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Local
New homeowners wanted

As it embarks on its next build in later this month, Huntingdon Area Habitat for Humanity is looking for someone to call the project home.

The home is a three-bedroom, one-bath home at 108 18th St., Huntingdon Borough, and construction is expected to begin later this month, according to Habitat board members.

Dave Drews with Huntingdon Area Habitat for Humanity discussed what is required for a family to partner with Huntingdon Area Habitat for Humanity for a home.

“There are three basic requirements to be eligible to be a Habitat homeowner,” said Drews. “First, the potential family needs to have a significant housing problem. For example, they may not have enough bedrooms for their family size, their house is unsafe, the heat may be inadequate or rental and utility costs exceed their budgets.”

Monthly income of families is also needed to see if they qualify for a Habitat home.

“Families must have enough monthly income to pay the mortgage, taxes, insurance and other living expenses,” said Drews. “Their income must also be enough to pay any current debt. In Huntingdon County, the income limit for a family of four is between $31,000 and $50,000, before taxes are taken out. Minimum income for a family of two is $25,000, if there is no current debt. That’s about $500 income per week before taxes.”

Sweat equity is also required for families that wish to partner with Habitat for a home.

The third requirement is that the family is willing to partner with Habitat to help to build their house and to participate in a mentoring program,” said Drews. “Families in the Huntingdon chapter need to contribute 300 hours of sweat equity. Friends and family members can help contribute construction hours. Sweat equity is a way to keep costs down, but is also a way to help families gain skills that can be used in home maintenance and helps to develop a sense of pride in ownership.”

Unlike previous projects that have taken at least a year to complete, this renovation is not expected to last long, as the home is not in poor condition, so it’s important to express interest to Habitat board members immediately.

“Builds usually happen Saturday mornings and one other morning of the week,” said Drew. “So, you and your family need to have time to commit to working on your house. Because of the sweat equity requirement, and because this build will be faster than normal, we need to have a partner selected by Nov. 15.”

Families are also assigned a mentor from Habitat to help them to prepare to become homeowners.

The mentor and families meet periodically as the house is being built to help them prepare to become homeowners, including preparing for and budgeting expenses that are associated with homeownership,” said Drews.

To get more information about becoming a family partner now or in the future, contact the Huntingdon Area Habitat for Humanity by leaving a message at 386-7265 or by emailing huntingdonhabitat@yahoo.com. A family selection person will get back to interested parties.

If anyone wants to learn more about Huntingdon Area Habitat for Humanity or consider donating to the organization, they can use the same contact information to learn more.


Local
PDA official address disease concerns

Concerns regarding a swine CAFO operation and African swine fever were raised at a recent meeting of the Todd Township Supervisors.

Despite those concerns, the state Department of Agriculture has had no cases of suspected African swine fever reported to the agency, and there have been no cases of African swine fever reported in the U.S.

It does, however, remain a huge concern to federal and state officials, as the disease is a highly contagious and deadly diseases among domestic and wild pig populations, and has spread rapidly in countries like China, Mongolia and Vietnam as well as countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Powers said since it’s a deadly disease, it gives the state Department of Agriculture regulatory authority, so if farms were to suspect pigs were dying, or there were symptoms of the disease, they would have to report it.

For example, at the Huntingdon County Fair in August, there were restrictions on market pigs exhibited at the fair.

“There were restrictions on animals being transported to fairs, but that was precautionary,” said Powers. “It’s not because there was any African swine fever in the country, but because of the prevalence overseas.”

Though the disease poses no threat to humans, humans are the ones who can pass disease quickly, hence the reason for the restrictions on transporting pigs at county fairs.

“Fairs bring in a lot of human traffic,” said Powers. “They bring in their boots from other places, and that’s how the animals get it. It does not harm humans, but humans transmit the disease.”

The state Department of Agriculture has also communicated the importance of biosecurity on their farms to swine farmers, regardless of their size.

“We want them to have a biosecurity plan in place, and we recommend they file it with the department in advance so they know what they’re going to do in the event they have sick animals.”

While they’re not required to file a biosecurity plan with the state Department of Agriculture, they are required to report it.

“It wouldn’t be in the interest of a hog farmer to fail to report it,” said Powers. “It’s because of indemnification. African swine fever is 100% fatal to pigs, so it’s not in anyone’s interest to fail to report it. It’s in their best interest to report it because it’s their livelihood.”

Indemnification, in this case, would mean if a swine farmer lost their herds to African swine fever, or any other deadly virus or disease, they can receive aid for their loss.

“They have the ability to be compensated by the federal government,” said Powers.

She noted the U.S. Department of Agriculture has also taken precautions not to admit any tainted pork into the food supply from overseas.

“So, nobody is getting pork from infected swine,” said Powers. “Regardless of the fact that it’s not a danger to humans, they are doing that as a precautionary measure.”

If anybody from any swine operation has concerns regarding African swine flu or any deadly virus that could be impacting their pigs, or any livestock for that matter, they can call the emergency number at (717) 772-2852.

“It will tell them to choose option one, and that will get an immediate callback from the vet on call,” said Powers. “That number is for any deadly virus that can impact livestock or animals, whether it’s African swine fever, avian influenza or any other dangerous transmissible disease.”


Local
Community garden growth continues

ReInvision Huntingdon’s Community Garden project at 505 Moore St. is looking to grow after some successful summer months.

“We have a nice team of three dedicated volunteers this year, which is enough to keep the garden going, but we’re always looking for more volunteers. The more hands the more we can grow,” said Nick Miller, the gardener who oversees the project.

This year’s harvest includes: tomatoes, peppers, kale, cucumbers, zucchini, chard, cabbage, radishes and garlic.

A “local revitalization organization,” ReInvision Huntingdon seeks to strengthen the Huntingdon community by creating opportunities for local projects and educational programming.

“One of our missions is to help educate people on how to grow organically in their backyard and push towards local food sustainability. The more people grow and become self-sufficient, the better,” said Miller.

Ryan Gibboney, the founder of ReInvision Huntingdon, said she’s appreciative that the garden has received help in recent months from the borough.

“Huntingdon Borough has supported the garden through weekly mowing through the summer and into the fall. This support has allowed volunteers to focus on the planting, weeding and harvesting of produce to donate to local community organizations. We have been supported by a small group of dedicated volunteers,” she said.

Ultimately, the project is meant to benefit those who participate as well as the broader Huntingdon community.

“At this point we’re donating all the veggies to low income families, the Drop-In Center and the Salvation Army. We’ve had folks in the past who volunteered and they take veggies home,” said Miller. “We want to encourage more families to come up and have their own garden space. We have plenty of room up there.”

Seeds and starter kits are provided, as well as access to Miller’s gardening expertise.

Anyone is welcome stop by at 5:30 p.m. each Tuesday to participate, weather permitting, with Sundays being the rain makeup day.

For questions or more information, call Miller at 386-9772, or email him at thenickmillerproject@gmail.com.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.


Local
Fall, spring campers can make reservations

Those who like to camp at Raystown Lake, but like to plan in advance, will now be able to do so for the fall and spring seasons in 2020.

Up until this point, campsites at Raystown Lake were available on a first-come, first-serve basis during the spring and fall seasons.

“Reservations for campsites at Raystown Lake started near the end of the 1990s,” said Allen Gwinn, park ranger with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Raystown Lake. “At Raystown, we held on to walk-in seasons being in the spring and fall. We wanted it to be convenient for local folks to come out here and camp, but didn’t need to plan that far ahead.”

Now, when guests make reservations for peak season camping at Raystown Lake, they can make them six month prior to arrival. Now with accepting reservations for spring and fall 2020 camping seasons, reservations for spring 2020 can now be made as early as Nov. 3, 2019. Reservations for the fall 2020 camping season can be made as early as April 3, 2020, the opening spring season date.

In the past, sites were only available in advance from mid-May to Labor Day.

Gwinn further explained why things have changed.

“Some of our requirements have gotten a more more strict as far as money,” he said. “Also, folks are more attuned to the reservation process. People like to make their reservations ahead of time and know the site they’re coming to.

Though people can still make reservations ahead of time for spring and fall 2020, Gwinn also wanted to point out that walk-ins are still available during the spring and fall seasons.

“We’ll still accept them for whatever sites are available along with advanced reservations,” said Gwinn.

To make a reservation for any of Raystown Lake’s campsites or picnic shelters, visit www.recreation.gov or call 877-444-6777 and search for Raystown Lake or any of the specific recreation areas of interest.


Local
Experts talk mental health, addiction

Juniata College hosted the James E. Van Zandt Mental Health Summit Friday, which focused its discussions around the topics of the suicide and the opioid crisis.

A panel of experts comprised of officials from the James E. Van Zandt VA Medical Center in Altoona, as well as local officials, spoke on the topic of the opioid crisis to start off the event.

Dr. Derek Coughenour, the associate director for operations at the James E. Van Zandt VA Medical Center, highlighted the importance of what today’s event had set out to do.

“I thought a lot about today, and first I want to thank all the veterans in the room for your service. I think suicide, veteran and non-veteran, has touched nearly everyone in this room ... This week is suicide prevention week, and this event really gives us an opportunity to educate and work together to not just prevent, but eliminate, suicide. It’s going to take everyone to battle suicide and the opioid crisis. There’s only so many of us at the VA and we need everyone in the community to help,” he said.

Juniata College President James Troha spoke briefly, pointing out the shared goals of the different organizations to the college’s after thanking all the veterans present for their service.

“Mental health concerns for students who are currently going to college is probably one of the top three things that are facing us on a year to year basis. Maybe we can connect with some of the work that all of you are doing to provide some support we may need here,” he said.

Rufus Brenneman, a magisterial district judge for Huntingdon County, talked about new measures the courts are taking to aid those struggling with opioid or other addictions.

“When someone comes to me they’ve usually hit rock bottom, or they’re at the point where they need help,” he said. “Something the courts are doing recently, we’re doing a pre-diversionary program, where they’re evaluating defendants prior to trial. Our probation department will do an interview with them and if there’s a drug or alcohol or opioid issue we’re going to try to get treatment to these people sooner instead of incarcerating them where they’re not getting treatment maybe two, three months at a time. It’s just in the starting phases, but the idea is instead of putting them in jail, maybe get them into a place where they can get rehab.”

Jennifer Mock, a clinician working in the intensive outpatient program at the VA Medical Center, addressed the different options available for veterans experiencing mental health and substance abuse problems.

“We have structured 12 hours of group therapy every week, Monday through Friday. Veterans can come in any time and start treatment. We do not delay treatment at all.”

The VA has residential treatments, as well. Mock noted that these facilities are often needed since a veteran’s environment can often be a trigger for their drug use.

“In our VA program we have five residential programs, and across the 14 counties in our catchment area, we work closely with support in the community. That way, most of our veterans can get treatment within 24 hours,” she said.

Dr. April Cope, clinical pharmacy specialist at the VA Medical Center, shared some of the other valuable programs offered to veterans.

“We know our veterans are up to five times more likely to have an opioid overdose. This is a huge issue we’re addressing. From the substance abuse perspective, we have some comprehensive programs. Providing medication assisted therapy, providing psychotherapies, providing group therapies that are really essential for veterans to improve their health,” she said.

Huntingdon Police Chief Jeff Buckley talked about some of the proactive steps the police department takes to battle drug abuse.

“Some of the first people we reach is within the school system. I have a school resource officer in the school everyday and we have education in the elementary level clear through the high school level about drugs and addiction, as well as many other things,” he said.

They have also implemented a way to remove drug access from homes in town.

“Many times in my career, which it’s over a 25-year career now, I’ve seen addiction start at home from the medicine cabinet. We now have a prescription take back box at the police station on Washington Street in Huntingdon and we’ve expanded it to have one at the Weis Market in Huntingdon. You would be amazed at how much we take off the street with just those two boxes. In a quarterly period it’s not unusual for us to take 150 pounds of medication.”

State police Troop G community service officer Trooper Joseph Dunsmore reminded the audience that these tragedies affect those who’s job it is to help, too.

“Despite the uniforms that we wear everyday and the actions that we may take against certain people who may be struggling with these issues within the community, we’re just people as well, and that’s why I think it’s very, very important for us to be here. I too have had those tragedies within my family, from suicides to overdoses,” he said.

A panel spoke later in the morning specifically addressing suicide prevention, and in the afternoon a panel spoke about accessing care and special programs for veterans.

Nathan can be reached at nwoods@huntingdondailynews.com.


Local
Orby Lions seek homecoming help

As the Orbisonia Lions Club looks ahead to 2020, members are seeking input on what would be the 60th annual Orbisonia-Rockhill Homecoming celebration.

Next year’s event is scheduled for July 22-25, 2020, at the Lions Park in Orbisonia.

“A lot of people take vacation and come back home to visit for the homecoming,” said Lions Club secretary Don Peterson. “It’s a good time for everyone, but we’ve gotten to the point where we need the community to pitch in and help us out.”

In an effort to seek help and ideas from the community, club members will hold a meeting at the Lions building at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 16, to gauge the public’s interest on keeping the tradition alive and seek ideas for the anniversary event.

“The Lions basically inherited the homecoming and we’ve been doing this for the past few years and we really need help from the community,” said Peterson. “We’d like any kind of organization, churches, nonprofits and individuals to help us see that the homecoming continues.”

While some parts of the homecoming have changed over the years, Peterson said the Lions are open to hearing ideas.

“We used to have rides, but it’s gotten to the point that it’s out of hand financially,” he said. “We’re open to rides if the community is going to pitch in and help us.”

Peterson urges those who attend the meeting to bring their ideas.

“We’re looking for any and all input and we’d like to have some members of the community and groups be a part of the homecoming committee,” he said.

This year, the Lions brought in bounce houses for children and that was well received, but he said attendance was lacking for entertainment.

“We have a different generation of younger people and we’re hoping to get some of them out and gauge their interest,” he said.

He noted that some ideas have already been suggested.

“We do have some ideas already and fireworks have been suggested, he said. “But, we really need to hear from the public. Do they want this to continue or not?”

In Peterson’s opinion, no homecoming would leave a void and an anniversary such as 60 years deserves recognition.

“This could be a really nice one since it’s an anniversary,” he said. “There’s talk of inviting some of the former queens and princesses back as an honorary court. We just really want to invite the fire company, businesses and organizations to give us their ideas.”

If folks have ideas but are unable to attend Monday’s meeting, they are encouraged to speak with Peterson or any Lions Club member.

Becky can be reached at bweikert@huntingdondailynews.com.