South Side News & Notes
Thieves steal keys to Coventry district buses
COVENTRY — Coventry Local School District students started school two hours late Dec. 3 thanks to thieves who broke into a bus garage office and stole keys to about 20 school buses.
Superintendent Rusty Chaboudy said bus drivers arrived at 6 a.m. for their bus routes that day at the Portage Lakes bus garage and found keys to the buses missing from the supervisor’s office. They also found scrap metal had been stolen and a number of wires in the office as well as the football stadium had been cut for the copper.
“Our supervisor, Kelly Smith, had a number of extra keys and took quick action to get some additional keys made so the buses could run after the two-hour delay,” said Chaboudy. “The total cost of this incident has not been determined, and the Sheriff’s Office is continuing their investigation by reviewing surveillance video of the area to identify the thieves.”
Hospice of VNS campaign raising funds
GREATER AKRON — The Hospice of Visiting Nurse Service’s annual Light Up a Life fundraising campaign has begun and will run through Dec. 20.
Presented by the Akron General Foundation, the campaign offers an opportunity for area residents to pay tribute to friends and family members they have loved and lost, according to Akron General officials.
For the campaign, area residents are invited to purchase a hanging gold star on a Light Up a Life Hospice Memory Tree to illuminate the memory of someone special and also to provide light and hope for terminally ill patients and their families in the coming year, according to Akron General officials.
All donations of $25 or more for the star also will receive a light on the Tree of Light on the grounds of the Justin T. Rogers Hospice Care Center, located at 3358 Ridgewood Road in Copley.
Hospice Memory Trees are located at Summit Mall; Akron General Health & Wellness Centers in Bath, Stow and Green; Belgrade Gardens in Barberton; and the Hartville Kitchen in Hartville.
Donations are being accepted at the Light Up a Life booth located in the center court in Summit Mall until Dec. 20 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., online at www.vsna.com or by calling the Akron General Foundation at 330-344-6888.
Red Cross offers Holiday Giving Catalog
AKRON — During the 2012 holiday season, the American Red Cross is asking everyone to support the Red Cross mission by giving hope to those in need, through its Holiday Giving Catalog.
The Red Cross Holiday Giving Catalog offers shoppers who are looking for gift ideas this year to choose from a variety of symbolic gifts, such as food and shelter for a disaster victim, phone cards for members of the military, vaccinations for an entire village and others.
To view the Holiday Catalog, go to www.redcross.org/gifts.
People also can support Red Cross services by making a financial donation, giving blood, volunteering or signing a holiday card for a member of the Armed Forces, according to agency officials.
For more information, visit www.redcross.org.
Volunteer opportunities at First Night Akron
DOWNTOWN AKRON — First Night® Akron officials are seeking volunteers to help with the 17th annual event on Dec. 31.
Volunteers are a critical part of the celebration that rings in the New Year and showcases the arts to the community, said officials from the Downtown Akron Partnership (DAP), which oversees the family-friendly, alcohol-free event. First Night volunteers greet guests, check for admission buttons, introduce performing artists, assist with hands-on activities, track attendance and act as bus hosts.
“Volunteers are essential to First Night’s success,” said DAP President Suzie Graham. “They are the face of First Night, wishing guests a Happy New Year and helping direct them to their next destination.”
Volunteers are admitted free to all performances and sites before or after their shift. Friends, families, couples and groups are encouraged to volunteer together. In addition, volunteers receive a special volunteer lanyard to wear at the event and an invitation to the annual volunteer party held in January.
To volunteer, complete the application available at www.firstnightakron.org/volunteers or contact First Night volunteer coordinator Jane Startzman at 330-535-3179, ext. 203, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Volunteers must attend one of two orientation sessions at the Akron-Summit County Main Library, 60 S. High St., to learn about the various tasks assigned.
First Night Akron admission buttons are now on sale at select locations. For more information, go to www.first nightakron.org or call 330-374-7690.
Highway Patrol to conduct ‘trace-back’ investigations
COLUMBUS — Families of those killed or critically injured by impaired drivers in Ohio soon will have an additional avenue to justice as the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s (ODPS) Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) announced plans to conduct “trace-back” investigations on all fatal and serious injury crashes in which alcohol and drugs are suspected.
Continuing to serve an obviously impaired patron, providing alcohol to minors or hosting underage alcohol parties are criminal violations that may ultimately lead to fatal crashes, according to ODPS officials. In Ohio, nearly 400 people are killed each year in alcohol-involved crashes.
Through an integrated restructuring within ODPS that will reduce facility costs, streamline administrative functions and lead to better collaboration through improved information sharing and oversight, Ohio troopers will continue to focus on the suspected impaired driver, but Ohio Investigative Unit (OIU) agents (formerly referred to as liquor agents) will now investigate if there are other criminal violations which may have led to the driver’s impairment, according to ODPS officials. “Trace-back” investigations will be made available without cost to any Ohio law enforcement agency as well. According to ODPS officials, this may be the first and most comprehensive effort of its type in the United States.
“While an internal examination of ways to reduce internal costs and streamline operations was the catalyst, the main purpose is to hold those responsible for tragedy accountable and deter future violations,” said ODPS Director Thomas Charles. “We owe it to the families who have lost a loved one, whose lives never are the same because of a senseless act, to find out all the facts that led to the tragedy.”
Charles said the new structure will allow OIU agents to focus efforts on three keys areas: trace-back investigations on all fatal and serious injury crashes in which alcohol and drugs are suspected; special investigations such as human trafficking in liquor establishments; and investigations of serious violations of Ohio’s liquor laws.
“Nearly every liquor permit holder and employee in Ohio shares our goal of a safer Ohio,” Charles said. “We will shift our resources and efforts on those who commit the most egregious violations.”
ODPS officials added federally funded food stamp fraud investigations and personnel will be a separate function within the department. Also, information gleaned from OIU investigations will be shared with the entire law enforcement community. The OSHP’s “Hub,” with its 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week intelligence and information resource capabilities, will be an integral part of this new collaborative effort and provide a resource not before possible, according to ODPS officials.
Haven of Rest to serve Christmas dinners
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Haven of Rest Ministries will serve Christmas dinners at noon and 6:30 p.m. on Christmas Day at 175 E. Market St.
People who are homeless, as well as other men, women and children in need, or those who might be spending Christmas alone are encouraged to partake in the traditional Christmas meal of turkey, homemade mashed potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, cranberry sauce, corn pudding and pie.
Each guest also will receive a bag of toiletry items.
Terry Pluto, sports writer and faith column writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, will give an inspirational message for the 6:30 p.m. meal.
Area groups help farmers expand availability of local produce
PENINSULA — Countryside Conservancy and the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) are partnering again to offer a variety of educational programming to specialty crop growers across the state.
Building on a 2011 study released by The Ohio State University’s Center for Farmland Policy Innovation, the two‐year project focuses on utilizing conventional distribution outlets, like grocery stores and restaurants, to increase the amount of local fruits and vegetables available to consumers and create new market opportunities for specialty crop growers.
While most local food systems’ advocacy and education has focused on direct‐to‐consumer sales at farmers’ markets and through community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, almost 90 percent of food is purchased at retail outlets, such as grocery stores, according to Countryside Conservancy officials.
The project is funded by a grant from the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the state of Ohio and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, under the provisions of the Specialty Crop Block Grant.
Beginning in January, the collaboration will provide both business and production skills workshops and webinars that will help growers meet the challenge of diversifying their markets beyond direct‐to‐consumer outlets.
Additionally, OEFFA and Countryside Conservancy will work with regional distributors on developing best practices for working with small to medium‐scale growers, with a focus on keeping farm identity intact from field to final outlet. This will make it possible for grocery store customers, as well as restaurant diners, to feel connected to the farmers.
As more information becomes available, including program dates and registration information, it will be posted to www.cvcountryside.org and www.oeffa.org. Growers interested in receiving information on the upcoming workshop and webinar offerings are encouraged to visit these websites or contact Beth Knorr at Countryside Conservancy at 330-657‐2542, ext. 228, or Mike Anderson at OEFFA at 614-421‐2022, ext. 209. Chefs and grocers interested in sourcing local produce also are encouraged to contact OEFFA or Countryside Conservancy to learn how to participate in the project.
Kathleen Folkerth, Stephanie Kist and Maria Lindsay contributed to these reports.
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