All posts by Aileen Ida

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.

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.

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 etownwintershelter@gmail.com.

For ECTV40 I’m Aileen Ida.

Limited access to healthcare puts students’ health at risk

Healthcare

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.