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October 30, 2008

Heartbroken about Mahle Clevite

When I learned that the Mahle Clevite facility in Churubusco would be closing their doors in 2009, my heart sank. Not only was I heartbroken for the up to 80 people who are finding out, just before the holiday season, that their jobs are ending – I am also sad for the many organizations who’ve benefited from the company’s commitment to the community.

Mahle Clevite has been a long-time supporter and past sponsor of the Leadership Whitley County servant leadership program, has participated in numerous fundraisers, community events and has encouraged their employees to remain active in Whitley County. Their culture of involvement in community service is well-known – they’ve been nominated in the past for an Excellence in Servant Leadership award.

The volunteer spirit of Mahle Clevite's employees have impacted my own family. It is because of a dedicated group of volunteers who participated in the United Way Day of Caring in Whitley County in September that my children now have a wonderful new playset on their playground at Faith Christian Academy. When they realized it would be impossible to build the combined fort and climbing wall, they turned one day of caring into a two-day initiative -- all for the sake of more than 50 children who gleefully play on that playground each day. Not everyone would be willing to give up two days to build playground equipment for someone else's children. Not every employer would willingly allow their employees to be off the job to actively participate in a community project. For this reason, many people, including myself, are particularly saddened to hear this company will close their doors and the same employees who so willingly volunteered for the sake of our children will now lose their jobs. That's just not fair.

Yes, many Whitley County businesses are committed to community service and actively encourage their employees to volunteer, however, losing a strong community partner such as Mahle Clevite is significant. I hope and pray the employees impacted by this closure will be able to find jobs locally and will be able to remain part of the fabric of Whitley County – to lose them, their spirit of leadership and volunteerism -- would make the loss of this company even more devastating.

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October 28, 2008

Some we'll want, others we won't...but do what's important: vote.

Now less than a week away, the General Election we’ve all been waiting for is nearly upon us.

Candidates can’t wait for the day to pass. Many of us are eagerly awaiting the day as well…looking forward to the next day when life can return to some semblance of normal.

The signs will disappear, the increasingly negative campaigning on the television will cease and we’ll likely have to deal with a mixed bag of winners – some we want, others we won’t.

But before we get to enjoy that – we need to live through that day. November 4.

We can’t blindly go into the voting booth and believe all that we hear. Between daily chores, our jobs, our children and everything else we have going on – we all need to make time to find some reliable sources and research the candidates.

In the scheme of things, it is important for us all to realize we can’t believe everything bad we hear about the candidates and we can’t believe all the good either. The best we can really do is to research them all as much as we can and make sure we’re aware of the bias that exists within everyone sharing information about the candidates. We’ve all heard a lot of ridiculous things…things that can’t possibly be true and probably aren’t.

The really important thing is that if you can vote, if you’re registered…vote. You can vote this week if it is more convenient for you or, if you prefer, you can be a part of voting on what is likely to be a historic day for voter turnout nationally. We are entrusted with a very important duty in voting to pick our future leaders. There is a lot riding on our decisions nationally, statewide and right here at home in Whitley County. Mark it on your calendar and let nothing stand between you and the voting booth on November 4.

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October 13, 2008

Magic memories made in downtown Columbia City

As a child, I have the most wonderfully fond memories of shopping in downtown Columbia City with my Mom and my sister, Sarah.

Most often, these shopping adventures took place on Saturday mornings and it was just the three of us – I imagine our little brother, Drew, stayed home with Dad. We’d pile into the old van or the car we affectionately called “Old Yeller” for what was usually a full day’s adventure downtown.

The days that stand out to me were ones when it was raining downtown or snowing. Growing up in a more rural area of Whitley County, I have distinct memories of the way it smelled downtown, the sound of the traffic and keeping pace with my Mom, walking through puddles on the sidewalk. I recall marveling at the old buildings, the courthouse towering overhead and people-watching.

When we got downtown, we at least walked inside almost any store that was open – even if we weren’t there to buy anything I was aware of. Mom would talk with the ladies at the counters in the stores or passersby on the streets and we’d usually stand quietly at her side, studying all the neat things there were to see. I remember the way it smelled in Cira’s Sports World. I remember how careful we had to be walking around in what seemed like an enormous store, Our Compliments. I remember trying to hide in the clothes at The Smart Shop. I remember going to a big sale once at the department store that was where Star Insurance is today, and visiting the hardware store and other long-gone businesses that were downtown. A visit to Second Time Around was always on the short list of places we’d visit and usually resulted in a coveted new item for our dress-up drawer.

And always, always…we’d have lunch at The Nook. It was never a promised part of the trip, but after a morning of walking around downtown, Mom would usually ask if we were hungry and then suggest we go have a coney dog. It was always presented as a surprise treat – and it was always received that way as well! I have such fond, fond memories sitting in the booths there enjoying great conversation and the most pleasant dining experience with Mom. Oh, how I wish we could do those days all over again!

Remembering how vibrant it was even in my lifetime and how enjoyable it was to spend an afternoon downtown back in the day, I can only imagine it was even more memorable decades before. More than anything, I’d love to see that vibrance, that life downtown, come back again.

In the poetic words of John Lennon, “Some may say I’m dreamer…but I’m not the only one.” What’s the harm in dreaming big for our downtown? Years ago it might not have seemed likely that nearby Pierceton could breathe new life into their downtown…yet through the addition of small shops, cafes and antique stores, their town has become a destination, a place you can spend a whole day. Why can’t we have that too? Why can’t we dream big and make it happen? Why can’t we support the businesses we already have and encourage the development of a few more?

I don’t think it is impossible. I know there are bound to be some great ideas out there for ways we can breathe  life into our downtown – and I heard a few excellent ones last week in a meeting with the Columbia City Redevelopment Commission. There also have to be some people out there with the venture capital, the foresight, the interest in making big things happen in downtown Columbia City. If it happens other places, why not here? Why not now?

In the meantime, let’s keep an open mind, learn all we can about what’s going on and most importantly, support our existing downtown businesses with our hard-earned dollars as often as possible.

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October 08, 2008

Sweet babies...

(Talk of the Town photo by Jennifer Zartman Romano) Thanks so much to the many who've asked about the twins...my nephews William and Thomas are doing well and growing big! I took this photo Monday afternoon and they are now just a little over two weeks old. Everyone is doing well...the prayers and well-wishing have been very much appreciated.

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