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Concerned citizens looking for answers regarding solar plants

Confusion prevailed Tuesday night among both the Shelby County Plan Commission and demonstrators who oppose the potential installation of solar plants in southwest Shelby County.

The demonstrators, who call themselves Citizens Against Industrialized Solar Plants in Southwestern Shelby County, were not allowed to speak during the Plan Commission’s meeting, a fact not lost on organizers.

But a group of up to 60 residents assembled outside the Shelby County Courthouse Annex and listened to the meeting on the phone.

The issue of the potential solar plants was not on the agenda and, as a result, the commission technically could not discuss it.

However, at the end of the meeting, commission member Steve Mathies requested it be included on the agenda at the next meeting.

There was some confusion among the commission regarding if it had sent a request for a moratorium to the County Commissioners.

Mathies also said during the meeting that they needed to review the rules and size and scope of the solar fields.

Prior to the meeting, the demonstrators were initially told that they would not be able to listen in from the parking lot. That issue was cleared up in time for the start of the meeting, but it left organizers skeptical.

“I do feel like we made a statement at last week’s (County Council) meeting,” Kyle Barlow later told the assembled group. “That’s why we’re being silenced. I believe that’s why they didn’t want the phone out here. Don’t be deterred. I was expecting this. I really was.”

In an interview Wednesday afternoon, Barlow seemed to backpedal his statement from the previous day.

“I don’t know if we’re being silenced. I don’t know why they wouldn’t want to (offer the phone call),” he said in referring to the limited number of seats available due to COVID-19. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Following the meeting, Plan Commission member Doug Warnecke spoke to the group in an effort to clear up any confusion as to the different roles of county government.

“Moratoriums are voted on by commissioners,” he said. The Plan Commission can discuss it, but no formal vote is taken.

Another area of confusion was whom the demonstrators could provide information to.

Plan Commission attorney Mark McNeely informed organizer Justin Parker that they could not hand out information to people in appointed positions, including the Board of Zoning Appeals. However, they could with elected officials.

Barlow said on Wednesday that they were still researching who they could talk to.

One thing he took exception to was the label of being a lobbying group.

“Lobbying groups get paid for a cause,” he said. “We are concerned citizens. Yes, we are trying to get some information packets (to officials), but we were also told they don’t have any negative information of these solar plants. That’s why we’ve been pretty adamant.”

Souls Harbor Shirts provides clothes

Ann Houseworth and Tina Keel’s church program Souls Harbor Shirts was open to the public for the first time ever last weekend.

The program provides professional clothes to people in need.

Houseworth and Keel started the program almost one year ago through their church, Souls Harbor Church, 105 N Vine Street. The program began as a way to help those recovering from substance abuse find clothes to wear to work.

The weekend, they opened Souls Harbor Shirts to everyone.

“‘Shirts’ was started as a ministry of Souls Harbor, and it is something that our entire church partners with,” Houseworth said. “I’m just fortunate enough to lead this specific program.”

The church’s clothes come from donations made by community members.

“We accept donations and have been known to utilize our own funds to purchase items for folks that are in need,” Houseworth said.

She added that she tends to go to a thrift store where one can buy clothes for a quarter and would spend around $40 to refill their clothing supply.

Even though the program began as a way to help those recovering from substance abuse, it has grown into something much bigger.

“The program originally started with a focus on working with probation and folks coming out of the jail intervention program so we could connect them with clothes that might help them as they transition into life outside, including job clothes, job search, actual clothing for employment, suits and skirts and dresses for other events,” Houseworth said.

“We actually had a couple come downstairs and found clothes for their wedding,” she added.

The program also offers more than just clothes now.

“There’s such a tremendous need for essentials: toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, female hygiene products,” Houseworth said.

There were even curtains under a table in the area.

Keel said they’ve also gotten items for babies.

“There was a lady who contacted me – I work for the probation department as a peer recovery coach – she contacted me and said, ‘I got all these kids clothes, these little girls clothes, bassinets, baby tubs, tons of stuff. Will you take them?’ I’m like, ‘As of now we haven’t been, but I’m not going to say no,’” she said.

Keel continued: “The lady drops them off and I come over to the church, I’m getting stuff, moving it. Lady across the street [from the church] just kept staring me down. Finally she comes over and says ‘Can I ask you a question?’ I said “Yeah.’ She goes ‘One of my granddaughters just had a baby a month and a half ago, the other one just had a baby last week. They have nothing. They’re both girls. Do you guys have stuff like that?’ I was like ‘Right here you go! Help yourself!’”

The program has grown physically as well, taking up more and more room in the church basement. Clothing racks – which the ladies spent their own money to purchase – line nearly one half of the basement, full of different kinds of clothes.

“We started as a little bitty corner of the basement of the church, and now it has expanded to the entire side of the church. We actually had to rearrange our Sunday school classes so that we’d have more room,” Houseworth said.

Houseworth even repainted the basement, with the help of someone taking part in a jail intervention program.

Prior to the pandemic, Souls Harbor opened its doors once every two weeks to those in recovery seeking out work clothes. Last weekend, they opened their doors for the first time since the shutdown, and for the first time to the public.

In addition to clothing, those in attendance were able to pick up a few “grab and go” snacks, such as chips and soda, Keel said. Prior to the shutdown, Houseworth would make lunches such as chili for everyone to eat, but now they just offer pre-packaged snacks because of health concerns.

And of course, they implemented all of the safety measures to protect attendees from COVID-19.

“Having hand sanitizers available, implementing social distancing, having signs for hand washing,” Houseworth said. “I had to work at trying to prepare social distancing downstairs – these chairs are heavy! – allowing only two folks in there [by the clothes] at a time with us, making sure masks are essential.”

Houseworth said they didn’t do a lot of social media advertising because they didn’t know what to expect and didn’t want to be overwhelmed.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “Since it was our first foray into the pond, it was just nice to know that we weren’t going to be inundated.”

“From the same point, we want to make sure we are obeying all the instructions from the governor and we also want to make sure that we keep the folks that are coming in safe, and obviously keep ourselves safe as well,” she added. “If we’re trying to help them out and we’re not protecting their health and well being, then we are not really supporting them as we need to.”

In fact, Shirts is one of a few programs Houseworth and Keel take part of within the community to help people transition from addiction to sobriety. Some of the programs are other ministries through the church, and some are related to the ladies’ jobs.

“When they leave, they have absolutely nothing to worry about and they can focus solely on recovery and building their lives back – so sobriety can become their main focus,” Houseworth said.

Houseworth said all the programs they take part in help them serve the needs of the community.

“When this first started, we had a very focused group of individuals, but the Bible says that if we’re here, we are supposed to feed the soul,” Houseworth said. “It would be dishonorable for us if we chose not to help everyone in the community, so our doors are open to anyone.”

COVID-19 Update

COVID-19 Update

MHP Medical Center provided an update on COVID-19 statistics. In total, MHP has tested 6,112 patients. Only 384 tests have come back positive, which is 6.3 percent of the total tests. The total number of positive numbers does not include patients who repeatedly tested positive. They are waiting for the results of 109 tests.

MHP has an increase of 14 positive cases since Aug. 19. Of those 14 cases, 6 required inpatient and 8 were treated as outpatients.

On average, MHP has 5 inpatients who test positive for COVID-19. Two patients are on ventilators at this time.

MHP is seeing 45-50 patients per day. Around 25-30 of those patients are presenting with suspected-Covid symptoms, but most are still testing negative for COVID.

MHP reported that surgical volumes are back to pre-COVID norms.

– Staff Report

MHP has not had a Covid+ surgical patient in two weeks. Medical personnel continues to test each scheduled surgical patient a few days prior to surgery.

Shelbyville man repairs laptops to give away

Nathan J. Thomas’ love for computers began when he was just a kid. Now he gives that love to other kids by donating laptops to them.

“Back when I was nine, my brother and I would build maps for a video game we used to play, so the love has always been there,” he said.

Thomas purchases old laptops and monitors he finds online or at thrift stores to repair them. When he finishes, he gives them to families in need, free of charge.

“I spend about 40 or 50 bucks a piece on each laptop,” he said. Thomas estimates he’s spent almost $4,000 so far.

Recently he’s given laptops to families with students doing e-learning. He said he knows families have a lot going on right now with the pandemic, and he just wants to help them out.

“It’s just one less stressful thing for parents to worry about,” Thomas said. “Alleviate stress, you know?”

Thomas began his project about a year ago when he bought a laptop to give to his grandmother.

“My grandmother, before she passed, she wasn’t really into technology so when she got it, it was cute to see her face,” he said.

Kids have that same face when they receive laptops, and he enjoys making them that happy.

“I’d rather see somebody smile than be like ‘Oh, it’s gonna cost me this amount of money,’” he said. “When I was younger, my friends didn’t come from the wealthiest of families, so giving stuff out was just more of a ‘here, I’ll help you out no strings attached.’”

Thomas is asking for people to donate their old laptops. Laptops are the only kind of computer he is repairing right now because laptops are easier to repair than other types of computers, he said.

He even goes out of town to pick them up.

“It started out as a little project and now I do it every day,” he said. “They’re like ‘Oh you’re on [Facebook] Marketplace again?’ ‘Yeah, I gotta drive to Brownsburg or drive up to Gary.’”

But the look on the kids’ faces is worth all the effort, he said.

“They’re learning something in the process and hopefully they’ll pay it forward themselves,” he said.

Thomas finds people he can give the laptops to on Facebook. He also gets tips from people he knows.

People can contact him to donate or to request a laptop at

Thomas works for the Skyline Drive-In, and this connection allows him to supply computers that the drive-in can raffle off at events, like the Monster Fest this weekend and First Responders Day next weekend.

“Some people paint, some people build things – I just love computers.”

Research for Grover exhibit leads to discovery of 'Holy Grail'

For more than a decade, there was always a nagging question left unanswered for David Finkel, Steve Frazee and others: What did the inside of the Strand Theatre originally look like when it first opened in 1916?

Since 2004, Frazee was among a group of researchers who had searched for photos, only to come up short.

It was considered the Holy Grail of Strand trivia.

Written accounts gave a glimpse into what the inside looked like, but without photographic proof, it was the great unknown.

That question was answered Wednesday morning.

While doing research at the Shelby County Public Library, Grover Museum Director Alex Krach, with help from Kelley Walker Perry, discovered two photos in microfilm from the Shelbyville Democrat that finally revealed what Finkel, Frazee and Co. had long wondered.

Krach reached out to Finkel to tell him the good news.

“When Alex called me and told me he found it, it was like ‘there is no frickin’ way!’” Finkel said. “I did a double take on what I heard. Knowing all the efforts to find those pictures, it was truly unbelievable, which I mentioned to Alex. He said, ‘I’m looking at them now.’”

Finkel then called Frazee, who was Finkel’s partner in getting the Strand back up and running in 2005.

Considering the two worked together from the start, it was only appropriate that they saw the photos together.

“It’s like the baby reveal,” Finkel said. “We wanted to capture it together.”

The photos, one from the view of under the balcony and the other from the stage, verified several things that Strand representatives had read about in the written accounts.

When it first opened, there was a mural and chandeliers, and the photo verified the location and appearance of the Strand’s first pipe organ. It also verified the seating configuration.

“One of the most striking features is the center aisle emergency lights in 1916, which are still seen and used today,” Finkel said.

From what they could tell, the foursome counted 20 rows in the photo.

Krach was doing research for a newspaper the museum is putting together as part of the Streets of Shelby exhibit. Each article in the newspaper will be related to one of the shops in the exhibit, and they are including sponsors that will have fake ads from the early 1900s for each page.

Krach’s research focused on what those ads looked like at the time that the Strand opened. In the process, he and Walker Perry solved the mystery.

“As a historical society, we always try to help our partners and offer what we do best as a service, and to be able to help the community is something we always appreciate,” he said.

Now with this new evidence, Finkel said they will be able to calculate the original capacity. The new information can also help guide them in future renovations of the building.

Considering it’s what he does for a living, Krach said it was a “semi-normal” day at the office.

Still, answering a longtime question was special.

“At the same time it’s always awesome to be able to see the joy providing that research can bring,” he said. “The Strand can really do something special with these photographs.”

The plan is to digitally enhance the photos to glean as much information as possible. A lot of questions will be answered, Finkel said.

“If anyone wonders what the Shelby County Historical Society does, this is absolute a hallmark of the behind the scenes research of all the things (they) do in the county,” he said. “Our thanks to them.”