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    Coastal Point • Laura Walter : Ann Tansey enjoys a little leisure time with Galen, who is now recently retired.Coastal Point • Laura Walter : Ann Tansey enjoys a little leisure time with Galen, who is now recently retired.When Ann Tansey awoke from surgery to suddenly find herself blind, she first imagined herself standing at the beach with a guide dog. Nearly 13 years later, she’s retiring the black Lab that gave her independence for 11 years, even in blindness: a loving old dog named Galen.

    “He has given me every moment of his life, loyalty and love and protection,” she said. “I would like to give him a royal sendoff.”

    Tansey retired Galen on his 13th birthday, Nov. 11, buying him a New York strip steak to celebrate. Fittingly, that was Veterans Day.

    “He is my veteran,” Tansey said. “He has saved my life. He has defended me against all danger.”

    ‘We are a team’

    A native of Virginia, Tansey has lived for almost 40 years in Bethany Beach, moving there with her late husband, Joseph Tansey, a former FBI agent, lawyer and founder of Tansey Real Estate. Despite the blindness that eventually challenged her, she was still an independent woman who once ran for public office. Not wanting to burden her sons, she began learning how to live a blind life.

    “You can’t just go get a dog,” she noted.

    The Division for the Visually Impaired helped Tansey to, metaphorically, crawl before she could walk. She became white-cane proficient before entering the Seeing Eye Institute (“the Harvard of Seeing Eye schools,” she said).

    Located in Morristown, N.J., the Seeing Eye Institute raises and trains dogs for its own month-long boot camp, and holds the trademark on the Seeing Eye name, with other guide dogs being properly called just that.

    Tuition is free. Students just pay $150 for their first dog. With the lifetime support the Seeing Eye provides, each human/dog partnership is worth thousands of dollars. The Seeing Eye relies entirely on private donations to operate.

    As soon as Tansey was paired with the then-2-year-old Galen, she became completely responsible for him, training for five hours every morning, plus feeding and exercising him.

    After passing their final test, Tansey and Galen came home, and she showed him Bethany Beach for the first time.

    They stood on the boardwalk together, fulfilling her vision, and began learning their way around.

    “The dog is a bridge that gets them from place to place,” said Michelle Barlak, Seeing Eye spokesperson.

    But Galen also knows when to disobey.

    “If I give him a command to go forward and he sees a car coming, he’ll stand in front of me and won’t let me go,” Tansey said.

    That’s constructive disobedience.

    “He saved my life twice,” she said.

    In Rehoboth Beach, Galen pushed her back when a car jumped the curb. Adding to the challenge, car engines are quieter nowadays, and Galen has also prevented Tansey from walking in front of a vehicle on Route 26.

    So Tansey turned her focus to safe road crossings. She (and Galen) pushed for Delaware to install street crossings that accommodate the vision-impaired. Now, several pedestrian crossings issue a verbal command to “cross,” as well as the usual visual cues.

    ‘A purpose in blindness’

    Tansey volunteered for Delaware Hospice in Milford 18 years, before and after her blindness.

    “Just because you’re dying doesn’t mean you can’t have joy,” she said.

    Escorted by Galen, Tansey comforted six different people each week by singing, praying and reciting poetry with them. She might even throw in some blind jokes.

    Now add to the equation a big, shiny black Lab. He laid his head on their beds, or amused the visiting children, and “the sorrow would dissipate for a time. … They loved him.”

    Soon, families were requesting that Tansey and Galen visit their loved ones.

    People don’t exactly look or feel their best on their deathbed, but Tansey can’t see that.

    “I was not distracted by how they looked,” she said. “They could see my love and my soul, and that’s how I felt with them. It was accepting.”

    Tansey has sat with many people as they passed away alone. She sang and prayed over them until the last moments.

    “It doesn’t have to be depressing. It can be beautiful,” she said. “I tried to make it as peaceful and beautiful as I could.”

    Later, Tansey turned to the Alzheimer’s unit of Brandywine Assisted Living Center. She gave hand massages to the residents of the facility on Route 54.

    “When you’re disabled, when you’re dying, it’s all about touch,” Tansey said, who also taught hand massage to spouses so they could communicate to the end.

    She’s beginning a Stockley Center program for the blind, as well.

    Life on her terms

    “I loved every minute of it with Galen,” she said. “We didn’t depend on anyone.”

    Catching rides with DART paratransit, Tansey still lives life on her terms.

    “I do love my life. It’s very different than I thought.”

    Today, she sits on an armchair, looking sharp from her curly head to black ankle boots. The room is like a country garden, with decorative birdcages and paintings of farms, flowers and vines.

    She designed this addition to her home, although she’s never seen it.

    Tansey gets regular human help around the house, but in blindness, she gardens and does her own makeup. She’s been to France, and “You can’t say that I didn’t see it.”

    Galen has been her constant companion on planes and trolleys, in the voting booth and at the University of Delaware’s lifelong learning classes.

    Then, a year ago, Galen became ill.

    She brought him daffodils, played opera and rubbed his paws, just like any other patient. And Galen got better.

    But he’s still an old dog, especially for a large breed, although the Seeing Eye has increased their dogs’ service longevity and “nearly eradicated hip dysplasia” through breeding. Galen’s career has exceeded the average by nearly four years.

    Now he pads slowly around the house, happy for attention, no longer leaping into cars with the ease of his younger self. His hips have gotten tired of walking for 13 years, so he takes the lift onto DART busses.

    Making the leap

    Despite such meticulous training, a Labrador retriever still wants to run, swim and eat people-food.

    “Dogs are still dogs,” Barlak said. “They’re dogs first.”

    Though stunned when he first saw the ocean, Galen now longs to play in the water. In summer, he lies dutifully under his own umbrella, though he once had to be coaxed from the pond with a hotdog.

    “He has to be watching me constantly,” Tansey said.

    “The dog has a job to do,” Barlak said. That’s why they’re discouraged from running around too much or interacting with many people or dogs on the street. “It’s important to ignore the dog. Do not pet the dog or make eye contact with the dog. … If the dog is focused on you, it’s not focused” on its owner.

    But Tansey said Galen’s approachability has been a good thing.

    Just as Galen was a comforting link for those hospice patients, he has eased Tansey into outside situations. People see a lady walking her shaggy black Lab. They focus immediately on the friendly dog instead of the blindness.

    “It puts me at ease to be part of the world, to talk about my dog and what he does for me,” Tansey said. “Everybody loves him. He’s been a celebrity about town for 12 years.”

    Someone once hollered across the street, “There’s Galen!” To this day, she doesn’t know who.

    She called Galen her “greatest God-given gift,” besides her grandchildren, who find it perfectly natural that their grandmother should have a Seeing Eye dog, and ‘What — yours doesn’t?’

    “When you only do cane travel or guide, it’s a neon sign: ‘I’m blind.’ When you have a dog, it allows you to … depend on someone other than a person,” she said.

    “I can’t see my life without a Seeing Eye dog, and he’s had the experience of living life with me to the fullest,” Tansey said. “It’s a shame you have to go blind to get a Seeing Eye dog.”

    Life hasn’t been easy for Tansey. Her initial blindness training came with plenty of bumps, bruises and much worse. But it hasn’t stopped her from living a meaningful life.

    “Every day is a new challenge… and I embrace it.”

    In spring, Tansey will return to Morristown to train with a new dog. And, although he’s officially out of the harness, Galen will live comfortably in Bethany Beach until the end of his days.

    And he will finally get to play in the sea.

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    Although not quite so packed as its meeting in October, the Indian River School Board still had a larger audience than usual on Nov. 24. Nearly every member of the public present wanted to discuss the proposed health curriculum and, more specifically, Board Member Shaun Fink’s comments in favor of abstinence-only sexual education and the exclusion of homosexuality from the curriculum.

    Before the public comments really got rolling on a topic that wasn’t listed on the meeting’s agenda, Board Member Nina Lou Bunting insisted that those commenting share their residency aloud, to determine if they live or pay taxes in the school district.

    “Last board meeting, at Sussex Central High School, it was my understanding that all speakers were residents of our district, and I found out later that only one speaker was a resident of our district,” Bunting said. “When I make a decision, I want to act on what the constituents of my school district want. And I feel I was misled last month.”

    When signing up to speak at a board meeting, people are asked to write down their names, hometown and any relevant group affiliation (such as school or community group), but they haven’t traditionally been asked to verify that information aloud before speaking to the board.

    Dressed in a suit and bowtie, Sussex Central High School student Bryce Molnar broached the subject at hand.

    “I stand in front of you, my peers and superiors, as formally as possible,” said the junior. “The idea that someone can be in a position of power and discriminate against a group as large as that of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and asexual community is outrageous. It not only makes the school a dangerous place for students of the orientation, but it puts that student to shame.

    “I am straight, but I believe in their cause,” he said, adding that he believes it equally important to for schools to actively help their students by providing contraception, birth control, pregnancy tests and STD testing.

    “To my knowledge, Sussex Central and Indian River are two of the only three high schools in the state of Delaware that do not offer these programs.”

    Meanwhile, he said, Delaware is 20th in the nation in the rate of chlamydia infections and 25th for gonorrhea infections in those ages 10 to 25.

    “Delaware is the No. 1 state for unintended pregnancy, and this could all be prevented with a modified curriculum,” Molnar said.

    He also decried removal of literature that deals with such subjects as teen homosexuality.

    “Unlike Cape Henlopen High School, we did not have time to fight against the taking away of the book ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post.’ The book was taken from the Sussex Central Library and not replaced. There was no explanation,” Molnar noted.

    He later told the Coastal Point that SCHS’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) had offered to purchase a replacement of the controversial coming-of-age novel (which contains strong language, in addition to its lesbian main character) for the library but were told that was prohibited. So the GSA created its own small “library” from which students can access books like that if they choose.

    The community speaks

    Amber Peterson of Frankford told the board that the most “terrifying” aspect of the “gay agenda” is that anyone believes it exists to prey on others.

    “I don’t deny it exists, but it’s a tiny part of the population, just as prostitution, pimping and sex slaves is a small percentage of the heterosexual world,” Peterson said.

    “When you look for the worst in a population, you’ll find it. When you look for the worst in heterosexual white males, you’ll find pedophiles, rapists and serial killers. Is that the straight white man agenda? No, of course not — that’s absurd, just as the idea of the gay agenda is.”

    If only 2 percent of the population is gay (as Fink has previously cited from Center for Disease Control statistics), then that number doesn’t include their parents, families, friends, mentors or ministers, Peterson finished.

    The Rev. Michael Smith lives in Milton, but his Unitarian Universalists of Southern Delaware congregation stretches eastward.

    “I am a little confused about residency, because, according to the pastor [Fink], after the last meeting, the congregation I serve is … in Sodom and Gomorrah, which — I’m not sure how to put that — is in Lewes and Rehoboth Beach.”

    Smith echoed comments that removing from the curriculum language related to sexuality (such as lesbian, gay or bisexual) causes misunderstanding, prejudice and eventual bigotry.

    “It strips many of their inherent worth and dignity. It invites bullying,” Smith said. “I don’t get how any of you can sit there and look at children who are victims of such bullying, knowing this is what’s going to happen to them unless people talk and learn about each other and respect each other.”

    “We need to realize, in the 21st century, relationships are as varied as we are. By suppressing, and — worse — denigrating a natural and not uncommon human characteristic, you will damage lives, possibly your own, forever,” said Lin Schmidt of Georgetown and UUSD.

    She talked about friends whose homosexuality was so silenced by their families that they entered heterosexual marriages, only to see them crumble years later.

    “Compassion and acceptance and living our true lives — those are the real family values that we should be celebrating,” Schmidt said.

    Christian, straight and a retired schoolteacher, Rose Mary Hendrix of South Bethany said she was concerned that students will graduate having been given the wrong information.

    “Just think back on some of the things you thought as a child because no one would discuss what they thought you were too young to understand,” Hendrix said. “We as adults” hold on to that, she said.

    She credited Fink for responding to her concerns and sharing his Bible verses. She also pointed out that another minister could interpret those same verses in the opposite way.

    “But it doesn’t make any difference whether Shaun’s right … or I’m right on the Bible, because the schools should not go on the Bible,” Hendrix said. The health curriculum, she said, “should be based on inclusion of the population and the world we live in.”

    A parent of an Indian River High School student, Lloyd Elling took the opportunity to thank Superintendent Susan Bunting and Principal Bennett Murray for allowing his donation of tribal books and maps to the school’s library. But he also spoke in support of students and staff who may be gay.

    “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone,” Elling recited from the Bible. “Mr. Fink, you are a carpenter. Jesus was a carpenter. It’s time for you to build a new house. Shame is upon you, for Jesus offers a better direction of love than a sentence.”

    The sexual education unit of the new health curriculum is under discussion at regular committee meetings. The next meeting is open to the public, on Tuesday, Dec. 4, at 4 p.m. at the Indian River Educational Complex in Selbyville.

    Students want

    girls’ lacrosse

    At a time when their male counterparts have already played two seasons as a varsity team, Indian River High School girls are pushing for an official lacrosse program. A group of students spoke to the board about the issue during the public comment period.

    “I want the girls at Indian River to have the same opportunity to play the fastest-growing sport in the country,” said senior Maggie Allison, surrounded by a group of students.

    Allison had transferred from Sussex Tech to Indian River for its academics, after having become a noted lacrosse player at Sussex Tech and in club play. Though IR doesn’t have an official girls’ lacrosse program, on the recent national signing day, Allison committed to play lacrosse at Towson University.

    IR girls, she said, deserve the “opportunity to represent IR on the lacrosse field. While there may be financial cost to operating this program, the benefits to my classmates are priceless.”

    “My brother, who is a junior here, has an opportunity to play lacrosse here, so why can’t I?” demanded freshman Delaney Brannon.

    “I chose Indian River, hands down, based on the academic program,” Brannon said. “Even though academics are my top priority, not being able to play … a sport I’ve played since I was 7 years old is disappointing.”

    She said she believes IR could become a real contender with girls’ lacrosse.

    This is the third time since July that people have encouraged the board to create an official girls’ lacrosse program at IRHS. Despite that, the topic has never been listed on a school board agenda.

    Teachers beg for help with truancy work

    During public comments, visiting teacher Adele Jones raised a topic not often heard at school board meetings: truancy officers. She and one other “visiting teacher” act as truancy officers for the district, but new state regulations have weighed upon them, she said.

    Recent legislation now requires mandatory reporting for 20 unexcused absences (instead of 30), and home visits are now required for all grades, not just K-5.

    “I have consistently asked for help in this position,” Jones said, concerned that she can’t be thorough because of the workload.

    This year, IRSD had enough students to fund 86 percent of a visiting teacher’s salary, but the State of Delaware doesn’t fund partial units for visiting teachers, so the two women (and a secretary, one day per week) handle the truancy work for the entire district.

    Jones said other districts provide extra help, although IR visiting teachers do not have the homeless population under their jurisdiction.

    “During my past six years in this job, how many additional secretaries, how many additional staff at IREC [have been hired]?” she asked.

    Jones has worked in the district for 31 years, previously as a math teacher.

    In other IRSD news:

    • With Board Members W. Scott Collins and Donald Hattier absent, the board unanimously approved a Class Size Waiver. With one or two extra students, three classrooms at SDSA and two at Lord Baltimore have exceed the state maximum of 22 students per classroom in grades K-3.

    • Comprehensive school safety committee meetings will resume in January.

    • The board approve change orders in the classroom construction project. Several costs were lowered by a credit. When considering future bids, Board Vice President Rodney Layfield said he wants to ensure the board remembers companies that produce change orders, due to errors or omissions.

    • The Policy Committee is designing a new Staff Relationship Policy. The board unanimously approved the first draft, and the Policy Committee will continue ironing out details.

    • Committee meetings are planned at the IRSD Educational Complex in Selbyville on Monday, Dec. 8: Curriculum at 3:15 p.m.; Policy at 4:30 p.m.; Buildings & Grounds at 6 p.m.; and Finance at 7 p.m.

    The next regular school board meeting is Monday, Dec. 16, at 7 p.m. at Sussex Central High School.

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    It seemed an inauspicious birth,
    another mouth to feed on earth.
    A stable in a crowded town,
    the only lodging to be found.

    — John McCullagh

    Many Christian families display a crèche or nativity every Christmas, marking the birth of Jesus. Most families have passed their crèches down from generation to generation, each with a unique story. And, for its fourth year, the Ocean View Presbyterian Church hopes to share those stories with the community.

    “I think people can visit, share stories about their crèches and talk to people they might not know. It’s a very warm gathering and fits the bigger picture of the season,” said Elsie Young, who organizes the event.

    Young first heard of a nativity festival after her sister visited one in Pennsylvania.

    “She was so excited and invigorated, and said, ‘You should do it at your church.’”

    And Young did. Last year, the festival showcased 125 crèches from all over the world.

    “We have them set up around the perimeter of the room, and with each crèche there’s the story of the crèche,” she explained. “You read and find out how it was collected, if it came from a trip or if it was a gift.”

    This year, the Nativity Festival will be held on Saturday, Dec. 6, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event is free and open to the community.

    Last year, there was a crèche that a woman and her young children displayed during the years they lived on a houseboat.

    “I don’t think the pieces were more than a half-inch tall. That was their only crèche, because they didn’t have room to store anything bigger,” she said. “There was a man whose dad had a shoe store next to the 5-and-10, and he would save his money, and when he got enough money, he would go and buy a piece for his nativity scene. Some of them still had the 10-cent marker on them. He collected them over the years, and last year he brought them.”

    During the program, guests can enjoy punch and cookies provided by the church, as well as Christmas carols sung by the church choir.

    “We look at this as our church’s gift to the community, so we don’t take any contributions,” said Young.

    The community’s response to the festival over the last few years has been extremely positive, she added.

    “It has been a very positive response. There was one woman whose brother collects crèches, and she got on her cell phone and called him to come see it. Another told me, ‘I wouldn’t miss it. It’s just part of my Christmas,’” said Young. “It’s the whole Christmas season in the beginning of Advent. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s not something you see every day, so I think it’s special.”

    Young said she hopes the festival will help the community get into the Christmas spirit and remember the real reason for the season.

    “One woman wrote to us, ‘This Season of Love became quite real to us as we sang familiar Christmas songs, looked at an unbelievable number of different crèche sets, and spent time with church members. It is amazing how such simple things when shared can bring warmth and love to an open heart.’ I hope everyone will feel that way when they leave.’”

    Ocean View Presbyterian Church is located at 67 Central Avenue in Ocean View. For more information, call (302) 539-8718.

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    The will of the people has been heard. The South Bethany Town Council voted unanimously Nov. 20 to remove, at this time, the proposed mandatory 2 feet of freeboard from its draft floodplain ordinance.

    The controversial proposal was deleted due to time constraints, officials noted. FEMA has mandated that all towns wishing to remain in the National Flood Insurance Program must pass a larger floodplain ordinance, meant to encourage safer building standards.

    Towns are not required under the FEMA guidelines to mandate any freeboard.

    The topic arose a month ago, at the October council workshop, months after the August vote allowing homeowners add 2 additional feet of building height when building 2 additional feet of freeboard, on a voluntary basis.

    Councilwoman Sue Callaway and Mayor Pat Voveris had voted against resurrecting the topic, calling it an overreach of council.

    This week, Councilmam Jim Gross told residents, “None of the five of us [who originally voted in favor] have anything to gain. … We intend to do what we thought was right, the right being to mitigate the flood. Both FEMA and the State of Delaware have strongly recommended that there be freeboard.”

    Freeboard is the additional amount of height above the base flood elevation that a structure’s lowest floor is elevated or flood-proofed. South Bethany would have required it on all new buildings or substantial improvements (those worth 50 percent or more of the building’s current value).

    “You have a process where the council listened to the people,” Voveris said after this week’s vote.

    The decision came so early in the meeting that Voveris repeated the outcome to latecomers to the meeting. She called it “commendable” that the council came together in a unanimous decision.

    That includes champions of mandatory freeboard Councilmen George Junkin and Jim Gross.

    “It’s not that I don’t think mandatory freeboard is the right thing to do,” Junkin said. “It’s just that, due to the time constraint, we don’t have time to get there, trying to convince people that mandatory freeboard is the thing for us.”

    “There’s a lot of misinformation about why we’re doing this thing this time of year,” said Councilmember Al Rae. “The Town received letters from FEMA and DNREC in September that ‘you now have six months…’ That’s why we’re doing it now. It’s not like we’re waiting for everyone to get out of town. … We’re doing it to represent your best interest.”

    He suggested the Town create information sheets on such topics as freeboard.

    “Nobody was saying freeboard is a bad idea,” said resident Kent Stephen. “We’re saying we don’t want to you to make us do it.”

    Junkin had emailed residents about his position, stating that additional freeboard would lower flood insurance rates and prevent homeowner hassles.

    “Base flood elevations (BFEs) in South Bethany have increased 3 feet in the last 30 years. Freeboard would have kept homeowners from having homes that are now below BFE,” he wrote.

    “Statistically, homes that are built to the minimum BFE standards will see damage from flooding in their lifetime” — something that Junkin knows from experience, when he made a substantial improvement to his own house in 2001.

    Despite Junkin’s 14-page email on the benefits of freeboard, many residents weren’t convinced.

    “You haven’t come close to showing us why we have to have freeboard,” Stephen said.

    Bob Coleman said he felt it was “premature” to mandate freeboard when it was only recommended by FEMA. He asked council about South Bethany’s rating with FEMA. If it’s far enough below a certain threshold, he said, mandatory freeboard wouldn’t be enough to raise the rating anyway.

    Resident Larry Covelli said he couldn’t see how it would improve property values. If people can’t afford to add mandatory freeboard during substantial home improvement, they might never renovate, Covelli said.

    He left the meeting early, content that mandatory freeboard was struck down.

    “It doesn’t do anyone a bit of good,” Covelli said. “They never proved what it was good for.”

    Covelli said he still felt that the council deliberately acted while people were away.

    Coleman agreed, citing that freeboard was made voluntary in August, when part-time residents were in town, but resurrected months later. Both men said they have about one foot of freeboard.

    Earlier in the week, the South Bethany Planning Commission had also reaffirmed its earlier position against mandatory freeboard. With the alarm raised, citizens had flooded the Nov. 14 council meeting, most opposing the measure, and with emotions running high.

    Barbara Junkin said she hopes to never see that atmosphere again.

    “I thought the audience was horrendous overall. They treated the council horrendously,” she said. “It was awful.”

    “People were upset that the will of the people wasn’t done,” Coleman told the Coastal Point later.

    Committee member Dick Oliver defended the council members, although he himself fought against mandatory freeboard.

    “None of these people have any dogs in the fight. They’re honorable people doing the best thing for the town, and I hope people in the town — in the audience — understand that,” he said.

    “I was not at the meeting, but I heard some of them were abused,” said Jay Headman. That is why they have a democracy and a council with seven votes, he said.

    “Sea-level rise is a new concept,” Voveris said, thanking residents for their input. “It’s important not to overstep, because you can’t go back.”

    With the contentious topic laid aside, the council began cleaning up the proposed ordinances. They unanimously approved a draft ordinance, as well as the public hearing schedule for possible approval of a final ordinance. The council must approve three readings of the proposed ordinance, which are now scheduled for Dec. 12, Jan. 29 (a rescheduled workshop) and Feb. 13. The public hearing will also be Jan. 29, 2015.

    Step back from

    the setback

    The council at their workshop also voted down a proposal to allow staircases in property setbacks (with 2 additional feet of freeboard).

    The proposal was meant to encourage freeboard, Junkin said. The council has heard that, despite the extra 2 feet allowed in height, some builders hesitate to add freeboard because they’d have to include a few extra stairs in their housing footprint, which means a smaller house.

    The staircase can cut into floor-area ratio (FAR) and livable area ratio (LAR).

    Callaway echoed her previous concerns that she said the council must consider carefully. Many people would like to utilize their setback, whether they add freeboard, or not. She mentioned handicapped access ramps and an old debate about clotheslines.

    “If we’re going to do it for freeboard and new construction, why not do it across the town, equitably, if you want to do steps in the setback?” Voveris asked.

    But several council members said allowances added to setbacks could be a slippery slope and that they wanted more information before proceeding.

    Councilman Timothy Saxton said he liked the measure to encourage mandatory freeboard but that he believes council should revisit all of the related building code, including FAR, LAR and more.

    “I believe this is part of a comprehensive change in the building code. … We need to think this through, so it’s in the package,” Saxton said.

    Gross disagreed with that approach.

    “Then nothing will get done,” he said, preferring to enact changes as they come.

    Junkin and Gross voted for the measure, which was defeated, 5-2.

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    A local group of concerned citizens were reinvigorated earlier this month, with professional advice on how to fight what they see as environmental injustice.

    In Millsboro, the group Protecting Our Indian River has argued that the prospective Allen Harim chicken processing plant will ruin an already fragile ecosystem — especially when slaughtering “an estimated 2 million birds a week and discharge[ing] its waste into our already contaminated waters.” They are especially concerned that the former Vlasic Pickle plant on the site has already left chemicals and carcinogens that have been leeching into local water and soil.

    POIR recently invited Sacoby Wilson, assistant professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health, to share the secret of achieving environmental justice.

    As described by Wilson, “environmental justice” is a social movement to protect groups that are disproportionally exposed to unhealthy environmental conditions, such as landfills, incinerators or confined animal feed operations.

    “It’s really a marriage between the environmental issues and civil rights,” Wilson told a room of citizens that included representatives of NAACP, the League of Women Voters and elected officials.

    Wilson has worked in rural North Carolina, where dense hog-farming operations were a particularly heavy burden to locals who relied upon well water. People suffered “differential burden” based on their race, socioeconomic status and access to water, he said. These communities often lack a collective voice, lack access to resources and economic capital, and lack access to good infrastructure, according to Wilson.

    Large-scale farming is different from family farming because it’s “a lot of waste that’s concentrated in a small area,” Wilson said.

    The odor itself is unpleasant, and that often indicates people are exposed to pollutants, microbes and antimicrobials that can suppress the immune system and cause illness, he noted.

    Meanwhile, one bad storm can flood the facility and create a “toxic soup,” which Wilson said North Carolina suffered in Hurricane Floyd.

    Delaware has an extremely high density of chickens. (Wilson estimated 581 chickens per acre.) Animal processing also has a lot of leftovers, including bones, blood, manure and feathers, plus water used to clean the facilities. Companies can render that material, compost, incinerate or more.

    “If they … go into what they call ‘rapid infiltration system,’ like digging a big hole in the ground and throwing the water down, how long would it take before our water systems are messed up?” asked Ken Haynes of Millsboro. “People in my community have anywhere from 25-foot to 50-foot wells.”

    Even if Allen Harim cleans and flushes the water into the river, “12 million gallons of fresh water will change the ecosystem,” Haynes said. “There goes the fish. There goes the crabs.”

    “So the whole ecosystem will be changed,” Wilson said. Professional and recreational watermen could be affected.

    Jane Hovington of NAACP recalled another location that was once said to be uncontaminated. Then she saw someone walking the field in a hazmat suit.

    “Give it five years down the road, and you’ll see what will happen,” Hovington said. She said that, near the Georgetown Perdue plant, eight families in a small neighborhood had cancer diagnoses.

    “They determined that Sussex County has a high rate of cancer, but what they have not been able to tell us is what it is,” Hovington said of the cause. “The only common denominator is water. There’s not chicken houses in every neighborhood.”

    “The thing about cancer is there’s a lag effect,” said Wilson. There is time between exposure and diagnosis, he explained, so it’s hard to prove cancer clusters.

    Wilson’s advice: Contact legislators.

    “It’s your job as a citizen to let them know what they should be doing. If you’re not there, letting them know what you need, what you want,” he said, someone else will.

    Rich Collins, executive director of the Positive Growth Alliance, was in the audience for Wilson’s talk, the day after winning the Delaware District 41 representative’s seat.

    “If you take on the entire chicken industry — look how many folks are in that industry,” he said, warning that if an effort was made to shut them down, “they would need a room five times bigger than this room to hold them all. You’re gonna need to figure a way to work with these folks.”

    Collins noted that he had farmed for 35 years and only got several dollars per bushel of produce. Today, a combine costs $400,000.

    “Things have changed, but these are still families, for the most part. They have big chicken houses now because you can’t make any money with a small chicken house.”

    As for water cleanliness, Collins said he has heard “people have literally drank the water out of that sewage treatment plant. That is the kind of technology we have today.”

    Audience members expressed frustration with his response.

    “I’m just telling you there are ways to deal.” Collins said. “I’m not telling you not to be concerned.”

    However, he said, he had heard from an attorney friend that Protecting Our Indian River’s litigation is doing “very well” in challenging the Sussex County’s Board of Adjustment’s approval for the slaughterhouse.

    Agitate from the outside

    Jay Meyer said the people of Protecting Our Indian River have felt ignored. FOIA requests have gone unanswered or were the subject of excessive document charges, and the Attorney General hasn’t taken up the cause.

    “Your department of environment is supposed to be there on your behalf. … That’s your job as citizens. … You have to hold them accountable,” Wilson said. “If they’re not doing their job from the inside, you have to agitate from the outside.”

    Sometimes people have to go old-school, Wilson said — get young people involved, use hard data and maybe do some sit-ins. “You gotta show your face.” However, he admitted that the same people who were protesting in the 1960s and ’70s are still here, protesting in their own 60s and 70s.

    He also encouraged partnerships between concerned citizens, non-profits and student groups.

    “Use the administrative process to get injunctive relief,” Wilson said, “finding some angle [to say] ‘This group has been disproportionately impacted.’ Find the state regulation that should be protecting your well water.”

    People need to know the laws, and Wilson’s department can give them data and statistics to back it up, he said.

    “Instead of taking it to the child, which is the State, take it to the parent, which is the federal government. You always want to go to the parent to deal with the issues of the children,” Wilson said.

    Protesters can also roll acts into a single punch, using the Toxic Substances Control Act, Clean Water Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, HUD Affordable Housing or even Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to attain their goals.

    “‘There’s a gap here, and there’s a gap here.’ Then bring them together in an administrative complaint.” Or, he suggested, find a concentration of vulnerable individuals, such as daycares and nursing homes in a certain radius. Then find the gaps where people are not being protected.

    “Find laws that protect certain groups. Bring ’em all together,” Wilson said. “We’re supposed to protect individuals from these stressors.”

    This has worked in his past cases, he said. Sometimes it’s just enough to delay action.

    Wilson reminded people that economic development “is not a bad thing, but sustainable economic development is what you want.”

    The frustration

    Meyer was upset about the bureaucracy involved.

    “People like that gentleman over there. They don’t want to listen,” he said of Collins, subsequently calling out the incoming state legislator and his connection with the Positive Growth Alliance: “How are you defending our property rights and liberties?”

    “You said politicians ignore you. I am here. I think that is a little unfair,” Collins said.

    Although he’s “not fully on-board with your issue,” Collins emphasized the he wasn’t as “gung-ho” in favor of the plant as his opponent, incumbent John Atkins.

    “I will do my best to monitor what DNREC does,” Collins said, though he said DNREC officials wouldn’t talk about the issue a month prior, due to pending litigation. “I will be more than happy to go to DNREC and explain to them they need to do a lot more communicating.”

    After the talk, Kathy Phillips of the Assateague Coastal Trust said she felt “totally reenergized.” Nearby, she said, residents of Maryland’s Eastern Shore are trying to slow the influx of high-density chicken houses.

    “You’re not alone,” she told the Millsboro activists. “I know this is a frustrating battle. And you’re not going to get solutions right away.”

    If there is discharge into a nearby waterway, Phillips said, Allen Harim will need an EPA permit, just like a wastewater treatment plant. That’s another chance for public comment.

    “I learned more tonight than at any of the other meetings I’ve been to,” said Jerry Lynch of Millsboro.

    “DNREC never kept an eye on Vlasic,” Lynch said. “Something’s going to go wrong, and a lot of people will get a letter when we say, ‘I told you so.’”

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  • 11/25/14--19:28: Thanksgiving for all
  • Hundreds of volunteers came together this week to make sure needy families on Delmarva will be able to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal, packing 10,000 boxes for Mountaire Farms’ 20th annual Thanksgiving for Thousands.

    Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark: Rachel Flick, front, and Audrey Vane chip in to help with Mountaire Farms’ 20th annual Thanksgiving for Thousands efforts. Mountaire hopes to feed more than 50,000 Delmarva residents this Thanksgiving.Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark: Rachel Flick, front, and Audrey Vane chip in to help with Mountaire Farms’ 20th annual Thanksgiving for Thousands efforts. Mountaire hopes to feed more than 50,000 Delmarva residents this Thanksgiving.“You don’t have to go 7,000 miles to find hunger, hurt and hate,” said Roger Marino, director of community relations for Mountaire. “You don’t have to go 700 miles to find hunger, hurt and hate; you don’t have to go 70 miles to find hunger, hurt and hate — within seven minutes of your home, school or church there is hunger, hurt and hate. We are aware of the problem, and this is our mission to curb the problem at our door.”

    On Nov. 25, volunteers showed up in full force and packed enough food to feed more than 50,000 Delmarva residents a Thanksgiving meal. Each box included cans of corn, green beans, cranberry sauce, gravy, a box of stuffing, brownie mix and one large Mountaire roaster chicken. The boxes also included job applications for Mountaire, in case any of the recipients are looking for employment.

    “On the 8th of this month, our volunteers were in front of 14 stores, asking people to purchase exactly what we were looking for — what you see in these boxes,” said Marino.

    Millsboro resident Stephen Davish, a member of American Legion Post #28, has been volunteering at the packing events for nearly a decade.

    “I like to help out any way I can,” he said.

    Davish said he began volunteering for the event “to help people in need and to, hopefully, help people in need have a nice Thanksgiving. I think that’s why everyone is here.”

    Tom Arney of Selbyville recently moved to the area and read about the event in a local newspaper.

    “It’s nice to help the community and give a hand. A lot of people probably couldn’t come out — I was just one who could,” he said, adding that he would like to return next year.

    The entire Sussex Central High School football team joined in this year, to help out. Freshman Jordan Warters said that his coach had approached the team about volunteering for the day.

    “He asked if we wanted to do it, and we all said, ‘Yeah.’ It’s a cool experience.”

    Warters said that he would like to volunteer to pack in future years, even if the whole football team doesn’t return.

    “It’s nice you can give back, because a lot of people don’t have what we have.”

    Marino said it was wonderful to see so many from the community support Thanksgiving for Thousands.

    “It’s exciting. It’s inspirational to see people of all ages here,” said Marino, noting that the volunteers ranging in age from elementary school children to some in their 90s. “The entire Sussex Central football team is here. They just jumped right in.”

    The following day, Mountaire delivered the packed boxes to various drop-off locations, such as the Dagsboro Church of God, to then be distributed to the families.

    Mountaire holds similar drives during the Christmas and Easter seasons. For its Thanksgiving for Thousands and Christmas Feed-A-Family campaign, the company partners with the Delaware Community Foundation, and every $10 donated to the drive will help feed another family in need this holiday season.

    Marino said Mountaire’s motto — “We do the right things in the places where we live, work, play and pray” — embodies what Thanksgiving for Thousands is all about, and that he hopes that they’ll be able to make a small difference in the lives of those less fortunate this Thanksgiving.

    “That’s what I live for,” he said, “and that’s what we do.”

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    The following students at the Southern Delaware School of the Arts were named to the school’s honor roll for the first marking period of the 2014-2015 school year.

    Receiving Honors were:

    • Grade 5 — Eleanor Bird, Dasha Camper, Mason Cathell, Ellie Chaffinch, Remi Devine, Bailey Erskine, Logan Fischer, Callie Goff, Syndey Hitch, Lurana Johnson, Jillian Kerr, Keara Kester, Victoria Lecates, Autumn Lenhart, Makenzy Marvel, Samantha McDuffie, Eliana Nunez, Ethan Rakes, Morgan Rickards, Emma Scott, Lily Sharpe, Nathan Shine, Joshua Silva, Ashley Thomas, Kaitlyn Vogel and Jacob Youse;

    • Grade 6 — Colby Bennett, Alexis Buckley, Lauren Carter, Kaylyn Cordrey, Natalie Dixon, Luanna Fajardo, Diego Hernandez, Brynn Hovatter, Olivia Hudson, Elizabeth Krams, Karen Lara Ramirez, Emily Laz, Tobi LoRusso, Morgan Nutto, Kathryn Rohlfing, Makena Schmidt, Morgan Steele, Jasmine Stuart, Julia Sturla, Maelynn Tsang and Kinley Woodard;

    • Grade 7 — Alyssa Bradley, Regan Carey, Megan Cathell, Talia Curcio, Tamara Devlin, Nicholas Finneran, Sierra Hall, Grace Kerr, Emma Lacy, Robert Mancuso, Nicole McDuffie, Alisson Munoz, Jaasiel Nunez, Yaisa Paxtor-Gonzales, Lauren Porter, Alexander Rakes, Amber Schaeffer, Briana Stout and Jaiden Vanderhorst; and

    • Grade 8 — Zachary Ables, Summer Beardsley, Ryan Bradley, Vantashia Bridges, Christian Burnett, Kathleen Carter, Patrick Cassat, Diamond Channels, Jarod Elliott,Endia Epperson, Carly Fajardo, Elizabeth Finnegan, Lauren Grow, Jacob Hoffpauir, Joshua Hoffpauir, Haley Holloway, Samuel McCloskey, Onaedo Okoye, Caleb Pusey, Charleigh Redington, Martina Rexrode, Melanie Williams and Scarlett Wyrick.

    Receiving High Honors were:

    • Grade 6 — Alexander Andahazy, Anne Dolan, Nina Fike, Alexandra Hall, Sean Hennessey, Ella Hudson, Abigail Krams, Lillain Kwiecien, Zachary Lingenfelter, Chloe Stengel and Meoghan Swain;

    • Grade 7 — Angelina Arnold, Page Athey, Emma Brower, Luke Collins, Jessica German, Emma Kelly, Megan Moriarty, Grace Morris, Riley Senseny and Madison Vogel;

    • Grade 8 — Zachary Gardoski, Deven Kester, Hannah LoRusso and Chloe Rogers.

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    I have an 11-month-old grandson, and I’m constantly joking with my daughter about “training” him (meaning using dog training techniques with him).

    She’ll tell me about something good he has done and I’ll ask her if she “clicked and treated” him. This refers to a popular dog training technique called clicker training, where every time the dog does something correct during training sessions, you click a small clicker tool and then you treat the dog.

    But, even though we have joked about this, training your dog is very much the same as “training” your child, husband, wife, employee, etc. Many people will get upset with me using the word “training” regarding people, but actually we train or teach or program, or whatever you want to call it, in all aspects of our lives. And if people would look at it the same way, more people might have better luck with training their dogs.

    Take, for instance, employees at work. A new employee is shown and told what their new job responsibilities are and what is expected of them. The trainer will then often demonstrate the job to the new employee and then will have the new employee do the new job with the trainer telling them things like, “good job,” “that’s right,” and also negative things, like, “no, this way,” or “that’s not right.”

    The new employee is being trained. Their reward for doing the job correctly is first, generally, praise. Later on, their reward is often a raise and or promotion where they will be taught another new job.

    Compare this to training a dog. They are often “shown” a behavior or trick. (Like when the dog sits on its own or is maneuvered into the sit position) Then they are rewarded with praise, treats, a clicker or a combination of them. As the dog learns this trick or behavior, it is moved into learning a new trick or behavior.

    In regards to spouses: When a couple first marries, they each have their own ways of doing things, which often result in conflicts with the new couple. As they grow in their relationship, they learn which things upset, anger or irritate their spouse. They also learn the consequences of these actions.

    An example: husband comes home late from work and has forgotten to phone his wife to tell her he was going to be late for dinner. When he does arrive home, his wife has left him a plate of cold and overcooked food on the dining table. She ignores him when he comes home. She won’t speak to him, and when she does give in and “speak” to him, it is yelling.

    Because of her reaction, he never again forgets to phone home if he is going to be late. This is negative reinforcement, which many dog trainers do not believe in currently; however, it was used for many years in animal training.

    Also, couples use “bribery” to get a more positive reaction. An example: the wife wants the husband to not get upset because she has bought something new, so she prepares his favorite meal. When he arrives home she greets him cheerfully. She serves him a favorite drink. She serves him his favorite meal along with a special dessert. She insists they watch what he wants on TV.

    Basically, she tries to “butter him up” or “bribe” him into a less negative reaction when he finds out she spent money she wasn’t supposed to. This would be the treat training commonly used in modern dog training.

    With our children: We do many positive and negative training techniques with our children. First that wonderful word “No.” This is a negative enforcer. Sometimes it is used in combination with a positive enforcer, too. When we shout that overused, “No!” and the child stops, we often them praise them (positive reward).

    This is also often used with a new puppy. Example: the new puppy starts to “piddle” in the house, we shout “No!” which startles the puppy and they stop the action, then we praise them (positive), grab them, take them outside and after a few moments they relieve themselves in the appropriate place, and we reward them with praise, and possibly treats.

    With children, we use various types of positive reinforcement, such as reward charts, stickers, money, toys, food rewards, special outings, clothes, cars, etc. We also use negative enforcers, such as timeouts, taking away things, lectures, punishments, loss of privileges and even spankings, by some people.

    It’s also a little ironic how raising children and training dogs also seems to go in phases. Currently, dog training is on the all-positive/no-negative training phase. Back in the 1970s, childrearing started the less-negative/more-positive phase. Child rearing has readjusted to start including some negative enforcement again.

    I believe that all training should have a mix of positive and negative. In life there are consequences for our actions. If we don’t do a good at work, we will lose our job. If we commit a crime, we will get arrested and go to jail. Life is not all positives. Training should also include positives and negatives. Now, I am not advocating to beat your dog or your child, but there can be punishments.

    I’m sure you can all see there are similarities in all aspects of training and teaching. With people, you can use more verbal explanations. With animals, you need to be more creative in demonstrating what you do and do not want. So, go, get creative and have some fun training your pet.

    Cheryl Loveland is a dog groomer, pet-sitter, dog trainer and fosterer for many unwanted animals. She does rescue work for all types of animals and has owned or fostered most types of domestic animals and many wild ones. She currently resides with her bloodhound, which she has shown in conformation and is currently training for search-and-rescue work. Also residing with her are a bichon frisée, two cats and two birds. She welcomes comments, questions and suggestions for future articles at Remember, she is not an expert: she offers her opinions and suggestions from her experience and research.

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    Of the more than 400,000 Union and Confederate soldiers imprisoned during the four-year Civil War, 1861 to 1965, some 55,000 would die in captivity. These prisoners faced the likelihood of contracting terminal illnesses due to harsh conditions in a variety of holding pens, such as converted warehouses or makeshift camps.

    Fort Delaware on tiny Pea Patch Island in the Delaware River was one such prison. Built to defend the upriver ports of Wilmington and Philadelphia, it stood idle at the outset of the war. As a result, the fort — located off of Delaware City, about equidistance between Delaware and New Jersey — played host to Confederate prisoners, political prisoners, federal convicts and privateer officers.

    Of the 40,000 men incarcerated at Fort Delaware, some 2,925 perished from a variety of causes — mainly inflammation of the lungs, diarrhea, smallpox, typhoid and malaria. Authorities initially buried them on the island; but, with land at a premium, later disinterred and reburied them on the New Jersey side, at Finns Point near Fort Mott.

    The Fort Delaware Society, dedicated to preservation and interpretation of the fort, explains that a national registry of Confederates who died contains the names of 2,436 Confederate military prisoners who were interred in the mass burial trenches and pits at Finns Point, and these names appear on the 12 bronze memorial tablets placed around the base of the Confederate monument erected in 1910. There are no individually marked graves.

    The Confederate monument is an 85-foot-tall obelisk built of reinforced concrete and covered with a facing of Pennsylvania granite. Subsequent research, however, identified an additional nearly 500 Confederates who died but whose names were not included on the monument. Also buried there are 39 civilians who had been incarcerated at Fort Delaware for various transgressions, and died in captivity. (

    As early as 1879, the federal government had erected a monument and inscribed the names of 105 Union soldiers who served as Union guards and died at Fort Delaware, with 30 more designated as unknown (five have since been identified). In October 1875, the government designated this burial ground as the Finns Point National Cemetery. It is unusual in the sense that it has both Confederate and Union soldiers buried there. (

    Frederick Schmidt, a Union veteran who had lost an arm in the war, became the first Finns Point National Cemetery superintendent in 1875. He declared the cemetery in poor condition, because it had no roads or walks, no drainage, few trees, and headboards and fences rotten and broken down. As a result, improvements were made, and memorial services were held at the cemetery in the following years.

    These improvements also came at the urging of Virginia Gov. James L. Kemper, a former Confederate brigade commander under Maj. Gen. George E. Pickett in the Army of Northern Virginia, who was seriously wounded at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. Many of the men in his brigade who were captured at Gettysburg were sent to Fort Delaware, and those who died were buried at Finns Point.

    One enhancement was placement of iron plates containing seven quatrains of Theodore O’Hara’s poem “Bivouac of the Dead” at the end of the seven Confederate burial trenches. Included is the oft-quoted: “On fame’s eternal camping grounds Their silent tents are spread, And Glory guards, with solemn round, The bivouac of the dead.”

    Finns Point National Cemetery remains in active use as a burial site for American service veterans of all wars. It is operated and maintained under the Department of Veteran Affairs. One note of interest: 13 white marble headstones mark the burial place of German prisoners of World War II who died while in custody at nearby Fort Dix.

    The grounds feature a walking trail of about .75 miles, from the river dock to the cemetery itself, and another stretch of the same distance from a parking lot at nearby Fort Mott.

    Finns Point National Cemetery is open year-round, and can be reached by taking the first exit at the New Jersey end of the Delaware Memorial Bridge (I-295) and traveling east on New Jersey State Route 49 through Pennsville, N.J. A well-marked right-hand turn on Fort Mott Road takes you to Fort Mott and Finns Point National Cemetery. During the season, from April to September, you can visit both Fort Delaware and Finns Point by ferry from Delaware City. They are well worth a visit.

    Bethany Beach resident Thomas J. Ryan is the author of “Essays on Delaware during the Civil War” (available at Bethany Beach Books). Contact him at, or visit his website

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    Following up on the success of her first book, Fenwick Island resident Fran Hasson recently published her second novel, “Mothers and Other Strangers.” The book is a follow-up to her self-published first novel, “Allawe,” which follows Marla and Vern Alexander’s journey after Marla discovers a box of ashes that has washed up on shore — a story element sparked by a real-life local find.

    In “Mothers and Other Strangers,” the story follows Vern Alexander, whose mother reveals a family secret from her hospital bed.

    “It’s a story of rejection, guilt, motherly love and not-so-motherly love,” explained Hasson. “It’s based on a true story, just like ‘Allawe.’ This time, it’s based on a family secret and a family situation that eventually had a happy ending.”

    The book will take the Alexanders from Fenwick Island to Saint Croix in the Virgin Islands and to Florida and Maryland.

    Locals will find Hasson’s book again features local spots and organizations, including Indian River High School and Bethany Florist.

    “People who are local to both of these places, they’ll know the places that I’ve written about,” said Hasson. “Vern has committed a sin, and he goes to Bethany Florist and buys flowers from his way home from work. He owns a business modeled on Solutions Plus in Millville.

    “Vern and Marla live in my house. When he was a young child, he lived in my sister’s house. The unsavory character who lives on Saint Croix lives in my friend’s house who painted the front cover… I guess people put in a lot of things that are personal to them. That’s what I’ve done.”

    An animal lover, Hasson also included her cat Marmalade and the Cats Around Town Society (CATS), based in Bethany Beach, in her book.

    “My cat is one of the main sub-characters in the book. I had a lot of animals in the first one — I had one cat, a number of Crucian dogs. But this time the only cat is my cat Marmalade.

    “CATS is mentioned in the book, too. I put them in there because of Terry [Nicholson] — she’s a miracle worker. I got my cat from her.”

    A prominent character in both of Hasson’s books is Saint Croix itself, where Hasson once lived with her two sons for four years, working as a teacher.

    “I love Saint Croix,” she said. “It’s my muse.”

    Hasson said that, during her time there, she made many great friends, including artist and author L. William Gibbons.

    “I’m really proud of the cover that my friend painted,” she said.

    Hasson said it took her about two years to write “Mothers and Other Strangers.” Throughout the process, she asked her fellow writers in the Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild and the Eastern Shore Writers Association’s Rabbit Gnaw critique group to review her work.

    “I got a lot of critiquing from the class itself, which was very helpful,” she said. “I think with both [books], that was the most important thing — to have shared it as I’ve been writing it with other writers, to get their input… You’re exposing yourself, but in the long run, it’s really absolutely essential.”

    Although “Mothers and Other Strangers” returns to familiar characters from Hasson’s first book, she said those who have yet to read “Allawe” can still enjoy the story.

    “People who did read the first book will be interested to hear about some of the characters from before,” she noted.

    Those interested in purchasing the book may go to Fenwick Float-Ors, Patti’s Hallmark, McCabe’s Gourmet Market, Biblion or Browsabout Books, as well as a number of shops in St. Croix. “Mothers and Other Strangers” may also be purchased online at, in paperback or for Kindle. The book costs $14.95.

    Hasson will hold a book signing on Dec. 19 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Millville Super Giant, where she will also be selling copes of the book. Signings will also be held at Biblion on Dec. 20, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Browseabout Books on Dec. 21, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. She will hold book signings in St. Croix, as well.

    Hasson said she enjoys holding signings and meeting community members.

    “I like meeting the people,” she said. “When I wrote the first book, I never had the intention of writing a book and selling it… Now I just like to get out and meet people and talk about my book.”

    She enjoys it so much, she has even given talks to local community organizations, such as the Lions Club and women’s clubs.

    “I’d be glad to talk about it. Sometimes people just want to know the writing process. When I talked about ‘Allawe,’ I took the box of ashes with me, along with some of the props used for my book.”

    She added that it’s one of the ways she has been able to get feedback from her readers.

    “A lot of people seemed to really like my first book,” she said, recalling one gentleman who contacted her on Facebook, thanking her for writing “Allawe.” “He had gotten that comfort from my book… That’s something that you remember.”

    Hasson said she hopes those who read the book will enjoy the story she has crafted, just as much as she enjoyed writing it.

    “I would like people to enjoy my book,” she said.

    For more information about “Mothers and Other Strangers,” to purchase a copy, or to ask Hasson to speak at an event, email

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    As soon as Claudia Halstead’s plane touched down in India, she said, she could feel the swell of humanity. Driving the six hours from the airport to the orphanage she would call home for the next 10 days, humanity was everywhere. Swells of people rose and fell along the roads, even on the rural roads. Cars, motorcycles and bikes swarmed all around the bus carrying the medical team and a group of volunteers.

    “I’ve never seen roads like that,” Halstead said upon returning to the U.S. and Beebe Healthcare, where she works as a physician assistant for Sussex Emergency Associates in the Emergency Department. “People were everywhere. Traffic was dense. It’s quite a sight.”

    Halstead had first met one of her travel companions, Dr. Gene Ver, a primary-care physician in Rochester, N.Y., on another trip to Peru. There, they studied medical Spanish.

    “I really bonded with that group, so when Gene contacted me about this trip to India, I jumped at the chance,” she said.

    Everyone in the group paid their own airfare, but once they were in India they were greeted with open arms, cots and meals. The Methodist Church-run orphanage where Halstead stayed houses more than 100 children.

    “All the kids were happy and clean,” she said. “The children were so well-behaved. They had beautiful teeth, no lice and no runny noses.”

    When she asked how the children had such beautiful teeth, she was told it is because they don’t have access to sugar. Their diets consist of rice, potatoes, spinach, eggs, red peppers and Tandoori bread.

    At the clinics, Halstead saw all women. Most of them had minor complaints. Many asked questions about female issues — a topic they would never consider discussing with a male doctor, she said.

    There was no chronic pain, no depression and no ADHD, she said. The people were shy, but respectful. Many of them had very limited contact with white people, so they were very interested in the American team, she noted.

    “There’s no HIPAA there, so we did our exams behind pulled sheets,” Halstead added. “They were so interested in seeing me. We were told to be very warm and to speak softly. In many cases, I talked to each patient for a long time before they would open up about their concerns.”

    Of the 12 people on the trip, three saw patients at rural clinics. Halstead and the medical team saw about 250 people per day at each of the three rural clinics they visited. The medical team worked with interpreters and an Indian doctor. The rest of the people on the trip worked to rehabilitate an old church.

    “People were incredibly healthy for the most part. They had complaints that came from having a rough life,” she said. “I will definitely do another medical trip in the future. It bothers me that I can’t do more; it bothers me every second that I’m awake.

    “Every time you go on a trip like this, you get back to why you’re in medicine in the first place.”

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    Coastal Point • Submitted : Local riders from Happy View Farm gather with owners. Pictured, from left, are: bottom row, Edwin Noon, Sophia Noon, Danielle Eisemann, Tristyn Piperno and Brianna Bradshaw; top row: Ann Hobbs Noon, Carly Fajardo, Eleni Kangas, Tori Noon, Scarlett Wyrick, Luanna Fajardo, Hunter Wyrick and Grace Scott.Coastal Point • Submitted : Local riders from Happy View Farm gather with owners. Pictured, from left, are: bottom row, Edwin Noon, Sophia Noon, Danielle Eisemann, Tristyn Piperno and Brianna Bradshaw; top row: Ann Hobbs Noon, Carly Fajardo, Eleni Kangas, Tori Noon, Scarlett Wyrick, Luanna Fajardo, Hunter Wyrick and Grace Scott.Local riders from Happy View Farm of Frankford came home with year-end awards and personal bests after six competitions during the year at the Laurel Saddle Friends Game Show in Laurel.

    Riders compete for the fastest times in five events, and points are accumulated at each competition. Victoria Noon, 11, of Frankford, took home champion honors in the U12 division, and Eleni Kangas, also 11, and also of Frankford, took reserve champion honors in the same division.

    In the Leadline division, Eddie Noon, 8, of Frankford, won champion for the year, and Danielle Eisemann, 9, of Bishopville, Md., won reserve champion. Happy View riders Grace Scott of Ocean View and Luanna Fajardo of Bethany Beach, ran third and fourth, respectively, in the U12 division. Happy View Farm swept both divisions.

    Other Happy View riders who posted personal bests during the year were Hunter Wyrick, 14, Scarlett Wyrick, 13, Carly Fajardo, 13, all of Bethany Beach; Brianna Bradshaw, 11, of Dagsboro; Brianna Levy, 7, of Ocean View; and Tristyn Piperno, 11, Norah Lacy, 6, and Sophie Noon, 8, all of Frankford.

    Ann Hobbs Noon, owner and operator of Happy View Farm, said, “I couldn’t be more proud of my students and horses! They worked very hard this year to get these achievements, made more noteworthy by the fact that each of our horses competes with at least three riders per event!”

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    People can shop local and handmade at the Millville’s Holiday Market, returning for one day, Saturday, Dec. 6. More than 30 vendors will spread out from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., indoors and outdoors, between Millville Town Hall and the Millville United Methodist Church.

    “You do have artisans with very good-quality wares … and no sales tax,” said Town Manager Debbie Botchie. “Support your local artisans, and shop local!”

    Although last year’s market was half the size and chilly, “The vendors were so excited, because they sold so much — more than they did at the Pumpkin Festival,” Botchie said. “It was fun.”

    Botchie stocked up on family gifts, plus sweets for herself.

    “We have handmade jewelry, handbags, scarves, hats. Then you get into your homemade painted ornaments, and we have vintage Christmas décor, refurbished, repurposed furniture, a clothing line, lots and lots of handmade jewelry,” Botchie said.

    More gifts can be found among the offerings from two honey farms, as well as homemade pet toys, Christmas wreaths, stained glass and more.

    The Indian River High School Cross-Country Boosters will return to sell their homemade soups, plus cheeseburgers, hotdogs, hot chocolate and baked goods. Good Earth Market and Birch Tree Café will have more food, including gluten-free goodies.

    “We don’t charge a rent fee,” Botchie said. “Just trying to do a community event.”

    Admission is free to the market. Parking is at the church.

    Additionally, children can make their own goodies and Christmas ornaments, free of charge. That includes chocolate-dipped pretzels, decorated sugar cookies and marshmallow treats featuring Olaf from Disney’s “Frozen.”

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    Covered in garland, a warm fireplace crackles by a massive, twinkling Christmas tree. Santa’s sleigh is nearby, waiting for the big man himself. This is Bethany Beach Town Hall, ready to host children at the annual Holiday Happenings on Saturday, Dec. 6, from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

    “It’s a lot of fun. The kids look forward to it every year,” said Julie Malewski, Bethany events director. “The ones who have been traditionally coming, they’re in for a surprise,” she added.

    The town meeting room has become a Christmas wonderland.

    Malewski calls it an “old-fashioned take on Christmas,” with classic toys, books, and garland covering the walls, like a city storefront display. Children can meet Santa Claus beside a massive Christmas tree, and they can gather round the (no-burn) fireplace.

    “[We’re] just trying to make it really magical for the kids when they come in to meet Santa,” Malewski said.

    Town Hall will snap and print free photographs of children with Santa, which families can take home that day.

    Just outside, families can ride horse-drawn carriages or the beach wagon (like a hay wagon, decorated for the holidays). There will be hot cocoa, cookies, face painting, music and more.

    All are welcome, residents and visitors. The Town of Bethany hosts Holiday Happenings as a bonus wintertime event. The event has been taking place for more than a decade.

    Malewski encouraged people to “be patient,” since around 200 children typically attend in two hours. But they’ll stay busy by rotating through different activities, she noted.

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    Coastal Point • Shaun M. Lambert : Shantelle Przybylo and Norman Garrett of the Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program finish off a duet at Delaware Technical Community College's Owens Campus in Georgetown last year.Coastal Point • Shaun M. Lambert : Shantelle Przybylo and Norman Garrett of the Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program finish off a duet at Delaware Technical Community College's Owens Campus in Georgetown last year.For one night only, sounds from Washington, D.C., will be heard in Sussex County, as for just $10, locals can enjoy a live performance of Washington National Opera’s Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program.

    Sponsored by the Freeman Stage at Bayside, the annual opera performance comes Friday, Dec. 5, at 7 p.m. to Delaware Technical Community College’s Owens Campus in Georgetown.

    “We often get the comment, ‘This is like bringing the Kennedy Center to the to Eastern Shore,’” said Doug Phillips, Freeman’s marketing and communications manager.

    “To experience this international art form — it’s different. It’s a very natural art form, usually no audio amplification [for the voices],” he said.

    Last year, a small screen showed subtitles so audiences could read English interpretations of lyrics in Italian, French and other languages.

    This is about the fifth Young Artists performance with Freeman.

    Theater acoustics work better, so after bad weather forced earlier performances indoors, the Freeman Stage continued the tradition every December.

    “We wanted to have something to kind of extend our season to bring arts to the community … and keep awareness of the Freeman Stage,” Phillips said.

    Besides the nighttime performance, the singers will arrive that morning to share opera with local school children.

    “It’s also typically been participatory, so they bring kids onstage to do different parts of the opera,” Phillips said.

    Last year, 400 Georgetown Elementary School students got the theater experience. Singers performed Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” while children dressed in costume, sang backup vocals and more.

    The Domingo-Cafritz Young Artist Program is full-time for those who already have classical experience. It trains young singers, coach/accompanists, conductors and stage directors on the verge of international careers. The group has also performed in Beijing, Monte-Carlo, the White House, the Kennedy Center, U.S. Senate, Smithsonian Institution and numerous embassies.

    Graduates have gone on to successful careers, performing at great halls in New York City, Los Angeles, New Zealand, Berlin, Madrid and more.

    Tickets cost $10 for adults and are free for children. Tickets are recommended to be purchased beforehand, at, although seats may be available at the door. Seating is general admission.

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    A major basketball tournament could boost community morale and business, an organizer told the Greater Millsboro Chamber of Commerce. Slam Dunk to the Beach will be revived this December at Cape Henlopen High School, giving southern Delaware a taste of wintertime sports tourism.

    Every time a sports team travels, it brings parents, friends and maybe a few die-hard fans. They’re all buying lunch, dinner, gasoline, hotels and more.

    “Sports tourism is one of the fastest growing travel industries,” said Giacomucci, executive director of the Delaware Sports Commission.

    The nonprofit DSC bids, recruits and hosts regional sports tournaments, using Delaware facilities. That might be a softball tournament or the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Tournament Quarterfinals at University of Delaware.

    “As you bring in the event, you bring in out-of-state visitors, and those visitors spend money,” Giacomucci said.

    Moreover, he called the effects of athletes and branding on the community “fascinating.”

    Giacomucci called Slam Dunk to the Beach “a great story of Delawareans who felt this tournament brought a great brand to Sussex County, especially in the off-season.”

    Position Sports will help run the actual tournament, which in its original incarnation ran annually from 1990 to 2003, drawing high school players who included some of today’s top NBA stars.

    From Dec. 27 to 29, there will be six games daily between 16 teams, including Delaware’s Cape Henlopen, St. George’s, Sanford, Caesar Rodney and Salesianum.

    Giacomucci said he hopes they’ll utilize the local businesses for shopping, meals and more. Also, ESPN-3 will broadcast a game online, he said.

    When directly asked about the impact 15 miles away, in Millsboro, Giacomucci spoke in broader terms. That means “the branding this event will bring to Sussex County. … Also, exposure for the Chamber or businesses.” There is still room for business sponsorships and program ads.

    Hosting such an event also ups community pride, he said.

    Of the idea of other events in west and central Sussex County, he said, “We try our best to focus on all three counties.” That includes working with good venues and sports complexes.

    Although it’s a smaller tournament than in past years, spectators should see some incredible court skills, like “a guy who just committed to Kentucky. We’re expecting to see four of the top 30 teams in the country,” from New York, Ohio, Kansas, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Baltimore.

    Tickets to the tournament are available online at People can buy single-day tickets, but the first 100 buyers of three-day passes get a voucher for a free T-shirt.

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    Without hesitation, the Selbyville Town Council this week adopted a resolution to again allow the Community Development Block Grant program to do its work in Selbyville. The program fixes and improves homes to be livable — work that may include roofing, doors, windows or more.

    The program, run through the Sussex County government, has $70,000 to spend in Selbyville this year — first-come, first-served — said CDBG’s Mike Jones.

    The program isn’t designed for people who want to improve their property values and leave. The homes must be owner-occupied, and there is a five- or 10-year lien placed on each one that eventually decreases to $0, just in case someone moves early.

    “We’re here to fix the houses for you to live in,” Jones emphasized.

    He said $3 million was issued to the program this year for Sussex and Kent counties.

    Jones and Dickerson have created a waiting list, but residents can see if they qualify by calling CDBG at (302) 855-7777. Households are eligible based on their income, with the maximum being $34,900 for one person, plus $5,000 per additional person ($49,900 for four people).

    People can also recommend neighbors for the program, though the CDBG is not a volunteer service, he said. Licensed contractors perform the work.

    Mayor Clifton Murray called it a “good program,” especially since it has made $800,000 of improvements in Selbyville in 14 years.

    As a bonus, Jones has noticed that other residents on the block are often motivated to do their own repairs once the CDBG work is under way, so half a street might improve with one grant.

    In other Selbyville news:

    • Mayor Murray welcomed two new residents who attended the council meeting to learn about the town. “We’re glad to have you. Always glad to see somebody at the meetings,” Murray said. “We’re fairly informal. We usually have smaller groups. The more the better.”

    • “Knock on wood, it’s been fairly quiet this month,” said Police Chief W. Scott Collins. Delaware State Police wrapped up a string of robberies recently, he reported, and Selbyville will partner with Dagsboro for DUI patrols, thanks to a cooperative grant.

    • The Selbyville Christmas Parade is Friday, Dec. 5, at 7 p.m. on Church Street. Surrounding roads will be closed to traffic in the hours beforehand. The Santa House opens at 5:30 p.m.

    • The 2015 Selbyville Town Council election is tentatively scheduled for March 7. Candidates may register between Jan. 7 and Feb. 3. If there are more candidates than seats available, the election will be held; otherwise, it will be canceled.

    • Newly elected state representative Rich Collins attended this week’s meeting, offering his services to the town and entire 41st District.

    “I really do believe the best governments are close to the people,” Collins said. “I will never do anything that affects you directly without consulting you first,” or at least keeping people informed, he said.

    • The Selbyville Public Library is collecting unwrapped toys for the Toys for Tots program. Also, children can meet Santa and Mrs. Claus for two hours on Dec. 8 at 5:30 p.m. and on Dec. 20 at 11 a.m.

    • Selbyville’s Christmas decorations were repaired for a fraction of the cost to fully replace them, Dickerson reported.

    • Engineering and design of a new MTBE water filtration system is under way, Dickerson said. The project could go out to bid around the start of the new year. The new well already has less iron and as a result requires less iron treatments, he said.

    • Preliminary site plan approval was given to a new laundry/automotive-care business on Route 113. Design and permitting continues before Selbyville can give its final approval.

    • After hearing some concerns from developers, the town council is planning to again adjust planning and zoning ordinances for residential planned communities.

    The next regular town council meeting is Monday, Jan. 5, at 7 p.m.

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    For the second year, area children will have the chance to meet Santa Claus at a spot a little closer than the North Pole — at Dickens Parlour Theatre.

    “It was very popular last year so we’re expecting a lot of kids to come visit Santa again,” said DPT Manager Cheryl DuBois. “I imagine, since last year was so popular, that this year will be even more popular, because the word is out.”

    DuBois said that, in 2012, the theater worked with Lord Baltimore Elementary School students to present a Christmas concert and enjoyed it so much they decided to offer a holiday event in 2013.

    “We decided last year to have Santa visit, because there really aren’t a lot of opportunities for kids to see Santa in the area, unless they go to a big shopping mall, which is quite a drive,” she said. “This is a very comfortable situation for the kids, and it’s not intimidating. Plus, they’re not waiting in a big line with a lot of grumpy shoppers.”

    On Dec. 6, 7, 13, 14 and 20 Dickens will hold its regular children’s magic show matinees at 2 p.m., with tickets costing $14 for children and $20 for adults. After the show, the children will be invited back to the parlor for refreshments and to meet St. Nick from 3 to 5 p.m.

    “They’ll come over to the parlor and have cookies and hot chocolate. We’ll have Christmas music playing, and they can go over and see Santa in the Santa Room,” explained DuBois. “All the kids can see Santa, but if you want a portrait with Santa, it will cost an additional $10.”

    Families who chose to get portraits with Santa Claus will receive the photos that day.

    Following the Christmas holiday, Dickens will be holding New Year’s events for both adults and families.

    Dickens will hold a “New Year’s Early” family celebration on Dec. 31 at 4 p.m. Tickets will cost $35 for adults and $15 for children 12 or younger. Attendees will be able to enjoy hors d’oeuvres and beverages while DPT owner and magician Rich Bloch and his squad of Miracle Merlins entertain at the tables.

    “So that families and kids can celebrate New Year’s Eve together, because most of them can’t stay up that late,” said DuBois, adding that the evening will include a sparkling-cider toast. “We set the clocks back, and we do New Years at 5 o’clock. That’s a lot of fun, and we’ll have magic for that, as well.”

    Shows featuring mentalist duo Jeff and Tessa Evason will be held at the theater Dec. 27 through Dec. 30, at 7 p.m., with tickets costing $25 each.

    “They really get the audience involved and just blow everybody’s mind. It’s definitely a fun evening,” she said. “We had sold-out shows last year, so they’re back by popular demand.

    “They love performing here, and they’re phenomenal. They can recite your driver’s license number in your wallet. They’re very dynamic and charismatic.”

    Dickens Parlour Theatre is located at 35715 Atlantic Avenue in Millville. For more information or to make reservations, which are strongly recommended, call (302) 829-1071 or visit To learn about the Evasons, visit

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    If a picture is worth a thousand words, Help Portrait has spoken volumes to people in need all over the world.

    The organization was created in 2008 by two photographers — Jeremy Cowart and Kyle Chowning. According to its website, it is “a global movement of photographers, hairstylists and makeup artists using their time, tools and expertise to give back to those in need.”

    Sussex County photographers, stylists and volunteers have been doing just that for six years.

    “The first year it happened, I had heard about it last minute, and I just kind of did it on my own, just by photographing one family,” said Keith Mosher, director of Southern Delaware Help Portrait. “Then, after that, it has grown into a lot more.”

    Mosher, a professional photographer, said he read about the global movement in a photography magazine, which moved him to take action. Over the past three years, more than 250 families in southern Delaware have been able to receive a free family portrait, with more than 1,000 prints being distributed.

    “It’s just a way to try and give back. Even though everyone has a cell phone these days, not everyone has a nice family photo all together,” said Mosher. “We’re trying to give people the opportunity who might not normally be able to afford a nice family photo — not only those who have financial need, but deserving families, as well.”

    This year, Help Portrait will be held around the world on Dec. 6. In Sussex County, it will be held at Delaware Technical Community College. That day, Mosher said, there will be four photo stations where families will have their portraits taken.

    “It’s all free. We don’t ask for money or anything,” he said. “We’re giving them free prints onsite. We make sure every family leaves with at least five 5-by-7 prints and access to digital copies.

    “The families having actual prints is a big deal because, in this age, with everything being digital, you may have a photo on your phone or on Facebook, but people don’t really have prints.”

    Mosher said the prints are what seem most appreciated by the families who attend.

    “It’s just another way of having photographs of your family. I have a couple kids, and they grow up and change so quickly — it’s nice to have pictures and see that over the years.”

    Mosher said that all the portraits are done on an appointment-only basis, set up by various area organizations that he has worked with over the years.

    “We usually work with nonprofits out of the Georgetown area. They have a fairly broad reach in Sussex County,” he said, noting that they’re working with agencies such as La Esperanza, Easter Seals, Wounded Warriors and Home of the Brave. “We try to really spread it out and diversify.

    “Even, sometimes, it’s one of our volunteers who says, ‘I know someone who’s having a hard time and they could use something like this.’”

    Each year, the event has had approximately 40 volunteers. This year, they will range in age from 7 to 70. Volunteers include professional photographers and those who enjoy photography as a hobby, as well as graphic designers, videographers and other members of the community who wish to donate their time.

    “We always try to have food and beverages there for the people who come. We have people donating cases of water, volunteers who call restaurants and ask them to donate food. We’ll pretty much take any help,” he said. “We have someone who’s volunteered to be Santa Claus this year, a DJ who has volunteered to play some music.

    “We also have a salon who’s there to do hair and makeup for the families. They’re not doing full hairstylings or up-dos, but something to make them feel good.”

    This year, some of the volunteers will be “hosts” to the families at the event.

    “They’ll stay with the families through the whole thing, show them the process, take them around.”

    Mosher said that Del Tech has become more involved this year, as well.

    “They have a club that’s going to do a coat drive for us. Some of the clubs are going to help out with a couple other things, like setting up informational tables. If they need financial aid, if they’re unemployed or anything like that, we’ll have information available.

    “We’re looking to have it grow more this year, rather than just offering portraits,” he added. “We’re trying to provide other information to people as well… Some students are attending to be translators.”

    Mosher said any community organization that would like to provide information to those attending the event would be welcome to contact him.

    “That would be great,” he said. “We’re trying to help out a lot of people.”

    Although it is run under the Help Portrait banner, Mosher said many of the event add-ons, such as working to provide additional information to those families attending, is more of a movement on the local level.

    “A lot of this isn’t even what the national organization recommends — it’s just what we try to do on our own,” he said. “Help Portrait helps with the idea, but then we’ve taken it and run.”

    Mosher said the chapter always welcomes donations, monetary or otherwise.

    “Sometimes there are people who say, ‘Hey, I don’t want to donate money, but maybe you need this.’ There are always things,” he said. “One of the things we try to collect a lot of donations for 5-by-7 photo frames because we want to make sure every family goes home with at least one frame for their photos.”

    Being a part of bringing professional portraits to families, seeing them smile, is what Mosher said it’s all about.

    “One year we had a single mom who had a teenage son, maybe 14 or 15, and she was pregnant also. Before we took the photo, she started crying, because she said she had never had a formal photo with her 15-year-old son. Then she came back the following year with her son and the newborn baby. That was pretty cool. That it meant a lot to her.

    “We were at a church, one of the first years, in Georgetown. We had a homeless guy come by and he said it was great, and he was going to send the photo to his kids for Christmas,” he recalled.

    “That’s why we do it this time of year — something around the holidays to try and reach out and show them there are people who care and want to help out.”

    For more information on how to donate or volunteer, or to schedule an appointment for Southern Delaware Help Portrait, email For more information on Help Portrait, visit

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    Coastal Point • Maria Counts : The Greater Millsboro Chamber of Commerce held its volunteer appreciation dinner and installed its new board memebers on Tuesday, Dec. 2. Pictured from left are: John Thoroughgood, Mary Ann Leager, Crystal Hudson, Bob Cardaneo, Kevin Turner, Kathie Robinette and Kris Adams.Coastal Point • Maria Counts : The Greater Millsboro Chamber of Commerce held its volunteer appreciation dinner and installed its new board memebers on Tuesday, Dec. 2. Pictured from left are: John Thoroughgood, Mary Ann Leager, Crystal Hudson, Bob Cardaneo, Kevin Turner, Kathie Robinette and Kris Adams.The Greater Millsboro Chamber of Commerce this week held its volunteer appreciation dinner and installed its new board members. At the Dec. 2 dinner, Chamber Executive Director Amy Simmons thanked those in attendance for their help and support.

    “In some way or another, you have supported the Chamber, you have volunteered for the Chamber and without you all, we could not do what we do.”

    Simmons added that the Chamber had had another successful year, with such events as the Millsboro Country Festival, Central Sussex Bridal Show and the Easter Egg Hunt in Cupola Park.

    During the evening, awards were also presented to Chamber members and volunteers for their service.

    Crystal Hudson was presented with the Volunteer of the Year award, for the number of volunteer hours clocked at events, as well as the quality of the time put in.

    “It was hands-down, without a doubt, above and beyond the others,” said outgoing Chamber President Kris Adams, who joined Simmons to present the award to Hudson.

    Adams also presented the Member of the Year award, to Peninsula Dental.

    “We appreciate everything Peninsula Dental does for the Chamber,” he added.

    The Above and Beyond award, new this year, was presented to Robert Simmons, Amy Simmons’ husband.

    “Since Amy joined the Chamber, her husband, Robert, has put in countless hours helping,” said Adams. “We want to thank Robert and Amy for all they do.”

    The award noted Robert Simmons’ “commitment, determination and unmatched dedication.”

    Former Chairman of the Board John Thoroughgood was also presented with a plaque for serving the Chamber. And Adams, too, was recognized.

    “Kris has been with me for three full years. He’s been my sounding board, and I think I’ve been his for some things, too,” Amy Simmons said. “I wanted to recognize you for your service a president.”

    Millsboro Mayor Robert Bryan swore in Adams as chairman of the Board, Kathie Robinette as president, Kevin Turner as vice-president, Bob Cardaneo as treasurer, Jenifer Antonelli as secretary and Chris Berg as vice president of tourism. Additionally, Crystal Hudson, John Moore, Brian McManus, Nary Ann Leager, Joe Beail, John Thoroughgood and Jessica Wiggins were sworn in as directors.

    Simmons concluded by thanking Bryan and the Town for their continued support.

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