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Bell ringing continues

With two weeks of ringing bells already under their belt, county Salvation Army added Walmart to their list of site for the 2018 Red Kettle Campaign this morning, as the national campaign kicked off Thursday.

Salvation Army Auxiliary Captain Charity Bender said she’s pleased with the campaign’s progress so far.

“Response (from volunteers) has been very good so far,” said Bender. “The community has always worked together with us. We’ve been here for five years and we’ve been so blessed with the outpouring of help.”

Bender said even those who aren’t able to stand to ring bells are reaching out to help.

“We’ve also had people who haven’t stood or donated before contacting us,” she said. “If they can’t stand, they’re donating. It’s wonderful to see folks going above and beyond to help us help the community.”

Even with many folks stepping up to the plate, Bender said there are still bell-ringing slots available.

“There are slots at Peebles and Walmart still open, but a lot of evenings are booked,” she said. “At Walmart, we have one or two evenings open until Christmas Eve and we have an hour here and there, but we have full days open at Peebles.”

Bender said the campaign lost only one day due to last week’s snowstorm.

“We closed the whole day even though the roads didn’t get bad until later,” she said. “Our volunteers’ safety is important to us.”

The Salvation Army hopes to raise $47,000 through this year’s campaign.

The local campaign began Nov. 9, with bell ringing at Sandy Ridge Market in Orbisonia, Appleby’s Drug Store in Mount Union and Peebles in Smithfield Township.

“Individuals, church groups, organizations, families, friends and neighbors can ring,” said first-year campaign coordinator Connie Lang. “The more volunteers we have, the more we can have the kettles out and the better we can serve those in need.

Those interested in ringing bells can call the Salvation Army at 643-1430 to volunteer.

The funds raised through the Red Kettle Campaign support the Salvation Army all year long.

“All of these donations stay in Huntingdon County,” said Salvation Army Auxiliary Captain Philip Bender, noting funds are used to provide those in need with food, shelter and assistance with rent and utilities. “It also goes to help with kids’ programming, such as taking them to camps and the after-school backpack program. The kettle money helps people all year long.”

Bell ringing will continue Monday through Friday until Christmas Eve.

Contributions to the campaign can also be made in Counter Kettles at businesses throughout the county or by mailing contributions to the Salvation Army at 2514 Shadyside Ave., Huntingdon. To make sure funds go to the kettle goal, please note “kettles” on the memo line of checks.

Funds from this year’s campaign will also go to provide Christmas meals for county families in need.

Bender said she’s still finalizing the number of families the Salvation Army needs to serve this holiday, as the application period ended earlier this week, but she noted they’re still in need of donations.

“We’re still looking for donations for toys,” she said. “We’ve had people donating handmade hats and gloves, and that’s been a blessing because try to give every child a hat and gloves in their box, so we can always use more.”

Families that have applied for assistance will receive a turkey and trimmings, as well as toys and clothing received through the Treasures for Children campaign.

Treasures for Children tags are on Christmas trees at Walmart and Peebles and folks have until Friday, Dec. 7, to pick up a tag. New, unwrapped items should be returned to either store by Monday, Dec. 10.

Food and gifts will then be distributed to families from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18, at the Salvation Army Church.

As temperatures hovered in the low 20s this morning, Lang offered an extra thanks to those who volunteer despite the weather.

“We’re so thankful to those who are willing to stand in the cold for us,” she said. “It’s always very appreciated.”

The Salvation Army is a partner agency of the Huntingdon County United Way.

‘Turkey Trot’ raises funds for K-9

A group of civic-minded Huntingdon Area High School (HAHS) students took part in a Turkey Trot event Wednesday morning to present members of the Huntingdon Borough Police Department (HPD) with a little something extra to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Seniors Draven Zook and Andrew Finkle raised $275 by asking their classmates to pay $5 each to walk from the high school to Portstown Park, then on to the police station, where they made a donation toward the department’s effort to obtain a K-9 officer.

“I would say we had around 50 walkers,” Zook said. “We had a lot more than 50 who signed up, but with it being a half day and the day before Thanksgiving, some didn’t actually walk.”

The project was a joint effort as part of the high school’s JANUS program, soon to be renamed Kinnect, which is focused on providing project-based learning opportunities tailored to individual interests. The program focuses on the “4Cs,” communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity. As participants in the program, learners earn credits in science, mathematics, English language arts and social studies.

“We had Walk Huntingdon a couple of years ago, so we had the idea to do something similar,” Finkle said. “Thanksgiving was coming up, so we decided to call it the Turkey Trot.”

Both young men have an interest in law enforcement and the military, so the idea of organizing an event to aid in the fundraising for HPD quickly took form.

“This kind of came along right in our lap,” said Zook. “Our superintendent told us about this and it all worked out.”

The walkers gathered in the Huntingdon Borough Council chambers, where Zook and Finkle shared information about the JANUS/Kinnect program and encouraged younger peers to take part as well.

“Last year, the program started and it was explained as project-based learning,” said Finkle. “This year, I decided to try it out. (Matt) Baer wanted us to have a broad goal for what we wanted to accomplish. We decided we wanted to work on mental health. Mr. Foster told us the borough was fundraising for a K-9 unit.”

HPD Officer Andy Young, a 2008 graduate of HAHS, talked to the group about the progress of the efforts to obtain a K-9 officer as well as describing the type of work the new addition would complete.

“The community has been great,” Young said. “We were trying to raise $30,000, as it stands today, we are at $31,000. We’ve met our goal and surpassed it, which is great, because the cost of the dog doesn’t stop at $30,000.”

The department is pursuing a grant to cover the cost of a vehicle outfitted specifically for the dog, which will be utilized for drug detection and patrol work.

“It will do some short tracking as well, so if a suspect runs, the dog could track them,” he said. “The community has been awesome. Other communities have had similar fundraising efforts and it’s taken them years. It’s taken us less than a year to meet our goal.”

It is hoped that the K-9 officer will join the ranks of HPD within the year.

April Feagley / Photo by APRIL FEAGLEY  

Members of the Huntingdon Lions Club delivered nearly 60 Thanksgiving meals to Meals on Wheels recipients and some of those working on the holiday Thursday. Lions Club member Howard Parlette, right, brought turkey dinners to Noah Yutzy, left, and Officer Adam McBride at the Huntingdon 911 Dispatch Center.

Shoppers urged to stay local

Now that the holiday shopping season has officially begun, local merchants encourage people to shop in their own community to support small businesses and, in turn, the local economy.

Shoppers will have the opportunity to do just that tomorrow, Saturday, Nov. 24, also known Small Business Saturday.

At Lincoln Caverns, owner Ann Dunlavy said they are having their end-of-season sale, with 25 percent off all merchandise in the gift shop with purchases of $20 or more, which will be good through the end of the year.

While folks may not think of Lincoln Caverns as a stop for holiday shopping, they offer unique gift items that can’t be found anywhere else.

“We have rocks, fossils and crystals that last forever,” she said. “It’s not something that’s purchased today and gone tomorrow. We also have gift certificates for special events and other things.

“It’s not like shopping in a mall,” Dunlavy added. “We have things like rocks, minerals and lots of jewelry made from those items. We also carry a lot of books on geology, books on Pennsylvania and special interest books. With no book store in the area, we are the only place that sells those types of books.”

Dunlavy said people come from beyond Huntingdon County to find items at Lincoln Caverns.

“There’s really nothing between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh that has the selection we do, so we have customers from all over the place,” she said.

Carla Walker, owner of Walker’s Homestead Goods in Rockhill, said she’s planning something special for Small Business Saturday.

“We will be having a Small Business Saturday sale,” she said. “In mid-December, we will be having a customer appreciation day, as well as a Santa day.”

Walker added items found at Walker’s Homestead Goods make great gifts and can’t be found anywhere else.

“Our store is filled with unique items that our customers love when decorating their homes for Christmas, like beautifully designed handmade wreaths and floral designs,” she said. “We carry a great mix of farmhouse and country style décor items such as lanterns, shelving, candles and signage. Unique gifts and great ‘old finds’ add a layer of interest to the store.”

She believes that supporting a small business helps to “build stronger relationships with business owners and customers.”

“We truly value our customers and thank them for supporting our small business,” said Walker. “We love small town businesses and the importance they bring to the community.”

Just a couple of blocks over at Grandad’s Workshop in Rockhill, owner Matthew Scott doesn’t have anything particular planned for Small Business Saturday, but he has one-of-a-kind gifts available for purchase.

“I have a lot of Christmas décor, and we do refinished and refurbished furniture,” he said.

Scott said supporting small businesses for Small Business Saturday, or any other time of year, not only helps him as a business owner, but helps those who create the items for purchase.

“Some of our items are handmade by local craftsman,” he said. “It’s a way to not spend money on gas when you can get something for roughly the same price without the distance to travel.”

While many stop at Cassville Country Store to pick up grocery items or enjoy a quick bite to eat, many may take advantage of the other items that can be purchased as gifts there.

“I have a craft and book swap section,” said Betsy Whitsel, co-owner. “I have candles, tarts and some homemade afghans and potholders. We also have things like tailgating chairs, homemade scarves, as well as signs and crafts. Also, since we have a sporting goods section as well as a restaurant, it’s a big weekend for us as deer season approaches.”

Whitsel said when she and her husband, Mark, opened the store 10 years ago, she felt it was important to “live here, work here and play here,” as much as possible.

“It’s like a circle, and it starts small, and then it spreads,” she said. “I employ 15 local people, and they all live here, work here and play here, so if they support me, I can support them, and we can support the county.

“It’s been my motto since we moved here,” Whitsel added. “It’s not just employing the people, but if you live locally, work locally and play locally, you can help others do the same.”

HASD climate survey open to community

Huntingdon Area School District staff, parents, learners and residents have one week left to take part in the district’s annual climate survey.

According to superintendent Fred Foster, the surviey is part of the School Climate Leadership Initiative that is being facilitated by Tuscarora Intermediate Unit (TIU) 11.

“The climate survey is available for staff, learners, parents and community members,” said Foster, who noted the survey is confidential and anonymous and is distributed by the Office for Safe Schools.

Foster said it takes approximately 15 to 20 minutes to complete the survey that seeks input about the climate and atmosphere of the district. Some topics addressed include communication between the community and district, treatment of learners and others.

Foster said there are four primary constructs of the survey, including safe and respectful school climate, high expectations and academic rigor, learner support and peer social and emotional learning.

“The more people who complete the survey the more accurate our results will be,” he said, noting the data will help identify accomplishments and areas of concern within the district.

Huntingdon Area High School assistant principal Nick Payne elaborated on Foster’s comments.

“HASD has a representative from each building that is participating on this leadership team,” said Payne. “Our mission is to analyze the Pennsylvania School Climate Survey data and develop goals based on the results of the survey.”

Payne provided further insight into the survey.

“The survey addresses such areas as social emotional learning, learner support, high expectations/academic/challenge and safe school climate,” he said. “Last year we had 40 community members and 108 parents participate in the survey.”

According to last year’s school climate survey results, the district received a positive overall average school climate score of three. Out of those surveyed, 54.6 percent stated they felt their child’s school is a supportive and inviting place for students, while 52.5 percent of participants siad the district doesn’t welcome input from community members.

In relation to last year’s data, Payne hopes more people will participate in the survey to help produce more accurate results.

“The leadership team would like to see those participation numbers increase,” he said. “The more participation, the more accurate perception we have of our district. These multiple data points from our stakeholders will help the leadership team focus on our district’s strengths and improve upon our areas of need.”

Parents who wish to complete the survey should visit, click on Climate Survey and use the invitation code 6UDSDH. Community members who wish to complete the survey should follow the same steps but use the invitation code RIPW5J.

Local bear harvest tally remains high

This year’s bear rifle season, which wrapped up Wednesday, was not only one of the highest harvests recorded for opening day in the county, but also saw two record-breaking bears harvested in the state.

“Our numbers were significantly higher this year, especially in the southern part of the south central region,” said Bert Einodshofer, information and education supervisor with the state Game Commission’s southcentral region. “That was not surprising because of the low harvest numbers last year due to the bad weather.”

The harvest reported during the 2017 bear rifle season was one of the lowest on record within the state.

Within the Game Commission’s southcentral region, which saw 247 bears harvested, Huntingdon County reported the highest number of bears harvested at 77, with Bedford County at 51, Fulton County at 33 and Blair County at 21. The Huntingdon County bear check station at the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Smithfield Township weighed in 87 bears Saturday, six Sunday, 18 Monday, 10 Tuesday and one Wednesday.

“I was out all day Tuesday and there was almost no hunting pressure. On game lands 67, there were only two vehicles. I checked on a hunter and saw some fresh bear tracks in the snow,” Einodshofer said. “I think the harvest dropped off after the first day solely because people were not out hunting. My opinion is that guys hunted on Saturday and had an extremely good harvest, so they didn’t go back out.”

Huntingdon County had the second-highest harvest numbers in the state for the first day of the season and bears were harvested in 54 counties total.

A total of 13 bears checked in Huntingdon County had been tagged for research or because they had been relocated due to nuisance problems.

“We didn’t have as many tagged bears come in as we expected,” he said. “That may lead us to believe bear numbers are higher than what we think. That’s just my personal observation, but it’s kind of ironic that of all the bears trapped for nuisance issues or research, fewer showed up thus far.”

The top 10 bears processed at check stations by the final day of the season were either estimated or confirmed to have live weights of 600 pounds or more. Previously, the state’s largest harvested bear weighed 704 pounds. That bruin was topped by a 780-pound male taken Nov. 19 by Michael J. Rubeo of Mercer, in Howe Township, Forest County, and a 708-pound male was taken by Timothy J. Weaver of Dallas, Pennsylvania, Nov. 20, in Harvey’s Lake Borough, Luzerne County.

Other large bears taken this season’s first two days include a 704-pound male in Goshen Township, Clearfield County; a 697-pound male taken in Chapman Township, Clinton County; a 681-pounder taken Coal Township, Northumberland County; a 680-pounder taken in Chest Township, Clearfield County; a 679-pound male taken in Farmington Township, Warren County; a 666-pound male taken in Snyder Township, Jefferson County; a 627-pound male taken in Snyder Township, Jefferson County; and a 623-pound male taken in Newport Township, Luzerne County.