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s Judge Marianne Vorhees takes the bench to begin a series of hearings in criminal cases, most seats in her courtroom are occupied. The jury box is full, not of jurors, but of criminal defendants, a dozen men clad in orange and white jail uniforms. Each man’s ankles are linked with chains, with his hands both cuffed and connected to a waist belt. In the courtroom gallery are friends and relatives of those prisoners, other criminal defendants who were able to secure their release from custody while awaiting trial, and about a half-dozen defense attorneys. What will prove to be a long morning of hearings begins with Vorhees talking via speaker phone with a non-present inmate’s attorney, asking for a continuance as the inmate pursues treatment for drug addiction. A few yards away, sheriff’s deputies have instructed one of the prisoners to join public defender Ron Smith in the gallery. Smith asks his prospective client a series of a ques9-10 a.m.: Delaware tions. “Have you ever been diagnosed with any mental Circuit Court 1 health problems?” he begins. Another public defender, John Quirk, sits at the defense table with his client, a young Muncie man facing drug-related charges. Quirk tells the judge he is engaged in “ongoing negotiations” with Deputy Prosecutor Diane Frye, who sits with a Community Corrections employee at the prosecution table. While a plea bargain might be in the works, for now the trial of Quirk’s client will remain set for mid-April. Public defender Jake Dunnuck and another drug defendant take the defense table, and Dunnuck reports he’s “pretty sure” his client’s two pending cases will soon be “wrapped up” with an agreement. Vorhees moves on to a pre-trial hearing for another Dunnuck client, but it ends abruptly. “He has not arrived yet,” the attorney tells the judge. Felony charges The next hearing sees Vorhees revoke the susTotal felony criminal charges pended sentence of a young man who has tested filed in Delaware County courts positive for cocaine three times since his August during 2010: convictions on forgery, fraud and battery charges. ❙ Circuit Court 1: 238. “Judge, all I would like to say is I’m sorry,” the ❙ Circuit Court 2: 244. 28-year-old defendant says. “Other than using the ❙ Circuit Court 3: 290. past five years, I’ve been doing the best I can.” ❙ Circuit Court 4: 276. He pleads for “one more chance.” His mother ❙ Circuit Court 5: 249. testifies that he has been considered “a good The cases are filed on a rotating worker” at a local restaurant, but concedes to basis based on the month in which Deputy Prosecutor Frye that his employers were an alleged crime occurs. probably unaware of his drug use. “I think Thomas need inpatient treatment,” the Community Corrections worker says. “I think he wants to be clean; I just don’t think he can while he’s out.” Vorhees agrees, telling the defendant that serving a six-year sentence in prison, rather than on probation, is “going to be your best option” given his repeated drug use. A man jailed on a driving-while-intoxicated charge is called to the defense table, and is told he is a candidate to be placed on electronic home detention while he awaits resolution of the case, part of a program aimed at reducing jail overcrowding. That man, however, elects to remain in jail. “It’s just not possible,” he tells the judge.” I live with my parents. I’m not going to put that embarrassment on them.” — Douglas Walker

OSEYE T. BOYD / THE STAR PRESS

9-10 a.m.: No such thing as ‘strangers’

Almost as quickly as the order is taken, it appears from the kitchen, a member of the wait staff softly smiling as he or she sets the plate of piping hot food in front of the customer. The customer smiles back, eager to dig in. That’s pretty much how it goes for the next hour at Eva’s Pancake House. It’s 9 a.m. at Eva’s, and while the place isn’t packed, it’s not empty either. There’s a continual flow of customers, keeping the employees busy but not overwhelmed. About five booths near a window looking out on Wheeling Avenue are occupied — people there with family, spouse, a friend or alone. Besides the music piping in from the internal system, the place is pretty quiet. Almost peaceful, if a restaurant can be described as such. No need to compete with others or loud music to be heard. Every once in a while the voice of a little girl in a highchair can be heard. Two TVs — one in front, the other in back — play, but the sound is muted. The sound of clanking dishes as plates are emptied serves as a reminder of the location. Manager Dave Lawless keeps a watchful eye on everything, making sure customers are greeted as they come in. Lawless also has his eye on the plants at Eva’s, taking time to water them. The economy has changed the restaurant business but recovery is in sight, Lawless says. “Regulars aren’t as regular,” Lawless says. “Where they were regular every day, now they may be regular twice a week. I see a slow process of people are starting to come back a little more often.” One regular, Buck Deacon, stops in this Wednesday morning to grab some of his favorite food and meet a friend. “It’s a neat place,” Deacon says. “Atmosphere is nice.” That atmosphere is one where strangers become acquaintances. As a woman, who has been sitting with her husband, puts her coat on, she stops and stoops down to talk to the little girl sitting behind her. Introductions with the other adults at the table are made, and the three chat as if they were old friends before the woman and her husband leave. — Oseye T. Boyd


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22E • Sunday, March 20, 2011 www.thestarpress.com

LEFT: Mattie Wallace finishes up washing Renee Peak’s hair at Hair Matterz. BELOW LEFT: Mattie Wallace gets a hug from long-time customer Sandra Rowe at Hair Matterz. Rowe used to babysit Wallace when she was just 3 years old. PHOTOS BY KURT HOSTETLER / THE STAR PRESS

10-11 a.m.: Conversation matters

Decorated with an animal print rug, two dryers, a loveseat and two chairs on the opposite end of Wallace’s station, the room is anything but quiet. Customers talk freely to each other, catching up on the latest happenings. Wallace joins in the conversation, sharing stories and laughs with the woman in her chair.

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n a small room tucked away in the back of Hair Matterz, Mattie Wallace holds court. Wallace is a hairstylist, and everyone who walks in her “office” is there so she can work magic on them. And work her magic she does. Already this morning, Wallace is juggling three clients — one in her chair, another waiting to be rinsed and another under a dryer — when a fourth walks in. Later, another client running a few minutes behind, calls to let Wallace know. No big deal, Wallace tells her. She has plenty going on. Such is the life of a hairdresser or beautician or hairstylist. No matter which title one chooses, the outcome is the same: women are transformed when they sit in that chair. As the woman under the dryer reads a book, Wallace curls the hair of the woman in her chair. As soon as she finished with the curls, she moves the waiting customer to the shampoo room. After she’s finished in the shampoo room, the woman moves into the chair — Wallace’s chair — right in front of her station. It’s the chair where Wallace does her work. She grabs some hair gel and gets busy, twisting and parting hair into the client’s desired style. On her table, next to various magazines, hair supplies and other things a hairdresser needs, sits a hair oven with what looks like every curling iron a beau-

tician would ever need. Decorated with an animal print rug, two dryers, a loveseat and two chairs on the opposite end of Wallace’s station, the room is anything but quiet. Customers talk freely to each other, catching up on the latest happenings. Wallace joins in the conversation, sharing stories and laughs with the woman in her chair. From the conversations, it’s easy to tell there’s a familiarity between the women. Longtime clients of Wallace’s, the women bump into each other at the shop. Wallace also has a magazine rack. This is no normal magazine rack, however. Sure there are entertainment magazines lining the shelves, but more importantly there are hair magazines featuring the latest, hottest cuts, colors and hairstyles. Clients often flip through the pages, looking for a new ’do. Throughout the hour, Wallace continues the juggling of customers. When she finishes styling the hair of the client in the chair, she moves her to the dryer and the woman under the dryer to the chair, where she removes hair rollers and styles. Once Wallace is done with that client, she takes her next waiting client to the shampoo bowl to wash her hair. As if on cue, just as the shampoo is finished, another client walks in the door. — Oseye T. Boyd


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24E • Sunday, March 20, 2011 www.thestarpress.com

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he volunteers at Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana’s warehouse work with assembly-line efficiency to fill grocery bags for needy schoolchildren. The seven or eight workers walk one by one past a gauntlet of food-laden skids — cookies, graham crackers, macaroni and cheese, rice, fruit packs — using one hand to hold the plastic Marsh bag while the other one stuffs it. “Two milks and then one of each of everything else,” volunteer Tonnee Wilson says. They then pass the full bags off to Kevin Ross, who 10-11 a.m.: counts as he lightly tosses them into a huge cardboard Feeding the hungry box with the number 176 on the side, his goal number. “Seventy-one. Seventytwo,” he counts. In 2010, Second Harvest provided almost 9 million pounds of food to needy people in eight counties in East Central Indiana. The agency relies heavily on volunteer power. Last year, volunteers from across the community, including churches, Ball State University and Delaware County Community Corrections, put in 10,000 hours of unpaid work. On this Wednesday, the warehouse crew includes 14 volunteers at three stations, four part-time employees and only one full-time employee. Two men operate forklifts nonstop, pulling goods off two trailers parked in receiving bays. The temperature in the warehouse is just 55 degrees, meaning that workers wear coats and hooded sweatshirts, but it still beats working outside in 14-degree weather. At the far end of the 30,000-foot facility, four volunteers break down 40-pound boxes of sweet potatoes into portions more suitable for a single family, tossing bad and broken potatoes into a large bin. In between, stacks of Huggies diapers and other necessities stretch 15 feet into the air. The quantities seem enormous, but Operations Director Joe Fox explains they won’t stay warehoused for long. “It turns so quick,” he said. — Nick Werner

Second Harvest by the numbers

1983: The year Second Harvest incorporated. 8: The number of counties in East Central Indiana served by the local Second Harvest. 110: The number of programs Second Harvest provides food for, including 65 church food pantries and a number of soup kitchens, shelters and after-school programs. 205: The number of food banks such as Second Harvest across the United States. 8.7 million: Pounds of food donated by Second Harvest last year. 10,000: Hours of unpaid work volunteers performed for Second Harvest in 2010.

Jeremy Babb sorts sweet potatoes at Second Harvest Food Bank on Feb. 9. NICK WERNER / THE STAR PRESS


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26E • Sunday, March 20, 2011 www.thestarpress.com

11 a.m.-noon Whirlwind of activity

About Huffer

❙ Huffer Memorial Children’s Center opened in 1972. ❙ Some of the 16 teachers have been working at the center for more than 30 years; others have been serving children at Huffer for less than 10 years. ❙ In January, the agency opened a new room for infants, welcoming eight babies into the center. The baby program will expand in March to include two new rooms.

“I think I can speak for all of us when I say we care first and foremost for children and their growth. We want them to grow up to be all they can be and that means providing them with opportunities now to reach their goals. We all love these children.” — PAULA MORRIS

IVY FARGUHESON / THE STAR PRESS

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aula Morris has quite a few perks as the program director for Huffer Memorial Children’s Center. As she sits in the agency’s new baby room, rocking an eight-month-old baby girl to sleep at 11 a.m., she is clearly experiencing one of them. “I think I can speak for all of us when I say we care first and foremost for children and their growth,” Morris says. “We want them to grow up to be all they can be and that means providing them with opportunities now to reach their goals. We all love these children.” Close to 140 children between six weeks and 12 years of age spend time at Huffer, meeting with early childhood teachers, eating lunch and taking the naps that many of them resist. The facility is clearly child-focused, with toys and bright colors greeting visitors at the front door. That’s assuming you get past the front door, which is locked for the children’s protection. In the baby room, infants coo at each other, speaking a language only they understand, flashing a smile to any person who will pick them up to be played with, talked to or simply rocked. Well, until it’s time to go to sleep.

Then it’s time to settle down in the cribs with each baby’s name on it. The older children, the 4- and 5-year-olds, have a different experience, spending time in a classroom where they learn the alphabet along with social skills. And to say these children are inquisitive is an understatement. “Did you know my mother’s name is Erica?” “Did you wash your hands?” “Did your mother tell you not to chew with your mouth full?” “Did you get to make your own sandwich?” “How much do you like tater tots?” In one classroom on Feb. 9, co-teachers Brandi Smith and Toni Kirtz encourage the children’s questioning during a lunch that involves sloppy joes and vegetables. After hearing her name called 40 times in a 30minute time span, “Miss Brandi” can answer any question the children throw her way, causing one 4-year-old to declare, “She knows everything!” By noon, it’s time for the pre-kindergarteners to take their naps, after cleaning up their tables and washing their hands. Only then can Miss Brandi sit without hearing someone call her name. — Ivy Farguheson


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11 a.m.-noon: Killing time

Top to bottom, clockwise: Celeste Larson, a freshman, watches TV while eating lunch at L.A. Pittenger Student Center at Ball State University on Wednesday, Feb. 9.

Anastasia Meurer kills time at the Student Center before going to class.

Dee Robinson, a junior at Ball State, waits to start her shift working in the Student Center food court.

As so many do, John Mayfield works on his laptop while at the Ball State Student Center.

Brittany Nedderman and Evan Nicola share lunch time together.

Center below: Yousuf Bahrami gathers with other graduate students from the physiology department. The group of guys meets there every week for what they call Taco Bell Wednesday. “It’s man time,” said Rocky Anderson. PHOTOS BY KURT HOSTETLER / THE STAR PRESS

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32E • Sunday, March 20, 2011 www.thestarpress.com

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am Harper sweeps around the dining room at Timbers Lounge with the momentum of a figure skater. She delivers a burger to one table, then a soda refill to another before returning to her spot behind the bar. “You ready to order?” she asks a man at the bar in a Green Bay Packers pullover. “You want a tenderloin? I gotcha, babe.” Timbers is a bar with a lot of personality, and like any great personality, this one is full of contradictions and idiosyncrasies. The bar is workingclass with a strong courthouse clientele. Timbers is famous for its 25-foot-tall, fiberglass Paul Bunyan statue outside. Its building, a former gas station, has no windows, and interior walls are covered in wood paneling, neon signs for domestic beer brands and a variety of NASCAR memorabilia. Yet for all the testosterone that went into “Unless it’s steak, we can designing Timbers, it’s women who make the world go round here during the lunch hour. serve faster than McDonald’s. Harper anchors the dining room on this day with two other women, including owner Danyelle We pride ourselves on that.” Cross. Today’s special is spaghetti with meat sauce — BOBI GOODPASTER for $5.50. At the height of the lunch hour, the women are taking care of 35 customers. One man wears a gray suit and orange About Paul Bunyan tie. Two other men at a table near the ❙ The Paul Bunyan statue has been at Timbers door wear brown overalls. since 1993. Probably two-thirds of the customers are drinking water, tea or soft drinks, ❙ He is 25- to 30-feet-tall and made of fiberglass, reflecting the fact that most people there chicken wire and steel beams. are probably returning to work after❙ Richard Kishel, a Burris High School art professor, ward or some other responsibility that built Paul in 1965 for Kirby Wood Lumber. requires sobriety. One woman at the bar ❙ Kirby Wood Lumber burned in 1988, but Paul tells another she was heading to Burris survived the fire. Laboratory School afterward for a grandson’s spelling bee. ❙ Kishel also designed a big Uncle Sam that “This is about normal,” Danyelle says. stood in front of the old Merle Lindsay Chevrolet “It’s a mix. A lot of regulars and new dealership on South Walnut Street. faces.” ❙ Ol’ Paul has changed his look occasionally, The lunch crowd often doesn’t die dressing up as Santa Claus and a 1960s hippie. down until 2:30 p.m., but Pam doesn’t mind. “We hope to be busy,” she tells The Star Press. In the back, Bobi Goodpaster and Julie Studebaker take care of the cooking, dressed in identical camouflage pants and drab green T-shirts. They alternate between the grill on one side

Noon-1 p.m.: Serving up lunch

NICK WERNER / THE STAR PRESS

Julie Studebaker (left) and Bobi Goodpaster cook during the lunch hour at Timbers Lounge.

and a prep station on the other that faces out to the dining room through a serving window. Music from a Top 40 station plays in the background. Goodpaster has worked at Timbers for 17 years. “Unless it’s steak, we can serve faster than McDonald’s,” Goodpaster said. “We pride ourselves on that.” Minutes later The Star Press puts Goodpaster’s claim to a test, ordering the famous Whitey Burger with lettuce, tomato and mayo and a side order of fries. That burger is on the bar in 3 minutes and 59 seconds. — Nick Werner


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Noon-1 p.m.: Eager for knowledge

There are lessons of compassion as well. As Norris explains this day’s homework, she kindly requests of her students that they use the numbers 0, 1 and 2 to work equations. They can use any number they want to find correct answers, but, Norris explains, doing so would make grading a much more time-consuming process for her. Her students smile at the notion. SMART Boards Northside Middle School is home to four SMART Boards. Two reside permanently in the math department while the others float around the school for teachers to share.

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more time-consuming process for her. Her students smile at or the first day in nine calendar days, the students of Northside Middle School are back for a full day of the notion. classes. A snow/ice storm the week before made for a Halfway through this hour and after a passing period, teachseries of closings followed by days shortened by twoer Tyann Gillum is standing upstairs outside of her door, room hour delays. 218, welcoming her eighth-grade social studies students. Yet the long layoff has not created the drowsy, slow-moving Class begins with a silent reading session. Today it’s a sheet students one might expect. on Diana Ross, part of Black History focus, a daily reading for In room 109, the room of 11-year teaching veteran Joanne this group. Norris, a classroom full of sixth-grade math students not only Later in the class, students break up into “constitution seems attentive, but downright eager to learn about, of all groups.” The six groups work on the project they are about things, linear functions. Words like “variables” and “coefficients” fill the air. The students start their class with a problem of the day, to which the answer is “y=-4x+2.” It’s a review of the work they had done the day before. Today, the group continues its progression in the world of graphing three spots on a chart to form a line. It is a fairly active class. Four to five kids raise their hands for each question Norris asks of them. One girl, Maddie, who sits in the middle of the classroom, wants a crack at every answer. As the teacher next door can be heard raising her voice a bit through the retractable wall, Norris asks that the lights be turned off. Today’s lesson, like so many for Norris, is to be carried out on the real star of the show, a SMART Board — an interactive screen that the teacher and students can write on using Word documents as GREG FALLON / THE STAR PRESS a modern-day answer to the Northside Middle School sixth-grade math teach Joanne Norris works on linear equations with her students. chalk board. The students are especially energized by this, eagerly awaiting the moment near the to present to the entire class — a rhyme, rap or rhythm using end of class when Norris asks for volunteers to come work specific vocabulary words. Today, there are words like unconsome equations on the gadget. Every hand in class goes up for stitutional, bond, inauguration and impose, among others. that request. Some even leap from their seat in anticipation. The words each group struggles to use correctly, however, are Says Norris of their enthusiasm after the snow days, “They precedent and speculator. were ready to come back. They got their rest.” After group presentations, the class transitions into a bit But this is not just a math class. There are other lessons of a lecture/discussion, first reviewing some material about being taught here, too. Like those of attentiveness, when “Thomas Jefferson and The Bitter Campaign.” And finally, Norris asks whether there are questions about last night’s just before the clock strikes 1 p.m., Gillum begins a discussion homework but reminds the class that they should “listen about inaugurations. closely, because I’m not answering the same question twice.” “How many of you saw President Obama get inaugurated There are lessons of compassion as well. As Norris last year? It would have been around your lunch period,” she explains this day’s homework, she kindly requests of her stu- says. dents that they use the numbers 0, 1 and 2 to work equations. Several hands go up, all with the energy of a group who sat They can use any number they want to find correct answers, at home for nine days eager to learn. but, Norris explains, doing so would make grading a much — Greg Fallon


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34E • Sunday, March 20, 2011 www.thestarpress.com

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ack in the service department, an employee of American Chevrolet Cadillac is preparing some lucky new owner’s Silverado pickup truck for delivery, buffing its pearly white finish until it sparkles under the lights high above. In one of the cubicles ringing the showroom, meanwhile, assistant sales manager Blake Absher is conferring across his desk with another couple shopping for a car. They are already customers, of course. The aim is to make them new owners, too. “That’ll be your bucket seats ...” you can hear in passing, before the person1-2 p.m.: able Absher’s voice trails away. The showroom is large and packed Business as usual with shiny cars radiating that new-car smell, one mixed with the faint aroma of coffee coming from the customerwaiting area. Wafting from the publicaddress system, in turn, is the sound of oldies from the Beatles, the Doobie Brothers and, perhaps slightly less welcome, the Archies. Back in his own cubicle, meanwhile, assistant sales manager Samuel Harris pulls a thick notebook from a shelf behind him and flips through it. A record of past customers, during slow hours he peruses it to identify folks who by now might be in the market for another new car. When he finds one, he’ll call, especially in light of new deals that he can offer to stimulate car sales. “It can be hugely beneficial to a customer,” Harris said. Lunchtime and dinnertime are hot times to encounter new customers, Absher and Harris continue, and winter weather doesn’t really hurt. A lot of farmers shop for cars when their fields lie fallow and frozen. JOHN CARLSON / THE STAR PRESS But when they are not Samuel Harris, assistant sales manager at American dealing with customers, or Chevrolet Cadillac of Muncie, does customer research working the phones trolling during a lull in sales activity. for customers, the salesmen still keep busy, especially when the snow flies. All those cars out there on the lot have to be started and scraped, and the snow around them cleared. “Our cars need to be accessible at all times,” Harris says. Beyond that, they need to be neatly parked and presenting their best sides to the buying public. It’s a sales lesson, Absher says, that anyone can pick up in the aisles of a grocery store. “All the cans of peas,” he reminds a visitor, “are facing forward.” — John Carlson

1-2 p.m.: A caring hand

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elanie Fancher is wearing running shoes. And she needs them. A steady stream of students comes into her meticulously organized office at Northside Middle School. The first one has a headache. The next one needs her afternoon dose of prescription medication. Another comes in for Vaseline for chapped lips. “Sorry, I’m all out,” Fancher says as she signs the student’s notebook (a hall pass of sorts). “Let’s be responsible for our own lips,” she adds with a smile before sending the student back to class. As the school nurse, Fancher says she’s “seen it all.” So far today, she has seen 30 kids. At a nearby desk, student helper Benjamin Wurtz, 11, is working on his math homework. “I run passes to students, and when kids have nosebleeds, I can get the Kleenex for her,” he says before getting back to his equations. Moments later, a young girl hobbles in with a sprained ankle. She fell down the steps on the way out of the wrestling room, she says. “I’m going to let you chill for about 15 minutes,” Fancher says, grabbing an ice pack and helping her into a small room, where the girl stretches out on a bed. There are four small “patient” rooms, each with a bed. There is also a special room set aside for students with diabetes, equipped with bins with their names on them, filled with their medications and blood sugar monitors. A main area in the center has all her supplies within reach. One cabinet holds daily prescription meds for students. She gets the doses ready each morning. Cups are marked with the student’s name. A plastic tool cabinet — one she found at a hardware store — has a little drawer for each inhaler. Another cabinet has the non-prescription meds kids use often, such as ibuprofen, Tylenol, all alphabetized by last names. Labels on the drawers of another cabinet indicate what’s inside: scissors, tape, gauze, calamine lotion, gloves, alcohol, antibiotic ointment. There’s a sink stocked with plenty of plastic cups. But the most important thing in that office? “Ice,” Fancher says without hesitation. “Ice fixes everything.”

Did you know?

❙ Melanie Francher (above) has been the school nurse at Northside Middle Schoool for 11 years. Before that, she worked at Ball Memorial Hospital for 20 years. ❙ In a school of about 800 students, Francher sees about 60 of those students a day in her office. ❙ The most common complaint? “I have a headache.”

She pulls open the freezer, which is stocked with ice packs prepared by her student helpers. Speaking of ice, 15 minutes is now up for the sprained ankle girl, so she heads back to class. “Come back and we’ll put more ice on it after class,” Fancher tells her. Fancher grabs a quick glob of hand sanitizer. She does this after every student. A girl strolls in with a sore throat. “Let me mix up the magic potion,” Fancher says. The girl gargles with it, then heads back to class. The potion is a mix of warm water and salt. “Works every time,” Fancher says. Most students are sent back to class. “A fever, that’s your ticket home,” Fancher says. So is vomiting or diarrhea, she adds as she makes a bee-line to her desk. Noticing a small break from ailments, she sits down for the first time to write out an incident report on the girl with the sprained ankle. — Michelle Kinsey


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2-3 p.m.: The easy way home

Award-winning system

MITS was named Outstanding Public Transportation System by the American Public Transportation Association in 2005 and again in 2008. This award recognizes excellence in ridership growth, financial management, system security and safety, and customer service. In 2007, MITS was awarded the Gold Award for Safety by APTA.

“They’re generally good kids. Some clash now and then, but that happens everywhere, brother.” — MITS DRIVER BARTLEY MCCOURT

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t’s a busy time of day for the Muncie Indiana Transit System. It seems no one wants to walk today, not when such as easy alternative is available. The buses are clean and modern and they run on time, except during bad winter weather, say the riders on today’s bus. “They keep up with technology,” says one of the riders, Dustin Davis. Half a dozen MITS buses are hybrids, like this one, a green alternative to traditional diesel-powered buses. Hybrids are powered by both a diesel engine and an electric motor. The hybrid buses have a smaller engine than traditional buses and can still use soy biodiesel, which MITS has been using for several years. Hybrid or diesel, the buses are a life-saver for many in the community. PHOTOS BY SETH SLABUAGH / THE STAR PRESS “It’s the only transportation I’ve got except for my bike,” Larry Brown, a retired laborer, uses MITS when the weather is not nice says Larry Brown, a retired laborer. enough to use his bike. He’s just one of a wide variety of passengers who David Trego, 55, who receives Social Security disability use MITS as their preferable form of transportation. benefits, rides the Northwest Plaza route to the AT&T store to pay his phone bill. transportation is the Muncie Indiana Transit System, says Also on the bus is James Barham, who uses a wheelchair the kids are “not always nice,” but that’s not the case today. and whose only complaint with MITS is that it doesn’t go to There are no profanities heard on this trip. In fact, several the Meijer or Menards superstores or the license branch on of the students thank the driver when they get off at their the outskirts of town. stop. Another rider this afternoon, a stout older man wearing “They’re generally good kids,” says driver Bartley McCourt, greasy blue jeans, reeks of body odor. It’s a mixed group. “Some clash now and then, but that happens everywhere, Starting around 3 p.m., the bus fills with students from brother.” Central High School. As expected, they are noisy. — Seth Slabaugh Amanda Adams, a frequent city bus rider whose only


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KELLY DAY / THE STAR PRESS

TOP: A gerber daisy is part of a flower arrangement at Normandy Flower Shop in downtown Muncie on Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011. ABOVE RIGHT: Verna Gudger gets flowers out of a refrigerator. ABOVE: Andrea Brown arranges flowers.

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ust days before Valentine’s Day, the romantic panic of Muncie is palpable on Charles Street. Inundated with hundreds of orders and special requests, Normandy Flower Shop’s owner Judy Benken says it’s not uncommon to have to turn away a potential customer on Feb. 14 because the shop simply does not have the manpower or the time. And looking at the stacks of papers and piles of petals, no one can fault the small-but-mighty workforce in the category of trying. The Normandy team spends hours each day crafting unique treasures — sometimes staying so late into the 2-3 p.m.: Keeping night, it becomes morning. “You just gird people happy your loins and go at it,” Benken says of the hectic nature of the holiday. And, of course, no one on Feb. 9 is complaining about the boost the business gets amid the rough economy. Where the women of Normandy should have room to complain is in the constant standing required for their work. Gathered around a workstation in the back of the store on this afternoon, the energetic team exhausts even the most casual of observers. Amazingly, it’s rare to hear a negative word. Florist and mom-to-be Heather Barr, stripping lilies of their sticky parts, smiles and points to her padded tennis shoes, crediting them with keeping her on her feet. In her 13th Valentine’s Day in the Working in the flower biz business of flowers, designer Verna The employees working at Normandy Gudger has even another reason to Flower Shop this afternoon are no strangers to Valentine’s Day, after years feel the push by this point in February. in the business for floral sales: “My husband’s birthday is Valentine’s ❙ Judy Benken (owner): 28 years Day,” Gudger says. The veteran flo❙ Verna Gudger (designer): 13 years rist has had to plan her celebration ❙ Heather Barr (florist): 5 years with ninja-like precision around the ❙ Andrea Brown (florist): 2 years Valentine’s production for many years. There’s no doubt flowers articulate many of the things we try to say on Valentine’s. Thousands of orders, millions of flowers and 28 Valentine’s Days later, Benken has learned the ebb and flow of the energetic business. Though frenzied, the business owner tries to keep perspective: “We keep people happy. If they’re happy, I’m happy.” — Taylor Etchison


MU_MN_3RD_03-20_N_B_F_19_C www.thestarpress.com Sunday, March 20, 2011 • 39E


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