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‘Evening of Celebration’

Saturday night was truly an “Evening of Celebration” as a record-breaking number of guests filled Baker Refectory within Ellis Hall at Juniata College gathered for the 68th annual J.C. Blair Auxiliary Gala.

Sponsored by the Auxiliary to J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital, this year’s event was organized by co-chairs, Phil and Patti Paterson and Charlie and Robin (Clarke) Paterson.

“We had nearly 350 guests, which is our largest crowd yet,” said Robin Paterson. “That says to me that the interest in the hospital is still going strong and that the committee did a wonderful job this year to rally support of the community to support this event and the hospital itself.”

Auxilary president Stephanie Strickler welcomed the guests to the event.

“I am thrilled to see so many of you here tonight and can’t wait to celebrate with you all,” Strickler said, introducing the Rev. Father Gene Tucker, rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Huntingdon, who offered the invocation.

The Auxiliary to J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital exists to support the hospital and the people it serves as well as to provide a link between the two through numerous services and programs provided each year.

“Since 1913, the auxiliary has donated millions of dollars to support projects at J.C. Blair Memorial Hospital, its affiliated medical centers and the health and welfare of the community,” said Strickler. “To fund these services and projects, the Auxiliary relies on financial support from the membership and the community.”

Each year, the gala is the Auxiliary’s largest fundraiser, designed to provide for a specific project or program each year.

“We’ve been rallying support around the Force for Health program, which we are thrilled to be able to support,” said R. Paterson.

Co-chair Patti Paterson shared words of welcome as well, recognizing each member of the gala committee, which included the co-chairs and Greta Hall, Dr. Gregor Thebaud, Jessica Brower, Cindy Clarke, Heidi Leonard, Octavia Morelli, Strickler, Keith Black, Susie Black, Chad Brower, Geoff Clarke, Jackie Confer, Jeremy and Gretchen Crouse, Don Ferrell and Kelly Cook-Ferrell, Courtney Lang, Jeff Leonard and Dr. Margaret Hallahan. She also recognized Wendy Garlock.

Dr. Robert Gillio, J.C. Blair pulmonologist and director of population health, introduced those gathered to the concept of the Force for Health program.

“When Chris Gildea came to me and said that the Community Health Needs Assessment shows all kinds of health needs in the community, but we really don’t have a budget for an implementation plan, I suggested a program I had done in other cities, but I needed help,” Gillio said. “The staff at Juniata College stepped up and said, ‘Use our resources.’”

Force for Health quickly took form with a mission of making Huntingdon County residents advocates for their own health and the health of their communities as a whole.

R. Paterson also recognized the recipient of this year’s John B. Kunz Award, given in recognition for outstanding service, which was presented to longtime J.C. Blair nurse Linda Gibbs, in recognition of her dedication to both the hospital and the community.

“Like John B. Kunz, this year’s winner has served the hospital and it’s organizations for many years. She has become a staple at the hospital and always has the hospital and its community in mind,” said R. Paterson.

J.C. Blair Health System Board Chair Fred Price recognized those doctors who have been practiced and continue to practice in the community for 25 years or longer. Those include Richard Buza, Daniel Delp, Allen Ettenger, Mike Gaugler, James Hayden, Harry Kamerow, Robert Lamey, Ronald Long, Mark Minor, Chris Patitsas, John Roth, Jim Schall, Keith Sutton and Keith Waddle.

Some of those honored entertained the crowd as part of the Singing Doctors following a slideshow honoring the years of service.

Guests enjoyed a meal prepared by Parkhurst at Juniata College, followed by dancing the night away to music performed by the Uptown Band.

“We are thrilled with the turnout. Tonight was a wonderful event,” said R. Paterson. “We are so excited to hear the number of guests. We really hope we raise a lot of money for such a great cause.”

Scanners may not work with upgrade

With the county 911 system officially switching from an analog to digital system, residents who own analog scanners may not be picking up calls, even when the system was in the testing phase.

According to Chris Stevens, Huntingdon County 911 director, because of the switch from analog to digital, the dispatch channels and operations channels are now on higher frequencies.

“This means the scanner needs to be able to go to higher frequency ranges,” he said. “If your scanner can’t go to higher frequency ranges, you’ll have to purchase a digital scanner.”

According to information provided by the Huntingdon County 911 Center, everything is dispatched from the center on one channel, and fire company and ambulance crews have their own frequencies for operations in the new system.

Additionally, if fire companies need to communicate with one another during a call, they have their own frequencies volunteers can use to speak to one another.

If anyone is picking up any dispatch operations from other counties, Stevens had an explanation for that as well.

“Mifflin County is still under an analog system, and some surrounding counties are still under an analog system,” he said. “But, I do know that Mifflin County is currently switching to digital as well.”

If people don’t want to switch to digital scanners, as prices range between $250 to $350, Stevens said there are other options.

“If you know how to program your scanner, you should at least be able to pick up the dispatch center,” he said. “But, once fire companies and ambulance crews are assigned to an operations channel, you’ll no longer be able to hear those.”

However, there are options for residents to listen to dispatch and operations channels without purchasing a digital scanner.

“There are places online where you can listen to it, and everything does pick up,” said Stevens.

Some options to listen to dispatch and operations channels online include and

“However, the way most people are going to be able to hear it is if they purchase a digital scanner,” said Stevens.

Food pantry donations help many

As the holiday season arrives, people anticipate the time of giving thanks and giving presents. For the local food pantries, it’s also a time of giving food to those who need it most.

The Mount Union Area Food Pantry is located at the First United Methodist Church in Mount Union. Helping those from McVeytown to Mill Creek, volunteers proudly join together and help distribute boxes of food.

Brian Myfelt, director of the Mount Union Food Pantry, said their progress in serving the community wouldn’t be possible without the extensive amount of volunteers.

“We have volunteers who come in to help organize and prepare for the food pantry,” he said. “There’s people who help serve and carry the boxes to people’s cars during the food pantry. We also have people come and serve coffee and cake for those who show up.”

Myfelt also acknowledged the pantrys get a lot of support from businesses and organizations in the community.

“The local VFW and Sandy Ridge Market have been a huge help to us,” he said. “We’ve received a lot of food donations from them. Sandy Ridge alone literally donated a ton of food. The VFW and Sandy Ridge also helped to procure a coupon for everyone who comes that’s good for a 10- to 12-pound turkey.”

While they have received donations from businesses, there is always a need for more. The Mount Union Food Pantry serves anywhere from 160 to 200 families throughout a month.

“We always welcome jars of peanut butter and canned goods,” Myfelt said. “Cereal is also a popular item that we like to have donated. We do ask people who donate items to check the expiration or best-by date.”

The food pantry is open from 9-11 a.m. Tuesdays, with fresh produce offered every third Tuesday. Donations are accepted from 4-6 p.m. Mondays, when volunteers are preparing for the next day’s pantry.

The Huntingdon County Salvation Army in Huntingdon, Huntingdon County United Way participant, accepts food donations for the local community as well.

Auxiliary Captain Charity Bender said the Salvation Army is pleased to be able to serve Huntingdon County with their food pantry and assistance program, which is open to clients once a month.

As they enter their busiest time of year, Bender said she and her husband, Auxiliary Captain Philip Bender, have had an abundance of people donating so far.

“We have people donating things from canned goods to stuffed chicken breast,” she said. “We even have people buying turkeys and hams for the families we help serve.”

While the Salvation Army is receiving a lot of donations, there are still a couple things needed for area families.

“We are in need of any type of canned good items,” Bender said. “Canned vegetables and canned fruit are always needed. We could also use cereal, too.”

Donations are accepted at the Salvation Army on Shadyside Avenue from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to noon Friday. Salvation Army helpers then hand out food boxes to clients from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Along with the Salvation Army in Huntingdon, there is also the Huntingdon Area Food Pantry in the basement of the Huntingdon First United Methodist Church.

Jean Feagley, administrator for the food pantry, said they help 148 families within any given month.

“We have 40 volunteers that help inside organizing the shelves and preparing the boxes, plus 25 volunteers who help outside with driving the truck and carrying boxes to cars,” she said.

The Huntingdon Food Pantry receives support and donations from various aspects in Huntingdon. From the 40 churches in the school district, the local businesses and community donations, the food pantry is well supported.

Feagley said the food pantry takes all donations that help make a meal. Some common items are soup, canned vegetables, juice, Spam, stew, boxes of macaroni and cheese, pasta sauce and bags of noodles.

The food pantry is open from 9-11 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Donations can be made during these times or call 643-1830 to schedule a time to drop off donations.

The Southern Huntingdon County Food Pantry also serves county residents.

Rev. Jim Hullihen, director for the SHC Food Bank for almost 20 years, said the pantry helps a lot of people in the area.

“The food bank is an important part of our community,” he said. “There really are families in need in our area.”

While food pantries do receive grants from the state to help purchase food, the community is what helps the most. Donations and time commitments help provides support to the food bank and the people they serve.

“We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without help from the community,” Hullihen said. “We receive donations from individuals, local churches, local businesses and social groups. We receive very helpful donations from the VFW and American Legion as well as from Sandy Ridge Market.”

The SHC Food Pantry accepts any nonperishable food item. Some items that are needed regularly include cereal, pop-tarts, condiments and cake mixes.

They are open from 9-11:30 a.m. the second and fourth Wednesday of each month 6-7 p.m. the third Tuesday of each month. Donations can be made during this time or call 542-9621 to arrange a time to donate.

Most canned or jarred food items have a relatively long shelf span, however, when donating items, please be aware of the expiration or best-by date.

Some common items to donate include jars of peanut butter, crackers, canned fish and meat such as tuna and chicken, rice, cereals, pasta, fruits in natural juice with no sugar, canned vegetables, canned soups and stews, applesauce, unsalted nuts and juice boxes.

Positive comments wanted for this week's Opinion Line

As a special holiday tradition, only opinions of a positive nature will publish in the Saturday, Nov. 24, edition of the Opinion Line. The positive opinions can be of any topic and will publish at the discretion of the managing editor. Positive opinions can be submitted by phone at 643-4043, from 5:30-8:30 p.m. tonight, Monday, Nov. 19, by email at or online at Deadline for opinion submissions for the Saturday, Nov. 24, Opinion Line is 8:30 p.m. tonight.

Bear season numbers high

Optimal conditions met hunters setting out Saturday for the first day of bear rifle season with temperatures in the 40s and a layer of snow covering the ground.

After a dismal outcome last year, the number of bears brought in to the bear check station at the Pennsylvania Army National Guard Readiness Center in Smithfield Township was one of the highest in the past 13 years.

“There were 87 bears checked Saturday and six today. There were over 90 bears harvested in the local area,” said state Game Commission regional biologist Justin Vreeland Sunday. “If my numbers are correct, this is the fourth highest number of bears we checked on the opening day of rifle season.”

Huntingdon County tied for the second highest number of bears checked in the state, with neighboring Fulton County tying for third place. On the first day of bear season in 2005, the Huntingdon check station had 102 bears, 90 in 2008 and 96 in 2015. By contrast, there were 24 last year.

“The harvest seems to differ more based on hunter effort and weather conditions and food conditions,” Vreeland said. “Locally, our bear population is generally stable or generally increasing.”

The bears brought to the local check station were harvested in Huntingdon, Bedford, Blair, Centre, Clearfield, Franklin, Mifflin and Perry counties.

“This year was a good food year. There was an especially good acorn crop, that tends to keep bears out of their dens longer and that increases harvest rates,” he said. “The snow really helped. It didn’t seem to limit hunter access, but really aids in tracking bears both before and after they are shot.”

Even on the ridges, where bear hunting is typically most successful, the snow did not impede hunter access.

The heaviest bear checked in was 476-pound male harvested in Dublin Township, followed closely by a 474-pound male taken in Greenfield Township, Blair County, and a 458-pound male in Cromwell Township.

“There were fewer tagged bears than would have been expected, especially with the number of bears harvested,” said Vreeland. “I estimate we had 10-12 tagged bears, which is about half of what we would have expected.”

The harvested bears brought to the check station this weekend were in good condition.

“We had a handful of cubs, bears that were born just this January that were over 100 pounds,” he said. “There was a usual number of bears brought in in the normal weight range for this area in the 60-70 pound range, but enough over 100 pounds to suggest food supplies were very good this year.”

Two bears were found to have mange, one had a moderate case and the other a milder form.

“That number is fairly typical for a rifle season here,” Vreeland said.

Hunters are reminded that bears must be checked at the station within 24 hours of being killed and must be tagged prior to being moved to a check station.

The bear check stations will be open until 8 p.m. tonight, Monday, Nov. 19; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20; and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21.

Hunters who kill a bear late Wednesday should contact the southcentral region office at 643-1831 to make arrangements to have their bear checked, noting the office will be closed Thursday for Thanksgiving.

Drug bust hearings to begin Tuesday

Preliminary hearings will begin tomorrow for over 20 incarcerated individuals involved in last week’s drug bust that broke up a $4.6 million ring that brought cocaine, heroin and fentanyl into the county.

“As of now, we still have 24 out of the 32 in custody,” Huntingdon County District Attorney Dave Smith told The Daily News this morning. “But I am hopeful we can get one or two more here soon.”

Preliminary hearings will be held in magisterial judge Rufus Brenneman’s office. Dave Gorman of the state Attorney General’s will be leading the hearings. Smith hopes most of the cases will be waivers.

Smith said he has some concern with the roundup of the individuals involved in what they are calling the “Philly Five.”

Smith said the “Philly Five” and three from Pittsburgh were seeking refuge with three “top local men,” the leader being Jesse Hamman, 39, Mount Union, currently confined in the Blair County Jail.

The Philly Five include includes Don Simpson Jr., Malcolm Dillette, Marcus Johnson, Malik Hill and Marcus Womack and Jamiere Hickman, Pierre Trent and Shantel Arrington Johnson as those from Pittsburgh.

The “top three local men” are identified as William Brown, 29, Robertsdale, Hamman and Shane Hollibaugh, 45, Huntingdon.

“There has been a unit actively looking for those in Philly for the past 10 days,” explained Smith, in regard to the Philly Five. “We are actively searching for them and are positive that we will get them soon. All three of the Pittsburgh individuals are currently in custody as well.”

Among the list of “local residents” included in the roundup were Tiffany Williamson, 25, Huntingdon, currently confined to the Centre County Jail, Cody Coy, 28, Bedford, Cortney Fogelsonger, 28, no address provided, Shante Banks, 25, Mount Union, Amanda Brechbiel, 37, Neelyton, Jennifer Brunner, 29, Three Springs, Ronald Duvall, 38, Huntingdon, currently confined to the Centre County Jail, and Julie Jamison, 26, James Creek, Jesse Hoover, 30, Huntingdon, Craig Harne, 52, Orbisonia, Briana Miller, 31, Mount Union, Marissa Nicklow, 23, Bedford, Rylan Powers, 37, Broad Top, Richard Hollibaugh, 31, Mount Union, Jesse Acevedo, 22, Huntingdon, Jennifer Lantz, 37, Mount Union, Jordann White, 28, Six Mile Run, Sierria Everetts, 24, Altoona, Alisia Duvall, 40, Hustontown, Kayla Reahm, 26, Williamsburg, and Amanda Robinson, 30, Three Springs, all currently confined to the Huntingdon County Jail.

Smith explained that with the number of individuals involved in the roundup and currently in custody, Huntingdon County Jail Warden Duane Black has been working tirelessly to make sure that all defendants are accommodated.

“We gave the warden a notice in advance of how many people we were bringing in, so that he could find space to house everyone,” he said. “In particularly, with there being so many females and the jail not having the accommodations to house females, he has been trying to find other places to house them, all the while trying to keep them together.

“He has been doing an excellent job,” continued Smith. “You often don’t see all the work that is put in behind the scenes, and he has been working hard to make sure everyone is taken care of.”

Prior to last week’s bust, the ring brought a total of 3,028 grams of crack cocaine and 2,614 grams of heroin into the county.

Those involved could face multiple counts of felony manufacture or possession with intent to deliver, criminal use of a communication device, corrupt organization, money laundering and criminal conspiracy with the possession and intent to deliver.

Smith said that he is looking forward watching the cases move through the court system.

“Like I said, I hope that most of these guys will waive their cases, but if they don’t, we are prepared,” he said. “We hope to see a few more guys in custody here soon as well.”