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November 22, 2016 • Headline News
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New group is Santa’s Helpers
Lots of ways to help our needy at Christmas

Mary Mattingly

Santa has always counted on the local police officers, legion members and churches to help out needy children at Christmas, but this year he has found two more “elves” in Versailles. Two women with big hearts and very thankful for their own blessings want to pay it forward. Angela Hoskins and Tracey Shepherd have spearheaded a Christmas charity program to ensure that no child will go without this season. It’s the second year for Santa’s Helpers. Friend Chris Popp is also helping coordinate it. For Hoskins, a mother of four children ages 5 to 14, it’s a thank-you act. “Every year we needed help and we were poor, but last year I could take care of them for Christmas. I wanted to pay it forward,” she said. Co-worker Tracey Shepherd, a grandmother, also wanted to help others less fortunate at this time of year. She knows many are in need. Last year they provided toys and clothes for 75 kids, and as of last week, the list had grown to 80.

Helping the needySUBMITTED PHOTO
Schools, police officers, legion groups and other nonprofit clubs make sure everyone in the area has something for Christmas. Pictured left, Milan Elementary students and families donated to the Milan Food Pantry to help with holiday food needs. Nurse Tammy Jutzi coordinated the Food Drive. Jadyn Johnson, Ruby Brown and  Kaitlyn Carpenter helped pack up food for delivery.

The two women find sponsors or other families who might want to adopt a family in need. They provide sizes, age, gender, plus needs and wants. It wasn’t hard to find kids in need, but it also hasn’t been too hard to find people who will give. She and Tracey both work at Gold Star Chili in Versailles and the owner has agreed for the restaurant to be a drop-off center. It’s not to be a dumping ground for unwanted items, they are quick to explain. Santa’s Helpers are asking for gently used or new items for children, and if wrapped, to identify what the item is. These can be toys, clothes or gift cards. They will collect the items at the restaurant and then transport to sort and wrap. (Wrapping paper and boxes are also welcome items!) The idea is to have these gifts distributed by mid-December. “It makes me feel good,” Hoskins said. “People are so grateful. Some even cry they are so happy to have something for their children.” A very few might take advantage, but “the good far outweighs the bad” she said.

Santa’s Helpers fills a void in Ripley County since the long-running Angels of Giving program has disbanded. The charity program has provided annually for over 300 families in the county for 20 years, but 2015 was the last year Shanna Joseph did “Angels” on a big scale. Toys for Tots, which also provided for local families and children, is also not operating locally this year. Donors can request a family of one, two, etc., or just submit some gifts and they’ll find a home for it. One person brought in boxes of toiletries and they made up goody bags to distribute to the families. Hoskins own kids help, and she sees it as a real-life lesson. “I’ve just explained that Santa needed some help, and that some moms and dads need help too so they can give their children a Christmas present.” If anyone is interested in donating call her at 812-621-5504.

Cops and Kids
As mentioned in the beginning, the local officers who make up the William R. Rayner FOP 177 Lodge also make sure kids are not forgotten. Last year, some 100 children from Ripley County were able to shop at Wal-Mart in Greensburg with the officers and pick out several toys or items they wanted. The police raise money through parking cars at the fairgrounds, and individual donations also help. Flyers are sent to local businesses. Tom Tully, president of the FOP, said it’s a good community outreach, and reinforces the idea to children the police are there to help you. As Tully says, “We want kids to run to police, not away from you.” They are currently accepting donations until Dec. 2. They’ll tally the amount and figure out how much each child can spend and shop with the children. The address to send a donation: FOP Treasurer, 602 E. Fairground Osgood, IN 47037.

There are other organizations that also spearhead various holiday drives. For example, Milan, South Ripley and Jac-Cen-Del schools all have opportunities for the students and staff to help others. JCD Student Advocate Christi Heaton said they are well aware of their children's’ needs and ask permission from parents to provide names to the Osgood Legion, who in turn provides new coats for the local kids. The staff also creates an Angel tree, and purchases items for the less fortunate children or families in the corporation.
SRES Principal Amy Linkel says South Ripley staff also takes care of their needy children in a similar way, collecting items for children in the corporation.
Milan programs
In Milan, the schools work with the The Milan Council of Churches and Community Emergency Relief to take care of children or families who either go to Milan schools or live in the area. Last year about 100 families received $60 worth of clothing and toys or gift cards for each needy child. The community either donates money or items or will adopt a family. “It’s amazing how much our community is involved. Every year different groups step up to help out,” Donna Barton, one of the organizers said, mentioning a motorcycle group, 4-H, scouts, school clubs and more. “The community is just unbelievable!” If anyone wants to donate they can call her at 812-654-3383 and leave a message, or call her at 621-3679. On this Thanksgiving holiday, it’s something to be thankful for that the county takes care of their own!

It’s the people I’ll miss

Mary Mattingly

Mary Mattingly“It’s the people. That’s what I’ll miss most.” That’s the common reply from the many people in Ripley County and elsewhere over the years whom I have interviewed about their pending retirement on what they’ll miss most from the work. I’m going to find out how true that statement is after I close my laptop, chuck my reporter’s notebook and walk away from the newspaper office on Washington Street after three and a half years. Although I was not looking for one, a unique opportunity developed which I accepted with Safe Passage, a domestic violence prevention services and shelter serving much of southeast Indiana.

It’s hard to leave this group of nine co-workers who I often see more than my family. The staff at Ripley Publishing Inc. are good people, who enjoy a good laugh or prank but will go the extra length to produce a quality product twice a week so people know what’s happening in their community. All of the staff have been here longer than I; several have been here 20 years or more. You may not realize this but Ripley Publishing is Ripley County’s oldest business and it continues to thrive. While there are numerous sources of national, state and world events (online or on air) where else are you going to read about your former classmate’s anniversary, see your child’s name in print on the honor roll or in a photo on the sports page? How else are you going to know about local utility hikes or a new policy from the school board?

I’m proud to have been a part of this organization. As editor, I’ve tried to keep your interest with stories about you and the people you know…your grandson saving a life, the young high school graduate suffering from a paralyzing traffic accident, the businessman who learned to read at age 57 or the artist with work in the Louvre. I’ve been inspired by the woman who forgave her husband for shooting her and the neighbors who generously raised money for the toddler with brain cancer.

I recently addressed my son’s class about writing and reporting. He teaches English to 7th and 8th graders in Greenwood. One student asked me how I got into journalism. I told them that in college I wrote a feature story about my special needs brother, after interviewing my mother who went into special education as a result, and my father who employed a good number of such adults in business. I wrote about how no one wanted to play with my brother, and how it made him feel. The professor read the article aloud and my classmates wiped away tears when she finished. I made them feel with words…and I changed my major that day to journalism. That’s what I’ve tried to do in the stories I have covered. In addition to meeting the primary purpose of a newspaper, which is to inform, I’ve tried to make you feel, to laugh or cry, or better, inspire you to action. Although in a different capacity, I will try to do the same in this new job at Safe Passage, a place for victims to start their life story over.

Thank you for sharing your stories with me. I’ve learned so much working in the southern part of the county. For example, that it is the Versailles Pumpkin Show not the Pumpkin Festival, the Tyson Fund, not Tyson Grant, and the difference between a bull and a steer. Thank you to Ed Armbrecht and Bill Wagner for explaining the county council finance business, and the sheriff who answers my calls even while he’s on vacation.

Although I had years of reporting experience prior to this job, one beat I had not covered much was the courts and police. I’ve learned the difference between bond and bail, levels of felonies and misdemeanors. I’ve also read some pretty chilling affidavits that I hope to forget. And, while I believe people here respect and trust our police, I have first-hand appreciation of the dangers they go through. The other thing I will walk away with is how people take care of each other here; the Legions, Lions, Kiwanis and sororities all do so many amazing things to help their local families and make Ripley County a better place.

I’m relieved to leave the editor position in such good hands: Wanda Burnett is returning as editor. I would have had a much harder time to be accepted as the new editor/reporter had it not been for Wanda creating a culture of respect and trust in her 15 years as the previous editor here. I also want to thank Linda Chandler, the longtime publisher here. She has given me free rein, and reeled me in a time or two as necessary, when reporting your news. I have the utmost respect for her as publisher, but moreover, as a person. She is a wise leader of the newspaper and caring part of the community.

Fortunately, I’m not going far, and will remain living in Batesville. I will of course stop in the area frequently, to visit former co-workers and check in on the many people I have come to know. But yep, those people I have interviewed are right, it’s not so much the job, but the people I’m going to miss.

Local Bulletin Board


Polar Plunge seeks sponsors
Special Olympics Indiana’s largest signature fundraising event, the Polar Plunge, has raised more than $3 million dollars since its inception in 2000.
The 18 Polar Plunges around the state feature 2,900 plungers braving the icy cold waters in Indiana, as they fundraiser to support athletes with intellectual disabilities. Over 5,000 spectators and volunteers watch as both individuals and teams in costumes jump in freezing water to participate in this incredible team-building, bucket-list challenge. Sponsorship opportunities for the Polar Plunge are available for companies that want to partner with Special Olympics Indiana. Contact Greg Townsend at 812-584-6861 or by email at, or visit to download a sponsorship form.

Santa’s coming to Versailles
Versailles residents and guests can come visit with Santa on the Square on Saturday, Dec. 3. Santa arrives at 10 a.m. and there will be free pictures taken with Santa in the Lions building and hot chocolate served. There will also be goodie bags for the kids. A Live Nativity scene will be sponsored by the South Ripley Ministerial Association. There will also be caroling by local school groups at 10:30 a.m. The programs are sponsored by the Main Street Versailles group.

Public meeting for NMLRA
The National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association (NMLRA) will be hosting a public meeting Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. in the NMLRA Education Building. This meeting is to discuss upgrades to the Walter Cline Range in connection to a Pittman-Robertson Federal grant request.

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