the theater’s many enjoy the instrument “Susan puts in quite a bit of time and when it volunteers. that much. She switched comes to shows, she’s here every night,” said Chris On a Wednesday evening in late Januto art history, earned Griffith, the theater’s business manager. “Before a ary, she swept into one of the high-ceiling her degree and went back to school to study historishow opens, she comes in a couple nights a week, rooms of the shop, filled with various costumes, cal preservation. and spends some late nights every once and a while asking an intern to help categorize costume pants by She said she had never done hands-on theater in mending, especially evenings before a show.” waist size. Lankford said organizing those was one either high school or college, but she had her first But all the work is worth it for her. Lankford said of the projects she’s working on, along with finding brush with it as an undergrad. she sees theater and the arts as carrying their own a new home for many of the women’s costumes and “Since I was a music student, I could go to the larger social benefit for Muncie. fur coats, which had been stored in an attic but were opera for free,” Lankford said. “I always went to “There have been several studies that show comdisintegrating because of heat in the room. munities with a large creative class, people who are Her job also includes coordinating costume rentals the opera and I loved the music, but I also loved the costumes even more.” interested in the arts and theater and drama and galfor the theater, both renting costumes from other Six years ago, she came to the Muncie Civic just leries, that sort of thing, those communities tend to sources and renting Civic’s out to local schools or looking to meet people, and started acting in various have economies that thrive much more than commuBall State. Lankford was directly responsible for shows. Three years ago with her background in sewnities without a large creative class,” Lankford said. costuming production of “The Odd Couple” (Feb. ing, she started altering or making her own costumes “Supporting the arts is very important to me both as a 8-Feb. 23), as well as “Southern Baptist Sissies” (Feb. and that helped lead to her role on the costuming side theater lover and as a historic preservationist.” 15-Mar. 2).

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 37 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Walmart ‘cart man’ is full of love O ne word sums up Larry Conyers of Winchester – Love. He loves people. He loves his job. He loves life. He just loves. It’s obvious whom he attributes that to. “My God, Jesus Christ. He showed me how to love people,” said Conyers, 62, leaning on a row of shopping carts in Winchester’s Walmart parking lot. Conyers, who refers to himself as “Larry the Cart Pusher,” has been the “cart man” for two years. Before that, he served as Walmart’s door greeter for eight years. Over time, he has come to know just about everyone who walks through the door. He is on a first-name basis with most of them. “They come up and say hi and compliment me,” he said. Conyers is about as dedicated as they come. “It takes a lot of dedication, and a lot of patience, and a lot of love for these people,“ he said.

FOR THE REAL STORY, GO ONLINE: Meet the Winchester Walmart’s most popular employee at Nearly everyone who passes by calls him by his first name. – Lathay Pegues, The Star Press

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 38 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Parent at her best when surrounded by kids By PHIL BEEBE


ysia Brown spends her work day with hundreds of kids as library technician at New Castle Middle School. And when her work day is finished, she is routinely surrounded by another group of students. Brown is one of the most visible parents at Blue River Jr.-Sr. High School, volunteering her time in many ways at the school where her two boys attend. “I’d rather be here than at home,” Brown said while reviewing her commitments for the coming week. “My kids are only going to be here for so long.” Brown, a Blue River grad along with her husband Todd, jumps at opportunities to help raise funds for a variety of programs at the school. She is currently the school’s chairperson for Market Day, one of two leading parents for the boys basketball program and in charge of a parent group raising money for the Class of 2014. When she’s not at a school event for one of those activities, she’s usually taking tickets or working the concession stand. “It’s very nice to have the parents that volunteer at any moment, like Mysia,” said BRV assistant principal Shane Osting, who has called on Brown many times when he has needed last-minute help. “She does the dirty work, takes phone calls, is available most anytime.” Brown tries to be sensitive to her kids’ feelings, too. Devon is a junior, and Noah is an eighth-grader. “I always ask the kids if they are embarrassed,” she said of her constant presence in their building and at their activities. But her desire to be involved is anchored in helping her boys and their classmates have the best opportunities, and helping the school as a whole. “I truly believe in this school,” said Brown, recently elected to the school board in her first try. Both of her sons are very involved in athletics, Devon starting for the varsity basketball team this year. Devon is also a National Honor Society member, and Noah is in Junior National Honor Society. And for Osting, parents such as Brown have made his transition to a new school easier. This is his first year at Blue River. “When you come into a new facility and a new community, it’s especially great to have parents that are familiar with everything and willing to help,” he said. Brown’s decision to run for a position on the

“It’s very nice to have the parents that volunteer at any moment, like Mysia. She does the dirty work, takes phone calls, is available most anytime.”— BRV assistant principal Shane Osting

school board is an extension of that desire to be involved and improve the community. “For years people have told me I should run,” she said. “I just felt like this was the right time.” “And plus, I get to embarrass Devon by putting my name on his diploma,” she said with a giggle. But the role of helping make important deci-

Mysia Brown is a library technician at New Castle Middle School. (Phil Beebe / The Star Press) sions as a board member are secondary to those volunteer opportunities. She can see first-hand the benefits gained from Market Day, a fundraiser that provides hundreds of dollars each month to the featured group, or in the basketball team bonding through team activities, or in a group of parents coming together to help raise money for a class of kids. “Do I think I will stop doing this when my kids are grown?” she asked. “No. I love attending the games and being around school activities.”


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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 40 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Joyce Mitchell will hit you with her best shot By Debra Sorrell


oyce Mitchell loves her job. And when you get her talking, her face lights up when she talks about the travel clinic that she leads for the Delaware County Health Department. Going on a trip? Need immunizations? Then you’ll probably be looking down the needle of Mitchell. What is your favorite part about your job? “The travel clinic,” she beams. “People used to have to go to Indy to get travel shots,” she said. “We started a program here offering adult vaccines and travel vaccines. “Travel vaccines are expensive. Some kids need them for school. Companies send people oversees for business. We usually do 35-40 vaccinations a month,” she said. “I have learned alot about geography. Since you deal so much with travel, where have you traveled to? “In 1998, I went to Europe and in 2007, I went to Belize. I’ve met a lot of nice people. What do you think is the biggest health epidemic in Delaware County? “Hepatitis C,” Mitchell answered emphatically. With drug problems rampant in the county, Mitchell said most of this comes from dirty needles and from being passed from parent to child. Part of Mitchell’s duties include being a Hepatitis C case investigator, calling on people who are infected, and finding their personal information — including who they have been in contact with, prior drug use and other issues.

MORE ONLINE To see a video of public health nurse Joyce Mitchell in action, go to

What has been your worst experience since working for the Delaware County Health Department? “After I first started, I had an unruly child at the Eaton clinic. I had to get down on the floor to give him his shot while he was being held down by his parents. Today, I wouldn’t do that,” she said. “Now we would just tell them to take them to their family doctor.” What is the most challenging part of your job? “It’s wanting to give the best possible care for clients, but I don’t have to have the staff and resources to do that.”

Bridget Flanigan gets a hepatitis B vaccination from Joyce Mitchell at the Delaware County Health Department office. (Kurt Hostetler / The Star Press) Where else would you like to travel? “I would like to go to Hawaii, the Holy Land, Africa and Australia. Guess what? I will get there. I’m optimistic,” she said. Tell me about your personal life? “I have been married for 38 years to Bishop H. Royce Mitchell. I have four grown children and six grandchildren.” Where did you work before the health department? “I worked in the critical care division in the emergency room at Ball Memorial Hospital.” She left in the hospital in 1994 for personal reasons. “I wanted to spend time with my family,” she said. Any thing you would like to add? “I try to stay positive. ... When I’m handed lemons, I make lemonade.” Contact Debra Sorrell at 213-5842.


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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 42 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Volunteer wants to see more people getting in gear with cycling

Kyle Johnson, wheel man By Michelle Kinsey


f you are a local cycling enthusiast, chances are you know Kyle Johnson. Johnson, who is the GIS Coordinator for the Delaware County Indiana Office of Geographic Information (in short, he’s the map guy), is one of the founders of Tour of Muncie, a popular community cycling event. (And, yes, in case you were wondering, he does ride his bike to and from work.) But look at any local bike-related effort – new trails going in at Prairie Creek or the push for bike lanes downtown – and you’ll find that Johnson helped set those wheels in motion. Two years ago, he also helped create a local cycling club, Machismo Cyclismo, which now boasts more than 20 members in five states. And on Monday nights, he meets up with other cyclists at Kirk’s Bike Shop for the Muncie Urban Night Ride. He says Muncie is a great place for cycling events. “We have the Greenway and now the bike lanes,” he noted. And plenty of things to see while peddling. Tour of Muncie events have included tours of community gardens, scavenger hunts, even a “I like getting people Thanksgiving-time ride (Cranksgiving, to be precise) that benefittogether for these ed a food pantry. There are winter events. And it’s nice and summer solstice rides. to see that we are “I like getting people together for these events,” he said. “And getting more and it’s nice to see that we are getting more people coming more and more people coming out out for them.” for them.” Kyle Johnson stands near a possible future bike trail near the Red-Tail Nature Preserve. Johnson Although he won’t admit it, he — Kyle Johnson volunteers to help build bike trails near Prairie Creek. (Patti Blake / The Star Press) has a knack for getting people inshooting the video at the events doing other stuff.” volved. And not just for cycling as well. Johnson actually started mountain biking in high events. As a conservationist, he’s Johnson grew up near Warsaw school and, well, never stopped. promoted everything from cleanHis bike collection is impressive. He has a mounups to trail clearings. As a musician, he puts togeth- and came to Muncie by way of Ball State University, where he earned a degree in natural resources. tain bike, a road bike, a commuter bike he rides to er Music with Friends gatherings. So it makes sense that Johnson would want to see work and two tandem bikes. “It’s just because I’m the one who has access to more people in the community getting in gear with He often rides with his wife, Joy, who has several computers,” he joked. bikes of her own. He happily sets up event web sites (with awesome cycling. For him, personally, it’s just fun. “The garage is pretty packed,” he said with a maps, of course) and posts regularly on Facebook “I’m not a big fan of working out or exercising, but laugh. “We can barely fit the car in there.” and Twitter. He designs the T-shirts and makes postContact reporter Michelle Kinsey at 213-5822. ers. And he’s usually the one taking the photos and I will ride my bike,” he said with a grin. “I get bored


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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 44 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

‘An ideal user’

The Greenway is home away from home for Jerall Ross By Ivy Farguheson


f you’ve ever ventured onto the Cardinal Greenway, chances are you’ve biked, run or walked by Jerall Ross. You might not have realized it — he moves pretty fast — but as a former maintenance staff member who is now a consistent volunteer referred to as “our Jerall” by Greenway Executive Director Angie Pool, Ross knows the importance of the trail. “I don’t like to think of one volunteer as better than the others because they all are so important to the trail and the work we do,” Pool “There are so many said. “But in terms of advocating, volunteering, donating, maintaining and actually being on the other volunteers who Jerall Ross rides his bike past the Wysor Street Depot. Ross is one of the Greenway’s trail, he’s the ideal user.” really inspire me. most active volunteers. (Patti Blake / The Star Press) When the Greenway began to become a realI mean, they do so ity a couple of decades ago, the Cowan native “Like it usu- The walk is a fundraiser for the Cardinal Greenway. was as excited as anyone about the trail system. much, a lot more than ally is when you’re “He creates the routes and makes sure they show As someone who regularly rode his bike to I do, I think . There around amazing off everything the trails have to offer. I don’t know New Castle or Anderson for the fun of it, he are so many great, volunteers, you get what we’d do without him.” found the idea of a rail-trail system closer to motivated,” he said. Ross isn’t one to bring attention to his own Grehis home hard to picture. great volunteers. I’m “I knew as soon as I enway efforts, choosing to serve in the background But when the visualizations were replaced by serious. I’m just glad was done working, on the various projects, letting others be in the spotreality, he’s made it his home away from home. to be around them.” I would give some light. “The Greenway gave me a place to use not of my time to the He’s the kind of man who serves mankind in a vaonly for exercise but as a road for transporta— Jerall Ross Greenway.” riety of formats: church, Meals on Wheels, the Gretion without worrying about cars,” Ross said. He adopted a enway. Service is a part of his DNA. “It was about safety, but it also became a place section of the trail But it’s not about the glamor of having others to socialize and have fun.” to clean regularly. know about it. Being there for other people — or for The Cardinal Greenway also provided Ross — a Marsh retiree after more than 30 years of work Ross also began volunteering for the maintenance trails — is just the right thing to do. team, the group he had led for a few years. It’s evident in his humility when addressing his — a place to put his college degree to good use. Before he knew it, Ross began taking his passion work with the local trail’s nonprofit. In 2000, Ross, now 66 years old, received his bach“There are so many other volunteers who really elor of science degree in natural resources. His for running races into his volunteer work, organizinspire me. I mean, they do so much, a lot more than overall plan was to work for a state park, but when ing routes for the trail’s race series. And when Walk Indiana, the area’s only non- I do, I think,” he said about his peers at the Cardinal he was offered the job as the first maintenance coordinator for Greenway, he jumped at the opportunity. competitive walking marathon, started nearly four Greenway. “There are so many great, great volunteers. I’m serious. I’m just glad to be around them.” For four years he worked in that position, learning years ago, Ross had to be a part of it. “I’ll say, he’s a blessing to Walk Indiana,” Pool said. Contact news reporter Ivy Farguheson at 213-5829. from local volunteers the fun of giving back to the trail.


The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013 • 45

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 46 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Sarah Lyttle has been teaching Tai Chi since 2009

Instructor brings healing to Muncie By Jordan Kartholl



To see a video of Sarah Lyttle in action, go to

Sarah Lyttle leads a Tai Chi class at Community for Vital Aging. Tai Chi is a meditative, low-impact exercise adapted from martial arts. Instructor Sarah Lyttle said she tries to help her students establish “tensegrity” or the correct balance of muscular tension and integrity. Right: Candy Ingle participates in a Tai Chi class at Community for Vital Aging. (Jordan Kartholl / The Star Press)

reaking a sweat, cardio, resistance and the “no pain, no gain” mantra are all ideas you won’t find in a Tai Chi class. Tai Chi is slow and deliberate, meditative and unorthodox enough for many to brush it off as yet another derivative of new age spirituality. But for accredited Tai Chi instructor Sarah Lyttle and her students, the physical benefits of the ancient exercise are as real as any you might find powering through daily sessions on an elliptical. “We are intricately and beautifully designed so that the smallest little movement can make an impact in bigger parts of the body.” Lyttle said of Tai Chi’s signature use of gentle, flowing gestures. Lyttle, who is the program coordinator for the Community for Vital Aging at Cornerstone Center for the Arts, said she had her first Tai Chi lessons while taking advantage of the Employee Working Well Program through Ball State in 2009. She has been teaching Tai Chi ever since. Local interest and the high rate of chronic disease in Muncie make the city a good environment to grow a community of Tai Chi practitioners, Lyttle said. “People are learning that more drugs and surgeries are not the only or often best answer,” Lyttle said. Of the slew of conditions reportedly eased by Tai Chi practice — arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, ADD and ADHD among others — Lyttle said her own students have returned from doctor’s visits with lowered heart rate and blood pressure counts they can only attribute to the martial art. Lyttle herself said Tai Chi prevented the need for prescription pills as well as disc replacement and neck fusion surgeries following a car accident she was involved in. “I hope to encourage people to listen “in” to pay attention to the subtle messages the body sends, the hints of stress and tension before it shouts at you with pain that will stop you in your tracks,” Lyttle said of her lessons. “Pain is a messenger that commands attention and respect.” Aside from leading classes at the Community Center for Vital Aging and presenting to conferences and organizations, Lyttle said she hopes to take advantage of warmer weather in the coming months by organizing an outdoor “refresher” course on Tai Chi. Contact photographer Jordan Kartholl at 213-5875.


The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013 • 47


48 • The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 49 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Jarod Walls has taught so many kids to swim, now he’s training former students as lifeguards

Swim instructor, coach at home in the pool By Ben Breiner


arod Walls had a rather inauspicious start in the pool. In sixth grade, he joined the swim team at Delta, and looking back he doesn’t sugarcoat things when he evaluates his swimming skills at the time. “Horrible at it,” Walls said recently. “(I) couldn’t even swim a length of the pool, held onto the lane line every two strokes.” But that did little to deter him. Since then, Walls has gone deep into the world of aquatics, holding down a variety of jobs across the year at local YMCAs and other organizations. He’s taught swimming lessons and an assortment of wellness classes, water safety classes, and he coaches the swim team at Delta. He’s worked as a lifeguard since he was 17, trained other lifeguards and coordinated them at events. It’s a field he enjoys and one that requires long days that start at 5:15 a.m., moving between different responsibilities. a Not that he minds that too much. “You don’t really realize it’s such a long day because you’re doing so many different things,” Walls said. After Walls’ initial foray into the pool, he had coaches who pushed him to improve. By the time he got to high school, he became interested in taking a lifeguarding class offered at Delta. After that, his mother asked where exactly he planned to work YMCA, described him as a jack of all trades, who as a lifeguard in February, and he pointed to the went from a lifeguard to someone who runs proobvious answer: the Downtown Muncie YMCA and grams and teaches others. She added he has an exits indoor pool. ceptional acumen for safety for someone his age, Walls bothered the aquatics coordinator enough and he seems extremely in tune with values and for a job, and things took off from there. ideals the Y focuses on as an organization. At most he’s held seven different jobs at one “This seems to be where his strengths lie and time, six related to the field of aquatics. During the where his passion is,” Clark said. “He just likes summers, he manages at the Delaware Country working with people and helping people attain their Club, and he coaches at Delta in the winter. He’s goals.” helped manage or been involved with every triathAnd he seems to show little interest in leaving lon at Prairie Creek Reservoir since his sophomore that path. year. Year-round he’s at the Y, managing, running After finishing high school, Walls looked at the the certification program for lifeguards and teach- Ball State aquatics program, but saw it would reing classes, among his other duties. quire him to take drawn-out versions of the certiOne recent project centered on retraining the fication classes he had finished at age 15 and was YMCA lifeguards from Red Cross certification to a actually teaching at that point. He opted to take certification set by the Y itself. classes at Ivy Tech Community College and earn And the growth Walls has had through the YMCA a degree in business administration. Long-term, is not lost on those around him. he wants to earn a bachelor’s degree in the field of Cathy Clark, CEO and president of the Muncie parks and recreation.

“This seems to be where his strengths lie and where his passion is. He just likes working with people and helping people attain their goals.” — Cathy Clark

Jarod Walls coaches Delta swimmer at the Jay County sectionals. (Patti Blake / The Star Press)

But all that would feed into working in aquatics and remaining in the non-profit realm. He said he saw the for-profit world through business classes and had no real interest in it. Instead he focused on the work he enjoys, such as teaching and the health and wellness aspects of his jobs. He noted it allowed him help people such as a bariatric client who worked with him attain the level of fitness necessary to do simple things like play sports at her church or play with her kids without getting winded. Now he’s been in aquatics for so long, he’s starting to see connections form though his many endeavors. Some of the kids he taught to swim or coached are now coming to his lifeguard certification classes, and some of their parents are even taking the plunge to find out adulthood is not too late to learn to swim. It’s a long way from that sixth-grade swimmer, the one unsure in the water and grabbing hold of the lane line every couple of strokes. Contact Ben Breiner at (765) 213-5848.

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 50 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Librarian making impact on youth By Ashley L. Conti


f you have a child in the Muncie area, chances are you have been to the Maring-Hunt Library and met the youth services supervisor, Emily Hartsfield. The 26-year-old Ohio native’s bubbly personality is contagious to everyone around. But Hartsfield didn’t always know she wanted to be a librarian. After graduating from Clemson University with a degree in marketing, Hartsfield worked for a year in Dayton as a radio salesperson. “I loved working with people — I didn’t like the sales aspect of it,” she explained. After finding a job for a librarian in Muncie, Hartsfield decided to apply. “I fell in love with it. The interview was great, and they really took the time to make me feel welcome, and I’ve felt that way ever since my first day here,” said Hartsfield. “I’ve always loved libraries, and I never thought originally of myself working in a library, but I got to a point where that was really something I wanted to do.” Now, three years later, the MaringHunt Library children’s programs have blossomed. “She is fabulous,” said co-manager of the Maring-Hunt Library Donna Catron. “When we were interviewing for the job, it was an endless process, for several months we just weren’t finding anybody. She was exactly who I pictured (for the job) — enthusiastic, very positive, just very caring about the children. It’s scary to hire somebody new. I was so impressed with her from the interview that I was fairly certain she’d do well at the job.” Hartsfield doesn’t just do her job; she goes above and beyond her duties as a librarian. “Within a couple of weeks of working here she was already driving around and trying to connect to some


To see a video of Emily Hartsfield in action, go to

Emily Hartsfield plays music with children during story time at the Maring-Hunt Library. Hartsfield has been the youth services supervisor at the library for three years. After graduating with a degree in marketing, Hartsfield realized she wanted to work more with people and applied for the job at the library. Since starting at the library, Hartsfield has been enthusiastic with the library’s outreach efforts and has helped increase the number of applicants for summer readings. (Ashley Conti / The Star Press)

of the day cares. She’s been very enthusiastic about our outreach efforts, going to day cares, schools, and working with teachers next door with the kindergarten classes to invite them into the library,” explained Catron. “She’s done wonderful with our summer reading, our numbers just keep increasing.”

Her love for the children, and her job is evident. “I love my job, I love what I do, so I just try to do my best every day,” explained Hartsfield. “It’s a great feeling to know that where you’re working you are making a difference.” Hartsfield is also a member of the Indiana Library Federation and has

served as the secretary on the Children’s and Young People’s Division. In 2011 she was awarded the outstanding new librarian award. “It’s not just Muncie she’s impacting,” explained Catron. “I think she’s making an impact on the state.” Contact photographer Ashley L. Conti at 213-5817.


The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013 • 51

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 52 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Teamwork has new meaning under Winchester coach By Michael Bennett


for The Star Press

he’s got spirit, yes she does. Emily Schaeffer’s cheery, hard-working personality is evident in every busy role of her life. She’s a physical education teacher. She’s a new mom. She’s an active partner with her husband in a showcattle operation near Hagerstown. And, in her most public role, she’s the head coach for cheerleaders at Winchester High School. Her teams practice after school and appear at every junior varsity and varsity football and basketball game. In Emily’s world, a full-time job is just a pregame warm-up. When the 28-year-old gets home, there are cattle to be fed and washed and calves to be birthed and nurtured. On most weekends when her cheerleaders aren’t performing, she and husband, Tim, attend cattle shows. All of the roles are second-nature, she said: “I grew up around a farm and always being on the go.” “My parents instilled Her parents, Phil and Ruth Zicht, run a bean in me great values as and corn farm north of Winchester. They also a person. If you ask have some cattle. Phil is a teacher and Ruth recently retired after any girl on my team, The Schaeffer family coaches Winchester’s cheerleading squad. (Jordan Kartholl / The Star Press) more than three decades of teaching. One reason they will tell you that “She’s done an awe- and my sister on my team. Our cheerleading program she retired was to be there for her daughter. “I I value hard work some job,” said Win- is successful at Winchester because I have them.” know what it was like to be a young mother, have chester Principal The tradition of success reaches back to when Emkids and be on a farm,” Zicht said. “My mother and commitment. Tom Osborn. ily and Liz were leading the way to state and national kept my kids.” With that comes Actually, they’ve championships. Zicht brings 14-month-old Braylen to cheersuccess.” done a great job, he Schaeffer said Karla Reed deserves credit for buildleader practices. But, babysitting is not the main then quickly noted ing the Winchester squad. “She took over when I was a reason: Ruth helps coach the team. — Emily Schaeffer about the family freshman. She built it (and) I kept it going,” Schaeffer And so does her 25-year-old daughter, Liz King, coaching trio that said. who works – in family tradition – as a teacher in joined together in Reed is now assistant principal at the high school. Union City, Ind. 2008. “They are The sisters participated together on Winchester’s “It’s family time, together time, that I really very loyal,” Osborn said. “They make it all work.” JamFest High School National champion team in 2003 love,” Zicht said. “It keeps me young.” Schaeffer returns the compliments: “Our admin- and on the state ICA Division 2 state title team in 2002. She’s proud of her daughters “for stepping up and They then helped lead Ball State to a historically high doing extra things. It does take a lot of time, but it’s istration is awesome (with support),” she said. “The success with a seventh-place finish in the 2008 UCA Dialways worth it to give back and work with young peo- community has taken it on, too.” Team members construct themed student sections vision 1A National Championships in Orlando, Fla. ple.” Both were gymnasts as young girls, but Winchester Zicht was a cheerleader in high school. Her daugh- and coordinate timeout entertainment with the band. ters were both champion cheerleaders for Winchester “(Those) get the crowd involved in the game,” she said. doesn’t field a team in that sport. Their parents supAnd the home crowds definitely get into the basket- ported them by attending every competition. High School and then for Ball State. The sisters learned at a young age that it took hard “It’s what we do, what we love,” Schaeffer said about ball games held in the Winchester Fieldhouse, a place that epitomizes the old-style Indiana basketball scene. work to become a champion. “My parents instilled in the shared family interests. Her coaching role includes a lot more than teaching The fans are loud and obviously proud of their Golden me great values as a person. If you ask any girl on my team, they will tell you that I value hard work and comchants, jumps and tumbling maneuvers to 18 girls. She Falcons. The team size of 12 varsity and six junior varsity mitment,” Schaeffer said. “With that comes success.” strives to model a championship style as much as instill cheerleaders is strong for a smalltown school. “When She doesn’t plan to end the busy combination of lifelong values of hard work, teamwork and caring. Schaeffer also helps coordinate game-night ac- you work hard and have success, it draws people,” coaching, teaching, parenting and farming for a while tivities with the pep band and the cheer block. “The explained Schaeffer. “You also want to keep it fun for yet. “I get to see my mom and my sister nearly every day and spend time doing something we love together,” team really puts in a lot of time trying to build spirit them so they want to come back.” Having family members share in coaching duties Schaeffer explains. “As for now, it’s part of our life and throughout the school,” she said. She started coaching at Winchester while still at- makes it fun for her. “It was the perfect fit,” Schaeffer it’s what we enjoy. It keeps us close as a family, and at tending Ball State and took over as head coach in 2007. said. “I could not imagine coaching without my mom the end of the day, family is what’s important.”


The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013 • 53

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 54 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press



ho knew there was a wolf den inside Montpelier School? The students in Michelle Wolf’s art class certainly know and they look forward to entering the “den” every chance they get. “The students just played off of my name and started calling it the Wolf Den,” Wolf said. “So it’s just sort of stuck.” Wolf recalled doing “cookie cutter”-type art when she was a young student, saying there wasn’t much room for creativity, problem solving or thinking outside the box. “These are the skills our children need to excel in school and in their future occupations.” Wolf said. “Therefore, there is no better time like now to teach our children these skills through art education.”

FOR THE REAL STORY, GO ONLINE: There’s a wolf den in Montpelier and you’re going to want to see it. Check out the photo gallery and a video online at — Photos by Kurt Hostetler, The Star Press


The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013 • 55

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 56 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Earl Davis and Vernon Jackson:

Security guards keeping people safe By Jordan Kartholl


uns, pepper spray, brass knuckles, screwdrivers, scissors, switch blades and small animals are a just a few of the things security bailiffs Captain Earl Davis and Vernon Jackson watch for at the doors of the Delaware County Building each day. “Knives,” Jackson said “Knives are the most common thing we have to stop people for.” The duo have a combined 60 years of law enforcement experience; experience they said they put to use each minute of their eight-hour, Monday-through-Friday shifts. “You have to be alert to everything that’s going on around you to do this job successfully,” Jackson said. Stopping threats at the door is complex and intense enough to keep anyone busy, but Jackson and Davis’ duty extends beyond the area immediately surrounding the facility’s X-ray scanner and metal detectors, they said. Security bailiffs are required to respond to threats anywhere on Delaware County property, whether that means removing an unruly visitor from a second floor office or chasing and subduing a potentially armed individual in the parking lot. “I really think that we have to put our safety on the line for the good of the bigger picture almost on a daily basis,” Davis said “You have to be on your toes all day long, you can never take time off from this job.” The job can be dangerous and the effort often goes unnoticed, but for Jackson and Davis, knowing they have the ability to preserve the safety of others, is what keeps them vigilant. “It gives you a sense of feeling good when you know that with all the turmoil that’s going on around the world … people can come in here and feel safe,” Jackson said. Contact photographer Jordan Kartholl at 213-5875.


For a taste of the heavy traffic handled each day by Jackson and Davis at the Delaware County Building’s metal detectors, check out our video at

Earl Davis and Vernon Jackson work their shift at the Delaware County Building. The duo have more than 60 years of combined police service. (Jordan Kartholl / The Star Press)


The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013 • 57

Director Robby Tompkins takes the stage at the Edmund Burke Ball Auditorium at Cornerstone Center for the Arts. (Jordan Kartholl / The Star Press)

Director helps thousands express themselves Robby Tompkins loves the arts By Seth Slabaugh Name: Robby Tompkins.

Age: 31 Occupation: Director, Cornerstone Center for the Arts, offering classes in the arts, including dance, visual arts, music, fitness, theater, writing and more in a historic setting at 520 E. Main St. Also hosts weddings and receptions, proms, company workshops, parties and conferences. How did you become director? “I started out as director of education here in 2006. At the time, we looked at what we can do to bring Cornerstone more prevalent into the community and expand the programming. We had 120 students that summer. From there we’ve gone up to where we now have over 600 students a semester. At the time, we were only offering 20, 22 classes. Now we offer 54 classes. My predecessor decided to move on, so I was brought in as the interim director. I served in the interim capacity for just over a year. The board proposed that I take on the position permanently. That was last year in July.” Where did you grow up? “I’m from Rushville, Ind.” Did you go to college? “I went to Taylor University.” What did you do after college? “My mom actually was ill, so I came home to care for her. I got some part-time jobs consulting with some theaters. My degree is in theater and film. I also studied non-profit administration at Taylor. I started doing things with their (Rushville’s) theater community group. We created an arts council in Rush County. I was one of the founding board members of that. I started looking for a position and found Cornerstone. It was a year after college.” Why did you major in theater and film? “Directing is what I focused on. I love directing plays and have always been active with local theaters and civic theaters. So Muncie Civic Theatre I direct as a volunteer. It’s a lot of fun to be involved, be creative and express myself. I was active in leadership throughout high school and college — Boy Scouts and non-profits. My professor saw that and thought to cultivate me to the concept of seeing the larger picture.” How did you become a high school leader? “I was involved in clubs like the Spanish Club, honor society, things that got me active in school, helping out local community groups, Habitat for Humanity, just getting that connection and being around other people who could inspire me to be a leader.” What do you think of this building? “We’re so proud to have this historic facility. The building was built in the 1920s as a Masonic Temple. The five Ball Brothers commissioned and paid for the first floor. Our auditorium is actually the Edmund Burke Ball Auditorium. The Ball Brothers have supported this facility from day one, as Masons and then the family lineage has continued to support us through the foundations. They’ve been very generous.” Or this might have been torn down? “It was thanks to Ed Ball we were able to keep the building and open it up. Many of the sections had laid dormant or were closed off for years and years when it wasn’t being used.” Is the entire building being used now? “We use the entire building. We occupy this floor and the floor below us and then the first two floors. We are on four now. Five and six are the Masons. They are renting here. The whole building is in use. Literally every storage room, every basement corner.” What do you do for fun? “Directing plays. And with a degree in film, I enjoy movies. I love going down to the Heartland Film Festival and seeing some independent films.” What are your favorite films? “I’m a big fan of Wes Anderson films. He’s got such a quirky style. Like ‘Royal Tenenbaums.’ Bill Murray is in several of them. I also love hero movies, like ‘The Avengers.’ I’m kind of a comic book nerd, I guess you’d call me, when it comes to some of that stuff.” What do you like about your job? “We always strive to be creative, to reach the community. We reach so many people that are under-served or have no opportunity for art or creativity or expression. It’s fun to see, especially the family setting, when you have the children and the parents taking classes as well. Our slogan is ‘Explore, create, escape.’ We have weddings here as well as wedding receptions every year. This is a place where memories are created. Literally over 100,000 people a year come through our doors. Escape the every day. Get out of the boring routine of life.” Why did you go to Taylor? “I was heavily involved in the church when I was younger, and Taylor of course is a Christian university. My original intention was to go into a para-church organization. I studied along those lines. Then around mid-college I shifted to an arts focus. I grew up with music and art. I was in choir and band from the fifth grade up.” What church did you grow up in? “Baptist.” What do your parents do? “My mother is a proofreader editor at a small newspaper in Knightstown. My father works at the National Guard Academy, a state facility that trains at-risk youth, giving them the ability to earn their high school diploma. He’s a state employee. My brother works at the academy as well.” Contact news reporter Seth Slabaugh at 213-5834.

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 58 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Top: Jamie Banks cuts down wild bush honeysuckle at a nature preserve near Winchester. Banks volunteers with several different organizations throughout the Muncie community. Above left: Jamie Banks smiles during a planning meeting at the Wysor Depot. (Patti Blake / The Star Press)

One woman, a dozen causes “She’s just so dedicated to the Greenway ... Her help always makes our events go so much smoother. We’re very lucky to have the good group of volunteers that we have, but Jamie is always there when I call her.” — Angie Pool

By Patti Blake



o say that Jamie Banks does a lot of volunDon’t think you have time teer work would be a massive understateto volunteer? Meet Jamie ment. Banks, a Muncie local The Muncie local smiled broadly when who dedicates time to asked for a list of the places she finds time to help with. “Let’s see, there’s the Cardinal Greenways, Redvolunteering with several Tail Land Conservancy, American Multi-Sport, Munorganizations year-round. cie Delaware Clean And Beautiful …” she paused afCheck out an online video ter ticking off each name on a finger. in which Banks leads a “Oh!” she said, remembering with a laugh that she also leads a mini marathon-training group on Saturmini-marathon training day mornings. group, cuts down wild bush That’s right, leading a mini-marathon training honeysuckle at a nature preserve and plans group is how Banks spends each Saturday morning. events with the Cardinal Greenway. Banks also She chooses a route for the group and leads a sometalks about taking time to volunteer and how it times-six-maybe-more mile run through Muncie. “It’s a great group,” she said of the runners. “We makes her happy. have a lot of fun.” “She’s just so dedicated to the Greenway ... Her help always makes our events go so much smoother,” said the executive director of the Cardinal Greenway Angie Pool. She bubbled over with good things to say trails for hikers, Banks works for Praxis Consulting, a loabout Banks. cal insurance consulting company. “We’re very lucky to have the good group of volunteers The company has also recently won an award from that we have,” she said. “But Jamie is always there when Muncie Delaware Clean and Beautiful for its work to the I call her.” outside of the building. Bank’s favorite group to help out with just so happens “I feel like we’ve made a difference,” she said. Banks to be run by her husband, Barry. Together, they help oper- said that many people have commented on the flowers ate the Red-Tail Land Conservancy. This type of volunteer outside of the building and how they improve the landwork can involve anything from clearing out wild bush scape. “It really makes you feel good,” she said. honeysuckle from nature preserves to picking up litter. “I just think it’s fun,” she said of the hours she donates “He really helps Muncie and the surrounding communi- to the community. “I’m a people person, and I love being ty,” she said. outside.” When she isn’t busy training for marathons or clearing Contact photographer/ reporter Patti Blake at 213-5874.


The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013 • 59

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 60 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

J Daycare owner builds tight relationships with children

aynie McCullum, owner of Precious Hearts Development Center, gives a high-five to one of her students after he spells and reads words in an activity book. It’s obvious she’s just as excited as the kids when they make an accomplishment. “I love kids,” said McCullum, owner and founder of Precious Hearts, which has been in operation for 13 years. But her daycare experience dates back to 1976, when she landed her first job at Play-n-Stuff. She would later take a position at Huffer Memorial Children’s Center. McCullum says one important aspect of her teaching philosophy is to hold parents just as accountable as her students. “Some parents don’t know how to be parents. Some parents weren’t parented,” she said. “So they need to be educated on some of the things that are most valuable for a child to succeed.”

FOR THE REAL STORY, GO ONLINE: Janie McCullum has that special touch with children you simply have to see. Check out how she makes reading time fun for her students in this special video at

— Lathay Pegues, The Star Press


The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013 • 61

Walk INDIANA September 14, 2013

You don’t have to do it alone!

• Visit for personal training schedules, group training dates, photo galleries and stories from past events and other handy information.

• Friend “Walk Indiana” on Facebook for daily tips, motivational messages, to converse with other walkers and get the latest news as you prepare. Current Training Schedules: • Wednesdays: Now through Sept. 11 at 5:15 p.m. at the Downtown Y in Muncie. Free. • Tuesdays: Now through Sept. 10 at 5:15 p.m. at IU Health Blackford Hospital. Free. • Beginning March 9, Second Saturday of every month at 8:15 a.m. from the Cardinal Depot. Free. Chart your health progress with free health checks at 8:00 a.m.

Sept. 14, 2013 •

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DIRECTIONS 2013 EVERYDAY HEROES 62 • Sunday, March 24, 2013, The Star Press

Dennis Conwell, 40, takes great pride in preparing historic building for each event

Fieldhouse custodian knows ‘every nook and cranny’ By Andrew Walker


Dennis Conwell has been a custodian at the Muncie Fieldhouse for nearly 20 years. (Ashley Conti / The Star Press)

is shifts begin early in the morning and his days can be long, but Dennis Conwell wouldn’t have it any other way. For about 20 years, Conwell has been the keeper of one of the most historic and beloved buildings in the area: the Muncie Fieldhouse. Through the years, Conwell said the crowds have gotten smaller and certain familiar faces have come and gone, but the custodian’s colleagues say Conwell still treats every game as if it were a sellout. “Dennis will do anything to help make the events successful,” said Central High School principal Tom Jarvis, who worked alongside Conwell as Central’s athletic director for 10 years. “He’s always willing to help.” Conwell says he has a deep-rooted respect for local athletics and the Muncie Fieldhouse that keeps him motivated to come in at 7 a.m. each morning and oftentimes, depending on the event that evening, start heading home more than 12 hours later. A Southside High School graduate, Conwell said the annual basketball clashes between Central and South at the Fieldhouse hooked him at an early age. “There wasn’t anything better than coming up here and beating the Bearcats,” Conwell recalled. “Back then, it seemed like every odd year was our year.” But Conwell’s allegiances began to change by the time he turned 19 and was hired on as a Fieldhouse custodian. Eventually, he would find himself traveling to just about every Central boys basketball game, including their deep postseason runs in the mid-2000s. “He’s a Rebel, but he bleeds purple,” Jarvis said. Conwell agreed with that sentiment, saying he’s now a Bearcat at heart. “No doubt about it,” Conwell said. “When I started here – heck I was 19, 20 years old – I caught a lot of crap like, ‘You’re a traitor.’ I didn’t care – heck, they were paying me to do a job.”

Conwell displays a sense of pride as he takes a reporter on a tour of the Fieldhouse, which in December will celebrate its 85th anniversary of hosting athletic contests as well as annual local events such as the Christmas Sing, the Old Timers basketball sectional and Walk a Mile in My Shoes. Conwell’s keys open every door in the building, and, as Jarvis put it, he knows “every nook and cranny.” “He knows where everything is,” Jarvis said. “So that helps an athletic director or anyone else that’s working an event or practice who doesn’t have the hassle of trying to figure out where to find what they need.” As he shows off some of the less-visible rooms in the building – such as the officials’ locker room, various storage areas and a former trade school area upstairs – Conwell said he’d put the Fieldhouse up against any other facility in the state. “It’s not anything fancy, but it gets the job done – it’s a good building,” Conwell said of the Fieldhouse. “This building is definitely utilized, that’s for sure.” In the spring and summer months – when activities in the Muncie Fieldhouse slow down considerably – Conwell turns his focus to Central’s other athletic facilities, such as the football stadium, Ball Recreational Field, the baseball facility, Gene Bottorff Memorial Field, and the soccer and softball fields. Conwell, 40, also finds time to fuel his other personal interests. He’s heavily involved in his daughter’s travel softball schedule, and he coaches baseball for the Richmond Post 65 American Legion team. Conwell even had a successful one-year stint as the head baseball coach at Monroe Central in 2009, winning a sectional title before resigning to spend more time with his family, which includes his wife, Misty; son, Brandon; and daughter, Karli. It’s Conwell’s passion for sports and his family that has left its mark over the years, Jarvis said. “I think anybody you talk to would say Dennis is just a great guy,” he said. Contact reporter Andrew Walker at 213-5845. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewWalkerTSP.


The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013 • 63


64 • The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013

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The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013 • 65


66 • The Star Press • Sunday, March 24, 2013

Directions 2013: Everyday Heroes  

We’re known for our people here in East Central Indiana. In a community like ours, you must be extraordinary to stand out among the crowd....

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