Pastor Hargraves: On the Need for Self Care

There is going to be a painting project soon. Not sure exactly when but it is likely to happen before the school year begins. For the painting to occur, the paint color had to be chosen. The color choice – grey or gray. Light grey/gray.  And so began the process of selecting the color.

The numerous choices within the light grey palette is unreal to my minimalistic mind. I just wanted to have three maybe four shades to choose from and pick one. But no, there had to be eighty plus that would all be to my consideration “light gray”. The more time spent looking at gray/grey colors and thinking I was ready for the choice, the more I had thoughts of doubt.

What if it does not look nice? What if no one likes it? What if we do not get enough paint? What if? Good grief Charlie Brown, it is not reattaching a limb. It is paint; light grey paint. Just make a choice, I thought, with teeth clenched.

And then, the voice of reason. “I will pick up a few samples and paint them on the wall. We can pick after they dry.” I am still thanking God she picked up one color sample and it looks very good in every light and shadowed area. Only one sample because there was no help in the store’s paint department. (Thank God for no help at the store either.) One choice, it works well. One choice, even better than three or four! Bring on the paint project with this paint color; light grey. Well, more specifically sea glass grey or is it sea glass gray?

It is clear now that the selection of the pain color that seemed a bit overwhelming really was not the root of the problem. It was the proverbial mess caused when there is too much going on and not enough self-care happening. I think of the paper plate commercial that has the spoonful of whatever plopped on the paper plate and the paper plate collapses. Well, honestly, nothing collapsed but geez did I get caught up in the grays and the greys for too long because my plate was full. The fullness of the plate not the problem; I had the “right” paper plate brand to hold up all that was on it, rather my self-care was lacking. Perhaps like one that forgets to take the anti-reflux medication before bed. Oops, that’ll wake you up, for sure.

Sometimes the little things remind us of bigger things. Today, paint color reminded me that self-care is important and needs to be our priority. Self-care goes at the top of the list. It does not have to take a long time or a lot of money. It does go a long way. It makes us kinder, more focused, and more self-aware. It promotes healthiness of body, mind, and spirit. It promotes independence in others, relaxation in oneself, and good stewardship of one another. Maybe your self-care means saying “no” or giving yourself a break to have breakfast for dinner tonight. Maybe your selfcare means, fifteen minutes of exercise no more excuses. Maybe your selfcare means, jamming out to a favorite song – two minutes of ME time.

Whatever your self-care is, give yourself a little time for your health, so that you aren’t bothered between gray and grey.  I’m going for a walk around the block now; it is good for my soul and the next choice I will need to make. And I think I will call my sister-in-law, she tends to choose soda and snowcaps for lunch. She might need a self-care chat.

Peace, Pastor Dawn

Bedner’s Farm and Greenhouse: More than Flowers & Veggies

bednars3I’m not sure that Stephen and Elizabeth Bedner could have foreseen the generational farming heritage their family would spawn in the years following their beginning acreage in Upper St. Clair in 1917. For decades their family would grow exponentially as would their farming community. It would even reach as far south as Palm Beach County in 1960. In 1985, the effort expanded to 42 acres in McDonald, Pennsylvania delivering fresh vegetables and hanging flower baskets to their retail shop in Upper St. Clair. In 2000, four more greenhouses were built to grow more container gardens and perennials. In 2006, a nexus garden was built to be used as a larger retail space in McDonald, Pennsylvania to include an expanded perennial section and a nursery area. Nexus gardens are greenhouses using heating and cooling for food and floriculture production. Finally, Passiflora Springs debuts as their newest venture into wine making.

Currently, Bedner’s Farm and Greenhouse is a member of six associations including Washington County Farm Bureau and American Nursery and Landscape Association. Additionally, the farm has strong community support from fourteen organizations including Pittsburgh Botanic Garden and Cecil Township Parks and Recreation.

In keeping with its commitment to community, Bedner’s has added many social events to their retail offering of plants, vegetables and flowers. All the following take place at their location at 315 Coleman Road, McDonald, PA 15057. You can contact them at (724) 926-2541. Their hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Weekend hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They have a Facebook page at BednarGreenhouse.

August 2, 5, 9, 12, 16, 19, 23, 26 and 30 – 11 am – 2 p.m., U-Pick Veggies

Pick your own vegetables at their Family Farm. Stop by anytime between the hours of 11 a.m.- 2 p.m.  They provide the picking containers. $15 per chip basket.

August 4 – 2 p.m. – 3 p.m., Sandcast Leaf Birdbath

In this workshop, you’ll cast your very own garden-ready birdbath. $15 per person. Registration is required.

August 12 – 2 p.m. – 3 p.m., Rock Fairy Houses

Join local artist Jane Irwin as she guides you step by step to paint several of these adorable rock fairy houses. No prior art experience is necessary. Painting will be adapted to work with every level of artist. Fee: $20, includes instruction and all materials. Registration is required to hold your spot. Max class size of 15 people.

August 12 – 2 p.m. – 3 p.m., Monthly Weed Walk

Meet at the store entrance to go on an educational plant walk around our property with expert Jen Dalke.

August 18 – 10 am – 11 am, Yoga on the Farm

Take your yoga practice outdoors for an invigorating and peaceful yoga experience. Increase your strength and flexibility while soothing your mind, body and spirit. Classes will be led by Kristen Kolenda RYT (Registered Yoga Teacher) and adapted for all age and experience levels. $10 per class.

August 18 – 2 p.m. – 3 p.m., Fairy Garden Workshop

Enjoy building your very own miniature garden in this all ages workshop.

Construct enchanting fairy hideaways with tools and supplies included in the class fee. Participants will take home one fairy garden with plants, accessories, and character for $35.

August 18 @ 6 p.m. – 8:30 p.m., Fields to Fork Wine Dinner

Enjoy a scenic hayride through their fields, live music and a multi-course dinner prepared with homegrown produce and other locally produced foods. Each dinner course will be paired with a wine selection from the debut of Bednars’ own winery, Passiflora Springs. Guest Restauranteur and Wine Connoisseur Debbie Curigliano, Piccolina’s Guest Chef Chelsey Rawson and Piccolina’s Winemaker Russ Bedner. $125 per person, tax and gratuity included. 21 and over. Tickets available online only at and are nonrefundable. The menu is pre-set. Please indicate any food allergies at the time of ticket purchase. Flat footwear is recommended, as this is a true farm experience. In the case of inclement weather, this rain or shine, outdoor event will be held inside the greenhouse. Tickets will be on sale until August 8.

August 19 – 1 p.m. – 2 p.m., Canning Exhibit and Dial Gauge Testing

Home Food Preservation Canning & Freezing Basics An extension educator will be available to teach you all you need to know about canning fruits and veggies. Presented by Dori Owczarzak, Extension Educator. For more information, call: Penn State Extension 724-858-4208.

August 19 – 2 p.m. – 3 p.m., Succulent Centerpiece

Join local artist Jane Irwin as she guides you step by step to paint and plant an adorable centerpiece. Succulents will be planted at the bottom of the dish.  No prior art experience is necessary. Painting will be adapted to work with every level of artist. Fee: $40, includes instruction and all materials. Registration is required to hold your spot. Max class size of 15 people.

August 23 – 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., The Surprising Benefits of Goldenrod

Join expert Jen Dalke to learn all about goldenrod and make a tincture to take home. All supplies included. $15 per person.

August 25 – 12 p.m. – 2 p.m., Hypertufa Planter Workshop

Create one, or more, hypertufa containers to take home. They have recycled materials for you to use as molds but feel free to bring your own. Items like planters, dishpans, baskets, soda bottles, etc. will all work. Please bring your own rubber gloves, if desired! $25 per person.

August 25 – 2 p.m. – 3 p.m., Terrarium Workshop

Learn how to make your own terrarium and how to keep them healthy and thriving year-round. Then, you can make your own terrarium to take home. $15 per person includes instruction, planting soil, rocks, moss, twigs and stone selection and light refreshments.

August 26 – 2 p.m. – 3 p.m., “Bee Happy” Garden Sign

Join local artist Jane Irwin as she guides you step by step to paint a rustic garden sign. No prior art experience is necessary. Painting will be adapted to work with every level of artist. Fee: $20, includes all supplies and step-by-step painting instruction, Registration is required. Max class size of 15 people.

August 30 – 3 p.m. – 5 p.m., DIY: Crafting Wild Medicine 101

Master the art of making your own herbal remedies. Discuss how to make tinctures, syrups, salves and more. $20 per person.

For more information and events, visit Bedner’s Farm and Greenhouse at:

Story by Fred Terling for Pennsylvania Bridges

Mental Health Spotlight: How values affect mental wellness

At a recent support group, we discussed values. As I continue on this road of recovery, understanding basic concepts adds more skills to the toolbox. When discussing mental health, the values that we all hold as a foundation of how we deal with work, education, relationships, leisure and personal growth can get lost in the daily struggle of just keeping our collective heads above water. Yet, they are simply another aspect of defining what each of our “normal” can be.

There is a difference here between what our goals are and the values we hold as part of our core in daily life. For example, I write and advocate to help others realize their potential despite mental illness. Actually, I prefer the term mental wellness. That is more of a goal than a value. The values that I must achieve to obtain that goal are acceptance, empathy, honesty, helping others, etc. These are just a few of the values that I must keep developing in myself. More importantly, they are values that answer the question, “In a world where I can choose to have my life about something, what would I choose?”

The exercise we participated in is based on The The Bull‘s-Eye Values Survey (BEVS; Lundgren et al., 2012). It is a tool that is used for assessing values, values-action discrepancies, and barriers to value-based living. After defining the values in each of four categories: Work/education, Leisure, Relationships and Personal growth/health, the responses are charted on a bullseye target graph to see how close to the center we are with our values based on those four categories. The second part examines what the obstacles are from us achieving those values.

I found the exercise extremely helpful on two wellness fronts. The first is obvious, the obstacles. An interesting sub-narrative emerged. The first sub-narrative was who we found as the obstacles. Some found external sources/people to be the obstacles, while others found themselves as the obstacles. Our perceptions and expectations many times drive how we view our goals. I believe regaining that control is imperative. I mean, they are after all OUR values.

The second narrative was applying these values to goals. Goals can be unrealistic which leads to disappointment. Overwhelmed at failure, this can trigger our conditions. We always want to keep in the here and now in group discussions as falling back in the dark abyss of our conditions are by no means wellness, quite the opposite. By examining our values and applying them to the initial premise of “what would I choose?” Certainly, to get better is one of the answers.

I highly recommend going up to the internet and locating the survey. Take your time in completing it to see where your values are, where you would like them to be and how they can help you achieve your goals of wellness. Share with family and friends as they are part of your journey. It will have the added benefit of sharing how you feel about things, which increases understanding of recovery.

You can download the survey at:

Good luck and drop a line with your results. I would love to hear what you’ve come up with.

NEED HELP? IN THE U.S., CALL 1-800-273-8255 FOR THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE.*Mental Health Spotlight is an opinion based column. Any resources mentioned are provided for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the specialized training and professional judgment of a health care or mental health care professional.

Story by Fred Terling for Pennsylvania Bridges

About Face with Tasha Oskey: Cost effective skincare devices

two-woman-with-cucumber-facSince I’ve been writing these columns, one thing I have always been adamant about is having an efficacious and consistent home skincare regimen. I know not everyone has the time or quite frankly the money to get facials or other expensive skincare treatments, so what if you added something to your everyday skincare routine to give it a nice boost? A good way to do this would be to use an at home skincare device. Incorporating something like this into your skincare regimen would be a great way to get results at home and in most cases it would cost less. There are many of them to choose from so I will be starting with some basic ones in this month’s column and go into some more complicated ones next month.

Neutrogena is one of my favorite drugstore brands and they make some really nice at home skincare devices. My personal favorite is the microdermabrasion system. I use this quite often at home and I love how soft and smooth my skin feels afterward. The microdermabrasion system comes with an applicator, 12 single use puffs, an attachment head, and two AA batteries. The puffs stick onto the attachment head which fits on the applicator wand. What’s really nice about this device is the puffs are pretreated with ultra fine crystals and mild purifiers so you don’t have to add anything yourself. All you do is wet the puff, turn on the applicator wand, and put it directly on the face. It comes with two speeds so you can work your way up. The puff feels a little gritty with a sandpaper texture and as you move it across the skin you feel a vibration. It really gives a nice gentle exfoliation and stimulates cell turnover. You do have to replace the puffs because you discard each one after use. It might not go as deep into the pores as a professional microdermabrasion treatment would but it definitely gives you a deeper exfoliation than using a scrub. I really recommend this device if you want to do something extra for your skin and it’s very simple to use.

Neutrogena makes another skincare device that gets great reviews. It’s called the Light Therapy Acne Mask. The mask emits red and blue lights that help to treat acne. The blue light is supposed to kill the bacteria that causes the acne and the red light helps to calm the inflammation from acne. It comes with a mask and the mask activator. You plug the mask activator into the mask and hold the start button for a full second. This will turn it on. Then you put it on your face for 10 minutes. Make sure your face is cleansed and dry before you use it. It says you can use the mask daily and prides itself for being UV free and chemical free. I have not used this mask because I don’t have acne but it is a best seller. I don’t think it would be powerful enough to completely get rid of acne altogether but I do think it could definitely help reduce breakouts and calm inflammation that usually comes with acne. Also, I really like the research behind light therapy and how its used to treat different skin issues.

Another really simple skincare device that you can use at home is a jade roller. This is one of my favorites and it’s so easy to use. A jade roller is a handheld tool that you massage all over the face and neck. It usually comes with the two jade stones, a big and a small one. The bigger one is for the larger areas of the face and neck. The smaller one is for under the eyes and around the mouth. Jade rollers originated in China and have been around for a long time. They have recently become more popular in Westernized skincare. The jade feels very cool and it helps to reduce puffiness and swelling under the eyes. You take the tool and gently roll it along your face like you are massaging it. This helps to increase circulation and help with lymphatic drainage which reduces fluid retention. I like to use it to help work my serums and oils into the skin.

These three devices are really simple to use and relatively inexpensive compared to professional treatments. In next month’s column, I will be diving into some devices that are a bit more complicated and a little more expensive. In the meantime, enjoy the remaining months of summer and please wear your sunscreen!

Written by Tasha Oskey for Pennsylvania Bridges

The Rainbow Ends debuts original jazz/fusion CD

When “life happened” to guitarist Joshua Carns, his music school scholarship went unfulfilled, though his dream of a music career lived on.

therainbowendsFostered by self-funded lessons and raw talent, Carns not only went on to teach at Seton Hill University, but has also put together The Rainbow Ends, a jazz trio with a mature style despite its mere two and a half years in existence.

Carns and electric bassist, Kyle Green, joined forces in January of 2016. Upon meeting through a mutual drummer friend, Carns and Green “hit it off right away” Carns said, adding “I was blown away by how skilled he was and wasn’t doing anything with it…there was this instant connection we had with one another.”

As with most jazz musicians, the ability to improv is invaluable, and when Carns and Green successfully improvised a three hour show at a local brewery, the foundation for further musical exploration was set.

However, a new drummer was needed to replace the original, who went in a different direction.

Enter Justin Banks, who Carns said showed up to an open mike with a business card and high recommendations from other friends. “He came out and played one show and said ‘I’m in, I love it.’”

With his ability to create “the most unique beats to occupy space in intricate ways in a three piece band,” Carns knew Banks was “the right guy for the job.”

With Banks on board as of October of 2016, the group’s philosophy of working by committee came about easily, as Carns said “All the musicians in this group have been playing for 20 years. So we got together and said let’s play how we want to play. You play drums how you want to play, and play bass how you want to play, and I’ll play how I want to play.”

Now with a solid lineup in place, The Rainbow Ends began creating new, original jazz instrumentals in preparation for its debut release. But good music, like anything worthwhile, takes time, so after working through various arrangements and concepts for about one year, Carns felt it was time to hit the studio.

The Schoolhouse Studio in Armbrust, PA played host to The Rainbow Ends recording sessions.

According to Carns, the 100 year old, single room former schoolhouse “has great natural reverb for recording drums and vocals,” an important element in providing pleasing depth of sound in musical recordings. Schoolhouse sound engineer and producer, Daniel Blake, took the controls for the band’s recording sessions. Though it was his first time recording a jazz band, Carns said “he did a great job.”

Its self-titled debut, The Rainbow Ends, showcases the band’s musical and compositional skills with a full range of jazz/fusion instrumentals. Original sounds range from shades of Weather Report on “Bellyscratch” to the virtuosic, funk-style grooves of “Assembly Line.” Throughout the CD, a level of musical maturity and band chemistry is evident, but not obtrusive, providing music fans with a range of exciting, new music to bend their ears.

The Rainbow Ends enjoyed a successful CD release party in Pittsburgh, and have two more shows coming up in August. Catch them on August 10, 8 pm, at the PRESS Bistro Concert Series, 110 Franklin St., Johnstown, PA and August 31, 10 pm, at the Circle Hanover, 5 E. Walnut St., Hanover, PA.

For those wanting to hear The Rainbows End from the comfort of their home, Carns encourages everyone to “check us out on Amazon, iTunes – pretty much any streaming site, you’ll find us.” Hard copy CDs and band gear are also available. Join the mailing list at, follow them on twitter for the latest updates @endsrainbow, and make friends at

Story by Keren Lee Dreyer for Pennsylvania Bridges

Southwestern Pintsylvania: The Lipkes from Leaning Cask

Leaning Cask brewer Joshua Lipke and his co-owner and wife, Stefanie Lipke

Leaning Cask brewer Joshua Lipke and his co-owner and wife, Stefanie Lipke

This month, I sat down with Leaning Cask brewer Joshua Lipke and his co-owner and wife, Stefanie Lipke, in Springdale, PA. The brewery has been open for a little over a year, but Joshua has been brewing a lot longer than that. He, like many others, started with a homebrewing hobby and expanded. The turning point for the Lipkes to take the step from homebrewing to opening their own brewpub was a trip to England in the mid-2000s. While there, they tried cask ales, which are a bit different than what you normally get in the U.S. in terms of brewing and serving style.

The brewery has three authentic English hand pumps, one of which is portable. Leaning Cask is also one of the only places in the Pittsburgh area that has a beer engine, which assists in pumping the beer from casks stored in the basement. Joshua says that while they do keep their beer warmer than most, it isn’t quite to the 50°F to 55°F that it would be served at overseas. Their beer is stored in the basement but not quite at those true “cellar” temperatures you would see in England. The casks are closer to traditional temperatures at 45°F to 50°F because they are stored in the farthest corner of the cold storage.

When it comes to the beer itself, contrary to popular belief, it isn’t only English-style beers that are brewed and stored in casks. Stefanie says they put any type into casks, and they often use it as a way to try out a new beer or style of beer since the initial release is on a smaller scale. Cask beers aren’t the only types they have, either. The brewery has 12 taps, which allows a wide variation—a little bit of everything.. On most visits to Leaning Cask, you will see three to four different IPAs on tap, their own cider, a stout or porter, a wheat, English ale, and some type of Belgian. Depending on when you visit, various seasonal beers will come into play, too. Another tradition you might notice is all the brews are named with a dog theme. The Lipkes love dogs and appreciated how dog-friendly English pubs are. They wanted to bring a little of that home with them, so they not only have dog-themed beer names, but they are also very welcoming to dogs, as long as they are well-behaved. They go even a step further than allowing dogs inside the bar—they have an actual indoor bathroom for dogs only. While it is becoming more common for breweries to allow dogs, this may be the only indoor dog restroom!

Joshua, the sole brewer, brews as close to traditional English style as his equipment allows. He has a thirteen-barrel setup in the basement of the pub, as well as room to expand upstairs. He says this setup is relatively large for a new brewery; less than ten barrels are more common for somewhere that has only been open for a little over a year. I asked if he had any advice for homebrewers who may be considering expansion into commercial brewing, and Joshua said, “Be prepared for the business adventure. It’s a lot more than just making beer. That’s the simple way to put it. Do your research, know what you are getting into and, really, if you don’t have a business background, get some help or some education on it because the bottom line is you are running a business. Brewing is my downtime. That’s when I don’t have to think about the other things. Even if you are making stellar beer, you’ll be able to make good beer at the commercial stage, but it’s everything else that goes into a business.”

At this point, Leaning Cask is Joshua’s full-time job, but Stefanie still works as an elementary school counselor full time. It was refreshing to meet a woman in the industry because the craft beer and brewery field is dominated by men. Stefanie says she doesn’t feel she’s been pushed aside or ignored and feels like she gets the same amount of respect as Joshua when she introduces herself as an owner. She is a member of the Pink Boots Society, an organization for women in the beer industry and, despite the support she’s experienced, says, “I definitely think there could be more recognition, awareness, and more females involved.”

With so many breweries in Southwestern Pennsylvania, The Leaning Cask offers a British twist that helps it stand out in a booming industry and provides a style of beer that was under-represented in the area until now. They distribute to approximately 20 locations in the area but, since Springdale is not far outside the city limits, why not go to the source to try their beer?

Leaning Cask is located at 850 Pittsburgh St, Springdale, PA 15144. They are open Wednesday and Thursday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday 12 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. New casks are released every Thursday.


Author’s Note: I am working on setting up interviews with other Southwest PA breweries. Is there a brewery you’d like me to cover? Reach out to me via email –

Story by Reanna Roberts for Pennsylvania Bridges

Community Center provides summer employment…and fun

35819517_2187269384621481_5Summer employment is a traditional and constructive way for high school students to earn spending money, begin saving for college, a car, or even to buy basic, everyday necessities.

However, landing that first job can be difficult without prior employment experience to attract gainful work. Fortunately, through the auspices of Southwest Training Services, Inc., four local high school students have found rewarding work, and fun experiences, at the Daisytown Community Center at 3 Main Street, Daisytown, PA.

Maddie Hite, Faith Keene, Dru Miller, and Savanna Owens round out the summer student staff at the center, which provides local youth a “safe and happy educational environment,” according to their mission statement.

With a 32.5 hour work week and generous hourly wage, the four are gaining valuable work experience while garnering several healthy paychecks through Southwest Training Services, Inc.

During the course of helping to prepare and serve food, clean tables, and interact with kids at the center, Hite, Keene, Miller, and Owens universally agree that their time at the center has honed both a sense of responsibility and the ability to work well with others – valuable traits which will benefit them during future employment.

While responsibilities are important to fulfill, they are not exclusive of edifying and fun experiences through the center. According to Sonya Miller, Executive Director of Daisytown Community Center, the students and center’s youth enjoy a back to school bash, an annual Christmas party, a trip to Lavender Farm, a fall bonfire, and an annual coat drive, along with Halloween parties and a Christmas play.

The Daisytown Community Center joins with the Lemoyne Center in Washington, PA in order to receive better rates and amenities during outings and field trips, said center board member, Tammy Hite.

In addition to providing employment opportunities to local high school students, the Daisytown Community Center provides a fun place for local youth to spend time, be mentored or tutored, receive a personal escort back home, and even have lunch.

Food is also provided for youth and the elderly alike, though demand has been on the rise. “It’s really blown up in the last two years. Because we have a lot of families who are food insecure, we are making sure they are eating. We’ve been teaming up with food banks and stores, and the kids will be able to take food home,” Hite said.

Helping hands

Support for the center is “is either through donation or grants,” Hite said, while crediting West Pike Run Township Supervisor Rick Molish, in particular, and the township in general, for “a tremendous job of donating money and time…The supervisors of West Pike Run Township have helped during bonfires, (with) maintenance of the building, and help provide activities which are safe for our children.”

Additional summer help is provided by Cindy Tyler and Joyce Ellis, who coordinate activities along with Darra Owens, Sherri Watkins, Juanita Tyler, and Earnest Tyler, to name “just a few of the folks” who generously help at the center.

Additional funds and volunteer time have also been kindly provided by the Lions Club, while the Daisytown Athletic Club “has been our largest donor throughout the year for our center to keep our doors open for operation” Miller said, adding special thanks to 91 year old twins, Arlene Miller and Florence Green, who work “all year round to help as well.”

36678943_2209202822428137_6Helping the community – a family affair

Willie Tyler, Sr., Miller’s father, also had a caring eye for Daisytown area youth and saw an opportunity for a new community center in the old water company building. Miller explains, “The center is our old water company building and my father purchased it for $1 from the owner as it was being donated. It was a struggle – he worked daily on the building with little help, along with a local family named the McFann family, that donated all the plumbing to help get us open.” Without their foresight and efforts in the beginning, Miller said “we would not be as far as we are now.”

Be sure to friend the Daisytown Community Center at, check out the Lemoyne Community Center at, and visit Southwest Training Services at to learn more about their helpful services.

Area high school students who seek summer employment should talk to their school’s guidance counselor for more information.

Story by Keren Lee Dreyer for Pennsylvania Bridges

Ada’s Blessings helps those battling congenital heart defects

Baby Ada

Baby Ada

According to the American Heart Association, congenital heart defects (CHD) – abnormal development of the heart and/or its vessels before birth – range from a repairable small hole in the heart through life-limiting, incomplete heart formation. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 25% of the 40,000 babies per year born with CHD require surgery, while citing CHD as “a leading cause of birth defect-associated infant illness and death.”

What facts and figures cannot show is the isolation parents experience from living in a hospital as their little one slowly succumbs to their heart defect, nor the despair at not being able to comfort that child because of ongoing medical procedures.

Compounding parental grief when their child passes is a pervasive feeling of being forgotten, with no apparent place to reach out for support or comfort with others of similar experience.

Fredericktown residents Roxanne Sweany and husband, Jordan, lived these experiences, and more, as they cared for their daughter, Ada, who was born with a CHD. Though Ada fought hard, was greatly loved, and received the best of care, she passed on in March of 2017 at the age of only nine months after a valiant seven month battle with her CHD.

During their time caring for Ada at Childrens Hospital of Pittsburgh, the Sweanys were buoyed by the generosity of caring individuals and entities, as Roxanne explained “We lived seven months in the hospital. Other non-profits would come in and give gifts, and that helped a lot. You’re trapped in the hospital all the time and these strangers come and give you gifts, sometimes for children, others for parents…My husband commuted every day, and the gas cards people gave really helped. We felt we wanted to give back, too.”

From these dispiritining times, Roxanne Sweany created Ada’s Blessings to honor Ada because “that’s where my heart is.” Ada’s Blessings, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, takes in donations of toys, money, and many other needed items to help support children, parents, and siblings in their battle with CHD.

The organization also provides education about CHD while offering welcoming resources to those who feel isolated in their struggle with the aftermath of a lost battle. “There is this whole community of CHD parents who have lost their babies, and we want to let them know they’re not forgotten,” Sweany said.

With fall and summer being slow times for charitable donations, Sweany “wanted to do something when the need was, not when everyone else was giving.” To counter the downturn in donations, Ada’s Blessings sponsors Ada’s Birthday Party at Childrens Hospital. “We get a list from the cardiac unit for each age group, and what the kids’ likes and needs are. We put that out on Facebook and people send money so I can go get those things, or people donate (toys and other items) as well.” Siblings are also able to pick out a toy of their own, or receive one picked by their parents, as “they may feel like they’re on the back burner, so we make it a point to feel like they’re involved because they get to pick a present as well.”

Roxanne, Jordan, & Ada Sweany

Roxanne, Jordan, & Ada Sweany

Another summer event, and its biggest fundraiser, is Ada’s Blessings Bike Run. The fundraiser kicks off Saturday, August 11 at 10 a.m. at Tradesmen’s Inn, 1769 E National Pike, Scenery Hill, PA. Registration is $20 per driver and $15 per passenger. At noon, Sweany said “kickstands are up. It’s about a 100 mile ride and stops at four or five bars and restaurants along the way. We’ll have a Chinese auction at the end, a D.J., and food catered by Tradesmen’s Inn.” Ada’s Blessings Bike Run also provides “blockers front and rear, and at certain intersections” to keep participants safe while riding for a good cause.

Ada’s Blessings not only helps others, but helps its founders cope in as positive way as possible. “It’s actually helped me get through my grief, and when I’m having a bad day I go to work on something for Ada’s Blessings,” Sweany said. Though there are days that hit her hard, Sweany notes that “it does feel good to get a whole cart of toys to give” and not worry about the expense. Funds and donations are welcomed by Ada’s Blessings all year long. Gift cards to be given to those in need, and checks made to Ada’s Blessings may be sent to Roxanne Sweany, 8 Crawford Road, Fredericktown, PA 15333. Tax receipts are available upon request.

Join the Ada’s Blessings Group on Facebook at:

Editor’s Note: Baby Ada, pictured top left with her parents, is also pictured on our cover. Thanks so much to Roxanne and Jordan Sweany for sharing these special photos of beautiful Ada with us.

Story by Keren Lee Dreyer for Pennsylvania Bridges

Pennsylvania Bridges July 2018 – “Land of the Free”

july-2018-cover_9xThe July 2018 edition of Pennsylvania Bridges – “Land of the Free” – is now available online and in print.

Also, did you know? You can now read individual stories on our website! Keep scrolling for all the fantastic features contained in the pages of our July edition.

Thoughts from our Editor: Land of the Free

stars_stripes_296498As I write this, July is fast approaching, and my Facebook feed is filled with photos of friends on vacation. Some are sunbathing on beaches, while others are dancing in the rain at music festivals. While I certainly don’t begrudge them their fun, I must admit their photos of frolicking out of doors are vivid reminders to me that I’ve been stuck indoors, working on this edition, for what’s starting to seem like an eternity.

Don’t misunderstand me, I love what I do, so much so that I hardly even consider it work. But when deadlines loom and I’m forced indoors for an extended period, I get a little stir crazy, and the urge to roam is intense.

I love to travel, and I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve had the opportunity to travel widely. From the banks of the Mississippi River, where I spent my formative years, to the Monongahela Valley region I now call home, I’ve made numerous stops along the way. I’ve witnessed the plunging rapids of Niagara Falls, hiked beneath the towering trees of the Redwood Forest, and swam in the Gulf of Mexico, just to name a few of the experiences I’ve had touring this marvelous land.

While I’ve not traveled all 50 states, I’ve come close to visiting most of them, and as an American, my heart swells with pride to know I live in such a beautiful and diverse country.

At this time of year, as we prepare to celebrate our independence on the Fourth of July, I think it’s appropriate for all Americans to reflect on the ideals that truly make this country great. Ideals like freedom of expression spring to mind, without which I wouldn’t be penning this column or – for that matter – putting out a monthly publication.

Because I so cherish that freedom, I admire others who also express themselves, whether it be through the written word, song and dance, or some other medium. More often than not, the results of those expressions mirror the magnificence of America itself. This edition is inspired by these expressions, and by the people who exercise their freedom to have a voice, whether it be in their local communities or on the world stage.

Until next month,

Carla E. Anderton