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MCS proposes using 'idle funds' for $1.3 million project

Renovation plans are continuing at Marion Community Schools (MCS), as officials announced a $1.3 million project at the regular board meeting Tuesday.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Affairs and Chief Financial Officer Bob Schultz said the project would replace the HVAC systems in building six at Marion High School, which houses the auditorium and fine arts classes, and do similar HVAC and infrastructure work at Allen Elementary School.

Schultz said that the system in the high school was supposed to be replaced years ago.

“We’re anxious to get these things taken care of because most of this equipment has reached the end of its life,” he said.

The project, dubbed Construction Project 2B, falls in line with two other projects totaling approximately $10 million that MCS is currently pursuing, like equipping buildings with LED lights and updating heating and ventilation systems throughout the corporation, according to Schultz.

Schultz said the latest project has been separated from the other two ongoing projects because the corporation will be using money from “idle funds” to finance it, rather than selling bonds, which involves different legal procedures.

He said this prevents the corporation from going into debt for this particular project.

Schultz said the other two projects will create a tax rate increase of up to $31.81 for every $100,000 of home valuation, although the rate could increase by less depending on property tax caps.

As for the idle funds, Schultz said an audit revealed that a number of funds had gone unused for five years or more.

He said the largest fund was from a 2013 settlement of a federal securities fraud lawsuit involving the Indiana State Teachers Association.

According to Schultz, the other funds were significantly smaller.

While he’s unsure why these funds went untouched for so long – the funds have been idle since before he took the position – Schultz said the corporation has not had the opportunity to use the funds until now because there haven’t been any major projects in recent years.

Schultz said officials plan to start the project this summer, wrapping up in the fall.

“The nice part about this is that we don’t have to disrupt the education process,” he said, explaining the work could be done during nights and weekends when school is back in session.

Like the other two projects, this endeavor would give the buildings more energy-efficient equipment, which Schultz said can save money in the long run.

Schultz said that while maintenance staff have done an exceptional job at keeping current equipment up and running, it’s high time the corporation purchased new equipment.

“Marion has old buildings,” Schultz said. “Justice, the youngest building, turned 50 years old in 2019.”

Schultz said the savings from the new appliances could prevent the corporation from having to transfer money from the education fund to the operation fund, which would mean they have more money to spend on their teachers.

Ash Wednesday services begin Lenten season

While churches across Grant County began observing Lent yesterday, Ash Wednesday, many of them practice a bit differently from one another.

Pierce Church in Upland, St. Paul Catholic Parish in Marion and Gethsemane Episcopal Church in Marion each held Ash Wednesday services yesterday.

“Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent, 40 days of fasting, preparing for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, Easter,” said Father Christopher Roberts of St. Paul. “We engage in acts of prayer, extra prayer, giving to the poor and fasting, or obtaining from something that is a legitimate pleasure.”

During each of these services, church leaders placed ashes on the foreheads of the members of the church.

“Ashes are a sign throughout the Bible of repentance,” Roberts said. “It is a recognition that all of us are going to die and return to dust. It’s also a way to contemplate our mortality and how we are living in this life to prepare ourselves for the next.”

The service at Pierce Church consisted of poetry, music, painting and lots of silence for reflection.

“(Ash Wednesday) is the intentional time set apart to become aware of our humanity and the ways that we are separated from God,” said Hope Brown, the church’s director of connections and the service organizer. “(We) meditate on those things, but not just just for the fact of meditating on how sinful we are, but to make us aware of our need for God.”

Gethsemane held two Ash Wednesday services, which included traditional Episcopal liturgy, communion and the installation of ashes.

“I like to think of (Lent) as something that we’re doing together,” said Rev. Mindy Hancock, the priest at Gethsemane. “There can be a little bit of an unhealthy overthinking about things, like ‘What do I give up?’ or ‘Am I doing it right?’ or ‘I’m so sinful.’ In order to counter that, I like to think of Lent as something we do together.”

Gethsemane will practice fasting together, as well as breaking their fast together each Sunday of Lent.

“Something we do together is break the fast on Sundays of Lent because those are always a remembrance of the resurrection of Jesus and a celebration,” Hancock said.

Together, the church will also study “$2 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America” and attend the author lecture at Indiana Wesleyan University in March.

The Episcopal Church is especially focused on matters of social justice, Hancock said, which is reflected in its Lent practices.

“Lent is an especially appropriate time to really turn our attention to suffering and oppression all over the world,” Hancock said. “(We) try to make the connection between our own fasts, prayers and giving with that larger picture of suffering and oppression in the world.”

St. Paul is the only Catholic parish in Grant County, Roberts said, and therefore the only local church that practices the traditional Catholic sacrament of reconciliation, or confession, during Lent.

“That’s something that I’m encouraging all of my parishioners to do during Lent,” Roberts said. “It’s something that ought to be regular, but is encouraged during Lent.”

Traditionally, Catholics obtain from eating meat during Lent, but Roberts said the most common thing to fast is desserts and alcoholic beverages.

“We do these spiritual exercises, not just to see how long we can give up sweets, but do things that can help us change our life and align it more with Jesus,” he said.

Brown approaches fasting from the perspective of a licensed counselor.

“Fasting is not for everyone. It can be really disordered,” Brown said. “We have to pay attention to (the act of fasting) because of eating disorders.”

Pierce Church encourages healthy fasting, such as giving up social media, but does not focus on rigorous restrictive practices.

“(Fasting can be) giving up something like social media, something that can really fill our time and keep us from connecting with God because we are so busy connecting with other people,” Brown said. “I definitely am not against those who God leads to give up certain foods, but a lot of us would do well to fast social media or TV or engage in a new spiritual practice and not just abstaining from things.”

A common misconception about Lent, according to Brown, is that Protestant religions do not participate in Lent because it is a Catholic tradition.

“People can think of Lent as just a bunch of rules and regulations, and they give up things without adding the meditative part,” Brown said. “It’s not just about giving up something. It’s about turning our hearts towards God and the cross and eventually to Easter.”

Members of Pierce Church are creating reflections for each day in the season of Lent, which will be posted on their social media. The reflections will include poetry and art based on the assigned daily scriptures.

The season of Lent can often cause people to feel guilty, according to Hancock.

“As we open our eyes to suffering and oppression in the world, there is naturally a sense of sadness and, to some extent, guilt,” Hancock said. “When we talk about guilt, there has to be a small room left for healthy guilt that is motivating for us to change and make the world better. I don’t really reserve a place in my own spirituality for that personal guilt that can be so paralyzing and not life-affirming and humanity affirming.”

MCT's Young Actors with a Cause present 'The Miracle Worker'

The Marion Civic Theatre Young Actors with a Cause are bringing a familiar story to life this weekend.

Written by William Gibson in 1959, “The Miracle Worker” tells the story of Annie Sullivan and her student, blind and mute Helen Keller.

Annie Sullivan works tirelessly to teach young Helen Keller how to communicate, until she finally utters the word “water.”

“I really love Helen Keller,” said Brandon Dubois, the director of the show. “She beat every obstacle that she came across.”

Dubois is a 2016 graduate of Oak Hill. He works with adults with disabilities in Anderson at the Hopewell Center and also participates in productions at Anderson’s Mainstage Theatre.

Dubois said he chose this play because it is educational and historical.

“On top of Helen, Annie Sullivan is such an inspiration. She never gave up even when the Kellers told her to sit back when they got Helen to be quiet, which is all the Kellers really wanted. Annie was like, ‘No, this girl can learn.’”

The show is full of movement, mostly Helen’s violent tantrums.

The actress playing Helen is 9-year-old Zoe Ratliff.

“She’s a dancer and so we thought it would be like learning choreography. All of the moves would be by memorization,” Dubois said.

Zoe said playing Helen has been “a little bit” hard, but the tantrums were the most difficult for her.

Zoe said her favorite part is throwing food at her sister Madison, who plays Annie Sullivan.

“There’s a lot of action,” Madison said. “It’s very fun, especially working in a play when (Zoe and I) are this close.”

Sidney James, the student director, said there are a lot of silent pauses when the actors communicate in sign language.

“There’s going to be a lot of awkward pauses but you have to roll with it,” James said.

The sign language was taught by the assistant director Steven Hartzell and is accurate sign language.

Zoe said the show has taught her that people don’t always get what they want, and that it is hard to be blind and deaf.

“I hope people learn to never give up,” Dubois said. “Once there’s an obstacle in our way, everyone tells us to give up, but persevere.”

Madison said the show has taught her that miracles are possible.

“Annie Sullivan taught a child that nobody thought could be taught,” Madison said. “It was a miracle.”

Performances of “The Miracle Worker” will be tonight, tomorrow and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased online for $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and students. Ticket prices increase by $1 at the door.

The Young Actors with a Cause are partnering with Marion Animal Care and Control (MACC) to collect needed supplies for the shelter.

Any person to donate an item from the shelter’s wish list or make a monetary donation will receive $2 off of their ticket.

Anyone who adopts a pet from MACC will be able to see the show for free.

Zoe said she thinks it is cool that the show will help the animals in the shelter. She said her favorite animal is a dragon, and she quipped that the audience should bring food for the dragons at the shelter.

Local DAR hopes to grow chapter in 110th year

Marion women have been honoring their ancestors through Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) for 110 years.

Marion Regent Ruthann Sumpter, an eight-year member, said the General Francis Marion chapter has continued the same mission to help veterans of today and yesterday through volunteer work and education initiatives. Today the chapter has 60 members, with about 30 members who are very active.

Like many women, Sue Suever, a member since 1977, has stayed involved over the years because of her passion for America, veterans and enjoyment of fellowship with the group.

Suever said the many time-tested traditions like throwing parties for veterans, volunteering at the local Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center, working with JROTC, making care packages, going to parades, laying wreaths at cemeteries, giving out scarves in the winter and more are still going strong.

To take the organization into the future, members are now hoping to expand into new territory and attract younger faces.

“We have been around for 110 years and it amazes me how few people know about us,” Sumpter said. “That’s part of my goal as regent – to get our name out there.”

The newest member of the Marion chapter, Kaity Jackson, 27, also has the distinction of being the millionth woman to join since the national chapter was founded in 1890.

Jackson is the youngest member of the Marion chapter by several decades. She was attracted to DAR by the opportunity to serve her country and community in diverse ways. The national DAR website describes daughters as “vibrant, active women who are passionate about community service, preserving history, educating children, as well as honoring and supporting those who serve our nation.”

Jackson is working to convince her sister to join and hopes to attract even more members in their 20s and 30s. Though going to DAR meetings might seem like a bore to some young people, she said the meetings are exciting in that they help the chapter plan their work in the community.

“I totally get that it can seem boring, like a slog,” Jackson said. “There is a certain tenacity to handle that [meetings], but those lead to possibilities of getting ourselves out in the community, helping others and educating others about things they might not otherwise know.”

The chapter currently lacks a website of its own and social media channels, but Jackson hopes to establish those in the next year to start outreach to younger members. Though many people may think of DAR as exclusively women of a certain age, she hopes to make that perception go away and make it more accessible to any woman.

“The sides of my head are shaved and I am covered in tattoos. I’m the last person you would expect to see there,” Jackson said. “But I’m here because I feel that I have to be.”

Some new initiatives the local DAR chapter is considering is more education for young people, such as speaking to classes and youth groups about the constitution. As Jackson puts it, “teach them about the fire that our founding fathers had in their hearts and souls.”

To join the DAR, women have to provide documentation they are descended from someone with a connection to the Revolutionary War, such as a solider, drummer boy or a woman who volunteered to bandage the wounded.

For example, Jackson dug through mountains of books and online public records to prove her connection to an ancestor who was a Revolutionary War soldier. Her research turned up as many as 28 potential connections to the war.

“It was amazing to learn so much about my history,” Jackson said. “For some members it is as simple as showing their birth certificate since their mother is a member.”

For women who want to join but need help with genealogy, the DAR and Marion Public Library’s genealogy department can assist.

“I want to make it clear that while genealogy is hard, we have plenty of people to get you in on the addiction,” Jackson said.

Other than having a Revolutionary War ancestor, the only other requirements to join the local chapter are having a tie to Marion or Grant County and being a woman 18 years or older.

Their official 110th anniversary date was Feb. 22, but the Marion chapter will celebrate this Saturday at their monthly meeting. The birthday party starts at 1:45 p.m. in Meeting Room A at the Marion Public Library. Their regular meeting starts at 2 p.m.