Monday, June 18, 2007

Animal Control prepares confiscated canines for adoption

This was one of my favorite stories from my summer as an intern.

By Megan Tilk
St. Joseph News-Press
Fifty-eight of Shirley Groves' 64 dogs were confiscated by St. Joseph Animal Control. Three now remain running around her large home.
It took officers three to four hours to rescue the 58 dogs at the home of 70-year-old Mrs. Groves on June 9. Of the 64 dogs found at the home, Mrs. Groves was allowed to keep three. A close friend of hers also was allowed to take home three dogs. The remaining 58 dogs were impounded by city animal control.
"I pray for my dogs. I love my dogs and I didn't mistreat them. I pray for them every day and I pray whoever gets them will understand them and that they will love that person and that person will love them," Mrs. Groves said.
Friends of the Shelter and other volunteers joined animal control to get the dogs ready for adoption.
"Due to the condition of some of the dogs when they came in and the fact that we are limited on space, we had to euthanize about half of the older dogs," said Rick Smith, manager of St. Joseph Animal Control. "Volunteers have been coming to help groom and prepare the dogs."
Danielle Hunt, with Friends of the Shelter, helped remove the dogs. "Myself and another volunteer were there to help get the dogs to the shelter and we dealt with immediate issues concerning the dogs. Several volunteers have been around throughout the week," Ms. Hunt said.
Although many had to be euthanized, officers and volunteers were surprised how healthy the others were.
"Their overall health wasn't too bad yet. Most were just matted, some had urine stains on their paws or were covered in fecal matter," Mr. Smith said.
"We were actually expecting more of them to have major medical issues than they did, luckily that wasn't the case," Ms. Hunt said.
Mrs. Groves faces one charge of failure to obtain a litter permit, one charge of allowing dogs in city limits without proper licenses and one charge of animal cruelty by not providing proper care, according to the city prosecutor. Her court date is set for July 18.
Although many of the dogs have already been adopted, there are a few remaining at the shelter. However, the dogs appear to have varied temperaments and have had limited social contact - two issues Ms. Hunt says people looking to adopt should keep in mind.
"These dogs came from a very different situation than most dogs who arrive at the shelter," Ms. Hunt said.
Mrs. Groves sends thanks to the people that have adopted the dogs.
"I pray people will come adopt the rest and love them and take care of them," Mrs. Groves said.

At Camp Quality, children with cancer can take a break

This was my first article published in the News-Press. It ran my second day as an intern on the front page.

By Megan Tilk

St. Joseph News-Press

Living with cancer can seem like a full-time job. But for some kids, Camp Quality is a vacation free from doctors, treatments and worries, where eating numerous hot dogs and spraying your hair green are just a few of the fun options to enjoy.
Monday marked the first full day of activities for campers at Camp Quality, a nonprofit camp for children with cancer. Located at Camp Farwesta, more than 100 campers and their volunteer "companions" enjoy numerous activities during their stay. This year's theme is MASH: Make A Smile Happen.
Beginning at 8 a.m., campers can choose a variety of activities offered after breakfast, ranging from swimming, fishing, paddle boating and canoeing to crafts, hairstyling and horseback riding. Afternoons consist of water activities and special guests, such as magicians and musicians. Older campers can enjoy dances in the evenings.
Tyra, a 13-year camping veteran, has many favorite activities and memories from Camp Quality. In most cases, last names of campers and volunteers were not disclosed.
"Today in crafts, I made a foam finger to use at the donkey baseball game," she said.
Her companion, Ricci, describes donkey baseball.
"It's new this year and we're pretty excited about it. I heard that local law enforcement will be riding on donkeys," Ricci said.
Companions - the volunteers who mentor the children at camp - are a big factor in the return of campers. For some, this summer may be their first time volunteering, but others have had many years at Camp Quality.
Beth, a 10-year companion veteran, loves the experience of Camp Quality.
"I was companion to one girl for six years. Camp Quality is just a really good experience. It caters to each and every child to just make sure they have a really good experience," she said.
"If you have the opportunity to do something like this, you should definitely do it," she added.
Although the weather may not be favorable at times to Camp Quality, volunteers stay prepared, said volunteer Adam Nutting.
"When it comes to weather, nothing will shut us down. If it's heat, all cabins are air-conditioned and we keep the campers hydrated. We also have two shelters we can use in case of a tornado or severe thunderstorm. We work closely with local law enforcement and usually have a 45-minute heads up about the weather," he said.
First-year camper Cheyenne already plans to return next year.
"When I was in treatment, my doctor told me about camp. It sounded like a really good way to make friends. Already, I really like my companion, canoeing and horseback riding," she said.

Gas prices fuel commuting changes

One from my time as an intern.

St. Joseph News-Press

The price of gas doesn't just affect the weekend travel anymore. For some, it has become a decisive factor when it comes to picking careers and homes.
The nationwide average cost per gallon of gas was $3.07 last week, up 17 cents from this time last year, according to the Energy Information Administration. With no end in sight, many commuters are having to make tough decisions.
Chris Shobe, a St. Joseph resident and recruiter for Northwest Missouri State University, commutes to Maryville, Mo., daily.
"For me, it's about a 114-mile drive round trip. My girlfriend commutes to the airport area every day, but car pools with a friend from Platte City," Mr. Shobe said.
Gas prices have played a major role in some of Mr. Shobe's latest decisions.
"I stay in Maryville two nights a week with friends to save money. On average, if I drove every day for a full month, it costs me around $275-plus a month, so staying in Maryville saves me probably around $30 a week."
Mr. Shobe is currently in the process of getting a new job closer to his girlfriend's work. If all goes well, the two of them will leave St. Joseph and buy a house in the Kansas City area to cut down on both their drive times and gas spending.
Andy Clements, with the St. Joseph department of public works, says so far St. Joseph hasn't seen a big impact as far as population and employment are concerned.
"I feel like there is a magic number where people will have to decide if they want to or can afford to drive 'x' amount of miles. Right now, I think people are feeling the pain of gas prices but haven't reached the breaking point," Mr. Clements said.
As of right now, more people commute to St. Joseph than from St. Joseph.
"St. Joseph is an importer of jobs," Mr. Clements said. "We have more people coming in to their jobs than going out. If anything, I would expect the population of St. Joseph to grow because of high gas prices bringing them closer to their jobs."
According to the 2000 census, 43,532 people were traveling into the St. Joseph area for work and 38,519 were commuting out. Of those commuting to the Buchanan County area, 4,770 residents are from Andrew County. A total of 3,385 Buchanan County residents travel to the Kansas City area for work, according to statistics.
One advantage of living in St. Joseph is the shorter commute times compared to larger cities, which means less money spent on gas. The Census Bureau reports that the average commute to work was 23.8 minutes in Missouri, just under the national average of 25.5 minutes. St. Joseph's average commute was 17.4 minutes.
Like Mr. Shobe and his girlfriend, more and more people appear to be looking for cheaper ways of getting to work. The St. Joseph area transit has seen an 18 percent increase in riders during the last year.
Kurt Janicek, manager for city buses, has seen the biggest change recently.
"There are several factors that account for our double-digit growth over the last year but in the past nine months we have seen more people leaving their cars at home," Mr. Janicek said.
The Wire Rope Corporation of America employs many nearby residents as well as many who commute. The company will soon move its administration office to the Kansas City area, forcing some St. Joseph area employees to commute.
"Kansas City area employees are happy about the move and so far we haven't had any unusual complaints from those who will now have to commute," said David Hornaday, manager of marketing for Wire Rope.
"We are making some adjustments to those who will now have to commute so they are helped, such as carpools and one-time adjustments. There are people with family issues such as child care who can get somewhat aggravated, so we are doing some things as far as hours go for them," Mr. Hornaday added.
Gas prices aren't just interfering with people's job and home choices, however, but also where they shop and dine after work.
"The addition of some shopping to St. Joseph has helped, but I still go to Kansas City for other things," Mr. Shobe said.
"But I probably don't go as much as I would if I wasn't commuting everyday."