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First-time backpack traveler wanted experience before starting career

She was apprehensive about the unknown. Spending three months away from her Shelbyville home and family right after college graduation seemed so long, but today Taylor Moore has no regrets for the experience she had backpack traveling through Southeast Asia.

Backpacking, according to Moore, is a form of low-cost, independent travel. Travelers use public transportation, inexpensive lodging like hostels; travel for a longer time than conventional one- or two-week vacations, and enjoy meeting locals and seeing the sights.

Twenty-two-year-old Moore and Johnny Hollingsworth of Fairland planned the self-guided backpacking trip for about two-and-a-half months.

“I went to France with Shelbyville High School, but everything was planned out for one week,” said Moore, a 2015 SHS graduate. “I was definitely nervous being in different countries for three months. But, we just wanted to do this before we started our careers. We just went for the experience.”

Moore graduated in May 2019 from Herron School of Art and Design with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts for graphic design. Hollingsworth continues to attend IUPUI with plans to become a nurse.

Unlike Moore, who would be backpack traveling for the first time, Hollingsworth had been a backpacker tourist before. On one trip, he traveled for a month in South America, and he had traveled for a month in the European countries of France, Italy, Germany and Austria, according to Moore.

As a first-timer, Moore said she started reading backpackers’ forums and blogs about experiences they had faced to learn about what she might expect.

Before Hollingsworth, a 2015 Triton Central High School graduate and the son of Larry and Sherry Hollingsworth, left this past May to begin the trip to Southeast Asia, he and Moore learned about the continent through additional research and planned a general itinerary.

“My parents (Kenneth and Shannon Moore) were uneasy about the travel,” said Moore, who left three months after Hollingsworth in order to complete an internship, and traveled alone. “They became supportive and I called home daily.”

Moore traveled with a 45-liter backpack that contained her clothing, shoes and other essentials. It was probably two-and-a-half feet in length, one-foot wide and weighed between 20 to 25 pounds, she said.

Admittedly, she struggled with uncertainties about the trip and her 13-hour flight that started from Indianapolis, continued to Chicago, moved on to Hong Kong (a southern area of China), and landed in Tokyo, Japan.

Aside from the cost of the flight, Moore said it was inexpensive to travel in Southeast Asia.

“It’s about $25 a day,” she said.

To prepare, Moore said she saved portions of the paychecks she received while working as a server in a local restaurant and from her paid three-month internship during the early summer months as a graphic designer at The Indiana Donor Network in Indianapolis.

“We started in Japan,” said Moore, who was born and raised in Shelbyville. “It was such an amazing experience. I had knowledge of the Japanese culture, but I never thought I could travel like that.”

The couple traveled their ways through Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.

“We took a night bus from Laos to Vietnam. It was a 16-hour bus ride,” she said.

Their most unusual occurrence during the trip happened at that point.

“At the bus, there was a guy smelling everyone’s feet and shoes,” she said. “He had people get off the bus to go to the restroom and wash their feet. It was so bizarre.”

A high point of that portion of their trip after such a bizarre start was the food.

“The food was exceptional,” she said. “It’s all very fresh and flavorful. It was amazing. We took a cooking class in Vietnam and learned to make four traditional Vietnamese meals. We went to a fresh market to get the items we needed to make the meals. It was such a learning experience.”

Of course, Moore and Hollingsworth learned about the Vietnam area and the war in school history classes.

“To go there was heartbreaking to see the (Cu Chi) tunnels in Ho Chi Minh City,” she said.

The Vietnamese government has preserved a part of the tunnels as a memorial park. Tours are given to show the conditions people lived in, the hardships they faced and what was done so people could survive while living in the tunnels.

“The people were so willing to share their lives and history,” said Moore.

“We went trekking in northern Vietnam rice fields, and met people in villages,” she said. “They were so happy and content with what they had and they didn’t have much. They were such hard workers and so happy.”

Moore said she realized that she had started to become a materialistic person. As they prepared to return home in mid-November from the three-month trip, she said she realized more than ever the importance of family and friends in her life. “Relationships became my most sacred focus. It opened my eyes to other cultures and to becoming more grateful for what I have here.”

The trip, she said, “was a culture shock for sure, but it was so worth it. I’m very lucky to have done it.”

Once Moore was settled back in at home, she interviewed for a career position at the Indiana Donor Network, was hired, and works today as a multi-media specialist designing print items for the Network’s programs including after-care, Donate Life Indiana, Driven to Save Lives, and others.

“My main goal is to enjoy what I create and to make a difference,” said Moore. “I enjoy that I can use my design skills to benefit a not-for-profit organization.”

Parks department asking for help in combating vandalism

The Shelbyville Parks and Recreation Department is wanting to get the word out early as warm weather approaches: If you see something, say something.

The department is asking neighbors or anyone visiting the parks to inform someone – whether it’s the police or the department itself – if they see someone vandalizing any equipment such as playgrounds in any of the parks.

When the weather warms up and people start spending more time outdoors after being cooped up inside, some, particularly bored teenagers, vandalize the local parks.

That means the parks department is left to rely on witnesses to inform the police of what they saw, not to mention the unplanned man hours of cleaning it up.

Director Karen Martin said while some people might be reluctant to speak up, she encouraged them to take photos if they are able to and contact the police.

“We need their help,” she said. “We need their eyes, because we can’t always be in the park, and the police can’t always be in the park.”

The department already had a vandalism incident at Clearwick Park earlier this year on a warmer than normal weekend. Clearwick Park debuted new playground equipment last year but it already fell victim to being spray painted.

“You’re just thinking you did something nice for these kids and these families on that side of town and here’s somebody either bored or evil and decided to paint it,” Martin said.

In response to the vandalism that occurs on a yearly basis, the department is offering a $1,000 reward for anyone who reports on someone committing vandalism. The reward will only be given after the person responsible is prosecuted and convicted.

“We hate as a board to put a reward out there, but we’ve got to do something,” board member Gary Bowen said.

He pointed out that the board has already spent more than $1,000 on cleaning up Clearwick Park.

Residents are also encouraged to take photos of the guilty person if they are able to.

The Parks board plans to add cameras at every park.

The board plans to have 20 cameras installed that will record 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at a cost of $70,000 in equipment. Some private donations already made will help offset some of the cost, Martin said.

The cameras can be monitored by police at all times.

They are a “great thing” she said, and should help the department prosecute anyone caught.

She added that the department in the past has, and will continue, to prosecute those who commit vandalism. The cameras at Morrison Park has led to the prosecution of a couple of people.

“That’s what they have to understand,” she said. “The cameras are going to be there to protect our assets, but also protect the people. So I think it’s a good thing.”

Bowen added that not only is it unfortunate for children who want to play on the damaged playgrounds, it takes away man hours to clean up from time that would otherwise be spent elsewhere.

“It just takes time from everything else we’re doing,” he said. “It’s extra man hours, which is not good for the city.”

Police patrol the parks but are unable to have a constant presence.

Martin had some advice for those bored teenagers, and in some cases adults, who think about committing vandalism.

“We try to get them to think about the other kids,” she said. “That’s their saving grace. That’s something for them to play on and have fun. Even though you’re too old or whatever, find something else to enjoy instead of tearing up things.”

SW school board approves fieldhouse construction bid

The Southwestern Jr./Sr. High School fieldhouse that has been in the works since last spring is moving forward after the school board voted 7-0 on a construction bid during Wednesday’s monthly meeting.

The board approved a bid of $4,074,000 from S&B Construction, which is a company based in Indianapolis.

The bid included the base bid and alternate bids of the fitness room renovation, a “Spartans” graphic on the east concrete wall, a batting cage and fire alarm bids.

The fieldhouse, which will be build on the north side of the building, is being added in response to a growing demand on the gymnasium.

Throughout the school year, more than 20 teams and groups use the gymnasium Monday through Friday for competitions, practices, concerts and fine arts performances.

As a result of both high school and junior high students using the gym throughout the day and into the evening, some students don’t arrive home until 9 p.m. on school nights, superintendent Dr. Paula Maurer previously told the school board.

Last year, through the process in gathering information and determining what type of fieldhouse was needed, school board members toured other auxiliary gyms in surrounding counties. They determined that two courts were sufficient for the school’s needs, as well as two bathrooms, two locker rooms, a concession stand and a storage room.

Loper Elementary volunteer Pay It Forward award winner

Cindy Dunham arrives at Loper Elementary School five mornings a week to drop off two of her granddaughters — and then she stays all day.

Dunham volunteers at the Shelbyville elementary school as an educational assistant helping teachers prepare paperwork, laminating teaching aides and serving as a study group leader to help kids get proficient with their reading and writing skills. It’s a role she has maintained since 2013.

“It’s just her giving back,” said first-year Loper principal Adam Harpring. “It’s amazing to have someone like that as a resource every single day that we can count on. The teachers love her. The kids love her. She is a part of Loper.”

Dunham’s volunteer work has not gone unnoticed. She was nominated and selected as the Shelby County Chamber of Commerce’s Pay It Forward Award winner and will be honored on Feb. 27 as part of the 2020 Chamber Awards Gala held at Indiana Grand Racing and Casino.

In the spotlight is not where Dunham wants to be, though. She does her best work far away from the Loper Elementary office, at her own work station deep within the school.

Once she drops off her granddaughters – fifth-grader Payton DuVall and third-grader Ella Duvall – Dunham makes her way through the second- and third-grade hallways doing flash card work, sight word work, reading and math work with boys and girls that could use some one-on-one time or just a little extra attention to improve their skills.

“It can be a struggle,” she admitted. “It is hard because I just want to give them all a big hug and say it’s going to be OK.”

There are days Dunham will stay so busy working with the students that she will not have time to assist the teachers with their needs. So she stays after school, especially if Payton is in an after-school activity and Ella wants to stay and hang out with another teacher’s daughters before going home to her parents.

Dunham grew up in Vermillion County and bounced around before finally returning home to Indiana in 2013 for one specific role.

“To become permanent babysitters for Payton and Ella,” she said smiling.

Dunham and her husband, Paul, raised five boys and now have nine grandchildren and one great-grandson. Now retired, Paul works as a part-time custodian at Loper.

While being “mom”, Cindy worked in her local school system and was active in her sons’ activities. It’s a cause – assisting educators – that is near to her heart.

“I wish more people would get involved and come to schools and help out,” she said. “I don’t care if it’s a parent, a grandparent, or community helper, there are kids that need that extra help.”

Harping added that most volunteers find it very rewarding.

“An hour here and an hour there would be huge,” he said. “Teachers are always in need of someone that can make copies, someone that can laminate. You don’t even need to work with students if they just want to help out with copying and laminating. You can come in and help with lunch duty. Just contact the front office. We’re happy to host anybody.”

Donating time to the school serves another purpose as well, according to the principal.

“Parents and anybody coming in and being an assistance to our kids ... the kids see that and see that as an example that we can volunteer too,” he said. “It’s something great for the kids to see as well.

“And I think it’s good for anybody’s soul, good for anybody’s heart to really help anybody in education – kids and teachers.”