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Pella Church donates $1,500 to local Food Bank

Pella Lutheran Church of Sidney donated $1,500 to Richland County Food Bank on June 9. Pella Pastor Audrey Rydbom presented the check to an RC Food Bank representative at the church on Tuesday afternoon.

Vanessa Pooch (pronounced Poke) accepted the check on RC Food Bank’s behalf.

“It’s probably going to go for beans, rice, milk,” said Pooch, RC Food Bank’s treasurer. She emphasized the non-profit organization in Sidney gives those in need a lot of boxed milk.

“And we purchase meat from local grocery stores,” Pooch said. “Those are all the things we really need right now.”

The $1,500 was received as a grant from the Lutheran Disaster Relief Response for COVID-19, Pastor Rydbom explained. The church learned about the money through the Montana Synod, she said. A representative from the Development group within the synod contacted Rydbom to discuss what they might do with the money.

“Given the current events of COVID-19, it seems appropriate to assist those in our own communities who require assistance due to the pandemic,” Rydbom declared in a written statement. “Each Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran church was able to apply for grants to specifically meet the needs of our local communities.”

Pella Church accepts food donations as a drop-off center for the RC Food Bank. It seemed like a natural choice to donate the $1,500 check as well, Rydbom conveyed.

In addition to the $1,500 donation to Richland County Food Bank, Pella is shipping more than 200 handmade quilts around the world through the Lutheran World Relief center in Glendive.

“We will bless these quilts on Sunday and then we’ll get them ready to ship them out,” said Rydbom.

Before they do, a handful of graduating seniors who attend Pella will be asked to select a quilt to take with them as they head to college for their fall semester. All eight of the students were confirmed at Pella Lutheran Church in Sidney, Rydbom said, noting each student has already picked out their favorite quilt.

The women who made the blankets meet every week at the church. They work together until noon, when they break for lunch — sometimes, pizza!

“All of these quilts are made by a group of women who meet on Tuesday morning,” said Rydbom, noting restrictions put in place during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic prevented the women from meeting at Pella Church.

“COVID-19 about killed them,” Rydbom said, referring to the fact the women were unable to meet, socialize and quilt together.

“They needed to get back,” she said, nodding her chin like a pastor who cares deeply about her flock.

Standing inside the silent sanctuary, Rydbom acknowledged the restrictions implemented by the state under COVID-19 were difficult to endure. Although Phase 2 has allowed the church to meet as a congregation once again, they are still limited to about 50 people each week.

Rydbom said social media has helped; but it’s not the same, especially for a church with a congregation that reportedly exceeds 500 “members.”

“Now, we are gathering through social media,” Pastor Rydbom said. “We’re gathering through technology, but we’re still missing that personal relationship. That’s hard. I can’t be with people.”

Social distancing may be necessary to limit the spread of the coronavirus, but it makes it challenging for churches like Pella to function.

“It’s difficult to share space with one another,” Rydbom acknowledged. “Studying scripture...so we can be the people that Jesus is calling us to be. You do that in relationships. God is all about relationships — sharing the faith and supporting one another.”

Rydbom said prior to COVID-19, she typically saw 100 to 125 people attending worship every Sunday. With the Phase 2 “reopening” of Montana, the church is allowed to have up to 50 people gather at one time.

“Since we opened back up, the lowest we had was 47,” Rydbom said.

This Sunday, as the church blesses more than 200 handmade quilts, it seems strange to think there will be more blankets at church than people.

Pastor Rydbom seemed to take it in stride.

“Jesus said, ‘Wherever two or more are gathered in my name, I am with them,’” she stated softly, adding, “The power of prayer is everything.”

Sidney Public Schools board addresses reopening facilities

With Montana in phase two of the COVID-19 response, Sidney Public Schools (SPS) board members came up with an updated strategy for school facilities at a board meeting on Monday, June 8.

The goal is to get as many students back in school as quickly as possible under the Big Sky reopening plan, said outgoing Sidney Public Schools Superintendent Monte Silk.

“As we have transitioned into phase two, as of Monday, June 1, 2020, we’re looking at wanting to have some groups to be able to attend school as soon as possible this month before July 1,” Silk said. “We also have certain parts of the facilities that we want to open.”

Those facilities include the playground at Central School for the Boys and Girls Club, the high school weight room and gym, high school track and football field.

However, these are not for community use. They are just for students.

“You would have 30 individuals per session with 15 kids in the weight room and 15 kids in the multi-purpose room,” said Sidney High School Principal Brent Sukut. “They would have to bring water bottles, as we have turned off all drinking fountains, and they can’t use the locker rooms.”

Sukut continued: “We would use those new UV cleaners and put them in the weight room immediately after every use.”

Sukut is the next SPS superintendent, due to Silk’s retirement. Carl Dynneson, currently Sidney High School assistant principal, is taking over as principal beginning July 1. He concurred with Sukut, while emphasizing that all guidelines need to be followed.

“It’s just about making sure we follow the MHSA guidelines that were passed down,” Dynneson said. “We want to make sure we have a check-in sheet; answering the survey questions and taking temperatures is a necessity.”

Dynneson noted that recommended non-contact thermometers have been ordered and will be used going forward.

“I think the goal is to get back to a sense of normalcy for our kids,” Sidney High School physical education teacher Daniel Coryell said. “Most schools in our region and our conference have already opened and seem to be doing well with keeping their kids safe, which is our goal as well.”

Coryell will be taking over as Assistant Principal for the upcoming 2020–2021 school year.

The playground will be locked and not open to the public. Opening the outdoor facilities will happen first, specifically the Central School Playground for the Boys and Girls Club only.

“As of now, according to our board policy, we can’t open indoor facilities at the moment,” SPS Chairman Ben Thogersen said. “My feeling on it right now, according to our policy, we can’t open the buildings. I have no problem opening the track, the playground for the Boys and Girls Club, as long as it’s limited access and the practice field for football.”

Until the policy is amended at a later date and more discussions take place, according to Thogersen, only outdoor facilities will open on school property.

Do face masks make conversations more difficult?

If someone were to tell you that wearing a mask negatively affects your ability to hear, you would probably give them the “Are you serious” look.

In fact, masks are shown to negatively impact our natural ability to read lips and use visual cues to aid in hearing. With the threat of COVID-19 around every corner, however, wearing a mask is essential to many people.

How do we accommodate the necessity of wearing protective face masks during the coronavirus pandemic without making it more difficult to hear each other? This question is especially applicable to people over the age of 50.

Age is the strongest predictor of hearing loss among adults; 91% of adults with hearing loss are aged 50 and older. Adult men in their 50s are three times more likely to have hearing loss than women of the same age. As they age, however, hearing loss rates become similar among both sexes.

As of November 2019, Johns Hopkins Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health estimated 38.2 million Americans, or 14% of the total population, have some degree of hearing loss.

Listening Fatigue

Trinity Health Clinic Audiologist Tricia Nechodom stated: “Hearing loss creates what we call listening fatigue, and our brains use a lot of our mental energy in the day working at listening and understanding. Lip reading cues help fill in the gaps in speech and help our brains hear. The ‘f’ sound, for example, has a very distinct visual cue that makes it different from the ‘k’ or the ‘s.’ ‘Kit’ looks different than ‘fit’ looks different than ‘sit’” and this helps all of us, but especially people with hearing loss, piece together speech information.”

Nechodom continued: “Masks not only reduce access to visual cues, but they also muffle and distort speech information and further degrade the volume of the person’s voice they are trying to hear. Some masks create more of a ‘barrier’ than others and muffle speech more.”

Nadine Hagen, Speech Therapy manager at Trinity Health, advised: “Visual supports are needed to improve comprehension of messages. We have had issues when assessing a patient’s cognitive or language skills being affected by the mask in place. This has skewed results negatively. The patient likely misses important information throughout the day and could appear to be confused as a result. This also affects a patient’s safety due to missing important recommendations following evaluations and treatments throughout the medical visit.”

Social Distancing

Nechodom said, “Our best ‘listening bubble’ for talking with people with hearing loss is about three to five feet. Speech information gets quieter over a distance, so the farther we are away, the softer the message is and the harder it is to understand clearly.

“Even by being another foot away,” Nechodom continued, “crucial speech information is lost. And then to add in masks makes it even more challenging by taking away the visual information. This is true for speech overall, and down to the phonemic level. The softer, higher-pitched sounds like ‘s,’ ‘th,’ etcetera, are quieter sounds that are more easily lost by being farther away.”

Nechodom added: “Distance and masks affect not only people with hearing loss, but patients with overall pretty good hearing may find themselves struggling more to hear clearly.”

Self Advocate

If you are having problems hearing a person who is wearing a face mask, make them aware. Ask them to speak slowly and to repeat what they said. Be sure to face the person so their voice is projecting toward you.

“Do not pretend you understood something when you did not,” Nechodom said.

If you are in the presence of someone who is having difficulty hearing you, be cognizant of how they react. Then, adjust your speaking accordingly. Slow down your speech, pause and articulate your words carefully.

“Observe the signs of the person you are speaking with and be aware of how they are ‘listening’ to you,” said Hagen. “Monitor your pitch, volume and rate of speech. Use visual supports when able.”

Suggested visual supports include pointing to the object or direction, and using gestures.

“Do not yell!” said Nechodom. “Get as close to the person as safely as possible to negate the effect of distance.”

Help for Impaired

There are various types of masks and technology available to help those with hearing loss. Some face masks have clear shields in front of the lips to allow access to visual cues. These are a good option if you’re around a friend or family member who has difficulty hearing.

“There are many devices available to increase the volume of speech for listeners who are having difficulty hearing and understanding,” Nechodom said. “One example of a low-cost, over-the-counter device is a Pocket Talker. The person who has difficulty hearing uses a set of headphones attached to a small box where they can control the volume of the sound in the headphones. They give a small microphone to the person they are talking to. Some of these microphone cords are 6 feet or longer, which allow for good social distancing. Some of the systems are even wireless, so there are no cords to worry about.”

Other high-tech devices, such as Roger systems or companion microphone accessories to hearing aids, work in the same way, Nechodom said. However, the devices employ background noise reduction technology or increased amplification of the signal to the person’s hearing aids.

Some apps can turn smartphones into microphones, capable of transmitting an amplified signal to headphones that are plugged into the smartphone.

“I am happy to help provide guidance to anyone in need,” said Nechodom.

Privacy Matters

Be careful using smartphone apps for listening devices. It is illegal in most states, including Montana, to record a conversation without the expressed consent of the person being recorded. People who use their smartphones to amplify sound should check to make sure they are not recording their conversations illegally. –Editor

Lambert standout named to University of Central Oklahoma Honor Roll

Lambert resident Autumn Noel Rehbein has been named to the Dean’s Honor Roll for the spring 2020 semester, a distinction given to those who achieve the university’s highest academic standards.

To be included on the Dean’s Honor Roll, a student must record a 3.5 grade point average or better for the semester and no grade lower than a B for their work in qualifying classes.

To be eligible for the President’s or Dean’s lists, students must complete at least 12 hours of on-campus class credit for the semester.

The university prides itself on preparing future leaders with an opportunity-rich environment. Founded in 1890, Central Oklahoma connects its nearly 15,000 students to 122 undergraduate areas of study and 78 graduate majors from its main campus in Edmond and facilities throughout the metro area.

For more information about UCO, visit www.uco.edu.

Fairview City Council meeting updates

A variety of topics were discussed during the Fairview City Council meeting on Wednesday, June 10. The most relevant are ongoing infrastructure improvements in the town. But the subject on everyone’s minds seems to be the upcoming Fairview Old Timers Festival.

“With the phase one water project, they’re trying to install a curb right now,” said Interstate Engineering Staff Engineer Ryan Kopp. “Every curb that looks bad, they’re taking out, and it’ll be nice when it’s done.

“The other thing we have going on is Western Avenue, which they’re currently digging away at,” Kopp continued. “The curb is going to take a while, but they’re trying to get the road down to grade. I’m not sure when they’re going to be done, but it looks like they’re coming around pretty well.”

Kopp acknowledged all the sewer main issues. He noted repairs are mostly complete, with the exceptions of the ones on Third and Fourth streets.

Another topic that generated a lot of discussion was the upcoming Fairview Old Timers Festival. Specifically, Fairview City Council members addressed what the plan should be for the event going forward. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused some hiccups in planning the festival and raises the question of whether or not to even have it.

“My personal opinion is I think we have to have some form of a festival,” Fairview Mayor Brian Bieber said. “It sounds like they’ll be 80 to 90 percent done with the construction by that time, with them being one month ahead of schedule. We should have two lanes open on Main Street within a month.”

City council meeting attendee and Fairview resident Sabrina Vaira was both optimistic and adamant about wanting some sort of festival.

“Everybody wants some kind of parade, but nobody ever wants to help do it,” she said. “If we don’t [receive] community support, the backing will fade away. If we don’t do something, we might as well kiss it goodbye.”

Vaira offered a suggestion for the event.

“I say we call it a festival, but doing more of a community block party might be the best way to go during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Councilperson Brian Renville said he feels the need to make it a bigger spectacle to get people to come to Fairview.

“I think to get this going and for the festival to become a big thing again if, in fact, that is possible, is to be outside with a ton of money that’s going to say this is what we’re here for.”

It was quite apparent that every person in attendance at the city council meeting wants the festival to happen. Fairview native Vaira summed it up.

“We just have to do something,” she said. “I don’t want the festival to go away. I was born and raised here. I graduated here. I love this town. I think doing our own thing this year or next year is probably the best way to go.”

Discussions will continue about what to do for the Old Timers Festival.

The next Fairview City Council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 8, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Fairview Senior Center.