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April 20, 2017

Entire state at risk for severe weather today, tonight

From reports

The majority of Indiana is at risk for severe weather today. The National Weather Service indicates that most of the state is at a slight risk for severe weather, while southwest, southeast and northwest portions of the state are at a marginal risk.
Potential hazards include severe thunderstorms, damaging winds, hail and a possible isolated tornado.
The National Weather Service classifies a slight risk storm system as organized storms which are not widespread in coverage but have varying levels of intensity. A slight risk is the fourth lowest risk classification in the National Weather Service's 5-point risk scale. The southwest, southeast, and northwest portions of the state are at a marginal risk for severe weather​, which is the lowest risk classification.
Hoosiers are encouraged to have multiple ways to receive severe weather alerts for their area, whether it be a smart phone, weather radio or the local news station. If participating in any afternoon or evening activities, plan ahead and allow plenty of time to get to the destination. If weather conditions become severe in the area, consider postponing or canceling outdoor activities.
For more information on how to prepare for severe weather, visit or follow the Indiana Department of Homeland Security on Twitter: @IDHS or Facebook: IndianaDHS.

Old Type Writer

Join us today for a haiku poem by columnist Susie Duncan Sexton. A real treat along with her poem is a collage of spring photos -- including a photo of her at the Columbia City High School prom in the spring of 1952. Click the link below for Old Type Writer:

Moving Downtown: Whitley County Chamber of Commerce & Visitor's Center announce plans to open new office on the Courthouse Square

(Talk of the Town photo provided)

The Whitley County Chamber of Commerce & Visitor's Center announced plans this week to move to downtown Columbia City with fellow non-profits United Way of Whitley County and Pathfinder Services. The Chamber's move facilitates the opening of a visitor's center, new programs and more. The new offices will be located at 128 West Van Buren Street on the courthouse square, below.

From reports

The Whitley County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor's Center and the United Way of Whitley County are pleased to announce the opening of a spacious new welcoming center in downtown Columbia City.ChamberOffice417.jpg
Since 1919, the Chamber has served as a point of welcome for visitors to this community and has also served as a point of answers and information for residents. After several years' absence from the downtown, the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor's Center will soon move to 128 West Van Buren Street, on the Whitley County Courthouse Square. The new facility will feature a visitor's center with a high-tech interactive kiosk with virtual mapping, a curated collection of Whitley County-made items, art prints of local landmarks, community-centric work of local artists, gifts, marketing materials and more. Additionally, the facility will include co-working space available for rent as well as a large and small conference room. Future plans include a bi-monthly public art exhibition and new programs to market the community within and beyond Whitley County's borders.
"For decades, the Chamber has served as a resource for those visiting our community and for those planning to relocate here," said Jennifer Romano, executive director of the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor's Center. "Now, with the support of many community partners, we are building up our efforts in a major way to actively promote and sell our community."
The opening of the facility is the realization of the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor's Center's long-term plans to actively promote the community and to address the informational needs of residents, visitors and new residents to the community. "The chamber has been working toward this goal for many years. And now as we open the doors to our new building and launch our expanded programming, we are taking the lead on promoting everything that is great about our community -- locally and beyond," added Mike DeFreeuw, a board member of the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor's Center.
"The new Visitor's Center will show residents what wonderful amenities and experiences our community has to offer," said Columbia City Mayor Ryan Daniel. "We know our community is great, but this new Visitor's Center will show the rest of the world what we already know."
Excited by recent development in downtown Columbia City spearheaded by several entities, the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor's Center, the United Way of Whitley County and Pathfinder Services are eager to support their efforts by investing in the heart of the downtown.
"We applaud the efforts of many local individuals and volunteers who are working hard to make our downtown an attractive, busy place and we look forward to growing as a non-profit organization in this new location," added Romano, citing the work of the Downtown Business Alliance, City of Columbia City, Whitley County EDC, Columbia City Main Street and others. "We look forward to collaborating with each of these groups to highlight our wonderful community and to being a part of the excitement that is building throughout our community."
"We are thrilled to be moving downtown, to the very heart of our community, and having a much more visible presence," said Cindy Baker, executive director of the United Way of Whitley County.
"We are excited to open the doors to a new facility where we can serve our clients," said employment specialist Connie Marsh of Pathfinder Services, an area non-profit organization that assists people facing physical, developmental, or economic challenges as they achieve independence, inclusion, and stability.
"The Downtown Business Alliance welcomes the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce and Visitor's Center as well as the United Way to the downtown area," said Ann Fahl, a representative of the Downtown Business Alliance. "We look forward to the Chamber and the United Way coming into the downtown area and becoming part of the growth and vitality happening there," added Sharon Geiger, also of the Downtown Business Alliance.
The organizations anticipate moving into the space by the end of April and hosting an open house during the summer once renovations are complete.

Trinity Presbyterian youth plan bazaar to support missions trip to Costa Rica

From reports

Trinity Evangelical Presbyterian Church, located at 709 West Business 30 in Columbia City, will be hosting a craft bazaar fundraiser to support the church's youth group.
The event is slated for Saturday, April 29 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the church.
The youth group of Trinity Evangelical Presbyterian Church will host the bazaar to raise funds for a summer missions trip to Costa Rica. A bake sale is also planned. Breakfast and lunch items will be available for sale in the concession stand.

Local agencies honored at permitting reception

From reports

The jurisdictions participating in Northeast Indiana's Permitting Excellence Coalition (PEC) were honored at a Permitting Recognition Reception Wednesday, April 19 hosted by the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership and the HPG Network.
In addition to Whitley County and the City of Columbia City, participating jurisdictions in the Permitting Excellence Coalition include:
Allen County / City of Fort Wayne; City of Angola; City of Auburn; City of Decatur; DeKalb County; Huntington County; City of Huntington; LaGrange County; City of New Haven; Town of North Manchester; Rome City; City of Wabash; and Wells County.
PEC representatives met throughout 2016 - the third year for the coalition - to focus on process and communication improvements that align with the core customer values of consistency, transparency and easy access.
Accomplishments this year include improved tracking of performance data, utilization of a standardized customer feedback survey and regular input from high volume customers through a customer-oriented taskforce.
"The Permitting Excellence Coalition's dedication to continuous improvement gives Northeast Indiana a competitive edge in attracting new businesses and encouraging investments by existing businesses. Our tireless commitment to bettering our permitting processes continues to advance and empower the region. That's good for our businesses, our residents and our communities," said Nathan Bilger, executive director of Planning and Building in Whitley County.
With the third year of the program complete, the Permitting Excellence Coalition now has a foundation to continue work on its three core values of consistency, transparency and easy access. The group's efforts this year will allow it to better measure and communicate the effectiveness of the process in order to meet customer needs.
"Driven by a diverse and robust economy, Northeast Indiana's streamlined permitting process provides a distinct and unique environment in which to do business," said John Sampson, president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership. "The jurisdictions committed to the PEC are critical to efficiently and effectively navigating the permitting process with direct services to make planning and zoning easier for new and existing businesses."
PEC members are also renewing their request for non-residential permit applicants to complete a 16-question customer survey to provide input on the process. Survey questions are about customer service, responsiveness, timeliness and availability of information. The survey is designed to provide local government leaders with customer feedback they can use to make process improvements. Many jurisdictions distribute surveys at the time of permit application, or customers can take the survey by visiting this website. Feedback received is carefully reviewed and incorporated into the improvement process.
Streamlining business permitting is a top priority in the region's Vison 2020 initiative, which is spearheaded by the Regional Partnership. The HPG Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to cultivating thriving communities, manages the PEC on behalf of the Regional Partnership. The collaborative effort aims to help create a business-friendly environment that will encourage greater economic growth in Northeast Indiana by making it easier for businesses to obtain appropriate permits to build and expand in the region.
For more information about the Streamlined Permitting priority, visit

HANDS Foundation 'shakes it up'

Article provided

What happens when a long-time funding collaborator says "it's time to shake things up!"? To be honest, for members of H.A.N.D.S., it initially meant some discomfort. After all, for almost 20 years the Community Foundation's youth philanthropy program had fulfilled its mission of empowering students to be thoughtful grant makers and instilling the skills they need to be effective leaders. Since 1995, youth members recommended $200,000 in grants to education related projects in Whitley County. What could be better?
Indeed, what could be better? That was the question H.A.N.D.S. members were challenged to examine by leaders at the Dekko Foundation, a longtime funding partner and champion of youth philanthropy. The students were urged to consider community needs and review all aspects of their organization; what were they doing well? What could they be doing better or differently? By-laws were tweaked, projects were reviewed and school administrators were surveyed.
Additional questions started to emerge. What if more youth had the opportunity to learn about community needs and local non-profit organizations? What if these same students were taught about grants - how to write them and how they are awarded? What if they had the ability to raise real money for real causes? In the end, the 15 high school students decided to cast a broader net. H.A.N.D.S. chose to expand.
Charitable Champions was introduced in the 2015-16 school year and over 250 8th grade students at Indian Springs Middle School participated in the year-long pilot program. With input from school educators, H.A.N.D.S. members produced the curriculum which launched through student workbooks and ten video lessons. The videos feature the high school group covering topics such as community, philanthropy and grant making. Each week, educators guided the mini-lessons and discussion on philanthropic related material.
In March, a non-profit fair took place at the Middle School. About twenty local organizations were on hand to teach 8th graders about their missions and the role their business plays in our community. Afterwards, students divided into teams and spent the next few weeks doing additional research on a specific charity. They identified needs, determined budgets and ultimately wrote grant requests on behalf of their non-profit. Each team presented their proposal to their classmates and teachers. The top ten were selected to present their proposal to H.A.N.D.S. for real funding consideration.
ISMS Social Studies teacher Amy Shearer reflected on the value of Charitable Champions as it relates to project based learning. She noted that the initiative incorporates multiple subject areas: Social Studies (civic standards), Language Arts (writing) and Math (creating budget and finance). In addition, the program is meant to empower students in their ability to make a difference by getting involved. "We want the students to learn how to identify what needs exist in their community and develop real-life problem solving skills. Here's a need or a problem, what can you do?" Shearer said.
Given the overwhelming success of the program, Charitable Champions will continue and hopefully expand to include students at Churubusco Middle School and Whitko Middle School in the future. What happens when a funding collaborator says "it's time to shake things up!"? Quite a lot.

April 19, 2017

Third generation local business owners launch Architectural Glass & Aluminum, LLC


(Talk of the Town photo provided)
Architectural Glass & Aluminum, LLC, above, recently opened operations in Gateway Park in Columbia City.

Article provided

A new Whitley County business, Architectural Glass & Aluminum, LLC recently located in Gateway Park in Columbia City.
Architectural Glass & Aluminum specializes in commercial glazing, aluminum storefronts, entrances and curtainwalls, and provides aluminum door hardware and services. The company is currently renting a facility at 1050 S. Williams Drive in Gateway Park, next to PDQ Workholding.
Although Architectural Glass & Aluminum is a new business, owners Troy Gay and Jeff Reece have years of experience in the industry.
Both partners are third generation business owners from the northeast Indiana area, and wanted to work together and combine their experience and expertise. They've worked on a number of commercial facilities in the Midwest area including: healthcare facilities, commercial facilities, school systems and universities.
"Jeff has the 'glass' expertise [such as curtainwall, windows and glass doors], and I have experience with doors, hardware and access controls," Troy said.
Troy grew up in Whitley County, and still owns a farm in Columbia City. His grandfather, Dale Gay, owned a local filling station, Dale's Service, which was located at Walnut and Van Buren Streets in Columbia City in the 1960s. His parents, Dennis and Debbie Gay owned and operated Dues Restaurant and Coffee Shop, which was located at 314 W. Van Buren Street, near the former Eagles building.
Jeff grew up in the glass business. His grandfather started Haney's Glass Shop in neighboring Kendallville in 1947. The family business was passed down to his father, Bob Haney in the 1960s, and Jeff is now a third generation owner of the business. "I've been around the business my entire life," Jeff said. "I started working in the glass shop sweeping floors when I was 13 years old, then I went away to college and came back to work in the shop in 1984."
Jeff explained that Haney's was becoming very busy with commercial glass work, which is a reason why he and Troy teamed up to focus on the commercial work. Haney's will continue focusing on residential and auto glass services.
"We are very excited to bring our business into Whitley County," Troy said. "The business climate is exceptional, and it's humbling to receive such great support from the community and government officials. This support motivates us to be an important part of the community."
Architectural Glass & Aluminum currently has five employees, including Jeff's son, Justin, who serves as the field foreman for the company. As the company continues to grow, they anticipate they will need to hire more installers in the near future.
"This is a great example of a former Whitley County resident returning back to his hometown to start his own business," said EDC president Jon Myers. "We look forward to Troy and Jeff continuing to grow their business here."

To Prom and Beyond: ETA provides unique opportunity for students attending prom

Article provided

For juniors and seniors, prom is a special evening towards the end of the school year to dress up and spend quality time with their peers. This evening requires students to spend a significant amount of money purchasing their attire, dinner, and the ticket itself.
Some juniors and seniors in our area struggle to afford going into Fort Wayne and paying for a fancy dinner.
To help students in our community, we are in the process of creating an elegant and affordable dinner for juniors and seniors on the night of prom. This event includes not only food and decorations, but also transportation to and from prom. Tickets for the event can be purchased at the same time as prom tickets at both Columbia City High School and Eagle Tech Academy.
This event wouldn't be possible without the gracious donations of The Van Buren, Daniel Menu and Party Consulting, Micropulse, More Farm Store, Bones Theatre, Running Around Screen Printing, St. Paul of the Cross and Advanced Assembly.
If you would like more information or are interested in donating to this event so that these juniors and seniors can experience one of the most magical nights of high school, please contact Elizabeth Hanna at or call (260) 244-­5707.

Whitley County Chamber of Commerce & Visitor's Center celebrates opening of By Belle Haven in South Whitley

(Talk of the Town photo provided)
Members of the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce & Visitor's Center staff, board and Ambassadors were present to celebrate the opening of The Restaurant By: Belle Haven in South Whitley recently.
Located at 105 South State Street in South Whitley, The Restaurant By:  Belle Haven is the creation of owners Nathan Lowen and Cat Crance and their families. Drawing together many generations of experience in the restaurant and catering industry, The Restaurant By: Belle Haven is a venture that combines a gorgeous venue with incredible food. The menu features unique fare with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.
The Restaurant By: Belle Haven is open Tuesday-Saturday for lunch and dinner and open for brunch on Sundays. Their hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday, 1 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday. They are closed on Monday.
To make reservations, send an instant message to By: Belle Haven on Facebook or call (260) 272-1061.
Attending the ceremony were, in front, from left, Chamber Ambassadors Scott Nguyen and Randy Hollar; Angie Dillon of By Belle Haven, Chamber Ambassador Chad Banks; Chamber board member Dennis Norris; Justin Lynch and Wes Davison of By Belle Haven, Jennifer Romano Chamber Executive Director, Nate Lowen, Naomie Lowen and Jody Lowen of By Belle Haven; Chamber ambassador Nancy Zummack; Catie Crance and Brandon Davis of By Belle Haven, Chamber ambassadors Cindy Doolittle and Ashley Martin; Teresa Carrano, Chamber board member; and Chamber Ambassador Lee Aumsbaugh; in back are Kieffer Keefer, Regan Blank, Lindsay Pilsner, Audree Ousley Chamber Ambassador, Kailynn Foftus, Andrea Bird, Josh Davison, Leslie Sheckler Chamber Ambassador, Jo Robertson, Chamber Ambassador; Alyana Bergmann, Carolyn Coverstone, Tessa Rostochak, Dee Fox, Marty Barry of By Belle Haven and Chamber Ambassadors Nancy Zummack, Don Clemens and Bryan Graham.

Whitley County Women's Republican Club hosting spring brunch featuring fashion show, talk with Amanda Banks

From reports
The Whitley County Republican Women's Club will host a Spring Brunch on Saturday, May 6 at 10 a.m. in the auditorium at Peabody Public Library. Amanda Banks will be the keynote speaker, sharing her insight on the exciting year her family has experienced. A fashion show is also planned. Tickets are $20 per person.
Banks will discuss her experiences over the past year and changes faced by her family during her husband's deployment, Congressional campaign and now as he serves as the Third District Congressman in Washington, D.C.
Checks can be made payable to WCRWC and mailed to P.O. Box 165, Columbia City, IN 46725. Please enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope and we will return your tickets promptly. Tables are available for groups of 8.

Camp Whitley seeks responsible youths for counselor positions

From reports

The Camp Whitley board of directors is pleased to announce that plans are underway now for the Summer 2017 camp season and hiring is underway for counselors ages 16 and up.
"We're looking for responsible, respectful young people who can serve as leaders and mentors for youths attending Camp Whitley this summer," said board president Tony Romano.
Board members include: Tony Romano, associate director at Zimmer Biomet; Brian Bills, retired from Indiana State Police; Jennifer Romano, executive director of the Whitley County Chamber of Commerce & Visitor's Center; Dick Buchanan, retired from Star Financial Bank; Emily Hare, teacher at Coesse Elementary School; Denise Hearld, owner of Snippers Salon; and Bruce VandeZande, owner of BVZ Painting, Inc.
For additional information about Camp Whitley, including online registration forms and camp dates, visit the newly redesigned website at

South Whitley Main Street gears up for annual Spring Spruce Up; volunteers needed for many projects

From reports

South Whitley Main Sgtreet is in need of volunteers to participate in the town wide cleanup day slated for May 6, 2017, from 9 to 11 a.m.
Multiple projects are planned including washing windows, picking up trash, spreading mulch and painting in the park. Additional projects will be completed as volunteers are available to help. Everyone is invited to participate, including children and families.
For more information, contact Lori Starkey at 723-6351 or

Whitko Middle School welcomes former student for visit


(Talk of the Town photo provided)
Congressman Jim Banks, above, visits students at Whitko Middle School where he was a student in the spring of 1993.

Article provided

In the spring of 1993, Congressman Banks was one of the first students to set foot on the brand new facility at Whitko Middle School. 24 years later, today he visited Whitko with a story full of achievement, inspiration, and to remind students that it is ok to have big goals and big dreams and know that you can reach them. Throughout his speech, the Congressman stated a self described truth that became a theme for the students to reflect upon: that as Americans, "We live in the greatest country in the world" and that "in this country you can dream big."
"Have any of you ever heard of the American dream?" asked Banks to the students, "I've been able to live the American Dream."
As a student at WMS, Banks connected with one teacher specifically, Andrew Layman. While in college, Banks continued to reach out to Layman through emails, and Layman continued to encourage him in his political pursuits and ambitions. "Whitko Middle School played a big role in my life, and Mr. Layman did specifically as well," recalled Banks.
Banks reflected on his recent travels around the globe visiting and meeting with world leaders in a common message about "the way that America works with their countries to keep them safe and to keep the world safe.... I've become more educated about the way the world works and about the role that America plays in it."
During the presentation, students had submitted questions for Banks to answer at the end of their time together. Of the many questions submitted one specifically reflected upon Banks' future ambitions for office, specifically if the Congressman would ever consider running for President some day. Jokingly, Banks admitted "My wife would say 'absolutely not!' and my answer would probably be the same," but was also quick to share his love for the process of democracy and why it is so important that some day, when the students turn 18 years old, that they exercise their right to vote. To exercise their right as citizens to "vote for your leaders who make decisions on your behalf, and have the opportunity to sift the bad one out of office and keep the good ones. When you turn 18, I hope you will be as excited as I was to have the opportunity to go to the ballot box and participate in the democratic process."