Shaking the January blahs

swamp walk by Bruce Stambaugh
Friends walked the frozen marsh of Killbuck Creek in early January. (Photos provided by Dave and Kate Findley)

By Bruce Stambaugh

Normally, January is not one of Ohio’s more colorful months. I suppose residents all across North America could say that.

White and brown tend to be the dominant January color scheme here. It’s white if it snows, and basic brown on the bare ground if it doesn’t. Not exactly stuff of which calendar pictures are made.

With that introduction, I was going to write about how depressing it is to see the naked landscape during the winter months. I had my list of the usual suspects at the ready. The lack of color, the repetitive cloudy, dull days entombed with hard to breathe frigid air and the proverbial cabin fever all contributed to the annual epidemic of post-holiday let-down.

I had no sooner started to write when I received an email from a friend. She had attached several pictures of a swamp walk they had just taken in the backwaters of the Killbuck Creek near Killbuck, Ohio.

Most of the shots included the smiling couples that made the trek. I had a sneaky feeling their joy wasn’t just flashed for the camera. There seemed a deeper reason for their cheerfulness.

Though I did talk with my friend and her husband about their walk, the pictures really said it all. They revealed abundant beauty amid the wintry habitat of the marsh.

Buttonbush berries in varying auburn colors and stages of fermentation decorated the burnished host shrubs. By winter’s end, numerous types of wildlife, deer, turkey, robins and cedar waxwings among them, will have devoured the nutritious fruit.

beaver den
A beaver den in the backwaters of Killbuck Creek, near Killbuck, Ohio.

Behind a stand of some of the bushes, a blackish mound covered in tan sticks rose out of the mostly frozen water. The occupants of the beaver’s den were likely deep into their season’s sleep, unaware of their human visitors.

The pictures showed my friends walking on the marsh’s frozen surface, or posing for candid memories to be shared with friends and family. A rainbow of muted colors helped create their smiles.

The ice itself varied both in texture and color, ranging from off-white to clay gray. Nature’s arsenal of elements, wind, temperature, snow, and water flow all play a role in the seemingly dormant, yet ever-changing marshy environment.

swamp walk killbuck oh
My friends were amazed at the colors they found on their frozen wetlands walk.

Behind the low lying swamp, the rounded western foothills of the Appalachian Mountains jutted up like giant loaves of fresh baked bread. Clusters of pines served as a brief but green piedmont between the two.

At that point, a familiar fragrance distracted me from the pictures. I followed my nose into the kitchen to find pan after pan of fresh out of the oven cinnamon rolls cooling on the counter tops. Beside them, tins of golden-topped potato rolls also stood patiently cooling.

In addition, rows of jelly jars filled with cobalt colored blueberry topping for homemade pancakes and waffles sparkled from the light that filtered through the kitchen window. Smaller jars of crimson apple jelly added to the colorful collection next to the stove.

While I had sat sulking listlessly at the computer, bemoaning the dull days and confined activities, my energetic wife and thoughtful friends infused me with unexpected splashes of color. My smile nearly matched those of my friends in the swamp walk photos.

Inspired by digital pictures, picture perfect baked goods and showy glass jars, I realized that the blahs of January were self-induced. If I desired color in my life during the cabin fever time of year, all I really needed to do was to open my eyes.

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.

Weatherwax lends a helping hand

By Bruce Stambaugh

Jill Weatherwax, 59, of Glenmont, Ohio likes to lend a helping hand whenever she can.

Weatherwax, who by day works at Rice-Chadwick Rubber Company in Killbuck, spends several evenings each month helping others feel better. She provides reflexology treatments for residents at area retirement and nursing homes.

Weatherwax has been offering her services to seniors for a dozen years now. In fact, she specifically focuses on the elderly for a personal reason.

“I got into this because I missed my grandparents, Bob and Sally Allison,” the petite woman said. “I felt a void without them around.”

Jill Weatherwax by Bruce Stambaugh
Jill Weatherwax provided reflexology treatments for Esther Miller, a resident of Walnut Hills Retirement Home in Walnut Creek, Ohio.

Weatherwax has easily filled the void all these years with her gentle touches. She is careful to differentiate what she does from that of massage therapy.

Reflexology is considered a complementary touch therapy. Weatherwax gently, but firmly, works with the hands and feet of senior residents at Majora Lane Nursing Home, Sycamore Run Nursing Home, both in Millersburg, and Walnut Hills Retirement Home, Walnut Creek.

Residents who receive her treatments report relief from pain, stiffness, and other maladies.

“I like it because I can sleep better,” Esther Miller said. Miller is a resident at Walnut Hills Retirement Home and said she looks forward to the helpful visits by Weatherwax.

Weatherwax said it is not unusual for residents to report such extended advantages to the reflexology treatments.

“Relaxing the hands and feet improves the circulation,” she said. “Consequently, the entire body is relaxed, which is why some people report being able to sleep better.”

Her visits, which are paid for by the facilities and offered to the residents free of charge, are regularly scheduled at each location. She said she visits Majora Lane twice a week, Sycamore Lane weekly, and Walnut Hills every other week. And she does so after completing her daytime shift at Rice-Chadwick, where she has worked for 33 years.

“I am on my feet for eight-hours a day,” Weatherwax said. “So I know how important taking care of your hands and feet is.”

Weatherwax, who is certified to offer the reflexology services, said that before she works on residents, she gives the facilities’ administrators the opportunity to experience her treatments. That way they know exactly what is happening when she is there, she said.

“After my grandparents passed on, I asked God to do something to help me fill the void,” she said. After the third time of having her own hands and feet treated by a reflexology therapist, she realized she could provide the same services.

She said she knew such services were not offered in the area. “People don’t want to handle other people’s feet,” she said. “But I feel called to do it.”

According to the Farber Family Foundation, reflexology is a unique method of using the thumb and fingers on reflex areas in the feet and hands that correspond to all of the glands, organs and part of the body to elicit areas of potential or actual disorder. Pressure applied to the reflex points promotes better blood flow and nerve impulses, along with other physiological benefits.

Weatherwax began at Majora Lane, and then reached out to the other retirement centers. She actually finds the sessions therapeutic herself.

“The therapy works both ways,” Weatherwax said. “I get to listen to them while I work on their hands and feet, and they get to listen to me.”

“You need to be in tune with the person you are working with,” she said. “You have to be compassionate for each situation. If not, you are going to hurt them.”

Weatherwax’s gentle touch, soft-spoken approach and years of experience help provide positive results for many area seniors. That’s what helping hands are meant to do.

This article first appeared in the Holmes Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, Ohio, August 2, 2010.