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News in Brief – 12/20/09

Organization to give out free turkeys to needy

IRONTON — A Columbus based organization is aiming to make Christmas a bit more festive for some needy residents.

Grandma’s Gifts, in conjunction with the national organization, Americans Helping Americans, will give out 200 free turkeys from 2:30-5:50 p.m. Monday at the Liebert Corporation, 3040 S. Ninth St.

Emily Douglas, the founder of Grandma’s Gifts, said she received 1,500 free turkeys this year. Of that 1,500, vouchers for 800 went to area school children to take home to their families. Another 500 turkeys were given to area social service organizations. The remaining ones will be handed out at Liebert.

Tri-State Airport marks 100,000th passenger in 2009

Huntington, W.Va. — Huntington Tri-State Airport celebrated the boarding of its 100,000th passenger by surprising an Ironton woman after she checked in for her flight.

The last time the airport had 100,000 or more passengers in a single year, was 20 years ago in 1989.

Shanna Kelly was recognized as the “One Hundred Thousandth Passenger” by Airport Director Jerry Brienza, prior to her boarding Allegiant Air flight #738 to Orlando. She and her two children were flying to Florida to visit family.

Kelly was presented with gifts, including new luggage, travel items, gift certificates, a gift basket and a pen, which an airport employee handcrafted from a locust tree that had been removed from airport grounds to make room for an extra parking lot.

“This is a great day for our airport,” Brienza said. “We certainly thank the one hundred thousand passengers that made this day possible and for making Tri-State Airport their airport of choice.”

The airport has been steadily adding passengers since November 2006, when Allegiant Air began service to Orlando-Sanford. The airline has since added service to St. Petersburg/Clearwater, Ft. Lauderdale and Myrtle Beach.

Huntington Tri-State Airport enplaned more than 85,000 passengers in 2008, which was a 33 percent increase over the previous year. “By year-end, we’re hoping to have exceeded the 1989 passenger boardings (101,577) and maybe even the 1988 total, which was 103,280,” Brienza said.

United Way extends fundraiser campaign

Huntington, W.Va. — The United Way Board of Directors voted to extend the 2009 United Way annual fundraising campaign until Jan. 31. To date, the campaign has raised approximately $605,254 or 43.2 percent of its $1.4 million goal for 2009. In order to raise the necessary funds, officials decided to extend the campaign.

United Way is hopeful that this extension will give organizations that were busy during the holiday season an opportunity to run their internal workplace campaigns; individuals a chance to look at what they have already given and determine if they can help a bit more; and give others more time to contribute.

Chapman Printing cited for violations

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — Federal regulators are proposing $158,400 in penalties against Chapman Printing Co. for citations alleging workplace safety and health violations.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Chapman for 19 violations following an investigation that began in June.

The U.S. Department of Labor says the violations include failure to provide adequate energy control procedures, a lack of machine guarding, failure to provide personal protective equipment for employees and inadequate recordkeeping.

Chapman President Tony Adkins declined to comment Friday on the citations.

Huntington-based Chapman provides printing services, office supplies, promotional products and office furniture.

Ky. farmers look to switchgrass as biofuel source

ASHLAND, Ky. (AP) – Two Boyd County farmers look at switchgrass and see the color green – the money they believe they can make by converting the crop into fuel for electric power.

The Ashland Daily Independent reports Glen Young and Danny Blevins are in the second year of a pilot project to grow the native prairie species and sell it as a biofuel that could be a more environmentally friendly alternative to coal, or at least a supplement.

“That’s the age-old question for a farmer: Is it practical?” said Blevins, a retired teacher, environmentalist and conservationist who grows the grass on his family farm in Boyd County. “Can you make a profit? I think you can.”

Among the most dominant grasses in the prairies that once covered the central plains, switchgrass is a perennial that grows to around six feet and can be harvested once or more per year for 10 years. It can survive extreme temperature swings and drought better than most traditional crops.

The farmers realize there are plenty of challenges that loom to allow them to turn a profit through their project. One advantage, Young says, is no special equipment is needed to grow or harvest it. He plants it with the same no-till drill he uses for grain, soybeans and other grasses and maintains it with the sprayers and harvesters found in his barn.

Even on marginal land, the grass has proven reliable. Even through dryness last year and excessive rainfall this year, Blevins said his crop stood six feet high and virtually free of weeds for the first cutting.

Young and Blevins are among 20 farmers who are growing five-acre plots of the grass under a University of Kentucky test project. They received a subsidy to grow it, and UK takes the crop to the East Kentucky Power Cooperative’s Spurlock Station coal-burning power plant near Maysville, where it is mixed with coal to test its value as a fuel.

The project’s first year in 2007 showed some significant promise, said Ray Smith, an assistant professor and forage specialist in the UK College of Agriculture.

SSU’s foundation awarded $26K grant

PORTSMOUTH — The Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation has awarded the Shawnee State University Development Foundation $26,900 to help fund a program called “Bringing Health to You! Reducing Heart Disease and Diabetes in Rural Appalachia.”

The Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation receives hundreds of applications from 14 states each year for the grants offered.

“The funds will be used to further meet the mission of the Mobile Health Unit effort bringing health education and screening to places in our area where people congregate,” said Mattie Burton, associate dean of Health Science and associate professor and chair of Nursing at SSU. “It will also help faculty provide clinical training to nursing students.”

The purpose of the grant is to provide preventive action services, tests, screenings and education for health improvement to adult participants with unknown diabetes and cardiovascular disease, individuals who have the disease, and individuals with modifiable risk factors for developing the disease.

“Heart disease and diabetes are endemic conditions that threaten the health and welfare of many or our neighbors and these funds will help us have an impact on the effects of chronic disease in our area,” Burton said.

According to a study in 2001 by the Ohio Department of Health, 23 percent of Southwest Ohio residents are obese.

Within the one-year grant period, it is hoped that 1,470 people throughout Appalachian Ohio and Kentucky will move from clinically overweight to clinically healthy.

Proctorville nativity set for this week

PROCTORVILLE — Several Rome and Proctorville-area church congregations are ready to come together to put on a live Christmas nativity.

The show will go on in spite of the snow.

Sponsored by the Finley United Methodist Church, Proctorville, members will present a live Nativity on Tuesday and Wednesday, beginning at 7 p.m.

“Tell Me the Story of Jesus,” an outdoor dramatic performance will take place in the downtown area of the Village of Proctorville at the corner of State and Thomas streets.

The Rome Ministerial Choir will join the characters singing traditional Christmas carols and songs from their Christmas Cantata.

Marsha Imhoff is the coordinator of the live Nativity. The setting is Bethlehem of Judea over 2,000 years ago. A cast of more than 50 men, women and children will perform. Angels, live instrumental performances and a custom built stable will be the highlights.

The church first performed this Nativity in 1998. Since that time, the church has performed it every other year, only once in the Village. The public is invited to this free family event. Hot chocolate/refreshments will be served by members of the Teresa Chapter of the Order of Eastern Star Lodge.

For more information, call Marsha Imhoff at 740-886-1061.

Marshall student uses Perdue case to bolster claim

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — A hearing-impaired nursing student is trying to bolster her discrimination claim against Marshall University by drawing comparisons between her situation and that of state Treasurer John Perdue’s daughter.

Alexandra Bertolotti said she would have received a passing grade in a nursing class last spring if she had been afforded the same assistance as the university provided Emily Perdue, according to an amended complaint filed Oct. 6 in U.S. District Court in Huntington.

Bertolotti claims associate professor Sandra Prunty did not made reasonable accommodations for her. Instead, she says Prunty was hostile and demeaning toward her and questioned her ability to be a good nurse with a hearing problem. She also claims the university’s grading system and appeal procedures are obsolete.

Bertolotti earned a 74.41 grade in the nursing class, which falls between the D range of 65-74 and the C range of 75-84.

It was up to Prunty, referred to in the lawsuit as “a spiteful, mean-spirited person who harassed and intimidate plaintiff throughout the term” to make the call as to whether Bertolotti should receive a passing grade of C or a D.

Prunty and the university deny they discriminated against Bertolotti and said she was afforded special accommodations in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. In its Dec. 11 response to the amended complaint, Marshall also dismisses Bertolotti’s attempt to tie her case to Perdue, saying she relies on hearsay to draw the conclusion that Perdue received special consideration because of political influence.

“Such an event, even if true, makes it no more or less likely that plaintiff was the victim of disability discrimination or retaliation. It is simply not probative on any issue before the court,” Marshall and Prunty say in their response.

A federal grand jury is reviewing Perdue’s situation after she was allowed to finish course work for two independent study courses without the professor’s permission. Perdue’s grades were changed to A’s in both classes after a university dean became involved.

Perdue’s situation comes two years after West Virginia University became embroiled in a master’s degree scandal involving Gov. Joe Manchin’s daughter. Former WVU President Mike Garrison resigned and former Provost Gerald Lang gave up his administrative post after investigators found that Mylan Inc. executive Heather Bresch was wrongly awarded a retroactive degree.

Bertolotti is seeking $2 million in damages and unspecified punitive damages from Marshall. She also wants the court to order the university to assign someone to work with her to improve her grade in Nursing 319 to a C or better so she can continue work toward earning a nursing degree.

Service news

Army Reserve Maj. James Hollingsworth has returned to the U.S. after being deployed overseas at a forward operating base in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Operation Enduring Freedom is the official name given to anti-terrorism military operations involving U.S. troops and allied coalition partners.

Active duty and reserve component members from all branches of the U.S. armed forces have been deployed to support the war against global terrorism outside the borders of the United States. U.S. troops serve in South, Southwest and Central Asia, the Arabian peninsula, the Horn of Africa, islands in the Pacific, and Europe.

Hollingsworth, a field artillery officer, is a member of the 351st Civil Affairs Command, Mountain View, Calif. He has served in the military for 32 years.

The major graduated in 1974 from Symmes Valley High School and received a bachelor’s degree in 1987 from Cameron University, Lawton, Okla. He earned a master’s degree in 1996 from the University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma City.