Voices News Feed - ValpoLife https://valpo.life Thu, 14 Nov 2019 15:08:48 +0000 en hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.2 Celebrating veterans day: a reminder from Sen. Ed Charbonneau https://valpo.life/article/celebrating-veterans-day-a-reminder-from-sen-ed-charbonneau/ Sat, 09 Nov 2019 14:52:38 +0000 State Senator Ed Charbonneau https://valpo.life/article/celebrating-veterans-day-a-reminder-from-sen-ed-charbonneau/ Every year on Nov. 11, Americans celebrate Veterans Day to commemorate and give thanks to the brave men and women who have served our country.

Armistice Day began in 1919 when President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as a day to celebrate the anniversary of the end of World War I, which was dubbed, “The War to End All Wars.” Several years later, in 1954, Armistice Day became what we now call Veterans Day after President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced the change, “in order that a grateful nation might pay homage to the veterans of all its wars who have contributed to the preservation of this Nation.”

The commitment to serve our country has deep roots in our Hoosier heritage, with nearly 500,000 veterans living in our state. Each year, lawmakers look for ways to continue our support for these brave men and women, whether it be through financial, tuition, health care or counseling assistance.

This session, we passed a measure that phases in an exemption for military retirement benefits by 2022. In addition, Indiana launched a new online portal to help veterans and their families access state benefits.

Since our country’s founding, generations of Americans have reaffirmed their dedication and loyalty to our country by serving in our military.
May we never take our freedom – and their sacrifices – for granted. When you see a veteran, please take time to thank them for their service.

Celebrating veterans day: a reminder from Sen. Ed Charbonneau
Mind on Money: A credit card is a tool that needs to be managed https://valpo.life/article/mind-on-money-a-credit-card-is-a-tool-that-needs-to-be-managed/ Tue, 05 Nov 2019 02:45:43 +0000 Marc Ruiz https://valpo.life/article/mind-on-money-a-credit-card-is-a-tool-that-needs-to-be-managed/ It was 1989. As a young college kid, I was walking through the Chauncey Hill mall area at Purdue. Two pretty girls standing behind a folding table asked me if I wanted to sign up for a Visa card to get a free two-liter of Coke and a t-shirt.

I was all about it, and a couple of weeks later my new Bank One Visa card arrived at my dorm room. It had a $300 credit limit.

Looking back, I don’t recall credit cards being a part of our family life growing up. I had never talked about credit cards with my parents, and while I understood the basics that a credit card let me spend money I didn’t have, I had no idea how to manage such a thing. By the end of the first semester, the card was completely blown up. I owed $450 in charges and fees and had to eventually be bailed out by Dad, who was surely the toughest creditor of them all.

The silver lining of this silly story is, no one would give me credit again for about five years, so I ended up graduating college without any debt.

Make no mistake about it, however, in today’s data-driven world, credit is not something to be trifled with. Credit scores are now used in consideration for everything from job offers to insurance rates. Whether or not this is fair or right is irrelevant. It is occurring and will continue to be standard practice.

So, it’s important to understand the credit file and credit score system. Fortunately, as credit data aggregation has improved, so has access to information about how the whole system works. The primary product of the credit file industry is called a score (FICO or Vantage), which is based on a model of each individual’s credit behavior. The credit score used to be considered quite mysterious in nature, but now plenty of information about the model is available online.

After assisting families with financial planning for 25 years, when I look at the model used to create a credit score, I find it elegant. About two-thirds of the weighting in both models is pretty straight forward and is based on how much the individual owes, and how they have managed their debts in regard to making payments as scheduled.

While these two factors may be straightforward, they are also the areas some borrowers get in trouble. Bottom line here is, if you borrow too much, or use too much of your available credit and/or miss payments on your debts, about the only things that can improve your credit score are a change in behavior and a couple of years. This makes perfect sense, as none of us would want to lend money to someone who is stretched beyond their means and not making payments to others as agreed.

If you are managing these two areas of your financial life well, however, and still want to raise your credit score, this is when things get a little opaquer. The remaining third of both credit score models involves more obscure metrics which vary slightly by model.

Both score models put a strong weighting on the length of the borrower’s credit relationships. This also makes sense, as the longer, any relationship in life is in place, the higher quality the relationship is assumed to be.

After this factor, the remaining factors involve recent borrowing behavior. The logic here is that the more money a consumer borrows, the higher the risk of future default or bankruptcy. If debt is rising quickly, this justifiably raises red flags.

In my house, we now talk about credit cards, not as something evil, but as a dangerous tool needing to be managed. Both of my older daughters also applied for credit cards as college freshmen, not to get a free two-liter of pop, but so Dad could help them manage and monitor these financial products, knowing if they don’t borrow much, pay their debts on time and have seasoned credit files by the time they eventually need a mortgage, car loan or job offer, that process will ultimately go much more positive for them.

Opinions are solely the writer’s and are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Stock investing involves risk, including loss of principal. Marc Ruiz is a wealth advisor and partner with Oak Partners and registered representative of LPL Financial.  Contact Marc at marc.ruiz@oakpartners.com.  Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC.

Mind on Money: A credit card is a tool that needs to be managed
Mind on Money: Investing in China presents risks https://valpo.life/article/mind-on-money-investing-in-china-presents-risks/ Wed, 30 Oct 2019 03:32:59 +0000 Marc Ruiz https://valpo.life/article/mind-on-money-investing-in-china-presents-risks/ I’ve never been drawn to investing in China. As early as 2005, I remember attending investment conferences where speakers would flash the stats about the emerging Chinese economic phenomena on screen.

Population size, growth rates, urbanization trends and the formation of a huge middle-class; on paper China looked like the opportunity of the 21st Century. I wasn’t buying then, and I am still not intrigued.

In a room of everyone discussing China as an opportunity not to be missed, I still recall one speaker from the mid-2000s, an economist who didn’t have a China strategy to sell, getting up and saying, “China will be old before it is rich.”

The speaker was referencing the Chinese government’s one-child policy, and how the nation would have a serious population contraction and resulting cultural issues in the coming decades due to this policy.

The logic was sound, nations need people and families to grow, but what struck me about this statement at the time still rings true to this day. As I heard this material being presented, I distinctly remember thinking, “What kind of government puts limits on children?”

When I contemplate this question, the answer I arrive at is a government that feels entitled to intrude into the intimate lives and homes of its people to control the size of their families, is not the type of government to encourage the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit of its population.

In my opinion, true economic growth resulting in improving general prosperity is a three-legged stool.

The first leg of the stool is people. An economy needs more people to grow, but very importantly it also needs the process of raising families to generate growth. As the parents out there know, kids are incredibly expensive.

But all that money we shell out to get our urchins housed, clothed, fed, educated and entertained provides others with jobs and business opportunities. Families spend, and spending drives opportunity.

The second leg of the stool is entrepreneurial spirit and innovation. How many of the things in our homes did not even exist 15 years ago? How much of it existed but was unaffordable? What new things will arrive over the next 15 years that we won’t want to live without?

Some businesses see a need and build a product or service to meet it, some actually create a need through innovation. In order to create true growth and prosperity, a nation must be free to innovate.

Third is the government. While the government can never actually create true prosperity, it can provide the policies to create an environment for prosperity to grow. How it best does this is the fundamental debate of our nation, but it’s hard to argue against the idea that free people will create growth, opportunity and ultimately prosperity.

So, with this frame of reference, which of these characteristics can be said about China? From 1979 to 2013 the State limited family size, and according to Wikipedia, cultural issues in China resulted in an imbalance between birth rates of males and females, with considerably more males being born. Now that these men are entering prime family formation age, how the heck is this going to play out?

Now I wouldn’t call the Chinese people non-innovative, but with state control over the economy and capital formation being controlled by politicians and bureaucrats instead of entrepreneurs and investors, the incentive to innovate has been diminished.

So instead of seeing the Chinese invent new and better products, we see the state-sanctioned theft of the ideas generated by others. This can work for a while, but the hard-line push back from President Trump was going to eventually occur. Trump just took the issue and ran with it.

The news of the past few weeks has started to reveal serious cracks in Chinese society. The Chinese people yearn to be free and the totalitarian Chinese State is walking a tight rope, attempting to control things which may not be controllable.

While I don’t think the situation has reached a boiling point, even investors who chose not invest in China still need to be mindful of the risk presented by a faltering Chinese economic system.

Opinions are solely the writer’s and are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Stock investing involves risk, including loss of principal. Marc Ruiz is a wealth advisor and partner with Oak Partners and registered representative of LPL Financial.  Contact Marc at marc.ruiz@oakpartners.com.  Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC.

Mind on Money: Investing in China presents risks
Mind on Money: Be prepared for cyber threats https://valpo.life/article/mind-on-money-be-prepared-for-cyber-threats/ Mon, 21 Oct 2019 18:12:45 +0000 Marc Ruiz https://valpo.life/article/mind-on-money-be-prepared-for-cyber-threats/ October is national cyber security month. What does it say about our modern world that we even have to have such a thing?

Cyber security, however, is a really big deal. While contemplating the full potential of the risks we all accept by being active in the online world will keep anyone staring at the ceiling all night, there are some simple things we can do to protect ourselves and the people we care about from cyber risks.

In my practice at Oak Partners I’ve experienced two specific types of cyber risks in the past year, and as a consumer I have another tip.

The first risk I have to outline is one that is easy to dismiss as a “that won’t happen to me” sort of thing. But I assure you, the people I have seen impacted by this issue over the past year all thought the same thing. The risk stems from online relationships.

I told you it was easy to dismiss, but hear me out. Not all online relationships are romantic, and with social media, the ability to share pictures in real time and the capability to profile potential targets from information readily available online, the scammers in this area have become very sophisticated.

The situations I have been exposed to in my practice all started in a modern-day friendly pen pal sort of way. The scammers presented themselves as from a faraway place, oftentimes overseas, and in a number of situations I’ve observed they present themselves as U.S. military personnel.

Over time, the relationship, based completely on online messaging or email, becomes more intimate (not necessarily romantic) and intense. In the situations I’ve observed, as the communication becomes more intense, it also becomes more dramatic and involves some sort of urgent physical risk to the online “friend.” Obviously, with the imminent risk, the online friend needs money to escape the risk, and the scam is set.

I think the key to defending against this type of scam is actually provided by your professional financial relationships. In every scam of this type I’ve seen, at some point the scammer requests funds be sent by a transaction called a Fed fund wire. Fed fund wires are not typically completed by individuals and will usually involve a financial adviser or a banker. It is at this point that the adviser or banker should be trained to ask questions. It’s best to be open about the purpose of the wire. Financial advisers and bankers should be conversant in preventing these types of situations. Be open, don’t be embarrassed, and take advice when he/she offers it.

On the flip side of the coin, the other scam I’ve witnessed involves co-opting professional financial relationships. This scam involves hacking a consumer’s email account, which is typically easier than a financial services company website. The scammer actually goes through the hacked email account looking to identify financial relationships. Once the relationships are identified, the scammer uses the potential victim’s own email to begin making requests for financial transactions from the investment firm or bank.

The keys to preventing this scam are twofold. First, it’s important to carefully manage your email account, regularly changing passwords and reviewing both incoming and outgoing messages. Second, never request any type of withdrawal from a financial account by email. Most firms now have rules against processing email requests for withdrawals, but a rule is only as good as the people following it.

The third risk comes in the area of online travel, namely VRBO and AirBNB. We all love these sites and the travel possibilities they have created, but they have also created risk.

All legitimate travel sites will offer a payment process through the website. The website payment button should be the only way to remit payments for these bookings. Scammers have been creating fake property profiles and when the renter reaches out through the site, the scammer requests payment through a phony email process or yes, you guessed it, a Fed fund wire. Payments made in this way do not carry the protection of the offering website, so always pay through the website process.

Opinions are solely the writer’s and are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Stock investing involves risk, including loss of principal. Marc Ruiz is a wealth advisor and partner with Oak Partners and registered representative of LPL Financial.  Contact Marc at marc.ruiz@oakpartners.com.  Securities offered through LPL Financial, member FINRA/SIPC.

Mind on Money: Be prepared for cyber threats
Local high school student leads by example, jumps to aid peer from wreckage https://valpo.life/article/local-high-school-student-leads-by-example-jumps-to-aid-peer-from-wreckage/ Tue, 24 Sep 2019 01:01:38 +0000 Sarah Corn https://valpo.life/article/local-high-school-student-leads-by-example-jumps-to-aid-peer-from-wreckage/ Chesterton High School sophomore Ben Seely was out for a bike ride with a group of friends a few weeks ago, when suddenly, he heard the telltale sound of rubber screeching on pavement.

“I turned around, and I saw Izzy [Isabel Blaney] and this other guy hit each other,” Seely said. “The car did a 360. It went into the ditch and I was like ‘Awww…***’ I said a bad word.”

Seely made a split-second decision and biked back towards the accident site. Approaching the car, he couldn’t see the driver because the side airbag had deployed, so he had no idea what to expect. All he knew was that the person inside that car would need help.

“I was worried for them. I thought to myself, people that were just in a car crash aren’t going to be thinking clearly,” he thought.

The driver of the damaged car, Valparaiso High School junior Isabel Blaney, was navigating her way home from ACT tutoring. She had pulled out a little into the intersection to check for traffic around the end of a cornfield and was almost immediately struck by an oncoming car.

The force of the accident completely caved in the driver’s side door, partially trapping her in her seat.

“This guy, Ben, came over to my broken window and he was like ‘do you need help?’ and I said ‘yeah, I can’t get out’,” Blaney recalled.

“I tried the door and it didn’t work,” Seely said. “So I went around to the other side, opened that door, and helped her out. I chilled with her on the side of the road and talked with her for a bit.”

Although she can remember the moments leading up to the crash with perfect clarity, Blaney said she was definitely devolving into a state of shock by the time Seely made it to the door to check on her.

“It’s hard for me to remember all of it. I kind of went into shock,” she said. “But I remember he had me sit down and he sat next to me. I was freaking out, my whole body was shaking and I was crying. He called my mom on his phone and he held my hand and he asked me about having dogs and stuff, just trying to keep my mind off of it.”

“He was really nice and I’m just so glad that he was there,” Blaney continued. It takes a lot of courage to go help a freaked-out girl out of a car with glass and blood on her, and he wasn’t even scared. He was just so calm.”

Seely attributes his presence of mind to his dad, Tom Seely.

Lead by example. That’s what he taught me,” Ben said of his father.

For his part, Tom Seely said he was proud, but not surprised, when he heard about his son’s actions.

“It took a lot of guts, so I’m very proud that he didn’t run and he didn’t avoid it. He did what was right,” Tom said.

As far back as elementary school, he recalled, Ben had always been one to care for others.

“In third grade, I had a mom come up to me and say that they prayed over the summer that Parker would have Ben in her class because he always kind of looked out for her,” he said.

After Blaney recovered from the accident, she sent Seely a text to tell him how much she appreciated him for being there for her.

“I’m glad that I was able to thank him and be able to talk to him when I wasn’t freaking out,” she said.

They’ve stayed in touch, continuing to text each other life updates and homecoming plans.

“We’re kind of like friends now, which is good,” Blaney said.

Blaney herself is well acquainted with the importance of sharing kindness with strangers after she and a group of friends spontaneously helped a couple get engaged.

Isabel’s mother, County Commissioner Laura Shurr Blaney, expressed deep gratitude for Seely’s support and acknowledged how impressive it was that he jumped into action when he did.

“I often hear people critical of Ben and Isabel’s generation for a lack of compassion and an inability to interact face to face. Ben completely proved them wrong. No one would have blamed Ben for riding his bike straight home that day, but he stopped and he acted,” she said. “I’m extremely grateful. There’s a silver lining to every story. In this one, it’s Ben.”

Local high school student leads by example, jumps to aid peer from wreckage
Fact: donating blood changes lives, for donors and receivers https://valpo.life/article/fact-donating-blood-changes-lives-for-donors-and-receivers/ Sun, 01 Sep 2019 05:01:35 +0000 Peyton Mahlmann https://valpo.life/article/fact-donating-blood-changes-lives-for-donors-and-receivers/ A Lifer’s perspective on donating blood

Altruism (noun): “the selfless regard for the well-being of others.” 

Although it may be expressed differently by different people, altruism is a belief that perfectly describes the actions taken by the less than 10% of Americans who donate blood each year.

Physician William Harvey attempted the first blood transfusion in 1628 and since then, hundreds of thousands of people have donated blood. But according to the Community Blood Center, 4.5 million Americans are in need of blood transfusions every year, which translates to someone needing blood every two seconds. Blood shortages are a common occurrence.

As I continue to read U.S. statistics regarding the need for donated blood, how many lives it can save, and how it can even benefit the donor, I ask myself, “What is preventing healthy, capable people from donating their blood to help others?”

In an effort to raise that 10%, I have decided to take you along my journey as I donate blood at the American Red Cross truck stationed in the Culver’s parking lot in Valparaiso, and give you some information along the way.

Where to go and how it works

Visit the American Red Cross page here and type in your zip code to find the nearest location that accepts blood. Blood drives happen nearly every day all around Northwest Indiana. Schedule an appointment when you are feeling healthy and free of any symptoms of illness, such as cold, flu, fever, etc.

Before donating, it’s best to stay hydrated and eat a meal to prevent dizziness. However, most centers provide snacks and drinks for your comfort. Bring a picture ID and try to wear a loose-fitting shirt that can roll-up easily for the technician to find the correct spot on your arm.

The staff will help you get set-up once you arrive. After you answer some questions about your medical history and recent experiences, the technician will then perform a quick physical assessment of your blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, and hemoglobin level to ensure that all are suitable for donation. This will take at most 15 minutes.

Next, the technician will have you sit down and roll-up your sleeve. They will look for a good vein on your arm near the crook of your elbow. The small poke of the needle feels like a quick pinch that goes away in a few seconds. The process of withdrawing your blood will then start and continue for another 8-10 minutes, and you should not feel any pain. Your only job is to keep your arm still and let the machines do their magic! If the sight of blood makes you nervous, let the technician know and they can accommodate accordingly.

The goal is to take 1 pint of blood. After it’s been collected, take it easy for the next 10 minutes and avoid strenuous, physical activity for the next few hours. Most often, you will feel refreshed after just a few minutes. Keep the bandage on your arm for a few hours as well.

From my experience, I have found the only con to be slight tenderness at the spot where blood was taken. This goes away in a day or two, and is completely worth it for the awesome pro of donating: knowing your blood is going to someone in need.

When all is complete, you are able to donate again in eight weeks!

Donating requirements and eligibility 

With only 37% of Americans being able to donate due to health and lifestyle reasons, it’s important to figure out whether you are eligible. The following are a few crucial factors listed by the American Red Cross that must be satisfied for donation:

  • Must be at least 17 years old (some locations allow you to donate at 16 with a guardian’s consent)
  • Must weigh at least 110 pounds
  • Must have a blood pressure under 180/100 at the time of donation (blood pressure medication does not disqualify you)

Some factors may prevent you from donating and are assessed at the time of donation:

  • Travel to certain countries within the past year may be unaccepted. For more detailed information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention..
  • Any use of self-injected, non-prescription drugs with needles
  • Anyone with a positive test for HIV (AIDS) or hepatitis 
  • Men who have engaged with other men at any time since 1977 
  • Anyone who has gotten a tattoo within the past year
  • Anyone with a tongue, nose, belly button, or genital piercing is not permitted (donors with ear piercings are accepted)
  • If you do not feel well or have an infection, you should wait until antibiotic treatments are finished to donate.
  • Chronic conditions, such as diabetes, are typically able to donate as long as symptoms are under control or regulated with medication.

For more specific requirements regarding medication use, vaccinations, or general health concerns, read the American Red Cross’ criteria here.

Where blood is needed

Blood transfusions are done to make up for a loss of blood in your body. They are needed where you may expect for procedures like organ transplants or surgeries, but they are also crucial if someone has been in a car accident or other traumatic accident, or is suffering from diseases like sickle cell, kidney or liver disease, or hemophilia. Severe infections in the body can also cause someone to need a blood transfusion to replenish them with healthy blood. Patients with cancer who have undergone chemotherapy or radiation treatments may also need a blood transfusion.

The list could continue for all the different ways in which blood is needed. The main thing to keep in mind is that as more people donate, it increases the amount of different blood types available for transfusions, which eases the stress of searching for the right blood type for a patient in need.

How the donor can benefit

Believe it or not, donating blood doesn’t just give sick patients a better chance at life. It can actually improve yours, too.

The donation process involves a short physical exam of your basic vitals: pulse, blood pressure, temperature, and hemoglobin level. Every pint of blood donated is tested for 13 different infectious diseases, which, in turn, provides every serious potential blood donor with valuable information they can then share with their own healthcare provider.

When you lose a unit of blood, your body begins to replenish it in the weeks following donation. As shared by the American Cancer Society, your body works to create more iron in your blood to return to its normal level. Too much or too little iron can be unhealthy for your blood vessels; thus, this regulation of iron helps train your body to stay at a healthy level.

Lastly, the gratification that I feel after donating is enough encouragement to keep me going back for another appointment. It can be fulfilling to know that you are capable of doing something so life-changing for someone you don’t even know. That feeling of pride is a pretty great benefit as a donor.

Fast facts

The following are 10 fast facts regarding blood donations as listed by the American Red Cross and the Community Blood Center:

  • Adults have around 10 pints of blood in their bodies, and only 1 pint is donated
  • Just 1 donation can save up to 3 lives
  • A single-car accident victim can require at most 100 pints of blood
  • Much of today’s medical care depends on a steady supply of blood from healthy donors
  • Blood and platelets cannot be manufactured for patients who need them, they can only be obtained from volunteer donors
  • Shortages of blood types tend to happen during the winter holidays
  • 46.5 gallons: the amount of blood you could donate if you begin at age 17 and donate every 56 days until you reach 79 years old
  • Four easy steps: medical history, quick physical, donation, and snacks/fluids 
  • It takes about 10 minutes to collect your blood, but the whole process including paperwork is done in under an hour
  • You will not contract AIDS by donating blood

Donating blood may be a small sacrifice, but it can make a big difference, and the need for blood around the country is always there. Whether it be a mass tragedy that urges you to donate to help those in need or to simply show an act of kindness, schedule an appointment today – you won’t regret it.

Fact: donating blood changes lives, for donors and receivers
The Imperiled Political Center https://valpo.life/article/the-imperiled-political-center/ Sun, 25 Aug 2019 19:20:56 +0000 Leigh Morris https://valpo.life/article/the-imperiled-political-center/ The other day, I was driving down a road that was recently repaved but had not yet had striping to designate traffic lanes.  It occurred to me that the signs cautioning drivers could well apply to voters as well.

As a political centrist, I’m beginning to think of myself as a part of an endangered species. It seems to me that the political center—the middle of the political road—has been shrinking rapidly, allowing the far left and the far right to increasingly dominate the political scene. Nowhere is that more evident than in the U.S. Congress where there’s been such deterioration in the capacity to carry out its important role in dealing with scores of major issues.

No Labels, a group that advocates rising above partisanship, has evaluated our current political climate this way:

The far right and the far left are holding America hostage—becoming ever more strident, uncompromising and making governance impossible. They are small in number but drive the national agenda because they are organized, because they vote, contribute to and volunteer for campaigns. In short, they show up, while the vast political center has remained on the sidelines.

Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman feels that one of the reasons that extremists are dominating so much of the political process is that the major political parties have become more ideological and fewer and fewer people are voting.  She observed that political parties “used to be like umbrellas, where you had a central handle which was the shared core beliefs, and then you had all the spokes that held up the canopy, and those were different ways of interpreting those beliefs. But you could still have that central core.”  

I’m a student of history, and I’ve been looking increasingly at the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower.  Ike was a centrist. He called his political philosophy “The Middle Way.”  He appealed to the majority of Americans by being neither a reactionary nor a socialist; neither an appeaser nor a warmonger.

Ike disliked extremists and demagogues, believing the far left and right were wrong on all political and moral issues.  He referred to the political spectrum as a bowling alley and the extremes as the “gutters” and said he was on the right track when getting attacked by “both sides.” 

In his book, The White House Years, author Jim Newton noted that Ike ‘was a gentleman, not a bomb thrower.  He did not publicly insult opponents by name. He also avoided criticizing the intelligence and motives of other politicians, believing this was impolite and unforgivable.”

Times have clearly changed since the 1950’s when Ike’s Middle Way enabled  the political parties and three branches of our federal government to function productively.  However, I think Ike’s basic principles are still valid. Revisiting them could lead us away from the current gridlock that comes from the prevalent “my way or the highway” approach to governing.  I hope and pray we can find a way to regain some of the many the many advantages of Ike’s Middle Way.

The Imperiled Political Center
Rush in the Region: Michigan City’s Lighthouses https://valpo.life/article/rush-in-the-region-michigan-citys-lighthouses/ Thu, 22 Aug 2019 23:03:10 +0000 Kole Rushmore https://valpo.life/article/rush-in-the-region-michigan-citys-lighthouses/ Michigan City’s lighthouse and pier have become a staple in Northwest Indiana. So much so that it’s the first thing people think about when they hear those two words, “Michigan City.” Each year, the city’s lighthouse and pier headlight are greeted with visitors from near and far. What many don’t know is the rich history of the lighthouses that have served the Michigan City harbor since the 1800s.

It all started in 1837 with Isaac C. Elston, a land speculator from Crawfordsville.

“Elston foresaw Trail Creek in Michigan City to be the busiest port on southern Lake Michigan. Hence, he and his wife deeded a piece of property at the lakefront to be used as a lighthouse because they knew it would be a very important issue,” said Jim Retseck, president of the Michigan City Historical Society.

The city’s first lighthouse was a simple, tall pole with a lantern located west of the present lighthouse. As time progressed, Michigan City became a hub for shipping grain and lumber, and the town found themselves in need of a brighter light. This lead to the construction of a more comprehensive light house that actually included sleeping quarters in 1958. It now stands as the Old Lighthouse Museum behind the current famous structure.

Over time, the lighthouse and lakeshore saw quite a few people come and go, but one particular person made her mark in lighthouse keeper history.

“By the time the lighthouse was no longer active, there were a total of seven lightkeepers who had lived at the structure and 14 assistant keepers,” said Tim Frame, harbormaster for the Michigan City Port Authority.

“The most famous lightkeeper is Harriet Colfax—a legend in lighthouse keeping,” Retseck added. “Harriet was Michigan City’s Lightkeeper from 1861 until 1904 – for a total 43 years. She was known as the ‘old faithful’ of the Great Lakes.”

Photo Credit: Michigan City Historical Society

Originally from Ogdensburg, New York, Colfax moved to Michigan City in the 1850’s. At age 37, Colfax became the lighthouse’s newest keeper and moved into the facility with her life-long friend, Ann Hartwell – a Michigan City school teacher who opened the first lending library in the area.

“She was called old faithful for a reason. She had an east and west light as well as Fresnel Lens on top of the structure,” Retseck added. “She never failed to make any of her required lightings, ever. Whether it was raining or snowing she always fulfilled her duties as the lightkeeper.”

Ten years into her career as keeper, Colfax began tending to a new addition to the city’s port. In 1871, the first beacon light was installed on the east pier. The new pierhead light was only accessible by a 1,500-foot-long walkway or catwalk. Later, this would become the structure that casts Instagram fame to Michigan City’s shoreline. No matter the weather conditions, Colfax had to climb the steep catwalk to the lanterns twice a night to trim the wick, polish the lens, and refuel the light. Three years later, the Lighthouse Board voted to move the pier from the east side to the west side of Trail Creek. The motion would add an additional 500 feet into Lake Michigan. At 80 years old, Colfax was starting to experience a decline in health due to the heavy lightkeeper responsibilities, so she retired.

As the lighthouse said goodbye to one of its most committed keepers, it said hello to a new era with a complete remodel of the house. The remodel was designed to accommodate a lighthouse keeper staff.

“It became more of a condominium,” Retseck said. “There would have been a head-keeper on the east side of the lighthouse, west side would have been the assistant lightkeeper, the third keeper was generally a single man who had a room downstairs where the historical society’s offices are today.”

Eventually, the old lighthouse was decommissioned and became the Old Lighthouse Museum. Since 1973, the Michigan City Historical Society has worked to restore and keep up the Old Lighthouse Museum that is now situated at the base of Trail Creek inside Washington Park, before the creek opens up into the lake where the newer, more famous beacon stands. The Old Lighthouse Museum is open to the public for tours April through October. The current lighthouse structure with the square red base is accessible to the public as well according to Washington Park operating hours. While the catwalk is closed, the pier is walkable to the public right up to the lighthouse. The public cannot go inside the structure, but can climb the narrow stairs to its base, and head to the back of the structure to sit on the pillars near the base of the water. Today, park and Coast Guard officials take special care to keep the public well informed when the water is too high to walk safely on the pier, and ask that visitors refrain from walking the pier to the lighthouse during high winds and waves. Large red digital signs inform park visitors of pier conditions.

Rush in the Region: Michigan City’s Lighthouses
StoryPoint Chesterton: Senior Living Sparks Education and Passion https://valpo.life/article/how-storypoint-chesterton-impacts-the-community/ Wed, 21 Aug 2019 02:38:15 +0000 Naphtalia Ruth https://valpo.life/article/how-storypoint-chesterton-impacts-the-community/ It’s surprising when people live somewhere their entire life and don’t seek everything it has to offer. It took a meeting President of StoryPoint Chesterton, Jeanette Anderson, help me truly realize the wide breadth of opportunity and support that Northwest Indiana offers.

StoryPoint Chesterton is a wonderful community tucked away, but still easily accessible from the road. The inside is beautiful and visitors are greeted immediately with kind faces. City Councilman Nathan Cobbs, CEO of the Duneland Dave Kasarda, and Associate Attorney at Burke Costanza & Carberry LLP, Courtney Smith, all convened to meet Jeanette, GreatNews.Life Founder, Chris Mahlmann, and I to discuss senior living within the community.

There was one thought at the forefront of my mind as I accompanied Chris: I was in for a learning experience that would change my viewpoints on Northwest Indiana.  

We were greeted by Business Development Specialist, Judy Kukelka, and I quickly realized that I was not the only one there to learn. Jeanette began to ask us questions about the community around us. Questions about our viewpoints on senior living in the area. It sparked conversations about community development and the outlook for Chesterton’s future.

I was enlightened with “The story of StoryPoint” and realized even further the impact that senior living has and how it can be the glue in many people’s lives. Nathan and Judy said that many people who interface with residents and are involved exist right here in the community. I found it refreshing to hear that employees at the YMCA travel to StoryPoint Chesterton to even play dominoes with StoryPoint residents. 

The theme of giving back in the community became very prevalent after Jeanette heard a bit about our viewpoints on senior living. StoryPoint Chesterton’s role in the community became more clear than it already was. Jeanette expressed the idea that StoryPoint operates with no direct reports. This operating model sparks passion in the employees and in many ways, in me as well.

I found it refreshing to hear that management recently decided on less automation and digitization to increase face to face contact with residents.

Everyone involved played a different role in the community, but there was one thing everyone had in common–we were all working toward expanding and creating a better Northwest Indiana. It was refreshing to see that people from many different walks of life, backgrounds, and professions were passionate about senior living and pushing the community toward a positive and successful future. To learn more about the type of care at StoryPoint Chesterton, visit their website here https://www.storypoint.com/chesterton-in/.

StoryPoint Chesterton: Senior Living Sparks Education and Passion
Region pride: what’s the deal? https://valpo.life/article/region-pride-whats-the-deal/ Mon, 05 Aug 2019 17:03:04 +0000 Chris Mahlmann https://valpo.life/article/region-pride-whats-the-deal/ How do we define Region pride? Is it based on our industrial heritage? Is it based on a combination of mostly Illinois and Indiana people who blend together to make a unique Northwest Indiana? Is it because some organization tells us we are proud? Is there a good kind of pride, and a bad kind of pride? Is it OK to be proud of our gritty nature? If I am proud of you does that make me any less proud of someone else?

The Region is not defined by a hashtag, person, place, or thing. It is this gloriously diverse North Judson-to-Whiting spectrum that is working its tail off to stand tall when talking to Indy, Chicago, or the nation. Let it go. Stop being angry at someone else’s pride and just be glad that they are doing something good. The age of whether you are in this camp or that camp is over. Creating meaningful relationships with our neighbors, whether they are down the street or down the I-80/94 corridor or U.S. 30, is in.

Are you proud of our rural traditions? Awesome! Proud of city-centered development? Great. Proud of the rat or the dune or the urban or rural, old guard and rising stars, industrial to high tech, Ds and Rs, township to city… Can we all just drop the battle of the prides? We can be proud of our industrial heritage and Hoosier values, and excited to be connected to opportunities in Chicago without losing our Region badge.

We can all be proud, and we can all benefit from allowing others’ pride to show. It does not lessen our light; the day actually just gets brighter.

So, Region…

Whether you call yourself a Bulldog or a Wildcat, or you feel more at home at Festival of the Lakes in Hammond or fishing on the lakes in La Porte – stand up for what you are proud of and be proud of who you are. And then look around you to enjoy the light of others.

The mixture is what makes this place unique. Region, 219, NWI, Brickie, Slicer, left, right, center, young, and old. Find something to like about the people around you. It is just as easy as finding something you don’t, and the outcomes is better at a crazy high rate of return.

Try it. I swear you’ll like, and I am certain those who see the light on will as well.

P.S. Tell me what you are proud of, or where you see the light shining in the Region.

Region pride: what’s the deal?