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Citizen Survey Results Posted December 18, 2018

As part of the formal review of Chester County's strategic plan, Chester County commissioners recently announced the results of a citizen survey, undertaken as part of the review process for the strategic plan's next five years. Results of the Chester County Quality of Life Survey, conducted by West Chester University's Center for Social and Economic Policy Research during September, are based on a random sample of 1,256 responses, evenly represented from all areas of Chester County. The results provide a comparison to the citizens' surveys undertaken in 2009 and 2013, which helped form the basis of the commissioners' strategic plan goals.

In 2018, residents continue to give Chester County high ratings in terms of it being an excellent or good place to raise a family (94 percent) and nine out of 10 (91 percent) rate it as an excellent or good place to obtain a good education. The survey reported a significant increase in those who found the county an "excellent or good" place to find a good job (moving from 62 percent in 2013 to 79 percent in 2018).

The percentage of residents describing Chester County as a better place to live increased from 25 percent in 2013 to 33 percent in 2018. Open space, scenery, and rural areas continue to be noted by respondents as the best thing about life in Chester County, and this year's survey highlighted "maintenance of water quality" and "providing quality services while maintaining low taxes" as the two most important issues facing Chester County.

For questions about the importance of issues facing Chester County, the top three results stating "most important or one of the most important" were maintaining the quality of water (83 percent), providing quality services while maintaining low taxes (81 percent), and the preservation of open space (77 percent). The issue of growth and land development in the county (55 percent) moved up in importance from the 2013 survey level of 42 percent.

As in the two previous surveys, emergency services and the 911 system remain the most important services available to Chester County residents. Eighty-five percent of survey respondents claimed that emergency services and the 911 system are "very important" (up from 81 percent in 2013), and 77 percent confirmed that they would be very willing or somewhat willing to pay more county taxes for emergency services and the 911 system (up from 71 percent in 2013).

In addition to "quality of life" questions, the citizen survey addresses the performance of county employees. Of all residents surveyed in 2018, 38 percent indicated that they had contact with county employees in the past 12 months. Residents who rated employee responsiveness as "excellent" continued to increase - from 40 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2013 to 50 percent in 2018. County employee courteousness was rated as excellent or good by nine out of 10 respondents.

When asked what kind of job the county is doing in specific areas, the 2018 survey noted that 86 percent of respondents believe that the county is doing an excellent or good job at maintaining county parks, followed by ensuring public safety (82 percent) and preventing epidemics or public health hazards (81 percent).

A summary of the Chester County Quality of Life Survey may be viewed on www.chesco.org.

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Women Invited To Bible Study December 18, 2018

Faith Bible Chapel, 140 Bernard Ave., Cochranville, invites ladies from all denominations to a 12-week ladies' Bible study. The topic will be "The Parables." The informal discussion group will meet from 9:30 to 11 a.m. on Wednesdays beginning on Jan. 16, 2019.

The church is located off Route 41, a quarter-mile south of Route 10 in Cochranville. For more details, readers may call Faith Bible Chapel at 610-593-6333 and leave a message for Shirley. More information about the church is available at www.fbchapel.org.

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Therapy Dog Provides Emotional Support And More December 18, 2018

Local nursing home residents, young library patrons and college and elementary school students have all benefited from visits by Lily, a sweet English setter/border collie mix, who is a certified therapy dog and the wellness and stress relief dog for Chester County.

Lily, 5, is accompanied to the sites by her owner, Liz Alakszay, who is the staff development and advocacy coordinator for the Chester County Library System and a member of the board of the directors at the Dog Training Club of Chester County (DTCCC).

"(Lily) is my second therapy/stress relief dog; my last one passed away at 15," Alakszay explained.

As part of an employee wellness program at the county level, Lily visits with employees at the Chester County Government Services Center and at the 313 West Market Street Building. "During their lunch hour, (employees) visit with (Lily) in the training room. People come in and they don't want to leave," Alakszay stated.

She noted that Lily also visited with students from West Chester University. "Places like West Chester University and Drexel (University) have office hours for stress relief dogs. During exam week, students secure time to come out," she explained.

Most recently, Lily visited the Chester Springs Library to read with young children as part of the Tail Waggin' Tutors program.

Lily and her owner also visit elementary schools upon request. "(One school had) two students who had bullying issues, and they were afraid to come to school," Alakszay said. "The kids hung out with the dog for six weeks, and it made a world of difference. It was amazing how these kids turned around and are now able to communicate through interaction with a dog."

She explained that during the sessions, students learned to discuss their fears. "They (discussed) things Lily was afraid of and how she deals with that, and (then) the kids talked about what they were afraid of," said Alakszay. "The dog was their role model."

Alakszay explained that Lily is not a service dog but is a certified therapy dog that provides emotional support. "Service dogs are trained and handed over to someone who has a disability," she said, noting that facilities like Canine Partners for Life train service dogs. "She is trained to hang out with you and help you go through some of life's bumps. Just by petting a dog, it decreases blood pressure. For kids, it creates a safe environment."

Alakszay said that Lily is certified through Therapy Dogs International. "Therapy Dogs were the folks that provided stress relief dogs after 9/11," she noted.

She said that certification training can take up to three years, noting that Lily has earned her American Kennel Club (AKC) K9 Good Citizenship certificate and the Good Community Dog certificate.

"I'm proud of her. One of the exams that we went through to be certified was a two-hour test," Alakszay recalled. "She had to walk through crowds and avoid food that they put down. She had to walk past another dog, and they had to ignore each other. Out of 15 dogs, only five passed that day."

Alakszay pointed out that one of Lily's favorite places to visit is the Barclay Friends senior living facility in West Chester. "Depending on where they are with Alzheimer's or dementia, (the residents) come to life when they see her. It is very gratifying," she added.

Since she has a full-time job, Alakszay said she tries to visit as many places as possible as her schedule allows. "From now to the end of the year, we have about a dozen requests," she said. "I love animals and I love helping people, so it's a really nice mesh."

Those who feel that their dog has the right temperament to become a therapy dog may visit www.dtccc.org/advanced/CGC-Therapy.htm for more information.

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Student Creates Yarn Wigs For Young Cancer Patients December 18, 2018

While students in the Confirmation class at the Church of St. Benedict in Mohnton collected yarn to be donated to the Magic Yarn Project, a nonprofit organization that provides princess yarn wigs and superhero beanies free of charge to children with cancer, student Katy Stoutenger took the project one step further. Katy crocheted 26 beanies and yarn wigs with the help of her great-grandmother Rita Agasar.

Katy, a seventh-grade student at Twin Valley Middle School, explained that her great-grandmother taught her to crochet at the age of 8. "I already knew how to do basic crochet (stitches), and I looked at the (tutorial) video to do the specific hat stitches," Katy explained. "I thought it would be cool to do because it was something the little boys and girls would like."

According to www.themagicyarnproject.com, the beanies and yarn wigs are designed for children undergoing chemotherapy whose scalps are too sensitive for traditional wigs. The crocheted beanies feature various characters and the wigs are designed to replicate the hairstyles of Disney characters.

Seventh-grade students in the Parish Religious Education Program (PREP) Class at St. Benedict's who are preparing to receive the sacrament of Confirmation were encouraged to participate in the service project by Valerie Christo, director of religious education, who showed the class a video about the project. "They (saw) that this mission project is changing kids' lives and bringing smiles to their faces by giving them a time to play, enjoying their childhood," she said. Students and parish families were invited to donate various colors of soft yarn during October and November.

Katy made the wigs and beanies with the help of Agasar, 87, and Agasar's friend Kay Letton, 90. "We worked on them nonstop," Katy recalled. "They take pretty long to do. Adding the 'hair' (made of yarn) was the hardest part because you have to add the strands individually."

Katy explained that the hats follow the same pattern but are customized for boys and girls. "The hats were the same, but the decorations were different," said Katy. "For the boys, we made Ninja turtles and the girls more of a princess style."

She encourages others with basic crochet skills to try making the beanies. "Anybody can learn it. You just have to be committed. You can't stop halfway through," Katy stated.

She also said that she enjoyed working on the project with her great-grandmother. "It was fun for me and relaxing to do. (Crocheting) really is a lost art," Katy added. "If you have someone to teach you, you can do it."

Katy reported that the items that she and her great-grandmother created were distributed to hospitalized children in time for Christmas.

Those who would like to donate yarn or create beanies or yarn wigs may visit the Magic Yarn Project website or www.facebook.com/magicyarnwigs for more information.

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First Day Hikes Planned Locally December 18, 2018

As part of an effort to promote fitness and encourage people to explore the outdoors, First Day Hikes will be offered nationwide on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. People of all ages are welcome to start the new year off on the right foot by taking part in a First Day Hike.

Locally, a First Day Hike will be held at Marsh Creek Lake, 675 Park Road, Downingtown, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. During the guided hike, participants will learn about the history of the park. The hike will start at the butterfly garden, located on the west side of Marsh Creek. For more information or to register, readers may call 610-458-5119.

Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) volunteer Clyde Godschall will lead a First Day Hike at French Creek State Park, Marsh Creek's sister park. The group will meet at the west boat launch of Hopewell Lake, 785 Park Road, Elverson, at 11 a.m. for a 2-mile hike around the lake and through Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.

"It's a great opportunity to get people outdoors and breathe some fresh air with other folks," said Brent Erb, assistant park manager at French Creek State Park. "It's also a great way to start the new year."

Attendees should dress for the weather and wear sturdy hiking shoes. Leashed, vaccinated pets will be welcome. The event is free, and no registration is necessary. For more information, readers may call the park office at 610-582-9680.

Warwick County Park, 191 County Park Road, Pottstown, will hold a ranger-led New Year's Day Hike from 2 to 3 p.m. Attendees will learn about the natural and cultural history of the park. For more information and to register, readers may call 610-469-1916.

Additionally, Springton Manor Farm, 860 Springton Road, Glenmoore, will host "New Year's on the Farm" from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Attendees can enjoy hot chocolate around the campfire and visit with the site's farm animals.

According to www.stateparks.org, the free New Year's Day hikes will be held in all 50 states, including at 30 state parks in Pennsylvania. Last year, nearly 55,000 people took part in the hikes nationwide, collectively hiking more 133,000 miles throughout the country.

Readers may visit www.events.dcnr.pa.gov for a complete list of First Day Hikes in Pennsylvania.

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Boy Scouts Earn Eagle Award December 18, 2018

Boy Scouts Cody Mifsud and Matthew Sowinski, members of Lionville Troop 216, recently earned the Eagle Scout Award, the highest honor in Boy Scouting.

Both young men joined Cub Scout Pak 216 in the fall of 2008 and became members of Den 5, led by Chris Mulcahy. They crossed over to Troop 216 in March of 2013 and set their sights on earning the Eagle Scout Award.

When it came time to plan their required Eagle Scout service projects, they both focused their efforts on the Chester Springs Library, which moved into its present location at 1709 Art School, Chester Springs, in April of 2016. The newly relocated library was in need of some added external improvements.

Cody's project was expanding the sidewalk leading to the library with pavers and creating a bike patio where patrons can park their bikes. He also completed landscaping at the library's entrance.

Matthew's project was to add a patio and a picnic table to provide library visitors and workers a place to enjoy the outdoors. He also laid crushed stone in a large area and completed the beautification project by fencing in the air-conditioning unit.

Cody celebrated his Eagle Scout Court of Honor on Sept. 15, and Matthew's Court of Honor was held on Nov. 17. Both events took place at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Exton, where the troop meets.

Both young men attained the rank of Eagle before turning age 18, which means they can continue to be active in Scouting. They currently serve in the youth leadership for Troop 216 and hope to inspire other boys to reach for the rank of Eagle Scout.

For more information about Troop 216, readers may visit www.lionvilletroop216.scoutlander.com.

More information and photos of Cody's and Matthew's projects, as well as those of other Scouts and students, can be found at www.chesterspringslibrary.org/eagle-scout-gallery.

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Deputies Discover Connection December 18, 2018

Two Chester County deputy sheriffs recently realized they had crossed paths years earlier. Deputy Sheriff Keith Neiswender and Deputy Sheriff Howard "Larry" Sipple met each other earlier this year when they joined the Chester County Sheriff's Office at the same time, the culmination of a somewhat circuitous journey to West Chester. Neiswender had been working for the Berks County Sheriff's Office, and Sipple had been employed by the Caln Township Police Department. But it was their earlier military service that prompted a startling discovery: In 1991 and 1992, they both served on the USS America.

The revelation took a couple of weeks to surface. After being hired as deputies, the pair got to know each other during 13 weeks of field training. During that time, they maintained the same schedules and often ran into each other in the parking garage. One day, Sipple did a double-take when he saw "VF-102" on the side of Neiswender's vehicle.

Sipple said he knew immediately that Neiswender had served on the USS America because the VF-102 squadron was a sister squadron to his own, the VF-33. When he shared that information with Neiswender, he learned that they had both been deployed to the aircraft carrier during its 1991 to 1992 cruise. Neiswender, who had the decal custom-made, said he never imagined the connection it would forge. He also said that, though he has had countless chats with others over the years about his military service, the conversation with Sipple was the first one prompted by the logo.

Neither deputy can remember interacting directly on the warship, but the USS America's average population is 5,000. During the deputies' deployment, the USS America was focused on the Persian Gulf during the onset of Desert Storm. Sipple was responsible for working to test equipment for the F14 Tomcat and several other aircraft that operated on the ship. Neiswender was assigned to ensuring that the aircraft were loaded with the appropriate firepower.

The epiphany about the deputies' Navy connection came at a time when colleagues in the Sheriff's Office were experiencing some trouble telling them apart. According to Sipple, he and Neiswender look similar and joined the Sheriff's Office at the same time. Compounding the difficulty, a change in personnel delayed the delivery of the deputies' nametags. When the IDs finally arrived, the pair briefly considered switching them to continue confounding their co-workers, but their less-prankish sides prevailed.

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Christmas Display Open Through Dec. 30 December 18, 2018

It is not too late for local residents to enjoy the Holiday Lights at Gring's Mill, including a light display, model trains and live musical entertainment. The site will be open Thursday, Dec. 27, through Sunday, Dec. 30, from 6 to 9 p.m., with special musical performances planned each day.

As part of the event, thousands of lights have been placed on the trees, on the historic buildings and throughout the Gring's Mill Recreation Area, located at 2083 Tulpehocken Road, Wyomissing, across from the Penn State Berks Campus. A parking donation per car will be requested at the park gate.

Lights will guide visitors along the walkway from the parking area to a two-story barn, where the live performances will take place in the upper level. Snacks will be available to purchase, and visitors may sit by the fireplace and enjoy the music. A separate building on the bridge, a former generating station that spans the Tulpehocken Creek, houses the Christmas train display.

On Dec. 27 at 6:30 p.m., Maggie Spike, who performs regionally and throughout Berks County, will provide the featured entertainment. She will be accompanied by Peggy and Eric Gernerd in performing folk, world and Celtic music. Their special guest will be Tom Montgomery on accordion and keyboards.

Singer/songwriter Peter Errich, who has been writing, recording and performing original music since 1996, and his friend Todd Zarecki, a pianist, will be the scheduled performers on Friday, Dec. 28, at 6:30 p.m. Errich and Zarecki, formerly of the band Shame, will perform music from Errich's albums "The Lost and Found" and "Beneath the Sun."

"Good Time Family Fun, Music and Comedy" with Ray Owen will be featured on Saturday, Dec. 29. Shows will be at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Owen is a Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter and national recording artist who combines good time music and humor. He has toured and appeared with nationally known artists such as Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson, Alabama and others. He will perform selections from his Kids and Family Show repertoire.

The series will conclude on Dec. 30 with a performance by the Harrisburg Mandolin Ensemble at 6:30 p.m. The ensemble, composed of a quintet of musicians, will perform an assortment of music ranging from Bach and bluegrass to jazz and roots tunes.

For more information or directions, readers may call 610-374-2944, visit www.countyofberks.com/parks or search for "Berks County Parks and Recreation Department" on Facebook.

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Prothonotary To Receive Public Service Award December 18, 2018

The Exton Region Chamber of Commerce has announced the winner of the 2018 Senator Robert J. Thompson Public Service Award. Chester County prothonotary Matthew Holliday will be recognized as the public official who has made an outstanding contribution to the Exton region.

Holliday knew at age 8 that he wanted to dedicate his life to public service. From the moment that transformed his life as a young boy, he knew that his path forward would be helping people with honesty and humanity.

Holliday has just finished his third year as Chester County prothonotary, an elected position. As prothonotary, he is chief clerk for the courts of law. He manages a budget of more than $1.4 million, presides over public ceremonies such as the oath of citizenship at naturalization ceremonies, implemented an e-filing system and identified a language service that provides real-time translations for customers in more than 70 languages via the phone, and has been involved with other tasks.

He has been recognized for the humanity that he brings to his position. For example, according to Holliday, he and his head court clerk, Phyllis, helped a man obtain a court order in a matter of hours so the man's deceased brother could be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Additionally, he and colleagues, including Judge Cody, Judge Allison Bell Royer, and Sheri Madiro, prevented a young couple's wedding from being canceled when the county government closed a few hours early due to a sudden snowstorm.

In addition to his current work, Holliday served as chief of staff to state Rep. Dan Truitt for five years and political director of the Republican Committee of Chester County for more than a year.

As a volunteer, Holliday has been involved in Chester County organizations for more than a decade while also serving on multiple nonprofit boards. Holliday currently serves on the board of directors for Friends Association for the Care & Protection of Children, West Chester Business Improvement District, Student Services Inc., West Chester Public Library, Rotary Club of West Chester, The Friars' Society Alumni Association Board, West Chester Area Senior Center, Fame Fire Company, Domestic Violence Center of Chester County, The Arc of Chester County, Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce, Knights of Columbus, West Chester University Alumni Association, and West Chester Downtown Foundation.

The award will be bestowed at the Exton Region Chamber of Commerce (ERCC) Annual Review Luncheon on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, at the Downingtown Country Club from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. During the luncheon, Laurie Kerkering, president of the ERCC, will present the accomplishments of the Chamber in 2018 and what is in store for 2019.

ERCC's mission is to advance the economic success of its members and the community by providing opportunities for businesses to build relationships, market their business, share industry knowledge and provide community outreach. For more than 40 years, the ERCC has been focused on meeting the diverse needs of its members and providing a wide array of events and programs to enhance the business climate and quality of life in Exton.

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Library Offers Tail Waggin' Tutors Program December 18, 2018

Two certified therapy dogs were recently on hand at the Chester Springs Library as part of the Tail Waggin' Tutors program. During the session, youngsters were invited to read to Paddington, known as Paddy, a Cardigan Welsh corgi that was brought to the library by her owner, Hilary Zee, and Lily, an English setter/border collie mix that was accompanied by her owner, Liz Alakszay.

The goal of the program is to provide youngsters an opportunity to read in a nonthreatening and safe atmosphere.

"We've had parents who said that their kids who had trouble reading (have improved after reading to Paddy)," Zee stated, noting that children of all ages are invited to participate. "If they don't read, I tell them to make up a story."

During the session at the library on Dec. 15, Mordekai Snouffer, 8, enjoyed reading with a Christmas book with Paddy. "He doesn't have a pet at home, so he was a little afraid at first, but he adapted to her very easily," Zee stated.

Paddy has been a therapy dog for eight months and has been visiting the library since September. "We also go to Bryn Mawr Rehab," Zee reported. "My husband is an outpatient at Bryn Mawr, and I saw the dogs come through, so I decided to get (Paddy) certified since we are spending time there.

"(All the patients) gravitate toward her," she added. "We love to hang out there."

In addition to visiting libraries, Lily is the wellness and stress relief dog for Chester County. In that role, she visits with employees at the Chester County Government Services Center and at the 313 West Market Street Building. "During their lunch hour, (employees) visit with (Lily) in the training room. People come in and they don't want to leave," Alakszay stated.

She noted that Lily also visited with students from West Chester University. "Places like West Chester University and Drexel (University) have office hours for stress relief dogs. During exam week, students secure time to come out," she explained.

Lily and her owner also visit elementary schools upon request. "(One school in Downingtown had) two students who had bullying issues, and they were afraid to come to school," Alakszay said. "The kids hung out with the dog for six weeks, and it made a world of difference. It was amazing how these kids turned around and are now able to communicate through interaction with a dog."

Alakszay pointed out that one of Lily's favorite places to visit is the Barclay Friends senior living facility in West Chester. "Depending on where they are with Alzheimer's or dementia, (the residents) come to life when they see her. It is very gratifying," she added.

Since she has a full-time job as the staff development and advocacy coordinator for the Chester County Library System, Alakszay said she tries to visit as many places as possible as her schedule allows. "From now to the end of the year, we have about a dozen requests," she said. "I love animals and I love helping people, so it's a really nice mesh."

Alakszay, who is a member of the board of directors at the Dog Training Club of Chester County (DTCCC), recommends that those who feel that their dog has the right temperament to become a therapy dog visit www.dtccc.org/advanced/CGC-Therapy.htm for more information.

Children in kindergarten through grade five can read with Paddy and Lily at the Chester Springs Library during select dates in January 2019. For specific dates and times, readers may contact library director Nancy Niggel at 610-827-9212 or nniggel@ccls.org.

Sessions are 10 minutes long and are held on first-come, first-served basis. The library is located at 1709 Art School Road, Chester Springs, in the village of Historic Yellow Springs.

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'Tis The Season For Artistic Inspiration December 18, 2018

MASD Students Create Ornaments For White House, Governor's Mansion

This holiday season, Middletown Area School District students created ornaments for display at both the White House and the Pennsylvania Governor's Mansion.

Middletown Area Middle School (MAMS) students had the honor of creating ornaments for the 2018 Pennsylvania State Tree in the President's Park at the White House. The National Christmas Tree is surrounded by 56 smaller trees, each representing a state or territory. For the 2018 trees, one school from each state was selected to decorate their state's tree. Stacey Miller, MAMS art teacher, was honored when she was informed that MAMS had been selected to represent Pennsylvania.

Miller's eighth-grade students worked on the ornaments throughout the fall months. Each ornament was decorated with something that is signature to Pennsylvania, such as the Liberty Bell, covered bridges, the Nittany Lions, farming, and mountain laurel, the state flower. The tree lighting ceremony was held on Nov. 28 at the President's Park, which is a national park and free to the public.

Other MASD students were also busy creating ornaments for the Governor's Mansion. When Gina Pronesti, Reid Elementary teacher, attended the 2017 Christmas Open House at the Governor's Mansion with her family, she noticed that the tree ornaments were created by students from an area school. She inquired how schools were selected to participate and was told she could submit her school to be considered.

As Pronesti was gearing up for the start of the new school year in August 2018, she received a call from a staff member of Gov. Tom Wolf, asking if MASD would create ornaments. Her original plan was to have Reid Elementary students create the ornaments, but when she was told she would need to supply 800 ornaments, she invited students from the district's other schools to help with the effort.

Since MAMS students were busy creating the ornaments for the Pennsylvania State Tree at the White House, Pronesti reached out to the teachers at the remaining schools in the district - Fink, Kunkel, and Middletown Area High School. Classroom teachers and art teachers from the four schools planned "White Christmas" ornaments for this year's theme. Snowflakes, snowmen, and origami trees made from sheets of music began filling up classrooms, and the 800 ornaments were boxed up in early November and sent to the Governor's Mansion, where they were displayed for the holiday season.

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Bake Sale Helps Bring Christmas To Christ's Home December 18, 2018

It began with a conversation about foster care, and it blossomed into a church bake sale that raised more than $1,000 to help provide presents for Christ's Home in Paradise. Zephaniah Doutrich, age 8, son of Eric and Nykiah Doutrich of Bowmansville, spearheaded the effort.

On Nov. 4, Zephaniah and his family brought a large number of baked goods with them to church at Bethany Grace Fellowship, 400 Reading Road, East Earl, ready to sell them to attendees by donation to raise funds for Christ's Home for Christmas presents. The sale raised $1,033, which was combined with receipts from another fundraiser for a total of $1,056.

Zephaniah's first efforts to raise funds for children in foster care began in mid-summer after his parents told him and his siblings that they were interested in fostering children. "When we got into the foster care journey, our children wanted to know where (foster children) come from," explained Nykiah. "We sat down briefly and told them some children come from homes where parents don't have the resources to take care of them, and that's what sparked him."

Zephaniah's concern for children in foster care quickly moved him to action. "One Saturday, he was out with his little sister, and he set up a table for a yard sale (because) he wanted to sell his toys," said Nykiah. "He came in, and he said that he prayed for God to send people to buy his toys, but no one came." Nykiah turned the occurrence into a teaching moment by explaining how to advertise a yard sale, but she was curious. "I said, 'Oh, sweetie, why are you selling your toys?'" Zephaniah responded, "I want to buy toys for other children."

From there, the family decided to search for area orphanages. Nykiah explained that it was important to Zephaniah to make contact with the home. "He wanted to physically buy the toys and go in there and drop them off," she said "Christ's Home in Paradise was one of the few homes that would allow us to do that."

In late August, the family held a special Honk for Foster Care at their home. "People honked and received fresh lemonade by donation," said Nykiah. The event raised $23 and spurred Zephaniah forward toward organizing the bake sale.

In the fall, Zephaniah approached Bethany Grace pastor Adam Nagle. "I told him I wanted to do a bake sale," said Zephaniah. Nagle responded positively to the idea. "I love encouraging (children) to dream of the difference they can make," said Nagle. "I'll serve and stand with any (child) whose heart is captured by a cause and (who has) a plan to do something about it. I was thrilled to help him make this happen." Nagle explained that Nov. 4 was chosen to hold the bake sale because it was National Orphan Sunday, which aims to draw attention to foster care and adoption concerns. On that day, Zephaniah joined Nagle at the front of the church to announce the fundraiser.

The Doutrich family came to the church that day with loads of baked goods for attendees to purchase by donation. "My mom helped me bake some cookies, pumpkin bread, brownies, and gluten-free cookies," said Zephaniah. Nykiah reported that the family prepared 30 loaves of pumpkin bread, three batches of brownies, and about 250 cookies, including monster cookies. Zephaniah explained that monster cookies have colored chocolate candies in them. All the items the family planned to sell had sold out by the end of the second service.

A representative of Christ's Home provided the family with a list of needs for the children and the cottages. "They have nine children there ages 6 to 20," said Nykiah, who added that the toys were purchased and taken to Christ's Home by Dec. 10. "We thought (that this effort) was something small and that we were just being obedient to the Lord, but it just really took off," said Nykiah of the response to the fundraiser and opportunity to purchase the gifts. "We are super happy about it."

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Public Reservoir Access Completes Season December 18, 2018

The Chester Water Authority (CWA) has completed another season of providing the public with access to the Octoraro Reservoir, a popular destination for fishing, bird watching, kayaking, boating, and other water activities. The Octoraro Reservoir and the surrounding property that is owned by the Chester Water Authority encompasses approximately 620 acres, including 10 miles of shoreline.

Members of the public may visit the Chester Water Authority's fishing headquarters, 212 Spruce Grove Road, Kirkwood, to rent electric motor and row boats, kayaks, and canoes. A bait shop is located on the site. The CWA also maintains a boat launch for public access to the reservoir at the fishing headquarters. The boat launch is open to the public annually from April 1 through Oct. 31.

A wide range of individuals utilize the reservoir and the adjacent land owned by the CWA for a number of outdoor activities, including using the boat launch with their personal watercraft (electric motors only). A number of area organizations also avail themselves of the serene environment. In the past year those organizations have included the Boy and Girl Scouts, Mid-Atlantic Youth Anglers, Land Conservancy of Southern Chester County, Black Rock Retreat, Camp Oak Hill, Octoraro Watershed Association, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Audubon Bird Watchers, and others.

The reservoir has also been home to a number of fishing tournaments during the course of the year and was able to provide two Fish for Free days in 2018 on Memorial Day and on the Fourth of July. CWA also hosted the annual Armed Forces Day Event featuring Heroes on the Water and Warriors on the Water. A total of more than 125 active-duty military members, Reserve members, and military veterans, along with first responders and their families, enjoyed a day on the reservoir.

The reservoir has developed a reputation as a good place to catch bass. It is also home to yellow and white perch, white crappie, walleye, perch, catfish, and many varieties of sunfish. In addition, the Octoraro Reservoir is popular location for birdwatching and has been designated an Important Bird Area by the Audubon Society.

The Octoraro Reservoir is a natural resource that not only provides active and passive recreational opportunities for residents in the region, but also serves as a source of water to the Chester Water Authority's more than 43,500 customers after it is treated and sanitized at the nearby Octorara Water Treatment Plant.

To learn more about Chester Water Authority, readers may visit www.chesterwater.com.

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School Joins Athletic League December 18, 2018

Collegium Charter School (CCS) Athletics has announced that it will join the Bicentennial Athletic League (BAL) for all sports at the start of the 2019-20 school year.

According to its website, the BAL was founded in 1975-76. It was established to create competition among schools of comparable size and to determine champions in their fall, winter, and spring sports. The BAL boasts 17 schools and participates in District 1 of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA). CCS previously participated with nine other schools in the Tri-County Independent School League (TCISL).

Pursuing membership in the BAL was a yearlong process that included a letter of request, an application, meetings, and presentations to BAL member school principals and coaches by John Allen, director of athletics for CCS, and Graham Dryburgh, CCS high school assistant principal. BAL members then voted on whether to induct Collegium into the BAL. Their decision was unanimous.

Allen said he foresees BAL membership considerably increasing CCS Athletics' visibility. BAL membership will also create natural rivalries with other local schools in the BAL. CCS will be able to play against BAL teams on a continuous basis - meaning its games and playoff appearances will now hold greater value.

CCS has six school buildings and one administration building in Exton's Oaklands Corporate Center. Current enrollment tops 2,900 students in kindergarten through grade 12. For more information, readers may visit www.collegiumcharter.com.

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Senior Center Activities Set December 18, 2018

Stewartstown Area Senior Center, 26 S. Main St., Stewartstown, has announced its upcoming schedule of activities. For more information, readers may call 717-993-3488.

On Wednesday, Dec. 26, Barb's aerobics class will be held in the fellowship hall from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Mary Ellen will teach ceramics. The Red Hat group will meet at 10:30 a.m., and the bridge group will meet at noon. Table games and Wii games will be available throughout the day.

On Thursday, Dec. 27, Barb's aerobics class will be held in the fellowship hall from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. A nurse will be available to check weights and blood pressures in the morning. Kings in the Corner will begin at 9:30 a.m. The yoga class will meet at 10:30 a.m. Table games and Wii games will be available throughout the morning. The acrylic art class and the Hand and Foot group will both meet at noon.

On Friday, Dec. 28, Barb's aerobics class will be held in the fellowship hall from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Table games and Wii games will be available throughout the morning. Indoor bocce ball will be played at 10:30 a.m. Bingo will be played after lunch.

On Monday, Dec. 31, Barb's aerobics class will be held in the fellowship hall from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. A New Year's Eve party will be held and will include a countdown at noon, a balloon drop, and special entertainment by Bruce McPherson. Table games and Wii games will be available throughout the day.

The center will be closed for New Year's Day on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019.

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School District Wins Award December 18, 2018

The Association of School Business Officials International (ASBO) has recognized Avon Grove School District for excellence in budget presentation with the Pathway to the Meritorious Budget Award (MBA) for the 2018-19 budget year. ASBO International's MBA and Pathway to the MBA promote and recognize best budget presentation practices in school districts.

Participants submit their applications and budget documents to a panel of school financial professionals who review the materials for compliance with the MBA Criteria Checklist and other requirements and provide expert feedback that districts can use to improve their budget documents. Districts that successfully demonstrate they have met the necessary program requirements may earn either the MBA or Pathway to the MBA, an introductory program that allows districts to ease into full MBA compliance.

For more information, readers may visit www.asbointl.org/MBA.

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September House Posts Schedule December 18, 2018

September House, 1251 W. King St., York, has posted its upcoming schedule of activities. For more information, readers may call 717-848-4417 or email September_House2@yahoo.com. York County residents age 60 and up are invited to take a tour, meet staff and members, stay for lunch, and participate in activities.

The senior center will be closed on Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019, for New Year's Day.

On Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, starting at 11:30 a.m., the senior center will serve a free meal to members and future members age 60 and over. Menus are posted on the Facebook page. Following the meal, Tall-in-the-Saddle will perform country/western-style music, as well as oldies and more. Attendess will play a variety of games and take part in activities during the afternoon. The senior center will serve a spaghetti dinner with sides, water, and dessert at 5 p.m. A disc jockey will play music during and after the meal. Although reservations are not required, those who plan to attend are asked to call Marie at 717-848-4417.

A study group has formed for those interested in obtaining their ham (amateur) radio operator's license. The group meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1 p.m.

Daily workouts are offered from 10 to 10:30 a.m. Tang Soo Do, a Korean martial arts program, is taught by a certified teacher on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1 to 3 p.m.

The senior center also offers cards and games throughout the week. Pinochle is played every Monday from 1 to 4 p.m., chess is played on Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., 500 bid is played on Wednesdays from 1 to 4 p.m., and the bridge club meets from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays. The center offers shuffleboard on Mondays and Tuesdays from 9 to 11 a.m., and additional players are being sought. All are welcome to play or watch. Board games, cards, and jigsaw puzzles are also available for everyone to enjoy. In addition, wood burning classes and workshops are held on the first and third Fridays.

September House delivers meals to homebound seniors on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings and is in need of volunteers to help with these deliveries. Routes are within a few miles of the center, and the time commitment is one to two hours.

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Library Receives Donation December 18, 2018

The Mason-Dixon Public Library in Stewartstown recently received a $1,000 donation from the Stewartstown Lions Club. Donations from local clubs, businesses and individuals help the library maintain its variety of services for patrons from the surrounding communities.

To learn more about the Mason-Dixon Public Library or to make a donation to the library, readers may visit www.yorklibraries.org/mason-dixon or search for Mason-Dixon Public Library on Facebook. Additionally, volunteers are needed at the library.

The Stewartstown Lions Club was founded in 1933. Through numerous fundraisers and service projects, the club strives to serve people locally and those around the world through Lions Clubs International.

The club meets on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 6:30 p.m. The meeting location rotates between five local churches in Stewartstown, Cross Roads, Winterstown and Hopewell Township.

Lions Clubs International is a service club organization with more than 1.4 million members in approximately 46,000 clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas around the world.

To learn more about the Stewartstown Lions Club, readers may visit www.e-clubhouse.org/sites/stewartstown or search for "Stewartstown Lions Club" on Facebook. New members are welcome.

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Nutrition Education Workshops Slated December 18, 2018

Phoenixville Public Library, 183 Second Ave., Phoenixville, will host a free series of nutrition education workshops aimed at lower-income parents, adults, and older adults. The Nutrition Links workshops will be held most Wednesdays from Jan. 9 to Feb. 20 from 2:30 to 4 p.m.

Nutrition education adviser Cindy Seigafuse will be the presenter. In this series, attendees will learn to eat healthy on a limited budget; plan low-cost, fast, and easy meals; and keep food safe to eat. Participants will also sample new, healthy foods and receive a free cookbook, a tote bag, and more. Participants must attend at least five classes and complete paperwork to receive a graduation certificate and gift bag.

The program is free and open to the public, but it is designed for parents and caregivers of youths age 19 and under, adults, or older adults who qualify for free or reduced school lunch, WIC, SNAP benefits, food pantry boxes/bags, or Pennsylvania farmers market vouchers.

Anyone who anticipates needing any type of accommodation or who has questions about the physical access provided may contact Seigafuse at 610-696-3500 or cbs20@psu.edu in advance of their participation or visit.

Reservations are required by visiting the Adult Events Calendar at www.phoenixvillelibrary.org or by calling 610-933-3013, ext. 132.

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A Holiday Tradition December 18, 2018

Loretta McClarigan, a teacher at St. John's Preschool Learning Center, located in St. John's United Methodist Church, 3001 E. Lincoln Highway, Paradise, has been working with children for a long time. One special holiday project that McClarigan has made a St. John's tradition is creating gingerbread houses with students and parents each December.

"Some (students) make light posts, pretzel fences, sidewalks with cereal, or candy cane sleds for the gummy bear (inhabitants) to ride," observed McClarigan, who oversees the children with assistant Jane Horst.

This year, on Dec. 18 and 19, the 26 students, including a class of 3-year-olds and a class of 4- and 5-year-olds, along with parents and grandparents, spent time building the holiday confections at the school. "We ... decorate with chocolates and mini animal crackers. Gummy bears are (the student's) favorite," noted McClarigan, who added that the parent/child interaction inherent in the activity is important, but that the annual event also aims to foster creativity, constructing, and sharing.

"We start with a small milk carton, cut graham crackers to just the right sizes, and then 'glue' (them) to (the milk) carton using icing," said McClarigan. According to Horst, the secret to successful gingerbread house making is the sticky frosting made at the preschool using a mix for powdered meringue. A few weeks prior to the project, parents signed up to bring in a variety of cereals, colored candies, gumdrops, pretzels, candy canes, marshmallows, and other edible items to decorate the houses.

The activity wrapped up with homemade Christmas cookies, cheese and crackers, and fruit brought by parents. "(We had) hot chocolate too," noted McClarigan.

An emphasis on the spirit of Christmas is a part of the annual activity. "We have a bulletin board up that says, 'Christmas is the time for caring and sharing,'" said McClarigan. "We try to (extend) that over into (the message that) every day is for caring and sharing."

St. John's Preschool Learning Center serves more than 30 children. Classes are provided five days per week from September until late May. Readers who would like more information may call 717-687-6711.

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