Free seeds helping vegetable gardens grow

Contributed Photo Area community gardens are receiving free vegetable seeds from the FRESH Project. The program is working with five local gardens.

Gardens are a great way for everyone to grow their own fresh vegetables, and the FRESH Project is making that even easier by growing local gardens and giving out free vegetable seeds.

Through partnerships with area farmers, the Ho-Chunk Nation, and the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, the FRESH Project is sponsoring local gardens in five locations within the Shawano County area. Gardens locations will include Ho-Chunk Nation (Educational garden), Ella Besaw Center (Stockbridge-Munsee), Redmond’s family garden (Gresham), Hennigan’s Farm (Red River), and The Church on the Hill (Educational garden in partnership with the Hillcrest Primary School’s summer school program).

Produce harvested from the gardens will be donated to food pantries in Shawano County, FRESH Project’s Share the Bounty tables, Safe Haven, SAM25, and used for community dinners and food demonstrations, ensuring others in our community have access to healthy produce.


Walk (or run) away from depression

Talking last week with Jennifer Frost from the Shawano County Department of Human Services about the biggest challenges she sees in our county as the manager of behavioral health services, she put depression at the top of the list.

The latest Wisconsin statistics put the rate of major depression at nearly 10 percent, and also show it to be rising. What can be done?

Everyone knows that exercise improves physical fitness, but new research shows that it can also help relieve the symptoms of depression. It is estimated that more than 19 million American adults are living with depression. One in four women and one in six men will suffer from depression at some point in their lives.

It is not unusual to feel sad, blue, unhappy, or down-in- the-dumps from time to time. In contrast, depression is characterized by prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness that interfere with everyday life for an extended time.


Aspiring journalist becomes Homme teacher

Leader Photo by Miriam Nelson Blair Reitzner, 27, is enjoying an unexpected career path as a teacher at Homme Youth and Family Programs in Wittenberg.

While going to college and living in Oshkosh, Blair Reitzner was an English major thinking of becoming a journalist. A job as a youth counselor at a Lutheran Social Services’ residential treatment facility changed the career path of Reitzner, now a teacher at Homme Youth and Family Programs.

“I never thought I’d be working in an alternative school setting, serving the troubled youth,” Reitzner said.

From youth counselor, Reitzner worked his way up to become a care advocate specialist. He discovered that he really enjoyed working with kids and went on to get his master’s degree in secondary education.

In August 2016, when the opportunity to teach at Homme Youth and Family Programs opened up, he jumped at the chance and landed his first teaching job.

“I enjoy working here,” said Reitzner, who teaches English and social studies to middle and high school-aged students. “I have a good rapport with the kids.”


ID card allows veterans to show proof of service

Being a veteran can bring perks such as discounts and special services from businesses, but these perks often require demonstrating proof of service. One way to prove veteran status is by presenting a discharge paper; however, carrying around this document is impractical and carries a risk of identity theft.

Fortunately, there are three options in Wisconsin to obtain an identification card that shows proof of service. Veterans can request that the state Department of Motor Vehicles put the word “veteran” as an identifier on their driver’s licenses/state ID cards. They can apply online at for a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs-issued identification card, or they can enroll in the VA health care system.


Humor, positive attitude help ease road to recovery

PHOTO BY MIRIAM NELSON Annette Elsmo and Shawn Barke enjoy their home in Birnamwood. He had a spinal stroke and was recently diagnosed with stage four metastasized prostate cancer. There will be a benefit April 21 to help with his medical expenses at the Wildlife Bar & Campground, N4597 Willow Lane, Birnamwood.

Optimistic and hopeful are not the first words that come to mind when you hear of someone battling stage four metastasized prostate cancer and then getting hit by a drunken driver while on vacation.

Shawn Barke, of Birnamwood, has had more than his fair share of bad news in the past year, but his optimistic nature and his girlfriend, Annette Elsmo, make this rocky road a little easier to travel.

“If anyone had told me I’d have a stroke, cancer and a car accident all within six months, I’d’ve told them they were crazy,” Barke said. “Goes to show, you just never know what’s in store for you.”

Barke, 47, hadn’t been feeling well in November but thought it might be the flu. His doctors speculated he might be experiencing the start of arthritis.

The doctors did not run the specific test needed to detect the type of prostate cancer he has, as it’s generally only tested in men over 50.


The Commodores coming to North Star in June

The North Star Mohican Casino Resort will welcomes rhythm and blues legend The Commodores.

Patrons will be able to see the group perform hit songs like “Nightshift,” “Machine Gun” and “Sail On.” Tickets are on sale now.

Walter “Clyde” Orange, James Dean “JD” Nicholas and William “WAK” King have been making music and delighting fans for decades. This Grammy Award-winning powerhouse is multi-Grammy nominated and has sold over 60 million records. They have created a fan following that spans the globe.

“The music of The Commodores gets the feet tapping and body swaying,” said Michael Bonakdar, general manager of North Star Mohican Casino Resort. “Their music takes you back and makes you smile. We are thrilled to have them perform here.”

Ticket prices are $65, $55 and $45, and can be purchased online or by calling 1-800-775-CASH. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the concert begins at 8 p.m. Patrons must be 21 years or older to attend.


Home and Community Education helps students in many ways

Photo by Carol Wagner Helen Raddant, president of Home and Community Education, holds a book that she reads to kids through the Wisconsin Bookworms program.

Home and Community Education helps students, and one of the ways is with scholarships. A $350 scholarship is available by filling out an application by April 22 with the winner notified at its annual Spring Banquet on May 7.

The student must live in Shawano County, retain a 2.5 grade point average, and be enrolled as a full-time student. The scholarship will be paid after completion of one semester at a college or technical college.

Deanna Zernicke was the 2017 winner and will be the guest speaker at HCE’s International Night on April 19. Zernicke is a sophomore majoring in economics and agricultural business management at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Last summer, she traveled to Africa and Tanzania with the Global Food Challenge Fellowship.


Meet Charles Ketchum

Photo by Carol Wagner Charles Ketchum is the grand knight of the Knights of Columbus Bishop Fox Council 2836.

Charles Ketchum is the grand knight of the Knights of Columbus Bishop Fox Council 2836, which sponsors the porkie pancake breakfast at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Shawano.

Ketchum was born in Racine, moving to Gresham as a youngster and graduating from Gresham High School. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served stateside as a jet mechanic for four years during the Vietnam War. Ketchum worked at Phenix Door for 25 years and then at Floors Unlimited, Birch Hill, Taco John’s and Schutt Industries, retiring in 2008.

Ketchum and his wife of 38 years, Cheryl, live in Shawano. They have three sons and seven grandchildren.

Q How long have you been in the Knights of Columbus?

A “For 15 years. I have been the grand knight for four years. When I first joined, I was the grand knight. Our council is 150 years old. We have 125 members, but many are not active. We could use new members.”

Q What are your duties?


Donations empower women through books

Contributed photo Judy Kucksdorf, left, gives a $200 donation on behalf of Delta Kappa Gamma to Kristy Bogacz, Shawano School District media specialist.

A local Delta Kappa Gamma chapter’s library project recently donated checks to two area school libraries.

Wendy Dallman, of Delta Kappa Gamma’s Nu Chapter, gave $200 to Katie Kovalaske, instructional resource coach at New London Middle School. Kovalaske said she will use the money to purchase books with strong female characters. Similarly, Judy Kucksdorf presented a $200 check to Kristy Bogacz, librarian for the Shawano School District. That donation will be used in the Brener Intermediate School Library.

Delta Kappa Gamma is an international society of key women educators. The Nu Chapter includes educators from Shawano and Waupaca counties.


Second phase of St. Martin’s renovation completed

Everything went as planned for the renovation of St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Cecil. Not only is it beautiful, it is also all paid for.

“It worked out very well,” said Deacon Mike Grzeca. “We had some generous donors. Many people also donated their labor.”

The work began after Ash Wednesday services, and on Holy Thursday, the church was ready for the first Mass.

The renovation had three phases, beginning with fixing the ceiling window shaft in the skylight in the middle of the church that had been leaking for several years.

The main remodel was phase two with new pews with kneelers from Imperial Woodworks Church Furniture. The floor was redone with non-slippery half-inch ceramic tile flooring from Total Floor Covers. Rob Baril of Baril Tile did the installing.

“It’s long lasting,” Grzeca said.


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