Buy local. Support farmers. Support the environment.

“As the sun rises, market stand holders are hard at work, preparing their offerings for an exciting day at the farmers market in Lancaster, PA,” states Discover Lancaster’s website; the organization works to promote Lancaster County and draw tourists and locals out to support area businesses.

Lancaster County is known for its sprawling farm lands, old-world charm, and, of course, the Amish. These aspects of the county come together in an abundance of farmers’ markets and roadside produce stands, along with a variety of other markets and stores that support local community members.

The Food Marketing Institute has stated that their research shows that buying local and sustainable foods has been a trend over the last 8 years. This means that people, especially those in areas like Lancaster county, are devoted to supporting their communities through the process of buying local produce and other food items.

Amy Shorner-Johnson, an Elizabethtown resident and Assistant Chaplain at Elizabethtown College, says that her family enjoys supporting local agriculture through the purchase of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box. The CSA box is delivered every week to a set pick-up location and provides Shorner-Johnson’s family with a variety of fruits and vegetables from a local farm.

This specific CSA program runs from May to November every year and supplies diverse produce that may not be a common choice for families otherwise such as bok choy or kohlrabi. Shorner-Johnson says that the mix of items forces her to be creative with recipes that her family will enjoy.

In addition to providing the opportunity for creativity, Shorner-Johnson said she enjoys having access to seasonal fruits and vegetables.

“I like eating things in season…the flavor is just better,” she stated.

The ability to access produce as they become seasonally available is not the only appeal for people shopping for produce locally. Shopping at local farmers’ markets allows people to support their neighbors who, in turn, support other local businesses through their own spending.

The Farmers Market Coalition says that farms that sell locally provide ten more jobs per $1 million in revenue versus just three from farms that do not sell locally. As large farms continue to grow and small farms struggle to make ends meet, it is ever essential that local farmers receive support from their neighbors.

“I think that local farms will be the way forward versus the really big farms,” Shorner-Johnson said.

Small, local farms have the ability to remain more sustainable than larger farms in their production methods, but also with their transport methods. Most food at farmers markets comes from within a 50 mile span, says the Farmers Market Coalition. This limited travel saves money and gas compared to larger farms that send their produce hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away causing harm to the environment through the creation of excess emissions.

Unfortunately, even with the benefits that come from buying local, some people are unable to participate regularly in this process. One Elizabethtown College student expressed her interest in the trend to buy local but said she does not feel especially engaged in the issue.

“I think it would influence my decision more if I was the one buying groceries for my household, but I’m not,” junior Savannah Martinez said.

Still, Martinez said that her hometown of Hagerstown, Maryland is similar to Elizabethtown in its abundance of farmers markets and produce stands, and while she is aware that these businesses can benefit the community, she sees issues with the trend.

“I would like to buy locally more, but I know it’s not easily accessible for everyone,” Martinez said.

While farmers markets often have cheaper prices than grocery stores this isn’t well advertised, and many local citizens may be concerned about the potential costs of buying local. Additionally, the nature of farmers markets often leads them to have limited open periods either by only being open certain days of the week or by having only a short number of open hours.

Even though local farmers may face challenges to produce products and then market those in a way that is easily accessible to all community members, they still have the potential to support initiatives within the community that draw the attention of potential customers while helping neighbors. Many local farmers donate left over produce to food banks or other charitable causes. This both reduces the amount of food waste created from extra produce and supports needs within local communities.

The impacts of buying locally grown and sold food products are diverse and have the potential to be wide-reaching within a local community. Shorner-Johnson believes that by buying from local farmers, people have the ability to inspire change and make positive impacts within their communities.

“It’s not going to be huge, it’s not going to change the world, but it will make an impact,” she said.

Special Ed Field Day

Sports have been a part in my life for as long as I can remember. I grew up with a divorced family from the second I was born so sporting events were one thing that always brought both sides of my family together. When I was only six years old, my mom signed me up for my first soccer session. I played soccer from when I was five years old all the way up through my senior year of high school. I then started playing basketball in the fifth grade and always played that all the way though senior year. I played baseball for about four years and gave football a try once as a freshman in high school. Even though I played sports my whole life, I never really knew what it meant to be fortunate enough to partake in athletic events until the spring of my senior year.

Many of my friends through high school were a part of National Honor Society. I, however, was not. Due to being a part of NHS, they are required to do some sort of project before they graduated. My friends couldn’t think of anything so they came to me but I was clueless. We all went and talk to our gym teacher and he came up with the idea of holding a “Special Ed Field Day” at our school. They loved that idea and they asked me to be a part of this project. When hearing this idea, never did I imagine how big on an event this was about to be.

I won’t bore you with all the planning that went into this but we worked for many hours trying to get sponsors to donate money as well as contacting different schools in the area to attend our field day. We ended up having 13 schools commit to our event which totaled 81 participants. We were ecstatic but also nervous for how big this got.

All the schools arrived around 8:45 on a beautiful Friday morning in May. We had all different events set up such as 100-meter dash, little hurdles, football throw, and much more. All day long there was nothing but smiles on all the participants faces. I couldn’t believe how much of a success the entire day was so far. At the end of the day, we set up a podium for kids to walk up and we would hand them a medal for coming. We had someone over a loud speaker call the kids name individually, one by one, to receive their medals.

My three friends and I were the ones handing out the medals. It was now my turn to give out a medal to one of the kids. He came sprinting up to the podium with one of the biggest smiles I had ever seen. I put the medal around his neck and he gave me a huge hug. He then looked up at me and said, “I’ve never been a winner before.” I had to work so hard to hold back the tears. That one comment is what made that event so special and is why I will never forget that day.

What many people don’t realize is how fortunate they are. People take their ability to participant in sports for granted. They shouldn’t. There are so many kids out there that would give everything they had to be able to play sports. Personally, I look back to my high school career in sports and realize how selfish I was. I would complain about having to run during practice or do stupid drills when there are kids out there that dream about being able to dribble a basketball or shoot a soccer ball.

The Sweetest Place on Earth is getting a face-lift.

Changes are coming to Hersheypark’s entrance and some are larger than others. The first thing guests will notice when they arrive at Hershey this summer is the construction equipment and the new temporary entrance. This construction is making way for the newest installment coming to Hersheypark in summer 2020.

Chocolatetown Constructionv View from 108 CW Way
Chocolatetown Construction View from 108 CW Way. This photo was originally published on the Hershey company’s press release website.

“We are incredibly excited to enter this next chapter in the rich history of Hersheypark. Hershey’s Chocolatetown will mark the true intersection where fun meets chocolate,” said John Lawn, president and CEO of Hershey Entertainment & Resorts (HE&R). “Chocolatetown will be a place where chocolate-inspired attractions will transform the guest experience in new and engaging ways.”

Hershey's Chocolatetown Map
Map of the new Hershey’s Chocolatetown and the locations of the new establishments. This image was originally published on the Hershey company’s press release website.

Hershey’s Chocolatetown will add to the year-round fun that can be had while visiting the sweetest place on Earth. In this new expansion will be a new restaurant, bar and patio, ice cream parlor, confectionary kitchen and a Starbucks store. These establishments will be open all year and guests will not need a ticket to Hersheypark to enter them.

Chocolatetown Front Gate
Image of the new entrance coming to Hersheypark in summer 2020. This image was originally published on the Hershey company’s press release website.

There will also be a new Hersheypark merchandise store coming with Hershey’s Chocolatetown.

“The previous shops were smaller and specialized. This flagship 10,000-square-foot space will be open year-round and allow our guests to shop the largest collection of apparel, personalized souvenirs, toys, and more – exclusive to Hersheypark,” said Quinn Bryner, director of public relations strategy for Hersheypark and ZooAmerica.

Chocolatetown Retail
Image of the digital rendering of the new retail and restaurant establishment coming as part of Hershey’s Chocolatetown in summer 2020. This image was originally published on the Hershey company’s press release website.

With this investment of $150 million dollars also comes the addition of the largest kettle corn location at Hersheypark—and will be located outside the gate, so visitors can take home their favorite treat without needing to purchase a ticket.

Chocolatetown Kettle Corn Location
This is where the newest station for kettle corn will be in Hershey’s Chocolatetown. This image was originally published on the Hershey’s Chocolatetown website.

All of these new experiences are just what’s waiting for guests outside the gates! The entrance to Hersheypark, however, will not be in the place that it once was. It will be remodeled and moved closer to where Hershey’s Chocolate World stands today. This new entrance will feature lines for season pass holders and guests of the Official Resorts of Hersheypark to help smooth admission to the park.

Chocolatetown KISSES Fountain
Image of the digital rendering of what the Hershey’s KISSES fountain will look like. This image was originally published on the Hershey company’s press release website.

Once inside the park guests will see a new fountain in the iconic shape of a Hershey’s Kisses chocolate—this will also act as a new gathering place for the Hershey’s Characters. This fountain is not all that will be different about the new entrance. Hershey’s iconic Carrousel will be moved and become part of the Hershey’s Chocolatetown experience. This Carrousel—built in 1919 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company and brought to Hersheypark in 1945—will be celebrating its 100th year in 2019.

Chocolatetown Carousel Location
Image of the digital rendering of where the Carousel will be, inside the park and near the new restaurant location. This image was originally published on the Hershey company’s press release website.

For thrill-seekers, there will also be a new coaster coming to Hersheypark in summer 2020. This will be the 15th coaster at the park and will be the “fastest, tallest, longest and sweetest” addition to the coaster collection.

15th Coaster at Hersheypark
Image of the digital rendering of the 15th coaster coming to Hersheypark summer 2020. This image is a still from the video published by the Hershey company.

“This will be a definitive project for Hersheypark, HE&R and our destination,” said Lawn. “Inspired by our visionary founder, we are so proud to be able to leverage our remarkable history and our shared iconic brand in creating a sense of place that you can only find in Hershey, Pa.”

Chocolatetown Aerial
Image of the digital rendering of an aerial view of Hershey’s Chocolatetown. This image was originally published on the Hershey company’s press release website.

January 9, 2019, marked the groundbreaking for the newest expansion coming to Hersheypark, and construction will continue throughout 2019 and into 2020 to reach the deadline of opening for the 2020 Hersheypark season. Hersheypark will remain open during the construction and a temporary entrance will be constructed for guests to enter the park. In 2020 there will be an official grand opening for Hershey’s Chocolatetown.

Groundbreaking of Hershey's Chococlatetown Photo
Photo of the groundbreaking ceremony for the newest expansion coming to Hersheypark. This image was originally published on the Hershey company’s press release website.
In the photo (from left to right): Hershey’s Bar; Derry Township Supervisor Susan Cort; Derry Township Supervisor Matthew Weir; Derry Township Supervisor Richard Zmuda; Representative Tom Mehaffie; Milton Hershey School student Valerie Heydeman; Executive Director of The M.S. Hershey Foundation Don Papson; Hershey Entertainment & Resorts CEO John Lawn; Vice President, Hershey Experience, The Hershey Company Suzanne Jones; Milton Hershey School student Gavin Meyers; Senator John DiSanto; Derry Township Supervisor Justin Engle; Reese’s and Kiss.

“We are always focused on the future and offering more areas and attractions for our guests to enjoy. It’s essential for us to continue to reinvest in operations in order to stay competitive. And based on our guest feedback, we are thrilled to offer more attractions and chocolate-inspired experiences,” said Bryner.

Below is a virtual fly-through recreation of Hershey’s Chocolatetown. This video was originally published on the Hershey company’s YouTube account and can be found at the bottom of each press release pertaining to Hershey’s Chococlatetown.

All images and videos used in this publication were given permission for use and can be found on Hershey’s Latest Stories page, Hershey’s Chocolatetown website and within the press releases hyperlinked above.

We request your feedback on this article. Follow this link to a SurveyMonkey. Thank you for your participation!

Elizabethtown College works with Borough to improve student experience, nightlife

As a small, private school in the heart of rural, Lancaster County, Elizabethtown College is not known for its active nightlife. While this has become an accepted part of the “Etown experience” for some, many students are interested in events within the community and the campus to fill their nights and weekends.

Etown senior Sam McNulty said that she wishes more businesses in the Elizabethtown Borough would target college students or offer college-specific events.

“There needs to be more advertisement on campus for events that are happening in town,” McNulty said.

In order to create events that target college students, the Borough and the College must work together to build and strengthen bridges in the community.

Borough council member Jeffrey McCloud represents Ward 2, which includes the College. McCloud said he feels that the Borough and the College have a good relationship, though he does see room for improvement.

“I’d like to see other [businesses], too, that allow college students to have a good time,” McCloud said.

McCloud says the Borough council works to create an environment for businesses that would attract interest from college students and the greater community. He went on to explain that the relationship between the College and the Borough is essential as the town has a part in attracting good students to the College.

Former city council candidate and Ward 2 resident Mary Auker-Endres discussed the importance of improving the relationship between the College and the Borough during her campaign.

“I felt like the Borough didn’t have as fruitful of a relationship with the College as we should,” Auker-Endres said.

She discussed potential partnerships the College could make with the community, including working with businesses to allow students to use Jaybucks at local restaurants or to create transportation for students wanting to explore the town.

Vice President of Student Affairs at the College, Dr. Celestino Limas, said that the College is currently working to create a shuttle program that would allow students to visit the town to explore and partake in activities.

The shuttle is meant to help integrate students in the community and also to prevent issues that may come from students coming home late at night after consuming alcohol. Both McCloud and Auker-Endres said they are aware of past and current complaints from residents regarding loud and disruptive behavior from students returning back to campus late at night.

Limas said campus administration is aware of the complaints from some community members and hopes that implementing the shuttle system and other various activities on campus to engage students will reduce these issues.

He also emphasized that students are involved in the community through various service learning endeavors and that the college tries to create opportunities that allow students to be positively engaged with the community.

“I think when students make good impressions in the community it creates a huge amount of good will with the community,” Limas said.

In addition to working with the community, Limas hopes to work with on-campus groups to create more events and nightlife activities for students. A recently approved “social lounge” will allow students to spend time with friends while allowing of-age students to drink alcohol in a responsible manner while underage students are present. This new program will also include various events such as trivia nights, karaoke, open mic nights and other various pub-style events.

Limas also wants to create activities that do not have to involve alcohol, such as regular concerts or other performance events for all students.

As the College continues to improve activities for students, it will be essential for them to maintain and improve their relationship with the Borough as well.

“The Borough and the College have a really good relationship, but like any relationship it takes work,” McCloud said regarding the importance of continuing to work on improving the Borough-College relationship.

Local nonprofits think globally, make major impacts

“If the global nonprofit sector were a country, it would have the sixteenth largest economy in the world, according to GDP data compiled by the World Bank,” the National Council for Nonprofits states on their website.

Nonprofits serve our communities in a multitude of ways every day. Local libraries provide access to a wealth of knowledge for free. Local pet shelters strive to keep animals in our communities safe and healthy and, often, help us find a new friend in the form of a family pet.

Nonprofit organizations help to clothe, feed and house the most vulnerable in our communities. Some local nonprofits though, are working to make a more global impact.

One such nonprofit that has made an impact in the local community and globally is Dress a Girl Around the World (Dress a Girl).

According to their website, “Dress a Girl Around the World is a Campaign under Hope 4 Women International” a non-profit that has been in business since 2006. The organization has a nondenominational Christian affiliation but is independent of any religious organization.

Renita Yahara, owner of E-town Sewing Studio, learned about Dress a Girl four years ago when she received a large donation of fabric at her studio. She researched “charitable sewing” on the internet, and after some time came across Dress a Girl.

Yahara and volunteers are able to create dresses with donated fabric and rick rack.

“I love sewing for ages about 18 months to about ten [years old],” Yahara said.

With her love for sewing for children and her want to sew in a way that helped a charity, Yahara knew that she could fill a need working with Dress a Girl.

Dress a Girl provides dresses for vulnerable, young girls in developing nations around the world. All dresses have a label associated with the organization as a kind of protection against human traffickers.

“What I am told is that [traffickers] think twice if they see a child that is being cared for, they see the child and say ‘Oh, this child is being cared for by an organization,’” Yahara stated regarding the importance of including the label on all dresses.

Yahara first opened her shop to volunteers with the expectation that they would meet occasionally to make dresses, but local interest was much larger than she expected. Volunteers meet every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the E-Town Sewing Studio. Community members are welcome to join, even if they have no sewing experience.

In the last four years, Yahara and volunteers have made and distributed over 3500 dresses. They also make and send dolls, of which they’ve made over 2000.

Yahara says she has seen her work with Dress a Girl make a local and global impact.

In addition to dresses, volunteers also make dolls for girls worldwide.

“I got a letter from a missionary that said the dresses were a gateway to get into the communities with the love of God,” Yahara said.

Locally, Yahara has seen the community come together to support Dress a Girl through donations of fabric, rick rack (a zigzag trim used for decoration on dresses) and money to support the creation of dresses and dolls. Additionally, local missionaries and nonprofit organizations have distributed dresses all over the world.

One such nonprofit, and another local organization making a global impact, is Brittany’s Hope.

Founded in 2000, Brittany’s Hope is a nonprofit organization that works to support families who choose to adopt special needs children worldwide through monetary grants. They also work with sponsors to financially and emotionally support children and families around the world.

Brittany’s Hope has been helping children and families globally for over 19 years.

The organization is not an adoption agency but does work closely with agencies in order to assure that families who are willing to adopt special needs children have the resources and support they need.

Created by Candace Abel, the organization stands in memory of her adopted daughter Brittany who was killed in a car accident during her senior year of college.

In the last 19 years, the organization has been able to assist in the adoption of over 1200 children and has given humanitarian aid to over 3000 children and families.

Mai-Lynn Sahd was also adopted into the Abel family as a child and now runs Brittany’s Hope as the executive director.

Sahd said that the organization fills a need as there are not many organizations that offer resources and support for families looking to adopt special needs children internationally.

“These are the children that are stuck, that are left behind…,” Sahd said. “Our grants are not just to help families, but to help shed light on that child.”

According to Sahd, due to policy changes and societal trends, international adoption has decreased significantly in the past five years. While some criticism surrounding international adoption calls attention to the fact that human trafficking can often be linked to this kind of adoption, Sahd says that Brittany’s Hope recognizes these issues and has formed their actions around that.

“We realize adoption should not be the only solution,” Sahd said regarding the issue of international adoption causing an increase in human trafficking.

The organization’s commitment to create sponsorships and connections between local families and international children and families helps to support these children and further prevent trafficking.

Elizabethtown College students can get involved with Brittany’s Hope through every-other-year May service trips to Vietnam. During these trips, students and faculty can help carry out the benefits of sponsorships in supporting local orphans and at-risk families.

Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania Citizen Journalism