Proving their worth

For Amanda Browning and Karri Hole, the proof is in the pudding.The two local residents are wanting the community to understand that recovery from drug abuse is possible and they have a new organization to prove it.

Browning and Hole, both recovering drug addicts, have been instrumental in forming the Drug Court Outreach. The purpose of the group is to create opportunities for members to be able to take part in activities that give back to the community. Hole, who was heavily into drugs including heroine for 20 years, has had the desire to participate in a community outreach organization since participating in the Montgomery County Drug Court program. She wanted to prove that she and other recovering addicts are nice person and capable of doing good things despite her past. She wants people to understand that a drug addict is a human being. 

“We want others to see that recovery can happen and it is real,” Hole said. “We have people who want to be genuine and responsible adults who want to be productive citizens. We are real people with real lives. We can become productive again.”

Hole and Browning, who both are Montgomery County Drug Court graduates, describe their past as “living hell.” Both ladies started using drugs in middle school by smoking marajuana. Don’t ask either of these women if smoking a joint was good for them.

“There is no doubt marajuana is a gateway drug,” Hole said. “That is where it started for me and soon I was always searching for the bigger high. I started when I was 12 years old and it took me down a path that I am sorry for.”

Browning, who was an addict for 15 years, agreed with her friend that marajuana played a part in her becoming addicted to drugs. The result was never experiencing a time that is supposed to be fun for a teen — high school. She said because of drugs, she was never able to have a healthy relationship with a boy, and family relationships were stressed. Her mother passed away before she entered the world of addiction, so she lived with her grandparents.

“I placed my grandparents into a place that they could never trust me,” Browning said. “My two brothers never gave up on me, but they understood what I was. I was nothing to be proud of and I believed I was going to be a bad person for the rest of my life. It was horrible.”

Both women were placed into the court system. Hole actually spent time in a state prison on two different occasions and Browning spent time in the county jail. Hole had her daughter taken away from her at one point.

“When the police came into my house to arrest me, my 10-year old daughter was right there to see it all,” Hole said with emotion. “I have put my daughter through so much. I am thankful that she is such a good girl and does not want any thing to do with drugs today.”

Both women joined the local drug court program. The program gives drug addicts who are in the legal system a way to become productive citizens. Hole’s first stint involved with the program ended after three weeks when she was high for one solid week. But, at that low time in her life, she knew she had to get serious about changing.

“I went to my probation officer and told her I was ready to change,” Hole said. “I did not want to do drugs any more and I begged her for a second chance.”

While in the drug court program, Hole felt the urge to begin a program for recovering addicts that would help bring self-worth back into their lives. After recognizing that the only way to get out of her addiction was to change the people she associated with, change the places where she would find herself and change the things in her life that stopped her from having a drug-free life.

“The best way to become a productive person again is to give back to the community,” Hole said. “Community service projects is where it’s at. It helps people and it makes an addict feel they are worthy again. For me, I had to change everything. You find out who your real friends are when you are in jail. My drug friends never came around, or acted like they cared. They were not really friends.”

Participants in the Drug Court Outreach must either be involved with the drug court now, or be a graduate of the program. Some recent service activities they have taken part in are Salvation Army Red Kettle ringers, preparing and serving food at the HUB food kitchen, stuffing envelopes for the Montgomery County Community Foundation and hosting a Christmas party for everyone involved with the drug court. 

Now the group has a dream of renting a building downtown Crawfordsville for a Sober Recreation Center for members and families. There would be fun activities at the center and the public would be invited to such things as movie and game nights. Eventually the group would like to own a house for recovering male addicts who are not served in the community today.

Drug Court Outreach meets from 6-7 p.m. every other Sunday at Allens Country Kitchen. 

For more information about the group contact Hole by email at

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 765-366-8178.

Grants support innovative learning

Espen Sutton traveled back in time last summer to the days of Michaelangelo and da Vinci.

The first grader participated in New Market Elementary School’s Renaissance-themed summer reading program, one of a list of school projects awarded a grant last year from the Montgomery County Educational Foundation.

“I thought it was fun to come to school in the

summer,” Sutton said. “I got to see my friends and check out books.”

Grant recipients showed off their projects Thursday during the foundation’s annual breakfast at Crawfordsville District Public Library. More than $25,700 was awarded to teachers from the three county school districts.

The group provides funds from the Montgomery County Community Foundation to support innovative programs in all grade levels.

“It’s always great to see the kids and the enthusiasm they have when it comes to the grants,” foundation member Brad Monts said.

The reading program received $3,000 to purchase books for the students.

During June, the children came to school where they could check out books from the library and rotate through activity stations. The last day was a Renaissance Fair. 

Students kept a reading log and earned prizes for finishing books. They were also encouraged to track their reading the rest of the summer.

The goal was to help students retain reading skills over the break. 

“So when they came back in the fall it was not starting from scratch and at a different grade level,” said Title I instructor Libby Nave, who ran the program with fifth grade teacher Danielle Coudret. Nave and Coudret worked alongside the parent-teacher organization. 

Coudret said the program gave students unable to visit the public library access to reading materials.

Among the North Montgomery projects recognized was a “Brick Economics” activity in Nicole Stigall’s fourth grade class at Pleasant Hill Elementary. The project received a $980 grant.

Children used Legos to build creations based on concepts such as goods and services. A student handed a bucket of the building blocks to Sommer Elementary principal Suzi Gephart, who raced against a time limit to make a


Projects supported in the Crawfordsville schools included Hose Elementary’s Breakfast Club, which received $300.

Students are served breakfast and given an opportunity to brush their teeth.

“Every morning we have a half-hour to make a difference in how each kid begins their day,” said special education teacher Brittany Reef. “They come to us silly, tired — and sometimes grumpy — but for that half-hour they get to feel safe and loved and cared for.”

City buys new golf course equipment

Golfers will soon see improvements at the Crawfordsville Golf Course after caretakers were given approval to purchase of several pieces of course grooming equipment.

On Wednesday, the Board of Public Works and Safety approved a five-year lease agreement in the amount of $178,355 for nine pieces of equipment. The city’s annual payments will be $38,429, beginning in June.

Mayor Todd Barton said much of the golf course equipment has been in need of replacement for several years. Most of the mowers and other items are 15 to 20 years old. Now, with Billy Casper Golf managing the city’s municipal course, the mayor believes it is time to make the investment in the equipment.

“With our agreement with Billy Casper Golf, we are now able to purchase equipment at a reduced cost,” Barton said. “We are saving anywhere from 30 to 40 percent on each piece of equipment.”

Trent Altieri, a Billy Casper Golf employee, is the operating manager at the city’s golf course. He said the investment of new equipment will enhance the beauty of the course. He also pointed to another benefit from having newer equipment.

“We are going to save a lot of expenses in maintenance and repairs,” Altieri said. “We have several national partners since we operate 150 golf courses in the United States, so we can get good pricing on items. We identified the equipment we needed with the help of our company’s agronomy team.”

Altieri has been living in Crawfordsville since January. He said the first time he saw the course he was “pleasantly surprised” with its hills, layout and foliage. He believes the course’s potential is high.

“This course has a lot of character,” Altieri said. “I have played it and it is a nice course. I think local golfers are going to enjoy seeing the course improved.”

Altieri, who originally is from Highland, said a new irrigation system is scheduled to be installed in the fall which also will benefit the appearance of the course. The irrigation system is going to be paid by Billy Casper Golf and not the city.

The equipment being purchased is all manufactured by John Deere. The list includes a new greens mower, fairway mower, trimming mower, aerator plus other pieces of equipment.

County Genealogy Club celebrates 15 years

Sam Evans’ family tree branches out to the beginnings of Montgomery County.

Evans had already dug in to the history of the pioneering Davidson and Harshbarger clans, who settled near Whitesville and Ladoga, when he and his wife, Ruth, moved here from Minnesota in the early 2000s. They learned a club was being formed to preserve the stories of local ancestors.

“When they started talking about genealogy, Sam had been working on this and we decided to come,” Ruth Evans explained.

The couple is among the charter members of the Genealogy Club of Montgomery County, Indiana, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary with a push for new members. Members are active in workshops and ongoing cemetery restorations.

The club conducted a celebration Tuesday at the Crawfordsville District Public Library, recognizing charter members and past officers and thanking library staff for its support.

“Our club is trying to preserve [local] history by creating the workshops, cemetery projects and to teach our young and old how to discover their past and about their own self,” said club president Dellie Craig, the library’s local history assistant.

Genealogy buffs were active here long before the club first met. The genealogy division of the Montgomery County Historical Society met and worked during the 1970s, followed by Who’s Your Ancestor in the ‘80s. Both groups published indexes and transcribed records until fading away.

When Dian Moore joined the local history department in 2001, she was tasked with starting a new club. A year later, a patron approached her about offering genealogical classes.

A small group came together, with Raymond Snellenbarger as the first president. While educating and entertaining themselves, the club felt it wasn’t “contributing anything to the word of genealogy,” Moore said.

That’s when Marti Swanson came to Ripley Township from Illinois, hunting for her ancestors buried in O’Neall Cemetery, about a half-mile hike off State Road 32 in Yountsville.

She found a jungle of overgrown brush.

“Even when she was in the right place, she couldn’t see it,” Moore said in remarks at the celebration.

The club agreed to clean it up — a seven-year process that Moore said began with a “chainsaw marathon” to clear the bush and ended with a re-dedication ceremony in 2009.

Members have now set sights on the Darlington area. State grants have helped pay to fix Hurd Cemetery on State Road 32 and update the library’s online cemetery database.

About a third of the stones in Franklin Township have been read and photographed. Other members are tasked with straightening and cleaning the gravestones.

The database will eventually include a photo, GPS location and data for every gravestone in Montgomery County.

Ruth Evans spends Tuesday mornings at the library poring over microfilm reels, birth and death records to add to the database.

“I just find it interesting that people don’t seem to die in certain months,” she said.

Another digitization project is the family Bible database, where books are searchable by name. Members are seeking more Bibles to scan and transcribe.

The club also gives monthly programs, holds quarterly after-hours programs to help members with research and assists 4-H members and Boy Scouts with their genealogy projects. A local scout troop presented the colors at Tuesday’s celebration.

Interpreter translates for Spanish-speakers at free clinic

The man was a “walking coma.”

Staff at the Dr. Mary Ludwig Free Clinic had ordered lab tests for a new patient who had a laundry list of health problems and glucose numbers that were off the charts.

Nurse manager Michele Thompson and nurse practitioner Kay Nannet knew they had to tell the man to go to the hospital, but he didn’t speak English. So they asked Linda Johnson, the clinic’s medical interpreter, to call the patient.

The first number didn’t work and Johnson reached the man’s son on a second. His father was diverted on the way home from work to the hospital, where he spent two days in intensive care.

“If they had not decided to order those tests and they could not call somebody to contact him, who knows?” Johnson said.

Johnson, a retired high school Spanish and English teacher, serves as the voice for the clinic’s Spanish-speaking clientele, translating during medical and dental exams and helping them fill out paperwork. Three-quarters of patients are Hispanic.

“I don’t know how we would do it if we didn’t have an interpreter,” Thompson said. “It’s just paramount to what we do.”

Certified medical interpreters are a rare breed in an industry adapting to a growing Hispanic population. Only about 1,632 Spanish interpreters are listed in the registry of the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters.

Ten of those are certified in Indiana, all for the Indianapolis area.

Johnson completed a medical interpreter course through St. Vincent Health.

At the free clinic, an interpreter has been on hand since the facilities were housed at Milligan Memorial Church —­ down the street from the current clinic, which opened in 2013.

“The need, once we opened this clinic, just intensified,” Thompson said.

Staff see county residents with a household income at or below 200 percent of the poverty level who do not have health insurance, Medicaid/HIP 2.0 or Medicare. The clinic is open twice a week and patients must be registered to receive treatment.

Johnson started volunteering once she retired from North Montgomery High School, blending her Spanish-teaching background with experience working in medical environments during college.

She’s now a paid staff member thanks to a grant from the Montgomery County Medical Care Trust.

Over the years, Johnson has appreciated the trust Spanish-speaking patients place in the clinic’s staff. Johnson has listened to patients’ ordeals of escaping violence in Latin American countries for the United States.

“There’s a lot of gratification in being an interpreter because it’s hard to imagine oneself being in another country, have a medical problem and ... nobody can help you,” she said.

Johnson also helps Spanish-speaking patients learn about the clinic’s wellness initiatives. A rewards program gives supermarket gift certificates to patients who receive 10punches on a card. Last year, patients could pick from the clinic’s vegetable garden.

Two Wabash College students also help the nurse practitioner with clerical duties for Hispanic patients.

“These guys we have are just great right now,” Johnson said.