All posts by Aileen Ida

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.

ECHOS Winter Shelter experiences changes, prepares for new season

The basement of Saint Paul’s United Methodist Church is home to the Winter Shelter. The Shelter will open in mid-December and stay open until late-March. The shelter is open from 7 p.m. until 8:30 a.m. each day. Joanna Katherman is the Winter Shelter Coordinator. She talks about how this Shelter is different than others in the area.

“We are a low barrier shelter, so we want to make it as accessible as possible to as many people in as many different circumstances as is possible,” Katherman said.

Each person who comes into the shelter is given a storage container with a mat, bedding and basic toiletries. Clients are not able to keep large items at the church, but their small belongings can be kept with the bedding during the day. The shelter also offers warm clothing, food and other necessities. Each day, breakfast and dinner are served at the church. Kim Grey, a case manager with ECHOS, talks about the importance of this shelter.

“Well, I think this is important in Etown because everyone does deserve a safe, warm place,” Grey said.

There have been many changes to the Winter Shelter and ECHOS in the past year. The primary change this year was the move of ECHOS from Elizabethtown College to a space downtown. Leigh Ann Farling thinks that the work ECHOS does is making the community better.

“We all know that if our community members can be sustainable they’re going to be better workers, better parents, better students—all those things. And then they’re going to contribute back to the community,” she said.

While the shelter is only open during the winter, ECHOS offers assistance year-round.

The Etown Winter Shelter is always looking for volunteers. If you’re interested contact them at

For ECTV40 I’m Aileen Ida.

Limited access to healthcare puts students’ health at risk


Photo source: National Economic and Social Rights Initiative

With the Affordable Care Act (ACA) still in its infant stages, the issues surrounding healthcare have come to the mainstage of discussion across the country. While many people are discussing the impact of the ACA on the elderly, the poor and the American middle class, college students are a rarely discussed demographic in regards to this issue.

Although the ACA requires insurance companies to allow a person to stay on their parents insurance until turning 26, for low-income students who don’t have insurance this isn’t applicable, leaving them with no insurance and little money to pay for their own expensive plan. Elizabethtown College is a college which has created programs to welcome lower income students to the school, though they do not offer free or low-cost, comprehensive healthcare options to low-income students.

First-year Kyle Praseut is one Etown student who feels the school has failed to live up to their promises by not helping low-income students with healthcare. Neither of his parents have insurance, leaving him completely devoid of affordable access to healthcare.

“I find that even with the school’s willingness to give out scholarships to those in need that those in true dire need do not have access to the resources people need to survive – like healthcare,” Praseut said.

In addition to students, like Praseut, who don’t have insurance, there is an abundance of students who may have insurance through their parents’ employer, but these insurance plans require the use of a network doctor. This policy often requires the student to return home to go to the clinic or hospital in order to have any of the bill covered by insurance. These students are apt to avoid going to the doctor until they are able to go home or avoid the doctor’s office all together.

Through the ACA, colleges are now required to offer a healthcare plan and make it available to their students. The College has complied with this, and starting fall 2016 has begun offering the option of student health insurance at the cost of around $1500 per school year for each student. While these rates are potentially lower than a student may have to pay on their own in a private insurance policy, this amount of money is still out of reach for some students.

“I don’t have the campus insurance because it’s too expensive. An extra $1500 on top of the tuition I already barely afford just isn’t reasonable,” first-year Savannah Martinez said.

Many low-income students that attend Etown are recipients of merit and need based financial aid. Unfortunately, the College does not have a policy in place which allows the use of these funds towards insurance, which may squash any possibilities some students may have of affording the plan.

Some colleges across the nation offer free medical access to their students through full- or part-time nurses, physicians and other medical staff. At Etown, students do have free access to some health resources through the WELL and through a nurse via the local Penn State Hershey Medical Center, but she is not able to write prescriptions, treat most injuries or do a long list of other procedures students may find necessary.

There seems to be a common belief that Etown would be incapable of sustaining such a presence because large public schools are most of the colleges with recognizably free medical programs for students. However, some private schools, such as Johnson and Wales in Rhode Island, do offer free medical services to their students.

At Johnson and Wales, students have access to a registered nurse daily with minor injuries and illness but are also able to schedule appointments with a physician who is available two days a week. Students are not charged to see either a nurse or physician.

Although there are potential benefits to students in creating a more comprehensive medical program for students to access, the costs may be higher than the school is willing to pay. In addition, some people belief that while it may be acceptable – and even expected – for public universities to provide free medical care, private schools do not – and should not – have the same expectation or responsibilities.

“The general welfare is up to the state and national government, not a private institution,” sophomore John Koons said.

The many faces of Stephanie Collins

If you were to go exploring around Founder’s Residence Hall at Elizabethtown College, you would eventually find an apartment that is definitely not the cramped home of a college student, you may even see a couple cats in the window.

This would be the home of Stephanie Collins and her wife. Collins is the Interim Director of Multicultural Programming and Residential Communities at Etown, her office is in the newly opened Mosaic House. The Mosaic House can be found at the corner of Mt. Joy Street and Orange Street and is meant to be a safe space for students of diverse identities to gather and participate in programs which support diversity education on campus.

Collins has her Bachelors and Masters of social work from Shippensburg University, but attended Etown for the first two and a half years of her college career. She was an education major at Etown, but found that a social work degree allowed her to better work with student affairs – something she is passionate about.

“When I went through the social work program I was never interested in one-on-one counseling…. My heart has always been in student affairs,” Collins stated.

She went on to talk about how she feels college students are often a disregarded demographic when people consider who social workers should help. The former Director of Diversity though, had a degree in social work and showed Collins that she would be able to work with students with a social work degree.

For Collins, the affairs of students, especially students who identify with minority groups, resonates with her own story.

“My mother is a single mom and didn’t like that [I was an out lesbian] and I was kicked out of the house once my freshman year and then officially the fall of my junior year,” Collins said. “When I went to the business office, they were like ‘I don’t know.’ Nobody knew what to do so I had to transfer.”

This experience gave Collins personal insight into how to help homeless students and made her able to resonate with the struggles that many students experience because of their identities. Though she was forced to leave Etown, she says there was no love lost for the campus and that the College now has a much better handle on how to help homeless students.

Many of the students who participate in the events Collins facilitates and students who can be found hanging around the Mosaic House just to spend time with Collins feel a connection to her that they may not feel with other administrative people on campus.

More specifically, she has offered support for groups across campus – a few of which now hold office space in the House. Through this support she has made an impact on the clubs in general, but more importantly on the students in charge of the clubs and the general membership within the clubs. One group who has found a home in the Mosaic House and a friend in Collins is the Etown College Democrats.

“The support Stephanie has been willing to give to the clubs on campus has allowed the College Democrats to push forward with the diversity agenda of the Democratic Party,” sophomore and College Democrats Vice President John Koons said.

At the Mosaic House, there is also a group of students that work there throughout the week and assist with any program Collins is running. One of these student workers is sophomore Guadalupe Carnero.

“It’s nice to work for her, she is very laid back,” Carnero said. “She takes on most of the work load though, I don’t think she realizes she has a good group of student workers.”

The student workers spend a lot of time in the House, and therefore with Collins so they are able to see a side of Collins others may not be able to see on a regular basis.

While Collins spends much of her time with students in the House and across campus, she does have a little bit of free time though. She enjoys spending time with her four cats.

She also really enjoys watching Netflix and crafting a variety of different things. Her office is covered in paintings she has done herself. Collins’ talked about her love for other specific crafting, as well.

“I also knit and crochet and cross-stitch because I’m actually an 86 year old woman named Barb,” Collins joked.

She talked about how she loves to give away most of the crafts she makes, currently she’s working on a baby blanket for her doctor who is pregnant.

In addition to all the crafting she can manage, Collins loves to participate in trivia and says any night of the week her friends could ask her to go to trivia and she would be up for it.

Packers take down Giants in hard-fought game

Photo courtesy of Jeff LeCount
Photo courtesy of Jeff LeCount

Sunday, Oct. 9 brought another win to the Green Bay Packers, this time against the New York Giants. The game finished with a score of 16-23, this leaves the series score for the Packers vs. the Giants at 32-26-2, further increasing the Packers slight lead in the series.

This game was the third straight loss for the Giants, though they are projected to win next week over the Baltimore Ravens. Many fans hoped this would be the Giants redeeming game, but unfortunately, they received no such saving grace.

“The Packers played a good game – a strong game – of course I want to see the Giants win, but that didn’t seem likely this week,” said Gene DiPasquale, a football aficionado and Giants fan.

Though Packers’ fans went home with a win, the game play itself was always up to their standards.

“The Packers’ offense showed signs of its past greatness in their first drive but then struggled for the rest of the game,” Jeff LeCount, a fan in attendance at the game, said.

Following the game, Green Bay quarterback, Aaron Rodgers and Coach Mike McCarthy spoke about their win and looked to the future.

“It’s been ugly at times, but we’ll take it – it’s tough to win in this league,” Rogers said.

McCarthy discussed his confidence in the players and his satisfaction with their game play during the game against the Giants. “Good victory for us tonight, definitely a hard-fought football game,” McCarthy said.

The New York Giant coach, Ben McAdoo also spoke following the game in regards to his teams play and his thoughts on the overall game play by the Giants.

“Tough night against a good team, I thought we played hard and hung in there until the end, but didn’t execute well enough to win the game,” McAdoo said.

This game was not easily won, it required impressive plays from players in all positions, Packers’ linebacker Clay Matthews showed his skill in a play early in the third quarter. Matthews fought his way past the Giants’ defense to sack Giants’ quarterback, Eli Manning.

Though the Giants lost, they also played hard and snuck in a few impressive plays. One such play happened with only three minutes left in the fourth quarter. Manning ducked and dodged around Packer’s defense before shooting the ball directly to Giants’ wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. who stood in the back of the end zone. The catch knocked him out of bounds, but the touchdown was fair.