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Troopers assist Backpack Impact

Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers offered a helping hand to the Arcadia Valley R-2 School District's Backpack Impact program that provides food for Arcadia Valley R-2 School District students who might otherwise not have enough to eat on weekends when school is not in session.

"Myself and one of the other troopers had participated in the program when we were off-duty with our families," said Trooper Todd Erpenbach. "We saw how good of a program it was and that it directly benefited the kids in the area that needed help. We also see that they need help every week with the logistics of packing the food and getting it out to where it has to go."

Teacher and program founder Wade Buckman explained that the program sends home food for the weekend using the students' own backpacks. The program often hears about a hungry child from their teacher or a counselor.

"We do it in a discrete manner so food is slipped into the backpack when the kids are at recess or they're out of the class," he said. "The only ones who knows the kids who are participating is myself, the classroom teacher and the building secretaries."

Which brings the story back to how the troopers decided to donate their time and effort to help out the program.

"We had a zone meeting that day, so we had an above-average amount of troopers than usual - especially for a rural area. So, five of us decided to go down and see if we can help them out on a Thursday, which is their packing day, to get things ready for the weekend and the shipping out of the food."

Erpenbach said his fellow troopers in Troop E contacted the coordinators of the program to offer their assistance.

"They were more than happy to have us down there and more than happy to have us help," Erpenbach said. "We just thought it would be a neat deal to have the troopers help out with a great program that really has a direct impact on the kids."

Troopers who volunteered were Erpenbach, Cpl. Russ Sergeant, Trooper Chris Wakefield, Trooper Phil Sarakas and Trooper Eric Ganime.

"We know the program, so we know it directly benefits the kids of our community and gives them a meal over the weekend," Erpenbach said. "It's nice to take a step back from the law enforcement part of our job and do some service for the community."

Buckman said, "I think it's awesome when you have different groups like the Missouri State Highway Patrol helping out with a project like this. It showcases the ease of how someone can help someone else in a tangible way that doesn't require a lot of time, but does make a direct impact within that same week.

"This is just another example of how the community really does help take care of us and take care of our kids, which is pretty incredible, keeps us going and keeps me encouraged."

The Backpack Impact program might not even exist if Buckman wasn't a teacher who cared so much about his students.

"In 2009 I was teaching second grade when I began noticing that kids were hungry," he said. "They start talking about heartbreaking situations where you know they don't have food. A lot of them are very candid. They'll just tell you. Because of the hunger, learning was the least of their worries."

Buckman immediately began looking for a way to help the students out.

"I saw an article in my hometown newspaper from Billings, Montana, about a backpack program there that had really grown," he recalled. "I ended up emailing the newspaper and they connected me with the person who wrote the story. He then led me to the coordinator of the backpack program. They really helped me as far as resources to get one going here."

Once a plan was in place, Buckman went to the school board and received their OK.

"We only had a handful of first grade kids that spring so we could see if it would all work," he said. "That gave us the summer to reassess and try to build up the resources. We ended up launching it elementary-wide the following school year."

It's Buckman's hope that Backpack Impact program will cause others to take note of the needs of people around them.

"I encourage others to do something to help make their community better, even if it is small," he said. "I know from this experience that even small gestures can make a huge difference."


Emma Hinson, Farmington High School 

Joe Sellers (25) makes his way to the Farmington basket during the Unified game against Potosi on Jan. 30. The game is held between the Junior Varsity and Varsity matches.

View more photos at dailyjournalonline.com


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Athletes make memories

A game held between the junior varsity and varsity Farmington and Potosi boys’ basketball games had the crowds cheering for an exciting 10 minutes of action.

The first ever unified game between Special Olympics athletes at the school took place on the court of Black Knight Fieldhouse. Athletes from the two teams made their way to center court through a tunnel of students.

Ashley Hoehn, Special Olympics sponsor for the Farmington School District, explained what is involved with “Unified Sports.”

According to Hoehn, Special Olympics defines Unified Sports as an inclusive sports program that provides the opportunity for Special Olympics athletes (or individuals with intellectual disabilities) and partners (or individuals without intellectual disabilities) to train and compete together on one team. The partners for the athletes are referred to as “Unified Partners.”

“Farmington R-7 participates in various Special Olympics sanctioned events throughout the year including bowling, basketball, and track,” Hoehn said. “This is the first Unified event we have participated in and could not have asked for a better experience.”

The program of Unified Sports is growing, with currently 1.4 million participants worldwide — with participation ranging from grades kindergarten through 12, along with 73 colleges and/or universities promoting ongoing Unified Sports teams on campuses across the U.S. Hoehn shared information noting many professional organizations are also promoting the benefits of inclusive sports such as, the NBA (National Basketball Association), MLS (Major League Soccer), UEFA (Union of European Football Associations), and ESPN's X Games Aspen.

Hoehn said she feels Unified Sports programs are not only a great way for individuals with disabilities to increase their activity and have a sense of belonging, they also promote acceptance and understanding from individuals without disabilities.

In addition, she shared Unified Sports games are an opportunity to unite a community and observe the strength and skills of all individuals, despite intellectual ability.

“We are thankful for the athletes, partners, coaches, and administrators of Potosi for traveling to Farmington and helping us make this event a memorable one,” Hoehn said. “We plan to schedule additional games with various teams next year to help grow this amazing opportunity for all students.”


Two arrested for church vandalism

Two suspects have been arrested in connection with vandalism of a historic Irondale church, according to Washington County Sheriff Zach Jacobsen.

A deputy was dispatched to the Irondale United Methodist Church on Jan. 27 and was shown six windows that had been damaged by someone throwing rocks through the windows. 

Church member John O’Neal said the damaged windows are a part of the building’s long history in the community.

“The church is past 150 years old with all original windows except for one,” O’Neal said. “They broke out four of them on the south side of the building and one on the north side. It’ll be an expensive endeavor.”

Jacobsen said three suspects were identified in the investigation and later located. Two of the suspects were arrested and provided statements, while the third was cleared and not arrested.

The two suspects were released pending the filing of formal charges. Their names will be released after charges are filed. 


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Chamber membership growing

The Madison County Chamber of Commerce met Thursday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Fredericktown.

It was announced the chamber added seven new members since the last meeting.

“Now we have a total of 85 members, which I am really excited about,” Chamber President Tessa Rehkop said. “I looked back, in 2014 whenever the old chamber was done, to see how many members they had back then and they had 80 members. So we are back to that number plus some so I am really excited.”

Vice President Allison Boyer let members know that when the chamber phone is called to request a roofer, insurance company, etc. that whoever answers the phone directs the person to a chamber business in that area.

It was then decided that when the chamber obtains insurance quotes for events they will reach out to all Madison County agents for bids but will only accept the bid if the insurers are members or decide to join.

The chamber was approached by Mineral Area College for a list of chamber members in order to solicit businesses regarding scholarships. It was decided that member contact information would be kept confidential and it would be more beneficial for groups to sponsor and speak at a meeting for their cause and obtain contacts in that fashion.

The bicentennial dinner held Jan. 11 brought out 130 guests to kick-off the year-long Madison County Bicentennial event.

“The bicentennial dinner was a huge success,” Rehkop said. “Originally we were only going to have tables for 100 people but we ended up with 130 people who wanted to come. So we were really excited with the turn out and we have had a lot of great feedback. I think it is a great sign of participation from the community for the rest of the year.”

“I think we will make it an annual thing” Rehkop said. “Obviously next year it won’t be a bicentennial thing but just an annual banquet for the chamber.”

The chamber also discussed upcoming bicentennial events planned for the year.

A Poster Contest sponsored by Madison County Retired School Personnel will end with judging at 10 a.m. Monday. The winners will be on display at the Ozark Regional Library-Fredericktown after the judging.

The Missouri Whitewater Championships March 16-18 will also feature a bicentennial theme. A Whitewater Specials list is being created by the chamber.

“It’s just a good way to draw in people to Madison County that are already going to be attending the whitewater races and it kind of gets people out into the community too,” Rehkop said. “We sort of did the same thing for Small Business Saturday and we had a really good turnout for that.”

Members interested in submitting a special deal can submit a form online at www.madisoncountycc.com/whitewater_special_form

A Window Decorating Contest sponsored by Parkland Health Mart Pharmacy will be held throughout April with judging to be at the end of the month.

“I encourage you if you are a business with a window to decorate it for the bicentennial,” Rehkop said. “You can do a theme around the bicentennial, you could do the history of your business, or the history of your building just anything you can think of.”

The chamber also discussed having Concerts in the Park every Saturday in June. Rehkop said she has contacted a few bands and will be attending the Fredericktown City Council meeting Feb. 12 with Boyer to request use of the park as well as the possibility of having a beer garden.

“I am trying to get bands that draw in more people besides in Madison County,” Rehkop said. “That way we can get some outside people to come around and go to our restaurants and shops and stuff.”

Ways to help the Optimist Club with their fireworks on July 4 were discussed. Ideas mentioned included a bounce house, face painting, selling glow sticks, horseshoes, photo booth and more.

“We want it to be a fun family event,” Boyer said. “There are a lot of opportunities for games for kids and adults.”

The chamber also discussed the design and production of a bicentennial coin to sell as a souvenir, and flags to hang on the light poles around town.

The chamber, along with the Missouri Job Center, will hold a hiring event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 25 at the Fredericktown Branch of the Ozark Regional Library. Each employer present will be required to have at least one job available at the time of the event.

“We have some interest from employers already,” Vickey Bonney from Missouri Job Center said. “It is a little early for employers to know if they will be hiring at the end of April.”

The chamber will be sponsoring a candy booth at the Feed the Families Bake Sale on March 24. Anyone interested in helping to make the candy can meet at 5 p.m. March 22 at Trinity Lutheran Church. If you would like to help but are not interested in cooking you can contact the chamber at 573-783-2604 to donate cooking supplies.

The chamber will hold a Perk Before Work event from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Feb. 20 at the Historic Madison County Museum (122 N. Main St.) with coffee and pastries provided by SMTS.

The next regular meeting of the Madison County Chamber of Commerce will be at 11:30 a.m. March 1. The location has not been determined.


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Check not what it seems to be

One local resident had a feeling the check that showed up in his mailbox was too good to be true.

And, it took just a close look at the letter accompanying the check for more than $7,000 to realize it was a scam.

The resident said he did not enter the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes, so he was surprised to find a letter and check — mailed in an ordinary plain, white envelope — in his mailbox recently.

“Congratulations,” reads the letter claiming to come from the desk of “Deborah Holland, Executive Vice President” of Publishers Clearing House. “We are pleased to inform you that you are one of our lucky winners,” with a grammatically incorrect comma separating the first sentence from the second — which contained even more errors.

“On behalf of members and staff of Publishers Clearing House, Association of North America lottery and provincial sweepstakes we sincerely congratulates (sic) you on the grand prize winning of ($600,000.00USD) SixHundredThousandDollars (sic),” the letter read.

The check enclosed with the letter? It was, the letter states, a “sponsorship check to assist you with out-of-pocket expenses.”

“You are required by the international Sweepstakes (sic) by law to pay towards taxes and processing fees,” the letter reads.

The recipient was asked to call claims agent “Sylvia Scott” to arrange a method of payment and help in arranging a specific time frame for media promotion, including in “local news Papers” — noting yet another error in the text. Except, this reader knew to go to the newspaper office to let others know about the scam.

And, in bold letters, it asked twice to keep this information “confidential” to “avoid double or false claims.”

The Better Business Bureau issued the following red flags to look for if a check arriving in the mail seems too good to be true:

  • Don't pay upfront fees to claim a prize. No legitimate sweepstakes company will ever ask you to pay a fee or buy something to enter or improve your chances of winning — that includes paying "taxes," "shipping and handling charges," or “processing fees” to get your prize.
  • Be aware that a check can bounce even after your bank allows you to withdraw cash from the deposit. Check processing is a confusing business, as is the terminology. Even if a bank representative tells you that a check has “cleared” you can’t be sure it won’t be detected as a fake weeks later. One thing you can be sure of is that you will be on the hook for any funds drawn against the amount.
  • You’ve got to play to win. A notification that you have won a prize in a contest you do not remember entering should be a red flag. If you do regularly enter contests or sweepstakes, make sure you keep track of your entries so you can easily check to see if you have actually entered a contest that contacts you.
  • Be suspicious of irregular communication. Real sweepstakes will not notify you via text or bulk mail. They will not send a check in the mail without first confirming with you. And you won’t be notified that you are a winner and have to respond or act within 24 hours to collect your prize.