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Braving The Cold For A Polar Plunge January 15, 2019

It takes a special person to willingly run into the frigid waters of the Susquehanna River in February, but year after year the York County Polar Plunge draws a sizeable crowd of willing "plungers" - as the participants are affectionately dubbed. The 11th annual York County Polar Plunge is set to take place from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2, along the Susquehanna River in front of John Wright Restaurant, 234 N. Front St., Wrightsville.

Not only are folks willing to dip into the waters amidst sometimes freezing temperatures, many go all out and participate in the annual costume contest. "Last year the winner of the most original (costume) was a tree," recalled organizer Robyn Liggins-Smith, adding that the costume contest is her favorite portion of the event. "We have superheroes, ballet dancers, swimsuits, Hawaiian dancers, Where's Waldo ... just about anything you can think of has joined in the costume contest," Liggins-Smith shared.

York Revolution mascot DownTown joins the fun each year by helping to entertain the crowd, going so far as to actually plunge in his costume. Another staple is the team that starts the waves of plungers - made up of current and retired police officers from throughout York County and led by Lt. Dan Aikey of the York County Police Department.

Registration and sign-in will open at 9:30 a.m., followed by opening ceremonies at 10 a.m. and the costume parade and contest at 10:45 a.m. Awards will be given for the best costume and most original costume.

Plungers will begin assembling in waves around 11:45 a.m., and the plunge will start at noon. Special Olympics PA York County (SOYC) athletes will lead each wave of participants to the river. Plungers may dip in just a toe or go all in for a total of three minutes.

Heated tents will be set up for participants to change into dry clothes afterward. Coffee, hot chocolate, water, and snacks will also be available.

To register in advance - which organizers recommend for anyone interested in avoiding waiting in long lines - as an individual or a team, readers may visit www.specialolympicsyorkcounty.org. "There is no cost to register - everyone and anyone can plunge," explained Liggins-Smith. "However, this is a fundraiser, so we ask that you get sponsors." Participants who raise at least $25 will receive a T-shirt, and those who raise at least $100 will receive a hooded sweatshirt. Golden Plunger awards - which are actually golden plungers - are given to the individual and the team that have raised the most money.

All proceeds will support the 360 athletes of the SOYC, which provides year-round sports training and competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The Polar Plunge helps to ensure that all training and competition opportunities continue to provided free of charge to the SOYC athletes and their families. The 15 sports programs are supported by hundreds of volunteers and contributions from the community.

Anyone who would like to contribute toward SOYC without taking a dip in the icy cold river is welcome to donate at the aforementioned website or to attend as a chicken plunger - someone who supports the plunge but does not go into the water. The infamous chicken dance, set for 11:15 a.m., will be performed by all of the chicken plungers in attendance.

Liggins-Smith said that last year's 10th anniversary Polar Plunge raised a total of $76,000 for SOYC. "The weather was actually nice, if you consider 34 degrees nice, and that was the air temperature," recalled Liggins-Smith. "The water temperature was about 21 degrees." Nevertheless, approximately 750 plungers stepped up - or into - the challenge.

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CASA Posts Information Sessions January 15, 2019

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) will hold two information sessions on Tuesday, Feb. 12, in the York County Judicial Center on North George Street in York. The sessions will take place from noon to 1 p.m. and from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. The presenters will share information about the upcoming spring training and how to become a volunteer. CASA volunteers advocate for abused and neglected children. New volunteers were sworn in on Nov. 13, 2018.

For more details, readers may email casa@yorkcountypa.gov or call 717-771-9754. More information about CASA is also available by searching for "York County CASA Program" on Facebook.

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Mentoring Organization Receives Donation January 15, 2019

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ODC Small Group Participants Go To Work In Mount Joy January 15, 2019

Daryl Strine, direct support professional with Occupational Development Center (ODC), 640 Martha Ave., Lancaster, is very proud of the crew he takes to Kinsey's Inc., in Mount Joy, two to three days a week as part of ODC's small group employment program. He cannot say enough about the ODC participants' skills and work ethic.

At the warehouse, part of Strine's job is to move the boxes groups of up to four participants make as one of a variety of duties they complete, from the area where they are constructed to another location in the warehouse. The more boxes the participants complete, the more trips Strine makes. "They keep me moving," he said. "On a busy day, I do 20,000 steps in four hours."

According to ODC executive director Gregg Richards, the program is designed to give participants a chance to work in an integrated environment. "Small group employment is a crew of program participants who go to a workplace with a program supervisor and work side by side with employees of the local business, (where they) are paid at minimum wage or above," explained Richards, who added that businesses may utilize a crew for seasonal work or on a regular basis.

Strine said that ODC participants were carefully selected for the program based on skills. Over the course of a year, Strine worked to cull a list of 40 possible participants down to eight workers and four alternates. "They were competing for positions," noted Strine, who added that the participants work four hours per day, clocking in and out and working alongside other Kinsey's employees.

Ken Mueller, public relations and development manager for ODC, said that the skill set of participants has been a good fit with the Kinsey's, which makes archery supplies and outdoor gear. Mueller added that many businesses have a vareithy of tasks that might also be a good fit for ODC individuals, including light assembly, collating mailings, and putting kits together. Strine noted that the ODC participants in the small group program have also folded and packed items such as T-shirts, archery equipment, traps, and gloves.

Emerson, one of the small group participants, said that his favorite job is making boxes, especially the large boxes. "We try our best (to make as many boxes as we can)," said Emerson, who also folds T-shirts. Emerson appreciates the excitement of meeting new people, but he said he does get nervous sometimes when talking to people he does not know.

That is where Deb Russell, who serves as a liaison between Kinsey's and ODC comes in. "Our crews interact throughout the day and during lunch breaks," said Russell, who first suggested ODC participants help with box production in early 2016 based on her sister's 40 years of experience at ODC. "The crew from ODC arrives with a positive attitude that's contagious throughout the building," Russell continued. "The way they support one another to accomplish the goals we've laid out for them is inspiring. We should all learn a lesson from them." Strine complimented Kinsey's employees, saying, "Interaction between Kinsey's employees and participants has been excellent," he said.

According to Mueller, integrating participants into community businesses is an ultimate goal for ODC. Strine agreed, saying, "All (participants) have designated disabilities, but I like to look at what they can do." Russell added that ODC crew members have been willing to try new tasks, following instructions compiled in a binder. "The binder was made up so that each crew could work independently, making the final projects consistent for Kinsey's and giving (the participants) a feeling of success and independence," said Russell. "We're so proud to be working with such a wonderful organization," said Russell.

Emerson said he likes the work, but he also enjoys receiving a paycheck. His favorite thing to spend his money on is pizza.

ODC is actively seeking more employers who could benefit from the talents and abilities offered by participants. Readers who would like to learn more may visit www.odcenter.org or call 717-397-4269.

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CASA Volunteers Sworn In January 14, 2019

A total of 12 new volunteers with Lancaster County's Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program were sworn in on Nov. 19, 2018, at the Emerald Foundation in Lancaster. More than 40 family members, friends, and CASA supporters were in attendance.

The 12 new volunteers are Jason Burkholder, Lititz; Diane Gottlieb, Lebanon; Teresa Caruthers, Ephrata; Bev Kennel, Willow Street; Adele Ruszak, Lancaster; Jordan Schonhaut, Millersville; Sherri Stauffer, Manheim; Terri Small, Lancaster; Sophia Wanner, Lancaster; Liz Yocum, Millersville; Linda Williard, Lancaster; and Lisa Wood, Lancaster.

CASA of Lancaster County trains community volunteers to be qualified, compassionate advocates for abused and neglected children within the court system. Advocates fight for and protect a child's right to be safe, to be treated with dignity and respect, and to learn and grow in the security of a loving family. CASAs are asked to meet with the child regularly and are authorized to interview people in the child's life, such as social workers, attorneys, and teachers. They attend court hearings with the child and report their findings to the judge.

Over the course of 2018, CASA volunteers advocated for 325 children, and 92 children are now with their forever families.

Information sessions have been set for Monday, Feb. 4, at 6 p.m. at United Disability Services, 2270 Erin Court, Lancaster, and Thursday, March 14, at noon at New Joy Church, 35 New Joy Drive, Ephrata. Each program will not exceed one hour. The sessions are free and open to the public, but preregistration is required due to limited seating.

Additionally, the next advocate training session will begin on Wednesday, Feb. 20. To learn more about becoming a CASA volunteer or to preregister to attend an information session, readers may contact CASA by calling 717-208-3280 or emailing casa@casalancaster.org.

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ESL, Citizenship Classes Slated January 11, 2019

Elizabethtown Alliance Church, 425 Cloverleaf Road, Elizabethtown, has slated its second semester of English as a Second Language (ESL) and citizenship classes. The classes were scheduled to start in January and will continue on Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8 p.m. through May 8.

New students are encouraged to come for the new semester, sign up for a class, meet teachers, visit classrooms, and look at materials. There is a registration fee for first-time enrollees. Returning students need only report to their classes as before.

In the ESL classes, students will be placed in class levels in which they are comfortable. Vocabulary building and conversational English will be emphasized at all levels.

In addition to ESL instruction, a class will be offered in citizenship covering the U.S. Constitution and American history. This class is open to anyone interested in preparing for the American Citizenship Test. It will be held at the same time and place as the ESL classes.

For more information, readers may contact Kara Werner at 717-769-1579 or the church office at 717-367-2995.

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Home-Based Head Start Offered In MTSD January 11, 2019

Twins Jeremiah and Joshua Philemond worked Head Start home visitor Jessica Gordon to build with brightly colored, interconnecting blocks on the floor of the living room in their Manheim Township School District (MTSD) home. "It's a tall tower," cried Jeremiah, gesturing to the nearly three-foot-high structure.

Gordon visits the twins weekly to provide parenting support to their mother, Kettia. "I help the parent give lessons to their children," said Gordon, who noted that children ages 3 to 5 residing in MTSD whose families meet certain income requirements qualify for home visits. "The idea is to work with the child academically."

Gordon explained that many people have heard of Head Start classrooms, but they may not be aware of the home visit program. "Home-based (Head Start offers) benefits for families (that) may have transportation issues or younger children that make it difficult to get out of the house or a special family situation that makes it hard for them to get to the classroom," she said. "We do all the same things Head Start does (in the classroom, but at home)."

According to Gordon, each home visit includes two segments. The first segment involves the home visitor working with the parent and the children. "I support the parent as we work through an activity with the child," said Gordon. "We work on all of the school readiness activities, and I help the parents understand the ways (the activity) is beneficial," said Gordon. "We complete assessments and give (parents) the tools they need in the areas that are lacking," added Gordon. Gordon can also offer assistance with behavioral issues. She noted that a team is available to help the children who have challenging behaviors to get the support they need when they start school. "We call in our behavior team and make those referrals," she said.

The second part of the visit focuses more on parental needs. "It's a parent support time," said Gordon, noting that discussions with parents often include how to register a child for kindergarten or ways to make the bedtime routine go more smoothly. "We help with community resources, health support services, dental screenings, and vision and hearing testing," said Gordon. "We encourage (parents) to make sure the children are on track with well child checks."

In addition, twice monthly social events are scheduled for families receiving home visits. Currently, the events are held at PA CareerLink Lancaster County, Liberty Place, Lancaster, on the second and fourth Tuesdays from 1 to 3:30 p.m. "We offer the children a meal during the social time," said Gordon. "That opportunity is a chance for (children) to be in a classroom setting and parents to connect on a support level," said Gordon, who added that guest speakers may come in to talk to parents about services such as WIC or area food pantries. "It's an opportunity for families to connect, which they may not have chances to do if they don't have transportation. Some may not see another parent all day long," she said.

In addition to the social gatherings, Gordon noted that community events can be planned for the children and parents. "If (parents) want to get (children) out to do something fun, we can meet at a park," said Gordon, who hopes to have up to a dozen families take part in the program.

"Our home-based (program) is very parent driven," said Gordon. "If (parents) need support in an area, that's where I work (with) them. Everything is very parent driven because the goal is to help them be the best parent for their child."

Readers who think their children may qualify for the Head Start home-based program may call the program enrollment manager at 717-299-7301, ext. 3012.

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Room To Grow January 11, 2019

Service Dog Program Moves To Larger Facility

When UDS Foundation moved from its previous home in Greenfield to 2270 Erin Court, Lancaster, the space available for the service dog program more than doubled. The new facility includes a kennel with space for 12 dogs, a cuddle room for puppies, and a large training room.

According to Lori Breece, UDS service dog program manager, 12 puppies per year are brought into the program, which takes several years to turn an eight-week-old ball of fluff into a dog capable of giving a person with a disability a chance for greater independence. In addition to serving individuals, many UDS dogs are being sent to schools where they provide student support. "Since we have been here (in the new location), we have added several clients in less than a year, including three or four schools," said Breece. "We are so pleased with the pups-in-the-classroom opportunity. Our vision would be a dog in every school or at least every district."

In schools, dogs serve students with multiple disabilities, but they also serve in learning support classrooms. Kristy Smith, service dog program coordinator with UDS, said that dogs help with physical therapy or with fine motor skill issues, but they also aid students struggling with "the emotional aspects of school and life's challenges." Breece added that in some classrooms, time with a dog can be an incentive. "For some of those students who are more challenged, it's a calming influence, and they can work toward time with the dog as a reward," she said.

Smith noted that currently UDS dogs are present in Cocalico, Ephrata, Penn Manor, and Northern York County school districts. "Each dog has a teacher or principal they go home with each night as the main handler, but we ask the schools to have a group of handlers," she explained. Having a group of handlers allows a dog to work in multiple rooms.

Breece noted that having a dog in a school affects the atmosphere of the building. "It changes the lives of the faculty by changing the environment behind the cement walls," she said. "We'd like to see more dogs in schools."

A service dog's training begins when it becomes part of the BARKS Prison Program, through which it is trained by an inmate at a Pennsylvania correctional facility. Puppies live with their inmate handlers around the clock, learning up to 50 commands. At the age of one year, the dogs return to Lancaster. For the next six months, they live in a volunteer puppy home. "(The dogs) attend weekly outings and training sessions, and they will go out in the community so they can get socialization," explained Breece. At the age of 18 months, the dogs are sent to trainers for six months of specialty training.

Smith explained that many of the tasks the dogs perform are extensions of actions that come naturally to Labradors, such as retrieving and tugging, which make up 95 percent of the working service dog force. "A lot of the main job is retrieval from the floor or the counter or helping pay," she said, adding that dogs tug open doors, carry bags that are too heavy (for their client), and remove articles of clothing, such as socks. "They push elevator buttons and handicapped-accessible buttons and turn light switches on and off."

The newest puppy in the UDS program has been named Sully in honor of the yellow Labrador that served President George H. W. Bush and was photographed lying near his master's casket during the funeral services in early December. UDS' Sully is in need of a sponsor, which can be a local individual, organization, or business, to cover his two-year training. Breece is also looking for a sponsor for the dog program's new training room.

Readers who would like to learn more about sponsorship and volunteer opportunities with UDS may visit www.udservices.org.

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Writing A Way Through Trauma January 11, 2019

Writeface, a local nonprofit organization that offers free writing workshops to veterans, has announced its 2019 winter/spring schedule. Folks do not need to be a writer or an artist to participate. Writeface strives to provide a safe space for veterans, in the company of other veterans, to explore their inner landscape by using proven writing techniques to become reacquainted with aspects of themselves that were lost in battle.

"Our goal, first and foremost, is always to create a safe environment for veterans to explore and address any difficulty they may be experiencing in their present life that may have roots in the past," said Annie Ginder, who co-founded Writeface with Scott Hower and serves as a facilitator. "The workshops we offer seem to naturally create a sense of camaraderie that many veterans say they haven't been able to recapture in civilian life. (The) Writers on the Storm (workshop) specifically uses the metaphor of a storm in each of their classes to help teach specific writing and journaling tools that can be used for the rest of their lives to help manage issues that come up in civilian life."

Starting on Thursday, Jan. 17, and continuing through Thursday, March 28, Writers on the Storm will be held at the Transitional Living Center, 105 E. King St., Lancaster. The workshops will run from 6:30 to 8 p.m. No class will be held on Thursday, Feb. 14. Additionally, Writers on the Storm will be offered as part of Millersville University's Lifelong Learning Institute, which will begin in March. For more information and to sign up for the workshop at the college, readers may visit www.millersville.edu/milli.

Workshops for veterans will be held at the Columbia Creative Factory, 247 Locust St., Columbia. Sessions will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays from Jan. 21 through March 25. The workshops will combine writing with different art media. Parking will be paid for by Writeface, and free lunches will be provided to all veterans who participate.

For more information or questions, readers may contact Ginder at 717-799-0154 or annie.ginder@comcast.net or Hower at 717-209-0410 or scotthower@aol.com.

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Women's Club Announces 2019 Grant Program January 10, 2019

The Women's Club of Manheim has announced details of its 2019 Grant Program. The club will award grants of up to $1,000 to nonprofit organizations serving Manheim and the Manheim community. Interested individuals and organizations may find the one-page application for the grants on Facebook by searching for "The Women's Club of Manheim" or request an application by emailing wcgrants@gmail.com.

Grant applications are due on Friday, Feb. 15. Information for submitting the grant application can be found on the application. Winners of the grants will be announced in March. Readers who would like more information about the grants may contact Kathy Bower at wcgrants@gmail.com or call 717-665-9141.

The Women's Club of Manheim, which has been in existence since 1937, is an organization of Manheim women committed to friendship, community service, and civic responsibility. The club is a nonprofit organization that contributes more than $10,000 each year to the Manheim community.

Projects and organizations that received funding in the past include the Manheim Community Library Summer Reading Program, Secret Santa gifts for children in the Manheim Central School District, Aaron's Acres, Manheim Central High School (MCHS) post prom, Manheim Central Food Pantry, scholarships for female seniors at MCHS, Manheim Central Elementary Run for Fitness, Manheim banners, Pleasant View Retirement Community bingo, and activities for residents at The Danner Home.

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Student Organizes Fundraising Events January 10, 2019

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) has announced its 2019 Students of the Year candidates, which include Logan Conrad of Elizabethtown. The program is a seven-week initiative in which select high school students from around the country participate in a fundraising competition to benefit LLS.

Logan, 14, is a freshman honors student at Elizabethtown Area High School. He is a member of the soccer team and participates in Mini-THON, chess club, and Model UN. He has become involved with LLS because he would like fewer families to be affected by cancer.

The campaign began on Jan. 13 and will run through Saturday, March 2. Logan's fundraising page is available at http://tinyurl.com/llsconrad.

Logan is organizing a cornhole tournament fundraising event, slated for Thursday, Jan. 17, at 5 p.m. at Funk Brewing, 28 S. Market St., Elizabethtown. A portion of the proceeds will go to LLS. To register, readers may visit https://tinyurl.com/CPAkillscancer-funk.

In addition to this event, Logan plans to organize events at school to engage his peers, place donation boxes at several local businesses, and organize other fundraising activities.

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Harry's Heroes Team Raises Funds January 10, 2019

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Master Naturalist Training Set January 9, 2019

Pennsylvania Master Naturalist is partnering with Green Valleys Watershed Association to prepare citizens to become volunteer leaders in their communities through natural resource conservation education, citizen science and stewardship. Pennsylvania Master Naturalist is a citizen volunteer initiative with three key components: an initial 55-hour volunteer training, annual volunteer service, and continuing education in the natural sciences.

Master Naturalist volunteers design and pursue a wide variety of service projects, including habitat restoration, native plantings, nature walks, interpretative displays or publications on natural history, water quality monitoring, and support of the natural resource conservation efforts of partnering organizations. Since 2010, Pennsylvania Master Naturalist volunteers in Pennsylvania have engaged in more than 25,600 hours of conservation service, contributed $587,000 in conservation value and impact to numerous regional partners, reached more than 20,000 people through education and outreach initiatives, and improved more than 9,700 acres of habitat through stewardship service.

Once accepted into the Pennsylvania Master Naturalist program, participants begin by attending an initial intensive training. This natural history training includes 50 hours of classroom (weekday evenings) and field sessions (Saturdays). Following this training, participants engage in 30 hours of service in the first year and eight hours of continuing education in order to become certified as a Master Naturalist Volunteer. Participants also complete annual service and continuing education hours to maintain their status as Master Naturalist Volunteers.

Spring training for Green Valleys Watershed Association will begin on Wednesday, April 3, and run through Wednesday, June 12. The finalized training schedule along with the application and information about training can be found at www.pamasternaturalist.org under "Become a Master Naturalist."

The application deadline is Friday, Feb. 1. For additional information, readers may contact Ellyn Nolt at enolt@pamasternaturalist.org or 717-368-4899.

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Pantry Distributes Food And More January 9, 2019

Throughout the year, the Honey Brook Food Pantry provides food for those in need throughout the Twin Valley community. In December 2018, families served by the pantry were also presented with winter outerwear and toys in time for Christmas. In addition, clients received turkeys and fixings for their holiday dinners.

According to Ken Ross, the pantry's board chairman, coats were available during three distribution days in December. The garments were donated through coat drives held at Hopewell United Methodist Church in Downingtown, St. Peter Catholic Church in West Brandywine and the Westtown-East Goshen Regional Police Department.

"Most of the coats were new, and some were gently used," Ross said, noting that more than 150 coats were given out.

In addition, clients of the pantry received hats, scarves and gloves that were donated by residents of the Tel Hai Retirement Community in Honey Brook and the LifeGroup at East Brandywine Baptist Church in Downingtown.

Gift stockings and 600 toys provided by individuals, a local business and the Toys for Tots program were also made available on the three distribution days for families served by the pantry. Ross noted that about 550 toys were given out in December. The remaining 50 toys were available to clients during the Jan. 9 distribution. "All the toys were new," he pointed out.

The turkeys were distributed on Dec. 2, 2018. Young women from the Pegasus Fastpitch Softball team of Exton provided assistance in packing the holiday food boxes. "Our regular food assortment was greatly enhanced as 251 turkeys were distributed (along with the toys and coats) - all making for a happier holiday season for those we serve," said Ross.

Ross recently issued his year-end report for the pantry, noting that December's distribution was the largest one to date. "Although we saw some slight reductions in need at times throughout 2018 and more local families achieving food independence, those seeking help in December exceeded any other time in our five-year history," Ross stated.

According to the report, a total of 1,450 individuals were served through nearly 500 family visits in 2018, which represents a 10 percent increase in the number of families served and 160 more people. "In all, over 20,000 pounds of food passed through the pantry," Ross reported.

Ross credited the local organizations, churches and individual donors for their generosity in providing the children's items, holiday food items and coats. He also thanked the volunteers for their efforts. "Although you do it all year long, the work this December seemed extra special, and without the donation of your time, there is no Honey Brook Food Pantry," he told them.

Ross added that goals for the pantry in 2019 include offering more initiatives that promote food independence, offering access to employment resources and developing a nutrition program for children under age 3.

The pantry is located at Door 8 at the Good Food Inc. Distribution Center, 5064 Horseshoe Pike, Honey Brook (across from Wimpy and Dee's Diner). Distributions are held on the second Wednesday of each month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the fourth Wednesday of the month from 4 to 6:30 pm.

For more information about the pantry, readers may visit www.honeybrookfoodpantry.org or search for "Honey Brook Food Pantry" on Facebook. For up-to-date information about food distributions, readers may call 610-273-6102. Those interested in volunteering, donating food or conducting a food drive are asked to contact Ross at KRoss1414@aol.com.

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Support Group To Meet January 9, 2019

A Susquehanna Valley support group, sponsored by Greater Pennsylvania Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, will meet on Thursday, Jan. 17, at 2 p.m. at Susquehanna Valley Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 745 Old Chickies Hill Road, Columbia.

The support group will be conducted by a trained facilitator with the purpose of providing a safe place for caregivers, family and friends of persons with dementia to develop a support system; exchange practical information on caregiving challenges and possible solutions; talk through issues and ways of coping; share feelings, needs and concerns; and learn about community resources.

The group meets on the third Thursday of the month at 2 p.m. For more information, readers may contact MJ Musser at 717-495-3456 or mjmusser@svnrc.com. To learn more about caregiver programs and resources, individuals may visit www.alz.org/pa or www.alzconnected.org.

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Memory Loss Group To Meet January 9, 2019

The Memory Loss Support Group for Caregivers will meet on Tuesday, Feb. 5, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Community Room at Mount Joy Mennonite Church, 320 Musser Road, Mount Joy.

Dr. Ken Brubaker will discuss "The Seven Stages of Memory Loss."

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CATRA Plans Volunteer Orientation January 9, 2019

The Capital Area Therapeutic Riding Association (CATRA) in Grantville is looking for volunteers, and a volunteer orientation is set for Sunday, Jan. 20, at 1 p.m. Attendees at the 90-minute program will learn about the concepts and benefits of therapeutic riding as well as volunteer opportunities.

CATRA welcomes volunteers age 13 and older with parent or guardian permission. Anyone under age 13 may volunteer with a parent or guardian. Volunteer positions include therapeutic riding assistants, barn managers, maintenance workers, animal caretakers, and gardeners.

CATRA offers therapeutic riding for special-needs children, adolescents, and adults. CATRA is a working horse farm and is home to a number of other animals. The organization is volunteer-run.

For more information, contact CATRA at 717-469-7517 or info@catra.net or visit www.catra.net.

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Organization Seeks Land, House Donation January 9, 2019

Sparrow Place is currently seeking a donation of land or a house in York County for use as a safe home for survivors of sex trafficking.

Sparrow Place is a local nonprofit looking to provide a house with some acreage as a voluntary, long-term-stay residential restorative program for survivors of domestic sex trafficking or commercial sexual exploitation. The organization believes that county living environment and a supportive community are key to the trauma-informed care needed for this population.

For more information, readers may call 717-347-7176, email info@sparrowplace.org, or visit www.sparrowplace.org.

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Friends Association Receives Grant January 9, 2019

The Home4Good Program has awarded a $40,000 grant to Friends Association for Care & Protection of Children to expand the Homeless Prevention Program (HPP) in collaboration with local partners Open Hearth and Kennett Area Community Services. The grant will be used by the three agencies to help HPP families build on existing strengths and identify education and services they need to successfully transition from poverty/homelessness to permanent housing and financial self-sufficiency.

The grant will be used for direct expenses in support of the HPP, including long-term case management. Direct benefits to families will include rent or utility assistance, eviction prevention, transitional housing and other supportive services.

Home4Good helps those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness by channeling dollars to local service organizations that know how to help. Funding is offered annually by FHLBank Pittsburgh and the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. This year, FHLBank Pittsburgh provided $3 million toward the effort and PHFA provided $1.5 million, for a total contribution of $4.5 million.

Friends Association promotes the independence of families with children by providing shelter, programs and services that seek to prevent and end homelessness in Chester County. In 2018, Friends Association saved more than 120 families and 270 children from homelessness.

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DMVA Offers Assistance To Veterans January 9, 2019

The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) encourages veterans to review their benefits with a professional to ensure they are receiving the benefits they have earned through their service and sacrifice. All veterans should occasionally check with a veterans service officer to see if changes in a veteran's circumstances or changes to benefit policies may have modified the programs a veteran may be eligible to receive.

Safeguarding military paperwork, especially the DD-214, which is used to verify military service, is an important first step. The easiest way to manage military documents is to make sure they are filed in a safe place immediately when an individual leaves the military. Veterans often find that filing their documents for free at their county courthouse of record is an easy way to secure them until needed, which can often be decades into the future. Anyone needing assistance locating their military documentation can call 717-861-8910 or email RA-REQ@pa.gov.

Another key step is for veterans to apply for federal health care and state benefits by visiting their local county director of veterans affairs or area accredited service organizations to take a look at what benefits they may be eligible for and to get help applying for those benefits. A complete list of county directors and their contact information can be found at www.dmva.pa.gov.

In addition to connecting with a county director or an accredited service organization, veterans should sign up for the DMVA Veterans Registry, an extremely helpful, free tool that electronically delivers timely information about the many state benefits, programs and services available to veterans. Veterans, family members and people who work with veterans can sign up at www.register.dmva.pa.gov.

Veterans and their dependents should never pay for help to apply for veterans' benefits. There are about 200 veterans service officers in Pennsylvania who work with organizations such as the DMVA, county Veterans Affairs offices and several veterans service organizations. They are experienced, trained professionals who provide veterans with advice and assistance at no cost.

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