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4-H Program Reaches Area Communities July 30, 2014


In the summer months, it is important for children to have something to do. The Penn State Extension's Chester County 4-H Creating Community Networks (CCN) brings a wealth of healthy activities to children across the county who might not otherwise have summer programs to enjoy.

The longstanding 4-H program includes topics such as nutrition education, gardening, theater arts, dance, literacy and team sports. Programs are being offered this summer in West Grove, Kennett Square, Avondale, Oxford and Coatesville, as well as surrounding areas.

"This year, we have expanded to add a few new programs, a new program focus and a couple of new sites as well," Laurie Szoke from Penn State Extension said. "People in these communities are very eager to have their children participate in something that is good, something that is wholesome."

The majority of the children involved are ages 8 to 12, but both older and younger children also take part. In fact, many come back year after year to enjoy the program. "It's been great. We've had a huge turnout of kids," 4-H program assistant Tracy Murdaugh said. "They're really excited. They're having lots of fun."

The program works much like a summer camp. The 4-H staff members and volunteers bring activities and information to the communities for the children to come and enjoy. Each day usually includes an educational presentation, nutrition information, a craft project, sports and other activities.

"All of our programs include a health and wellness piece and a science piece in addition to the (regular) subject matter," Szoke said.

This year, activities focused on science. The program included visits from representatives of the Delaware Museum of Natural History, as well as fun science presentations offered through the local Girl Scout Council. "(Youths) don't realize you can really enjoy science until they see it in a hands-on, tactical way," Szoke said.

At one recent session in West Grove, Stephanie Bernasconi from the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania used dry ice to show the children some interesting experiments. "We learned about physics, we learned about chemistry and we learned about states of matter," she said.

Multiple organizations work together to make the program possible, including the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, local libraries, Paws for People, the Chester County Health Department and others.

Tom Rowan of Paws for People brings his certified therapy dog, Sophie, to the sites to interact with the children. "When we first came in, we were surrounded by kids. It was pretty neat," he said.

One high point of the program each year is a chance for the children to visit the 4-H Fair, held the first week of August. "The young people who raise the livestock, the sheep, the swine and the beef tour the kids around the fair," Szoke said. "In our programming, we keep and honor the root of the 4-H program, which is life skill development in agricultural sciences. We have a strong focus on nutrition, health and wellness, exercise, animals, and all those things that are part of 4-H."

Children and parents appreciate the CCN program. "These programs are making a difference," Szoke said. "People like to see kids doing something that is productive and safe."

For more information about the CCN program, readers may visit

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Veritas Trip Takes Students To Guatemala July 30, 2014


Village of Hope, located in San Lucas Sacatepequez, Guatemala, is not your average orphanage. In fact, the facility, which houses more than 20, is not typically referred to as an orphanage, and the children who live there are not dubbed "orphans." The children are simply called by their given names. In addition, Village of Hope accommodates children who are HIV positive and those with special needs.

Anna Martin, who teaches Spanish at Veritas Academy in Leola, worked in a Guatemalan orphanage and saw the brokenness in those institutions. Martin learned about Village of Hope, which is different from other Guatemalan facilities because the organization sets up families that include Guatemalan house parents who commit to care for the children for life, while researching adoption on the internet.

Martin had been looking for a mission field experience for Veritas students. After learning about Village of Hope, she suggested the trip to the school's board in August 2013. After the board agreed, Martin and Veritas parent Migdalia Gingrich began planning the trip for May 30 to June 6, 2014. A meeting was held for interested students in grades nine through 12 to fill the 20 open spots on the team. Five adults, including Martin; Gingrich; Martin's husband, Jared; Veritas headmaster Ty Fischer; and Veritas math teacher Dale Siegenthaler, completed the team. Martin also brought her adopted daughter Kidist, and her son, Brayan, who was adopted from Guatemala.

Village of Hope is overseen by two missionary families who live nearby. The "village" includes a duplex with two Guatemalan couples living as house parents, with one family in each side of the duplex. Each family includes up to 10 children. In addition, the ministry includes the Hope+ Sisterhood, made up of four mothers who are HIV-positive, ranging in age from 13 to 40. These women are supported, in part, by women in the United States who help to cover their stay at Village of Hope. "While they are at Village of Hope, the women in Hope+ learn to manage their HIV, and they learn a trade to help them get on their feet and stay united with their children," explained Martin.

During the Veritas team's visit to the village, the group completed a number of projects and activities, including painting, sorting clothing, and putting toys together. Special projects included painting signs with inspirational words to fill the rooms of the village and building a table in the wood shop.

Often when young people visit orphanages in other countries a lot of time is spent giving the children who live there attention, but because Village of Hope operates under a different model, that was not a planned part of the trip. "We were not there to pull the kids on our laps and snuggle them," explained Martin. "That does not aid in the attachment and bonding process with their house parents."

However, while in Guatemala, the area they visited received torrential rain, significant enough to close schools, and mission team members were asked to babysit the children. "It was an extended time of play, so they were able to build some relationships," said Martin. "(The students) were trying to overcome the language barrier with songs, guitar, and lots of laughter."

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Compass Mark Specialist To Share Knowledge In Uganda July 30, 2014


Amy Sechrist, certified prevention specialist with Compass Mark in Lancaster, got to know Mary Theresa Webb when the latter, a retired GOAL Project representative, moved to Willow Street and began visiting Compass Mark to research information and collect pamphlets to aid individuals embarking on mission trips to Kenya.

Not long ago, the two women were corresponding by email when Webb suggested Sechrist accompany her to Uganda Christian University in Mukono, Uganda, where GOAL Project is helping to launch a community outreach program for people struggliong with addictions. At first, Sechrist did not think the trip was a feasible option, but then she realized the idea merited consideration. "Somebody just asked me to go to Africa; I should think about that for a minute," Sechrist recalled thinking. "(Webb) needs people (to help her set up this program), and I know about addiction (because of my work for Compass Mark)."

It did not take long for Sechrist to make up her mind, and on Saturday, Sept. 6, she and Webb will leave for Uganda armed with videotapes, pamphlets, and their combined knowledge on prevention and addiction. "There is not a well-developed treatment system (in Uganda)," explained Sechrist. "There is a system, but a 12-step meeting system is foreign to Africans."

The psychiatric teaching staff at the university are working to create the Uganda Christian University Addiction Resource Center, and Webb and Sechrist will be involved in training and strategic planning for the project. "(Resource Center organizers at the university) would like a really comprehensive prevention and intervention program for both students and faculty, and then they would like to be the go-to place in their community," explained Sechrist.

Sechrist said that the organizers in Uganda have already begun to involve the community in the future center. "If you see issues with addiction and you want to do prevention, you need to check in with the community," said Sechrist, who added that the Ugandan faculty has begun gathering community members in forums she called "stakeholder" meetings. "They had a meeting with 80 people, and what would be equivalent to all levels of city, county, and state government (representatives) were there," said Sechrist, who noted that local police and hospital representatives attended.

According to Sechrist, poor choices with regard to drugs and alcohol in Uganda are similar to those found in the United States, with the exception of a popular local drug called khat, which is both a stimulant and a hallucinogen. Sechrist has developed a pamphlet on the drug for use by the new center because little information is available on the substance.

As Sechrist learns about the situation in Uganda, she continues to discover many positive aspects that will help her be more effective on her trip, which will end on Saturday, Sept. 20. The national language is English, so there will be no communication issues, and the organizers are welcoming of GOAL Project's help. "They have a good system of peer counselors for their students," said Sechrist. "We will be training peer counselors on signs and symptoms and ways to speak to someone and intervene."

GOAL stands for Global Outreach for Addiction Leadership and Learning, and the organization has worked to help people deal with addiction in disadvantaged countries, such as Romania, Kenya, and Ghana, to deal with addiction. In Uganda, Sechrist believes trained leadership will be a key. "The community needs leaders in awareness and prevention application," she said. "Once they're trained and up to speed, they would like to affect change in their community."

Readers who would like to learn more about Sechrist's trip or help her with fundraising may visit

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30th Anniversary Celebration July 30, 2014


East End Storage/U-Haul Rental Office will celebrate its 30th anniversary throughout the month of August.

Located in the East End Business Center at 2422 Gehman Lane, Lancaster, just minutes away from Rockvale Outlets and Tanger Outlets, East End Storage is a family-owned business that was started in 1984 by the late Manny Lapp. In the 1990s, East End Storage expanded to five additional buildings with more than 300 storage rooms, including climate-controlled storage, and four office spaces. The business is now a U-Haul authorized dealer and a member of the U-Haul Self Storage Affiliate Network.

"We strive daily to serve our customers with a clean, secure, and convenient storage and moving experience," said property manager Geoff Lapp.

The 30th anniversary of East End Storage will be commemorated throughout the month of August in honor of Manny Lapp's birthday. On Saturdays, Aug. 9 and 30, the first 30 existing East End Storage customers or U-Haul customer walk-ins to visit the business will receive a free East End Storage/U-Haul T-shirt (limit one per family). New and existing customers who visit the business in August will have the opportunity to register to win one of four $30 gift cards to Cracker Barrel, Texas Roadhouse, Fulton Steamboat Inn/Huckleberry's Restaurant and Tavern, and Next to New Fine Furniture. The drawings will be held at the end of August, and the gift cards will be mailed out to the winners.

"Manny's 'git 'er done' spirit and generosity are still a part of the culture on this campus," Geoff said. "He set East End Storage up with the people and processes for the success we continue to enjoy."

The East End Storage office is open Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, readers may stop by the office, call or text 392-1545, or visit For U-Haul rates, rentals, or reservations, individuals may visit the office, call 405-3035, or visit

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Nobody’s Cats’ Wish List Posted July 30, 2014

The Nobody's Cats Foundation, 3909 Hartzdale Drive, Suite 905, Camp Hill, seeks several items to support its programs for implementing Trap Neuter Return (TNR) in the eight counties of southcentral Pennsylvania. The items include sturdy cotton swabs, cotton balls, distilled water, large, heavy duty garbage bags, liquid laundry detergent for high-efficiency machines, clear unscented 70 percent rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, pet grooming wipes, and dry or canned cat food of any brand and in any amount.

Items can be donated at the foundation's Camp Hill facility on Tuesdays from 9 to 11:30 a.m. and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. Other drop-off times may be arranged by contacting or 855-867-4228.

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Area Preschool Posts Openings July 30, 2014

Saint Theresa School, 1200 Bridge St., New Cumberland, has openings in its preschool program. Openings are available for children ages 3 and 4.

All day care is available through Little Saints Academy, which offers hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Both programs offer religion, science, social studies, social development, art, and motor skills in a nurturing environment.

For more information, visit or call the school office at 774-7464.

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Hospital Volunteers Honored July 30, 2014


There were plenty of smiles and at least one happily wagging tail when two York citizens were honored recently.

In July, Rep. Stanley Saylor visited Memorial Hospital in order to thank volunteer Kelly Skiptunas of Wrightsville and her dog, Spencer, an 8-year-old Rottweiler, for visiting patients in the emergency and intensive care units as well as in other places and offices within the hospital. Saylor presented Skiptunas and Spencer with a House Citation for their volunteerism.

"I presented Ms. Skiptunas and Spencer with a House Citation for taking the time to drive from Wrightsville to the hospital and providing patients with the comforting interaction that research has shown makes a huge difference in their recovery times," Saylor said. "Kelly and Spencer are true examples of 'community' and what makes York County (one of) the greatest places to live."

Spencer is an American Kennel Club (AKC) American Grand Champion and Canine Good Citizen, as well as a Certified Therapy Dog and Certified Reading Assistance Education Dog (READ). In addition, Spencer has passed his temperament test, which measures his reaction to loud noises, strangers, and other stimuli.

In addition to their visits to retirement communities and hospitals, Skiptunas and Spencer visit the Columbia Public Library, 24 S. Sixth St., Columbia, every other Thursday to read with children.

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CPCS To Celebrate 25 Years Of Service July 29, 2014


Cornerstone Pregnancy Care Services (CPCS) is about to celebrate its 25th anniversary and would like the community to join in. The organization is actively seeking past clients, board members and volunteers to give testimonials about their experiences.

"We are celebrating 25 years of serving life," said CPCS community and development director Michelle Verdegen. "What we're looking for right now are former clients and their children who have been impacted through the services of Cornerstone in the past 25 years."

The organizations's annual fundraising banquet will be held in October this year, and preparations are underway to make the 2014 event special.

"We're looking for written testimonies as well as verbal testimonies because we are compiling (stories for) a DVD (to be shown at the banquet)," Verdegen explained. "Also, we're looking for volunteers, staff members and board members (to share) their stories or their testimonies as well. We want to include them in our DVD."

To create the DVD, a professional in the field will interview former clients, asking some key questions, then use portions of the various responses to tell the story of CPCS.

"(The DVD is) going to be a look at Cornerstone over 25 years and how it (has) impacted the community," executive director Debbie Davenport said. "We won't be using everybody on the DVD. We may just be using one part of somebody's story, so the confidentiality will still be there. If somebody does not want their name or details that would identify them, their interview will be done in such a way that their identity will not be revealed."

The client records for CPCS are only retained for seven years, so there are no records of the earliest clients. There are also cases where former board members and volunteers have not been reached yet because CPCS does not have their current contact information.

In the early years, the CPCS branch in Gap was called Brephos Pregnancy Center and the Oxford branch was known by the name Small Beginnings. Now the name for all branches of the organization is Cornerstone Pregnancy Care Services. CPCS offers pregnancy testing, limited ultrasound screenings, crisis pregnancy counseling and a Healthy Choices, Healthy Lifestyles Incentive Program.

"Our services have increased for the benefit of the clients, but our mission has remained the same," Davenport said. "I think the big thing over the past 25 years are the changes we have seen take place in the lives of (clients). Their (lives were) touched with a mindset of looking at life with a different perspective than when they came through our doors."

Anyone who is interested in providing a testimonial can arrange to do so by contacting Verdegen at or 717-442-8693. Stories for use at the banquet are being accepted through September, but interviews for use in the DVD need to be completed by the end of August.

CPCS is headquartered at the Family Center of Gap, 835 Houston Run Drive, Suite 330, Gap. It also has a satellite office at The Lincoln University and in Peach Bottom. For more information, readers may call the Gap office at 717-442-3111. More information is also available at

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Area Center Posts News July 29, 2014


Children's Dyslexia Center of Lancaster held its 10th annual graduation ceremony, The Celebration of Achievement, on June 8 in Johnston Auditorium at Lancaster Masonic Center. In addition to the graduates, two continuing students attended and were recognized, as well as four scholars and six (out of nine total) tutors. Director Heather Hinkel addressed the scholars, tutors, continuing students and graduates. Enrollment for the 2013-14 year was at a high of 28 students. Three of these students graduated in December.

Also, the center's 11th annual walk will be held on Sunday, Oct. 5, at 2 p.m.

For more information, readers may call 481-5680, email or visit Children's Dyslexia Center of Lancaster's Facebook page.

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Pet Food Pantry Seeks Donations July 28, 2014


The Chester County Pet Food Pantry is in need of donations for upcoming food distributions, which take place on the first Saturday of each month from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Community members are invited to bring dry and canned cat and dog food to the pantry, 371 Circle of Progress, Pottstown, located next to the Pottstown Municipal Airport, just off Route 100 in Pottstown.

Mary Beth Yannessa, Pantry president, said that requests for pet food have increased dramatically during the past few months. In addition to the Pottstown location that is open on the first Saturday of each month, the food pantry operates a mobile unit that is stationed at the Downingtown Municipal Building on the third Saturday of each month.

"With the increasing number of people coming to the pantry for help, we are challenged more now than ever before," she said. "We gave out 2,173 pounds of dry dog and cat food at the (most recent) mobile pantry. In July, 3,883 pounds of food have gone out so far."

Donations may be placed in the waterproof container located outside the pantry. "We have a bin outside of our building under the overhang, so (the opportunity to donate) is not weather-dependent," Yannessa said. "We desperately need dry and canned cat food and dog food. During the day, the overhead door is open, so people can drop food off inside the doors."

Other items that are needed are treats, toys, cat litter, flea and tick treatments and grooming supplies, as well as food for smaller animals such as guinea pigs and rabbits.

She said that volunteers are also needed to help disburse food to clients. Individuals, as well as Scouting or church groups, are also welcome to conduct pet food drives.

Yannessa began operating the pantry when the previous facility in Coatesville closed its doors. Her dog, Yoshi, is the spokespuppy for the organization. His photo appears in all Pet Pantry publicity, and he can be seen at fundraisers and other events along with his canine "sister," Bella.

"The newest addition to the pantry helpers is Isabella (or Bella), the new 'operations manager,' who oversees the inventory and the quality of the food that is being donated," Yannessa added with a smile. "Every once in a while she will sample a treat just to make sure it is 100 percent ready to be donated."

Yannessa pointed out that people use the service for a variety of reasons, but all are struggling to buy food for the animals that they love. Those who would like to make use of the free service are asked to complete an application and provide proof of income. "The amount of food (clients) get is based on a formula that we have," Yannessa said, noting the pantry serves residents of Chester, Berks and Montgomery counties.

Those who accept food from the agency must agree to several conditions. "They have to agree that within the first three months of acceptance into the program, their dogs or cats have to be spayed or neutered," she said, adding that clients are given information about local free or reduced-cost services.

Yannessa said the effort has grown, citing that the pantry provided more than 24,500 pounds of dry food and 6,400 cans of pet food to animals in need from Jan. 1 to June 7. "We do it because of our love of animals," she said. "At times, we are the last option for families to keep their companion pets at home."

For more information about the Chester County Pet Food Pantry, readers may visit and call 484-378-0557 to leave a voicemail message. More information is also available the Chester County Pet Food Pantry Facebook page.

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