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Copyright 2018. All rights reserved. Wright County Journal-Press & The Drummer


Give them a break – MnDOT talks on using caution around snowplows during the season

The Wright County Highway Department's lineup of snowplows is extensive, and includes a number of different vehicles. Steve Meyer, Wright County's Highway Maintenance Supervisor, stated that these vehicles are checked and maintained every day, and drivers stay up-to-date with trainings and certifications regularly. It's important to be aware of these vehicles, and share the road as much as possible.  (Photo by Miriam Orr)

By Miriam Orr

It is no secret that Minnesota offers some extreme driving in the winter months with its mixture of ice, snow, cold, and drifts rounding out the driving conditions.

Seasons play a serious part in effecting how we drive, how we approach driving, our attitude while driving, and the act thereof. Considering that we live in a state where winter driving can be both perilous and unpredictable, it stands to reason that we pay careful attention to our surroundings, and those driving around us that may face the same situations.

Likewise, our approach to those who maintain our roads should be equally careful. MnDOT reports that so far, there have been at least 22 reported crashes this season in relation to snowplows and civilian vehicles. Since snow is on the radar, as always in Minnesota winters, it is important to take caution of those working to improve road conditions around us and pay them equal respect.

In a release issued by MnDOT, Steve Lund, the state maintenance engineer, states, "Inattentive drivers, motorists driving too close to the plow, and motorists driving too fast for conditions are the main causes of these crashes."

Snow removal and transfer is a large operation at both a local and state level, and requires dedication. Many workers are called to service in the early throws of morning, and late nights, in an effort to make sure our roads are maintenanced and safe for travel. It is, most often, thankless work – and, it requires training.

Steve Lund continued on to say that drivers should be respectful of plows and maintenance vehicles during winter conditions, as they are large machines that travel far slower than posted speed limits to do their job well.

Plows are heavy machinery, and demand a high level of awareness while out seeing to the tasks they are commissioned to do. Motorists should be patient and stay behind them a good distance, as they travel slowly for a specific reason.

Like with most heavy machinery, the ability to see behind a vehicle is restricted, and drivers most often rely on mirrors to see the rear of their vehicle, and thus the traffic behind it. Mirrors are not always one hundred percent effective, however, and blind spots are inevitable with large machinery. So, it is not always guaranteed that drivers can see you, even though you can very clearly see them.

Lund goes on to say that the clouds of snow these vehicles create while plowing roads also impair drivers' vision. He suggests that the safest place you can be while confronted with a snowplow is well behind it, and away from that cloud of snow, as oncoming traffic could be unable to identify a vehicle passing by, even with lights on.

 In 2016-17, Minnesota reported a total of 58 crashes involving vehicles and plows. So far this season, we are nearly halfway to that number, with 22 already reported.

However, in Wright County, Highway Maintenance Supervisor Steve Meyer states that Wright County has been fortunate this 2017-18 season in having no accidents involving snowplows.

"Of course, it's happened in the past," Meyer states. "But we're very fortunate this season to have none."

 Wright County takes their snowplows, and the service they provide, very seriously. They have an array of snowplows and other vehicles waiting in the Department's garage, ready to go out as needed. The display of snowplows includes a 2017 plow, which the county purchased brand-new in the fall of 2017.

Nick Knese Construction

To put the plows themselves in perspective, Meyer commented that each machine weighs anywhere between 65,000 to 70,000 pounds while fully loaded. They transport approximately 12 tons of salt, and 400 gallons of liquid de-icer. The approximate cost of snowplow is a minimum of $220,000.

"It gets expensive when accidents involving plows happen," Steve explained. "There's paperwork, and then the state has to come and evaluate the machines and inspect them. It's costly, and can get really dangerous. When you have 70,000 pounds of machinery that you crash into, things tend to end badly."

 It is important to remember that Minnesota law requires drivers to turn on their headlights and slow down during conditions when visibility is impaired due to conditions.

MnDOT recommends for safe driving that you should:

• Stay alert watching for snow plows, which may navigate traffic with little or no warning, and may drive the centerline or beyond pavement markings to better ensure road conditions are safe.

• Stay back at least 10 car lengths.

• Never drive into a snowcloud.

• Slow down to a safe speed for current weather conditions – it is better to be late then never arrive at all.

• Turn on your headlights and wear your seat belt.

• Turn off your cruise control.

• Be patient, and remember that plows and other maintenance vehicles are working to make sure you arrive safety to your destination, and that your drive is as safe and enjoyable as possible.

•  Don't drive distracted.

Drivers can check road conditions by logging onto 511mn.org, and are urged to travel safely and think smart while navigating this season, and others.

On a more local level, Steve Meyer and the rest of the Highway Department want you to remain safe, too.

"Be cautious and aware that these drivers have limited visibility," Steve stated. "Give them plenty of room. If you think driving conditions are hard for you, these guys face the same problems, only on a bigger scale in a bigger machine. Be careful."

Drive safe and arrive, Wright County.

 


Wright Co. Sheriff's Office faces state investigation for harassment

By Miriam Orr

In information provided in a broadcast from 5 Eyewitness News/KSTP, Wright County Sheriff's Office is facing a workplace harassment investigation by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, after a former Wright County Sergeant, Rebecca Howell, lodged a complaint.

Howell's attorney, Robert Fowler, stated that the investigation was currently underway, and that Howell's complaint was substantial, including concerns of harassment, sexual harassment, and hostile work environments.

In a photo released by 5 Eyewitness News, a bullet with "Complaint Department" written in red was confirmed in having been placed near Howell's workspace. The incident was shortly after Howell had reprimanded Wright County deputies, which, as the report states,  "happened to be men."

Wright County Journal-Press has reached out to Dyan Ebert of Quinlivan and Hughes, who is representing Wright County, for a comment on the case, but have yet to receive a comment. 

Wright County Attorney Tom Kelly stated that his office was not involved with the case, and was not aware of developments. He commented that the state had contracted an attorney's office on behalf of Wright County, through MCIT.

Howell's attorney stated to KSTP that more information would surface as the investigation by the Department of Human Rights comes to a close.

Currently, Howell serves as a sergeant at the Meeker County's Sheriff's Office.

 


St. Michael graduate killed in Wabasha ski accident

By Miriam Orr

Bethany Becker, a 19-year-old St. Michael-Albertville grad was killed in a skiing accident Saturday, Jan. 20 in Wabasha, Minnesota.

Becker was skiing at Coffee Mill ski area, a resort on the west side of Wabasha, on Highway 61. Becker was skiing on the advanced slope "Fall Line," which is for experienced skiers, and lost control. She was unable to stop at the designated finish, and continued going until she collided with a tree.

Wabasha Police Chief Joe Stark stated, "Bystanders said they saw her beginning to lose control on the slope." He continued, "When EMS and first responders arrived on scene, they contacted an ambulance and noted that her head injury was severe."

From there, EMS contacted Mayo One, a helicopter unit out of Rochester, requesting an airlift for Bethany, as her condition was destabilizing and progressively getting worse. The ambulance planned to meet the helicopter unit in Plainview, but upon arrival, the flight unit and EMS determined that Bethany was too unstable to fly and would not survive the trip.

The flight team accompanied the ambulance en-route to Rochester's St. Mary's Hospital, where they pronounced Bethany dead upon arrival.

Chief Stark commented, that he believed Bethany had died of a head injury, though that has not yet been confirmed. Stark told Fox 9 that they do not often see such severe skiing accidents in that area.

Fox 9 reported on the accident, where they confirmed that Bethany was a graduate of St. Michael-Albertville high School not six months prior to the accident. She was an athlete, and ran cross-country.

Visitation was held for Becker on Wednesday, Jan. 24 at the St. Michael Catholic Church, with a funeral following on Thursday, Jan. 25.

 


Moonlit snowshoe, Jan. 31

Not quite finished with walking through winter wonderlands? Wright County's Parks and Recreation Department can help you with that!

Even though the holidays are over, winter is still upon us. Parks and Rec is thrilled to share their Moonlit Snowshoe Adventure, Jan. 31 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Ney Park.

This event is $5.00 a person, and everyone and anyone is welcome. For questions, please call 763-682-7894, or go online and visit: www.co.wright.mn.us

 


Valentine's inspiration? We want to know!

If the Valentine's season has you brimming with ideas, Wright County Journal-Press and The Drummer invites you to participate with us in our 2018 Bridal Ideas and Inspirations Special Edition.

Our Valentine's Special Edition paper will run in The Drummer Feb. 4 and 11. We are currently looking for any ideas, local trends, special offers, or Bridal- themed stories to feature. We hope you can join us as we aspire to make this season's Valentine's Day a great one for couples.

Call us today to reserve your spot, drop a tip, or submit an idea. Ask for Karie, Colleen, or Terri at 763-68-1221.

 


Couple harassed regarding family pet

Fox 9 reported on Jan. 17 that Jason and Shanna Davis, Delano residents, have been getting harassing phone calls in regards to their dog, Lou, who went missing around Dec. 21, 2017.

Using social media, flyers, and offering a reward got the Davis' a phone call about Lou.

One would expect a happy reunion, but it wasn't so - the caller, identified as Kevin, went with a series of phone calls Fox 9 described as "bizarre." Ultimately, the calls became hostile in nature - Kevin repeatedly mentioned running over the Davis' dog with his car and doing other violent acts.

The caller spoke with law enforcement, and denied having any recollection of the Davis' dog.

If you have any information regarding Lou or his whereabouts, please call the Wright County Sheriff's Office.

 


Dean Lake Aeration in the works

The Dean Lake Improvement Association advises that it could be operating an aeration system on Dean Lake in Wright County, this winter.

The aeration system is used to maintain fish populations. Signs will be posted at the lake access and at the aeration site when the system is operating.

Testing of dissolved oxygen has begun to determine whether or not aeration will be necessary. If aeration is needed, it could begin in late Jan. or sometime in Feb.

Because of open water created by aeration, sportsmen, hikers, fishermen, snowmobilers, ATV drivers, and others should take extreme caution for the remainder of the winter.

If you have questions, please call 651-955-6441.

 


Gardening expo and workshop

The University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners of Wright County presents the 15th Annual Spring Days gardening workshop and Expo.

Class sessions range from flower arranging to growing berries, but offers a variety of educational experiences.

The event is Saturday, March 3, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m., at the St. Michael Albertville Middle School West.

Tickets are $30.00 in advance, and the event includes breakfast and lunch. Tickets will be $35.00 at the door.

For details and registration, please go online at: 

www. SpringDays.org.

 


Little KidCare of Montrose to close, final decision tabled

On Jan. 22, at 7:00 p.m., BHM School Board met to discuss an array of topics.

First of which was Little KidKare, which is the 0 to 5 childcare centers licensed by the Department of Human Services and operated through BHM Community Education. After five years of service, the Montrose Little KidKare daycare program is no longer able to sustain the daycare program without substantially raising the fees to cover the daily operating costs.

While the infant and toddler program would no longer be available, services would still be provided through an extension of the Montrose KidKare program. The before and after school child care program would now be offered all day to preschool children, ages 3 to 5, in the same location - the Montrose Early Education Center. This KidKare preschool program is already operating successfully in elementary schools around the district at Discovery, Northwinds, and Tatanka.

Director of Community Education Kim Carlson said that a meeting took place with families on January 18 about closing the infant/toddler childcare program.  She shared that she has had conversations with area childcare businesses to see if there would be an interest in someone opening a childcare program at the Montrose site.  One out of seven contacted is showing some interest. 

Board members Bob Sansevere and Amanda Reineck moved to close the program effective June 30, 2018, dependent upon ability to staff the current program until that time.  A June 30 closure would provide more time for families to make alternate arrangements. State guidelines for staff ratios will continue to be followed. Staying open longer will cost about $25,000. 

 The motion failed 0-5. The board tabled the item until the February 12 workshop date when they would like to know a decision from the business that might be interested in operating a childcare center.

Regardless of when the program ends, the Montrose Early Education Center will continue to offer Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) programming, School Readiness Preschool, Early Childhood Special Education services, Early Childhood Screening and Head Start. There will also be additional opportunities for more ECFE infant and toddler classes.

 

Other action items

The 2018-19 Budget Assumptions will provide the framework for developing next year's budget. The assumptions match those used in generating the financial projections for the next three years, which was presented at the January 8 board workshop. The recommendations for the 2018-19 Budget Assumptions are as follows:

• Enrollment projections based on the November 2017 enrollment report

• $189.55 board approved referendum approved in 2013 - No additional referendum authority

• General Ed revenue formula allowance increases 2% and moves to $6,312 for 2018-19

• Kindergarten projection assumes 99.5% of the students will attend full day program

•  Special Education aid increases 2.5%

• Literacy Aid implemented in 2012-13 continues through 2018-19

• OPEB contributions continue in 2018-19

• Maintain 2014-15 approved staffing ratios also used for 2018-19 1.0 FTE special education staffing contingency

• 12.95 FTE Superintendent Contingency staffing to address staffing issues

• Continuation of 6.0 FTE for Class Size Reduction-includes Marketing budget and social workers

• Continuation of 6.0 FTE addition for Location Equity Revenue funding

• Salary and benefit changes based on settlements in place and market conditions for non-settled contracts

• Non-Salary, Non-Benefits Costs are estimated to increase at 0-5%

• Continued cost containment initiatives such as joint purchasing agreements, energy use reduction, paper reduction, insurance contracts, and other operational efficiencies

• Q-Comp (PPD) continues for 2018-19 assuming matching revenues and expenditures

• $400,000 to be allocated to assigned fund balance for technology set aside to be spent in the future

Additionally, the board approved the next two years of school district calendars. All of the traditional breaks and legal holidays are observed. Spring Break will be in April for the next two years.

What's more, the BHS Singers (18 Buffalo High School students) will travel to Southwestern Community College in Creston, Iowa to participate in the School of Music Vocations "Real Group" Vocal Jazz Festival.

The Buffalo High School orchestra, band and choir will travel to New York City April 25-30, 2018 to perform in the Performing Arts Consultants' Adjudicated Music Festival.

Also considered by the BHM School Board was talk of supporting resolutions to create a taskforce to work on special education funding and to advocate for significant increases in federal special education funding and meaningful special education reforms at the federal and state levels, in accordance with the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) passed by Congress.  On an annual basis, $4.8 million is the cost for special education programming in the district. 

Resolutions are for the state and federal levels and are recommended by the Minnesota School Boards Association.

 

Report Items

Buffalo High School Student Council:

• Buffalo High School Student Council Representative James Oistad reported that they are working hard on RAVE week.  They will also attend the EMAS conference hosted by Rogers. Oistad concluded by passing out treats to all the board members in recognition of School Board Appreciation Month. 

First Reading of Revised Policy #520 Student Surveys:

• 520—Student Surveys—recommended the addition of Minnesota School Board Association's Model Policy language to clarify the types of surveys needing parent review and opt-out procedures.

 

Proud Of's

• BHS Theatre's James and the Giant Peach cast and crew who participated in the Spotlight Musical Theater Education Program/Contest. Outstanding awards were received for Achievement in Musical Theatre, Overall Production, Overall Performance, Ensemble Performance, Movement/Dance Performance by an Ensemble, Student Orchestra, Overall Technical Team and Technical Crew. Honorable Mention awards were received for Acting Performance by an Ensemble and Vocal Performance by an Ensemble. The following individual awards were also received: Outstanding Performance in a Leading Role-Emilee Feldman as Ladahlord and Owen Klaphake as James Henry Trotter; Outstanding in Technical Leadership-Grace Happe as Stage Manager and Teagan Woods as Dock Chief; Honorable Mention for Performance in a Leading Role-Madelyn Backes as Spiker, Amanda Krinke as Sponge, Abigail Vogeler as Ladybug/Mrs. Trotter, Ian Pappenfus as Earthwurm; Honorable Mention in Technical Leadership-Harrison Bjorback as Student Technical Director, Aspen Jaeger as Set Designer, Ciarra Fagerlie as Stage Manager, Perrin Thompson as Choreographer. Evaluator Shout-Out received by Samantha Twardy, Logan Klohs, Eric Braun, Mason Schmidt and Brandon Otten. Pre-adjudication" and Technical adjudication was received during dress rehearsals for student technicians.

• Mark Mischke, BHS Principal was selected as the MN High School Principal of the Year by the Minnesota Association of Secondary School Principals.

 

Donations/Grants/Awards

• The district accepted donations, which totaled $22,078.53.

 


Wright Co. welcomes new IT analyst, Legislators Buffalo bound Feb. 7.

By Miriam Orr

With the constant progress we make in technological advancement, it stands to reason that we make advancements and changes to every day life.

For Wright County, that takes the form of many changes – with re-branding and technological upgrades currently in the works with local government, it is no surprise that the IT department of Wright County decided to bring along some new individuals for the ride.

One such individual is Britta Holland, Wright County's newest IT Project Portfolio Analyst, whom Wright County Board commissioners welcomed Jan. 23, at 9:00 a.m.

While Holland is new to Wright County – having been previously employed by the state and a Massachusetts native – she is no stranger to experience.

Holland was enthusiastic about being brought on board with Wright County, and IT Director Adam Tagarro seemed more than pleased with her arrival. Holland commented that, "So far, the position has been a good fit," and that she hoped it would stick and bring her many more good years with the county.

 

Timed Agenda:

Wright County Soil and Water Conservation District:

• Alicia O'Hare of the Wright SWCD, along with Diane Sander of Crow River Organization of Water, asked for approval of the North Fork Crow River Watershed One plan. The plan, as of now, is to hold a 60-day public comment period, and collaborate with other counties involved with the project to hear public thoughts and concerns while raising discussion. At the end of 60 days, a public hearing will be called. Also brought before the Board was a request to schedule a public hearing in regards to the Local Comprehensive Water Management Plan, which requires a public comment period. The public hearing is set for Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 9:30 a.m.

 

Auditor/Treasurer's Office:

• Approved for Auditor/Treasurer Bob Hiivala was a plat "Registered Land Survey No. 45" in Silver Creek Township, a temporary liquor license for the Maple Lake Ice Fishing Derby (Feb. 3) and A.B.A.T.E. of Minnesota, Inc.'s event on Feb. 3. Discussion regarding the Dec. 2017 cash revenue/expenditure budget report was made, in which Hiivala stated he would give a final presentation in March.

 

Parks and Recreation:

• Marc Mattice requested that the Board review and act on a recommendation from the Bertram Chain of Lakes Advisory Council and the Wright County Parks Commission to: authorize the director of Parks and Rec to explore and discuss with a willing seller the feasibility of adding additional lands to Stanley Edy Park reserve, including the appraisal process; appoint Jim Lindberg, a Monticello resident, as a representative to the Bertram Chain of Lakes Advisory Council; and finally, to review and approve the recommended changes to by-laws for the Bertram Chain of Lakes Advisory Council, which consisted of minor wordage changes in a number of articles.

 

Highway Department:

• Virgil Hawkins, Highway Engineer, presented for approval a summary of discussion on the Dec. 20, 2017 Transportation Committee of the Whole meeting minutes, and recommendations for the Board to act on. Also requested was the approval on the agreement for the replacement of the Franklin Township Bridge (No. L9396) using Township Bridge program funding. Hawkins also requested the condemnation resolution for unsigned parcels of Right of Way on CSAH 38, in which if remained unsigned, hinder the federal project plans.

 

Planning and Zoning Commission:

• Sean Riley, Planning and Zoning Commissioner, brought to discussion the matter of adopting an amendment, which would allow schools with less than 150 students to be included in townships. The discussion was previously tabled on Jan. 9. The Board accepted the findings and recommendations of the planning commission, and Commissioner Mike Potter commented on the matter of trusting the Planning Commission, while Commissioner Darek Vetsch stated that he wanted to make sure the amendment was broad enough not to be tailored to only specific schools who had requested the change.

 

Committee of the Whole Meetings:

• COTW is called for Feb. 7, 2018 to meet with Legislator's to discuss legislative priorities.

• COTW is scheduled for Feb. 14, 2018 at 1:30 p.m. to review the Wright County Soil and Water Conservation District's request for proposal.

 


Mark Mischke named Principal of the year

Mark Mischke

Minnesota Association of Secondary Schools Principals (MASSP) recently named Buffalo High School Principal Mark Mischke the 2018 Minnesota High School Principal of the Year.

The announcement was made on Wednesday, Jan. 17, at the Double Tree by Hilton in Bloomington.

"I am humbled," Mischke said. "This award is a reflection of our school, our community, and our students."

Mischke has been an administrator for the past 15 years and the principal at BHS for the past decade.

"It's been an honor to work at Buffalo High School and be a part of the Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose District over the past 10 years, as we've all worked towards our goal of making a difference for our kids," added Mischke.

Mischke has also held several leadership roles in MASSP, including representing Central Division as both President and MASSP Board of Director, E-12 Finance Committee, conference presenter on Alternatives to Suspension and currently serves as the Association's Executive Committee Secretary.

Mark's constant focus on student needs and achievement has led to the creation and implementation of several programs including AVID, Bounce Back Project and the wRight Choice program. Faculty leaders share that one of Mark's greatest strengths is his ability to engage staff in research as new programs are reviewed.

Students commented that because of Mr. Mischke's leadership and caring, BHS is a safe and inclusive place to learn. A spring evaluation showed that 92-percent of students felt they had at least one adult at school to whom they could confide and 82-percent felt supported by other students. "I give my school an A+" shared one unnamed BHS student, "Mr. Mischke is a great leader and always there to support us."

 


BHS' "Mockingbird" public performance coming Feb. 1

Buffalo High School's One Act Play earned a starred performance at last Saturday's Mississippi 8 Festival in Rogers for their performance of "Mockingbird."

The 20-person ensemble will perform its public performance with a 7:30 p.m. show on Thursday, Feb. 1 at the Performing Arts Center. Pictured on couch are Caitlin, played by Tori Herda (left), and her Dad, performed by Eric Braun (right), who rehearsed a skit during a practice prior to last week's festival. See the full story in the Sports and School News section, 4C. (Photo by Rob LaPlante)

 

 

 

 

 


Pitching in

One man's journey, and dream, to make a difference

By Miriam Orr

At first glance, First Pitch is just your usual machine shop – high ceilings, heavy machinery, workers buzzing around like bees in a hive. Towards the back of the shop, precise lines of baseball pitching machines sit, waiting to undergo test phases and the finishing touches that purchasing and shipment promise.

However, in one corner of the shop sits a desk, computer, and a large window. What's even more surprising than an office directly on the shop's floor is the fact that in the windowsill, half a dozen pictures of Haitian children sit; faces smiling brightly as sunshine filters in, each and every one a testament of devotion, compassion, and love.

These are the children of Caroline's House.

 

A man on a journey

The aforementioned, picture-filled office belongs to one Steve Vanoss, owner and operator of First Pitch in Maple Plain. While first meeting Steve, you would not think he's a man on a mission – he's a machinist by trade, complete with a workman's hands and a businessman's smile. But, if you take one look at his office space, you would see that there's a lot more to the man behind the business.

Vanoss' First Pitch has been around the block. Opened in 1999, the business has been in Greenfield, Independence, and has seen other homes in Minnesota, now ultimately located in Maple Plain. What's unique about the business is that it is one of only a few pitching machine manufacturers' in not only the state, but also the U.S. – and, its passion is not only for baseball and softball. Behind the scenes, First Pitch is working to pitch in across the globe, to a small village called Fonds -Des-Negres, commonly known as Fon-De-Nég in Haiti.

With a population of approximately 10,000 individuals, Fon-De-Nég is  small, crowded, and severely impoverished. "Employment is a serious issue," Steve explained. "But, that's the nature of Haiti – few who are rich, and many who suffer."

The village is about 75 miles southwest from Port-au-Prince, and is a long trip by car. Fon-De-Nég is a mountainside village and requires crossing a ravine to reach the people. It is very remote, impoverished, and unrecognized.

 In mid-July of 2016, Steve explained that while he was visiting Haiti, he had the stark realization that people in Haiti where just that – people. They were not faces on a television screen or subjects of the news. They weren't just victims of unfavorable circumstances or earthquakes or poverty – they were people, and they had purpose, just like he did.

"I got this overwhelming feeling in my heart," Steve said. "An overpowering love for these people just came on me when I was bouncing along in the back seat, on my way to the village. From there on, I just knew I had to dedicate my life to giving these people a chance."

 

The project

What is interesting about Steve's story is that his company, First Pitch, is not the only organization that he works around. In 2016, Steve began the "Caroline's House" project, where he decided to build an orphanage for children who were subjects of extreme poverty and whose parents couldn't care for them any longer.

The project consists of, currently, one orphanage building. However, Steve's dream is to build a girls house, one for boys, and a church – eventually. Caroline's House altogether is approximately $60,000, and so far, there are about 15 children in Steve's charge and care, though he hopes that the house and its provisions will impact other families and individuals regardless of stature, too. He stated that there are about 300 children in Fon-De-Nég alone that face difficulty and lack everyday necessities.

What Vanoss is most passionate about, however, is the children's education. "There is a ridiculous amount of children that aren't being educated," he said, frustrated. "My goal is to house them and send them to school, so they have a chance at learning to read, write, and learn basic skills to help them get a job."

Steve has been passionate about underprivileged communities his entire life. He has worked in places such as downtown Chicago, and the hills of Mexico, and first began his journey to Haiti in 2011. He got started with the project for Caroline's House when someone approached him about donating money to buy land for a building in Fon-De-Nég, and Steve went to go and visit the plot – and, as of July 2016, he has a total of 5 staff-members working with children to provide uniforms for school, and make sure they have a roof over their heads.

First Pitch gives Vanoss the means to provide a lot of resources and ship them to Haiti to help the people of Fon-De-Nég – items like food, cars filled with clothing and necessities, parts, tools, and other items are just a few of the things that have blessed Haiti's people through First Pitch.

Steve doesn't take the glory, though. He credits his success to other organizations in the community who have partnered with him and, as he says, "Have great passion for these people, too." Together, through a small operational investment, they work to try and bring the people of Fon-De-Nég basic items that make life a little easier.

 

The story behind the name

Caroline's House, as you may have guessed, got its name from a unique individual who changed Steve's life – and his outlook – on the Haitian people.

In Dec. of 2015, Steve met six-month-old Caroline on a different trip, in a different village outside of Port-au-Prince. Born to impoverished parents without documentation or a birth certificate, Caroline weighed approximately five pounds. Her mother couldn't provide food or the means to survive any longer on her own, so she brought her to the orphanage that Steve had been visiting and working with. He ended up staying a long month with Caroline, in an attempt to nurse her to health. However, despite medical treatment, a regular diet, and constant care, Caroline died at eight-months-old, due to the fact that her liver was underdeveloped and that her body was severely malnourished.

"She changed the way I saw these people," Steve commented solemnly. "They weren't a TV ad, or subjects of a newsletter, or victims. They were people. Real, tangible people, with souls and feelings and needs. My heart just broke for Caroline and her mother."

Now, tucked back on a Haitian mountainside, on a small piece of ground sits Caroline's House, where the work is so much more than just four walls and a roof. In a "Caroline's House Update" regarding the project, Steve said that, "It is about serving these children, and this community, and showing God's love."

One such individual who has been the beneficiary of Steve's attention is Jesica, a 12-year-old girl who lives at Caroline's House and is, by all terms of the word, Steve's best friend.

"I met her in 2012, on a different trip in a different village. Her mom drowned, and her father was uninvolved, so she was alone in the world. She was always around and sat with me, and always had so much to say. When I opened up Caroline's House, I had to take her with me," Vanoss reminisced.

Currently, Jesica is in school, working towards finishing her education. She wants to attend law school to serve the community of Fon-De-Nég.

 

The Fon-De-Nég pitch

Caroline's House does not just provide safety and opportunity for children. Steve's project is in cooperation with the nation itself, and the village's local government to provide working opportunities.

"Eventually, I would like to build a church, and more homes," Steve added. "Those projects provide working opportunities to families, and steady wages for a short time. It gives them hope."

Other organizations in the U.S. have stepped up alongside Steve in "pitching in." Maple Plain Community Church has expressed interest in sending missionaries and funds to Fon-De-Nég, and Riverwood Church in Greenfield is in the works, too. So far, Steve hasn't taken anyone with him to Haiti – yet. He states that they have the room to accommodate missionaries, but all he needs are willing bodies to go and serve.

Among other things, the community severely needs is a bridge that connects the main road to the village, over a rocky ravine that is dangerous – and difficult – to cross with vehicles. Steve has looked into it, and, the bridge itself would cost approximately $6,000, and provide opportunities for work. The difficulty resides in raising funds and getting people involved who want to contribute to the dream.

"It's hard doing it as one person." Steve said. "It's growing so much that it's becoming something that I as a single individual can't do. I need people to come up beside me to make this happen for these kids, and this community."

Currently, Steve is working on preparing for a Spring 2018 trip to Haiti, where he will be taking parts and tools to the community to work on houses and vehicles. What he hopes to take with him, however, is a hopeful promise of additional help, and clothes.

"Clothes are the biggest material thing. Some of these kids have never even seen shoes. They need children's clothes, and children's shoes," Vanoss stated.

When he ships vehicles, Steve said it is easiest to fill them with clothes, household items, and other necessities to solve more than one basic need. Children's items are the biggest need for the village, as many of the children don't wear clothes, or have shoes.

"This is about people," he said. "People are so much greater than money. That's why I do this with my business. People are greater than money, and we tend to lose sight of that as privileged Americans. These people are valuable, and they matter. That's why I do what I do and why I love doing it."

For more information on how you can help, you can call 763-479-6245. Donations can be donated at the First Pitch, 5130 Industrial St., Suite 100 Maple Plain, Minn.

Vanoss asks that if you can't give financially or by donation, please keep the children of Caroline's House, and Fon-De-Nég, in your thoughts and prayers.

 


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