V is for volunteer and Voltz

Jane Voltz by Bruce Stambaugh
Jane Voltz has both worked and volunteered for several years at Pomerene Memorial Hospital in Millersburg, Ohio.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Jane Voltz, of Killbuck, Ohio epitomizes the role of a volunteer. She loves the work, but doesn’t want any of the notoriety. Her efforts are reward enough.

Voltz, 70, has been a volunteer with the Joel Pomerene Memorial Hospital auxiliary in Millersburg, Ohio off and on for 30 years. Next year, she will be its president.

That’s why she is looking for yet one more volunteer to replace another volunteer position she has held. Voltz has served as the local Medicare advocate. Because she is once again about recent changes to Medicare, and how the annual open enrollment time, which expires Dec. 31, works.

The Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program at the Ohio Department of Insurance is sponsoring the workshop. It is billed as a way to stay informed, stay healthy and to save money for those enrolled in Medicare.

“This would be a good opportunity for someone to explore what is involved in the position,” Voltz said. “Of course, everyone with questions about Medicare can attend.”

For Voltz, Pomerene Hospital has been a second home. Aside from her extensive volunteering roles, she has worked at the hospital for 35 years.

“I started in 1956 as a nurse’s aide,” Voltz said. She retired 25 years later, and then returned “as a back up to the back lab currier,” as she put it.

“I like spur-of-the-moment things like that,” she said. Voltz cited a Sunday morning call she received to make a run to another hospital for the lab as an example of how her immediate assistance is needed.

Voltz said she considers the hospital staff and volunteers her second family.

“We are very fortunate to have this hospital,” she said.

Voltz said in the process of helping visitors and patients at the hospital, she gets to see people she hasn’t seen in awhile. Voltz said she is only one of at least 100 volunteers who make up the auxiliary.

Voltz said the main roles of volunteers include transporting patients within the hospital, especially department to department, and delivering flowers to patients’ rooms.

She said the auxiliary depends solely on fundraising in order to provide funds for items that are needed, but don’t make it into the hospital’s budget. Profits from the gift shop, uniform sales, poinsettia sales, book sales and bake sales all contribute money to pay for auxiliary donations.

“We work closely with the Pomerene Hospital Foundation,” Voltz said. “The auxiliary recently bought a $6,000 ice machine for the dining area.”

Voltz said she has been the Medicare advocate for the hospital since 1992.

“I want to spend time with my grandchildren,” she said. “There has to be somebody out there who is willing to do this needed service.”

Voltz has a son and a daughter and four grandchildren. She also has five stepchildren, 13 step-grandchildren and 13 step-great-grandchildren. Her first husband, Harold Garver, died in 1970, and her second husband, Dwight, died in 2004. Voltz had stepped away from her volunteer work for a while to care for Dwight, who had Alzheimer’s disease.

Voltz was born and raised in Killbuck, and is a graduate of Killbuck High School. In addition to helping with her grandchildren, Voltz said she likes to travel.

“Anyone who says they don’t know what they would do if they retired needs to know there are many ways to help as a volunteer,” Voltz said.

“We have to enjoy each day because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring.”

Voltz used her mother as her inspiration for volunteering. She said her mother would donate items to the Volunteers of America truck whenever it came around.

“Everyone should volunteer for something,” Voltz said. “Your payment is the satisfaction of helping someone.”

During her long career as a volunteer, Voltz certainly has received a great deal of satisfaction from her efforts. Her hope now is that someone will pick up her role as Medicare advocate before the end of the year.

Anyone interested in the Medicare advocate position should contact Voltz by calling the hospital at 330-674-1015.

All dressed up for the holidays

By Bruce Stambaugh

If you ever wondered what an old-fashioned Christmas really looked like, the Victorian House in Millersburg, Ohio will let you cure your curiosity.

Victorian House Millersburg Ohio
Each holiday season the Victorian House in Millersburg, Ohio is beautifully decorated inside and out. (Photo provided by the Victorian House.)

Every year local businesses, organizations and individuals spend two weeks transforming the historical, 6,000 square foot Victorian House into “Holidays at the Mansion.” The 28-room, three-story mansion comes alive with Christmases gone by.

Area decorators create holiday splendor as it once was by decorating multiple Christmas trees, window decorations and decorating several rooms with authentic and festive period accessories. Displays of lights and garland will festoon the exterior.

Victorian House Christmas Tree
The holidays are celebrated in every room of the Victorian House in Millersburg, Ohio. (Photo provided by the Victorian House.)

“This year we will have several new room sponsors that will add a fresh new look to this year’s decorations,” Mark Boley, Director of the Holmes County Historical Society, announced.

“In addition,” Boley continued, “a special holiday exhibit will be on display in our ballroom.” Harry Wilson, of New Philadelphia, will have several of his one-of-a kind egg art on exhibit. Wilson is affectionately known as “The Egg Man.” Wilson uses the natural color of the eggs from ostriches, emu, geese and chickens to create unique works of art.

The Victorian House will be open for holiday tours Monday through Thursday, 1 to 4 p.m., and Friday through Sunday, 1 to 8 p.m. through December 31.  The Victorian House will be closed both Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

The Victorian House has been featured in Victorian Homes Magazine, and on the Home and Garden TV show Victorian America.

You can take your time enjoying the Victorian House holiday decorations since the tours are self-guided. Costs are $8 for adults, $7 for those 65 and older, and $3 for students. Children are also welcome to check out the holiday flare since some of the rooms are dedicated for kids. The kids can look for Santa in an old bathtub. Every woman’s House will sponsor a special room just for the kids. There is no charge for children 12 years old and younger.

Besides the holiday decorations, the Victorian House showcases the historical collection of the Holmes County Historical Society. The mansion is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.

L. H. Brightman, a wealthy industrialist from Cleveland, built the Victorian House in 1900. It is located at 484 Wooster Road in Millersburg. The Holmes County Historical Society uses the mansion as its headquarters

To arrange a group or bus tour, call 330-674-0022 or email the Victorian House at info@holmeshistory.com.

A practical way to give thanks

By Bruce Stambaugh

It was only appropriate that for a full week after the first snow of the year that we experienced a perfect Indian summer here in Ohio.

The extended summer-like days, which seemed to actually improve chronologically until the rains came, served as a picturesque bridge between a superb fall and an inexplicit winter yet to come.

We can only wonder what winter will be like. Will it be as harsh and record breaking as the last? We hope not. Clearly we have no say in the matter.

Snowfall in Ohio's Amish country by Bruce Stambaugh
Snowfall in Ohio's Amish country totaled three feet in February 2010.

Every fall the National Weather Service issues a long-term guesstimation of what winter will bring. But even the scientists hedge their prognostications on percentages, casino like.

In the end, we have no choice but to take what we get. Hushed by the holiday clamor, a certain question lingers unspoken. Will we appreciate what we receive? In truth, that question can and should be applied far beyond the realm of weather.

I remember well the winter of 2004-2005 when the infamous ice storm nailed our area. The accumulating ice snapped giant trees, brought down power lines, halted commerce, interrupted communications, and thinned traffic to emergency purposes only for days.

Those of us who were on the electrical grid were hit hard. Fortunately, an Amish friend saved my family and me with the use of a generator to at least keep the gas hot water heat on. Without the generator’s assistance, the pipes in our home would have frozen and burst, causing extensive damage. Thankfully that did not happen, due to the unconditional generosity of my friend.

All the while, with our communication to the outside world cut, thousands upon thousands of people were caught in the wake of a horrific earthquake and subsequent tidal waves that killed scores of people.

In sorting through an overflowing basket of mishmash the other day, I came upon some handwritten notes I had made about the catastrophe. Apparently, I did so while listening to a battery-operated radio. In reviewing my scribbling, I was reminded that the inconvenience of living without electricity for five days paled in comparison to the plight of millions of fellow human beings halfway around the world.

A sampling of my jottings, dated Dec. 26, 2004, relived the calamity: Banda Ache, 60-foot wave, two miles inland, 30 mph, eight-12 feet deep flood; deaths, 200,000 in Indonesia alone, 400,000 injured; no system to alert people in Indian Ocean rim; 9.3 magnitude earthquake, the world’s deadliest tsunami. Unfortunately, those initial notations proved accurate.

Once power was restored the horrible scenes unfolded on television. I was appalled for the victims, thankful for my family that we had only lost power and a few trees in the yard. Compared to the widespread wreckage and unbelievable totals of death and injuries of so many innocents, we had been fortunate.

Tracks in the snow by Bruce Stambaugh
Horses made serpentine tracks in the heavy snow last Feb. in Holmes County.

Since then, infinite natural and man-made disasters, including the sluggish global economy, have occurred. Others will likely continue to develop as time progresses. Nevertheless, as we begin this holiday season in North America, we still have so much for which we can be thankful no matter our personal situation.

This Thanksgiving perhaps we can express our gratitude by simply helping the less fortunate. We may not have to look clear to the Indian Ocean rim for those opportunities either.

Maybe, just maybe, a proactive generosity can be an Indian summer bridge to brighten someone else’s rainy day life. That would be a practical, productive and prudent Thanksgiving.

Sue Pyle just wanted to help

Sue Pyle by Bruce Stambaugh
Sue Pyle, of Strongsville, Ohio checked out some of the many items she donated to Save & Serve Thrift Shop for its Christmas Open House.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Sue Pyle wanted to downsize from her home in Strongsville, Ohio to a smaller place. That meant doing away with some of her most valuable treasures, her many Christmas tree displays.

For the past 26 years, Pyle has filled her house with the trees, each with its own separate theme. Year after year, she opened her house to many an admirer.

Pyle’s trees came in all sizes. She decorated as many as 32 trees. Some were half-trees that hung on the wall while others were miniature trees. Of course, she had a traditional Christmas tree, too.

The trees and ornaments took up a lot of storage space when not used. Though she hated to do it, Pyle knew in downsizing she had to dispense of much of her holiday decorating tradition.

Friends encouraged her to sell the decorations, some of which she had had for years. Others told her to hold a garage sale. But neither is what Pyle had in mind.

Instead, Pyle remembered what some friends had told her about the annual Christmas Open House held at Save & Serve Thrift Shop in Millersburg, Ohio. She had visited the store, learned of its mission, where the profits went, and made up her mind to donate her Christmas collection to Save & Serve, even though it was an hour away from her home.

“I know that all the money made from selling my items will go directly to help people,” Pyle said. “That’s what I wanted because I like their global mission.”

In total, all of Pyle’s seasonal decorations filled a 16-foot box truck and a van. It was probably the largest seasonally specific donation of it’s kind, according to Eric Raber, co-manager at Save & Serve.

“We once had a pick up load arrive from Chicago for the same reason,” Raber said. “But this was definitely the largest donation specifically for decorating.”

In addition to her Christmas items, Pyle also donated fall and other holiday decorations. Raber said the donations from Pyle helped make the Christmas Open House a huge success. The event was held Oct. 25-27.

“We sold 2,000 items the first day alone,” Raber said.

Curious as to how things would be displayed, Pyle visited Save & Serve the first day of the Christmas Open House sale.

“I was impressed with how they had everything displayed,” Pyle said. “They did an excellent job, and they were great to work with.”

Raber praised the seven volunteers who spent many hours organizing and creating the festive Christmas arrangements. He said many of the items were from Pyle’s donations.

“It was the eye of those who created the displays that made them so attractive and presentable for customers,” Raber said. “Those creative gifts made the open house the success that it was.”

“I really enjoyed visiting the store,” said Marilyn Howarth, a friend of Pyle’s who tagged along on the trip from the Cleveland area. “Everything was displayed so nice.”

Raber said this was the third year for the Christmas Open House, and the most successful. He said sales from the first day of the open house were the best since the opening day at Save & Serve’s South Washington Street location.

“Sue’s generosity was wonderful,” Raber said. “We value the intent of the donor.”

Raber said Save & Serve appreciates the generosity of all those who donate merchandise, as well as the generosity of time by the many volunteers who sort through the donations.

“Giving develops through relationships,” Raber said citing Pyle as an example. “It’s people connecting with people.”

Pyle, a retired elementary teacher, said she started her collections from the gifts given to her by students.

“It started with the giraffe collection,” she said. “I expanded my collections with spur-of-the-moment purchases.”

Some of her themes included a hunt tree, a kitchen tree, little books and a bear tree. She even had a Lakeside, Ohio tree, a place where she vacations annually.

Pyle’s generosity wasn’t just aimed at Save & Serve. In 2001, Pyle began creating a themed tree that she donated to the Akron Children’s Hospital’s Holiday Tree Festival. The trees are purchased with the proceeds going to the hospital.

“This year I am doing a Merry Mickey Christmas tree,” Pyle said.

Like the many shoppers at Save & Serve, whoever buys that tree will have their holidays enhanced thanks to Sue Pyle.

Enjoying the beauty of the first snow

Snowy lane by Bruce Stambaugh
The first snow of the season decorated the long, steep lane to the cottage.

By Bruce Stambaugh

We awoke on the first Saturday of November to a skiff of snow on the roofs, grassy areas and glued to the trees. The driveway and the road in front of our house were just wet.

Since the temperature hovered right at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, I figured we probably had had more than the dusting that remained. Not one to quibble with the weather, I simply inhaled the beauty as a drab dawn broke.

My wife and I were ready to head for our cottage for a post-election weekend retreat with some friends. After the tiresome multimedia blasts of campaign negativity, we needed a quiet place, and the cottage was it.

Just a few minutes down the road, we caught up to the menacingly low clouds that were still spitting snow. During the 75-minute trip, we were amazed at just how spotty the snow was. We drove in and out of the white stuff several times.

In some places, the snow was two or three inches deep. In most, the ground was bare. The snow had fallen in various depths in a long, narrow band stretching northwest to southeast from Lake Erie to the Ohio River.

When we pulled onto the long steep lane that leads to our cottage, an inch of fresh, fluffy snow welcomed us. Initially the lane goes uphill. At the summit, the road dives into the woods, and quickly curves right, down a steep, straight slope.

Just as I began the decline, the car stopped out of respect. It couldn’t crush the beauty before us, not at least until I had taken some pictures of the virgin snow.

The limestone on the lane must have been warm enough to melt the snow on impact. Everyplace else, the snow stuck undisturbed, beautiful, mesmerizing.

Snowy woods by Bruce Stambaugh
The snow cover made everything appear black and white.

With the concealed sun unable to lessen the early winter grip on the landscape, the panoramic scene seemed basic black and white. The only variation came in the clay colored clouds.

I snapped a few photos and returned to the vehicle. I guided it ever so slowly down the straight slope, around the hard left-hand curve, under slow laden white pine bows, toward the lake that reflected the steely sky.

We made the final zigzag up the lane and into the drive to the cottage. This last leg of the trip adds a faux remoteness to the location. I had brought along a leaf blower to dispense with any remaining natural litter on the cottage deck. I should have tossed in the snow shovel instead.

The combination of the snow and the cabin’s chill called for a fire in the impressive sandstone fireplace. I obediently responded.

Snowy scene by Bruce Stambaugh
The snow created picturesque scenes all around our cottage.

With the fire underway, I cranked up the chain saw and headed out into the morning sharpness. Each time I exhaled my glasses steamed up.

There is something about snow, especially the season’s first, that exhilarates me. I have to plunge headlong into it.

The chain saw, which had not run in months, must have liked the snow, too. It purred right along, and the two of us accomplished our woodcutting goal in less than an hour.

The snow was still in place when our friends arrived late morning. They wore the same smiles as my wife and I. I don’t know if it was the snow, the blazing fire, the setting or the combination there of.

No matter how long you live where it snows, there is just something extra special about that first snowfall. This one was breathtaking.

Roaring fire by Bruce Stambaugh
A warming fire is always welcome on a cold, snowy day.

Kermit Miller wears many hats

By Bruce Stambaugh

Kermit Miller sells several different styles of hats in the general store he and his wife, Pam, own in Walnut Creek, Ohio. Civic minded as he is, Miller wears various hats for the community, too.

Born in Millersburg, Miller, 59, returned to his native Walnut Creek after graduating with a degree in business from Heidelberg College in Tiffin. Naturally, he also returned to work at Schlabach’s Store where he was named manager in 1973.

Miller said he had worked for Schlabach’s since he was in the fourth grade.

“I was in charge of parking lot maintenance,” he said in his wry humor. In other words, he cleaned up after the horses.

“I still have to do that,” Miller said. Of course, that is because he and Pam are the only employees and somebody has to do that job.

That may be Miller’s philosophy when he takes off his business owner hat and puts on his water board hat. He keeps that cap close by since people call him at the store with concern and pay their water bills there.

Miller is the president of the Walnut Creek Water Company, a non-profit organization that supplies water to nearly 300 customers in the Walnut Creek area. Miller has served on the board since 1979. In that time he has seen much change with water delivery, including monitoring the water levels.

“It used to be that we knew we had a problem when the tower ran out of water,” Miller said. “Now we monitor the water level electronically.”

The addition of the water treatment plant, thanks to a USDA loan in 2007, was a big help, too, according to Miller. Of course, he put on his research hat to help provide answers to some of the many background questions required to get the loan.

“That took a lot of time,” Miller said. “Of course, I wasn’t the only one who helped with that.”

Cash flow is important to Miller in other ways. That’s another hat Miller dons. He is treasurer of the German Culture Museum, which just relocated from an old wood-framed home into its new headquarters on Olde Pump Street in Walnut Creek.

Miller said the dedication was held on August 14 to coincide with the opening of the original museum, which was August 14, 1982.

“Instead of lots of small rooms,” Miller said, “we now have a 60 by 90 foot open space to properly display historic items from the area.”

The late Ruth Schlabach, the previous owner of Schlabach’s Store, donated the land with the community in mind for the new building, which also houses a community room, township office, and branch library.

“The community provided the donations to pay off the cost for the building in three years,” Miller said. “We are grateful that the library board recently decided to reopen the east branch here.”

Kermit Miller by Bruce Stambaugh
Good deals and a friendly approach has kept a steady stream of customers to Kermit Miller's Schlabach's Store in Walnut Creek, Ohio.

Miller wore his appreciation hat when he nominated local resident and museum board president, Larry Miller, for the Ohio Individual Achievement Award given by the Ohio Local History Alliance. Larry Miller portrayed “Der Weiss” Stutzman at the grand opening of the museum. Kermit Miller did the same years earlier for Roscoe Miller and Ruth Schlabach.

Another hat Kermit Miller wears is his church cap. Miller served on the consistory of St. John’s United Church of Christ for 20 years.

Miller puts on his parent hat when he and Pam visit their three daughters. Karrie Wood lives in Melbourne, Australia. Krystal Hoffman resides in Buffalo, New York, and Korrine Morrow lives in North Lewisburg, Ohio.

Miller said it is easier to visit them now since the decision was made to close the grocery store section a few years ago. Schlabach’s store sells everything from trinkets to toys.

“We knew we could find it here,” is frequently heard in the store, according to Miller. He chuckles in satisfaction that people can find what they want locally when they have searched high and low elsewhere.

There is yet one more hat that Miller is probably known best for. Tucked in the southwest corner of the 6,000 square foot retail store is a very busy camera section. It is what drives the store’s business, according to Miller.

“People come here for the service as well as good deals,” he said. “I know we can’t compete in price with the big boys, but we can more than make up for that in customer service.”

From the steady stream of customers with photo questions and purchases, Miller’s camera hat gets worn a lot.

Healing among the mourners

World War II Memorial by Bruce Stambaugh
My father, Richard H. Stambaugh, 89, got his only visit to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. courtesy of Honor Flight. As part of a review of the first decade of the 21st century, this picture appeared on the front page of nytimes.com on Dec. 24, 2009, three days after Dad had died.

By Bruce Stambaugh

In August, I emotionally crashed and burned. I thought I had been dealing pretty well with my father’s death late last year. Truth is, I wasn’t dealing with it at all.

Like so many others who have lost loved ones, I kept myself busy, and suppressed any emotions and hurts that spontaneously tried to ooze out at serendipitous times. I denied my suffering perhaps afraid to let myself go. I needed to properly mourn, take care of myself and share with others just how much Dad meant to me.

I thought I had of course. But I was just fooling myself. I know now that what happened to me was inevitable. I was in denial and the resulting consequences finally had caught up to me. I thought I was alone in this internal battle, and had to be strong for our mother and myself.

In his final months and days, Dad had received marvelous care from Hospice of Holmes County, along with the staff at Walnut Hills, the assisted living facility in Walnut Creek, Ohio where he and Mom lived. After his death, I began receiving monthly mailings from Hospice. Most of them had articles and literature on grieving.

Thinking that I was doing just fine, I usually glanced at them and that was it. That information was for others, not me. I was wrong.

The day my emotions hit rock bottom another Hospice mailing arrived. In it was an invitation to attend a special five-week session on grieving. I wasn’t tolerating the depression medicine the doctor had prescribed for me. I decided to stop the meds and start the counseling.

The group was small, which allowed for intimate, personal, confidential sharing. We met once a week for five consecutive Thursdays. I knew most of the handful of people who attended. The lives of rural people tend to intertwine consequentially.

Dick Stambaugh and Bob Dole by Bruce Stambaugh
Seeing Bob Dole, who was instrumental in making the World War II Memorial a reality, seemed to energize my father. Dole is often at the memorial to greet Honor Flight veterens.

Participants made the two hours each week a priority. We laughed, cried, listened and comforted each other. Our common, profound grief, our tears and smiles bonded us together with measureless compassion.

By the end of the final session, I had a greater appreciation for what others go through, how much people hurt even years after losing a loved one. I was no exception. I learned, though, that hearing the varying situations of others helped see my own issues in a new and realistic perspective.

We learned that grieving is an ongoing process. It takes time and understanding.

Still, I saw healing in my fellow mourners, and I felt healing myself. The last night we met, each of us took turns sharing something significant about our loved ones. Pictures, quilts, special mementos were all passed around.

I showed a slideshow of the Honor Flight trip I took with my father and older brother to Washington, D.C. in September 2009. Honor Flight is a program begun a few years ago to transport as many World War II vets as possible to the memorial in their honor in the nation’s capital.

I served as Dad’s guardian for the day, wheeling him around in his wheelchair. My older brother assisted two more able bodied vets. When asked where that experience fit in his 89 years of living, Dad said it ranked right after his marriage.

Knowing how much the trip meant to Dad, my brother and I were blessed to have been a part of that marvelous experience. In the same way, I was honored to have participated in the bereavement small group. The unconditional love and acceptance I experienced were unforgettable and priceless.

The hugs and handshakes upon parting told me the feelings were mutual.

Stambaughs at the WW II Memorial by Bruce Stambaugh
My older brother, Craig, Dad and I posed for a picture at the Ohio pillar at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 12, 2009.