ORCHID: To the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley and its many, many generous donors who overcame challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation and a volatile stock market to break its fundraising campaign record for the second consecutive year. Local United Way President Bob Hannon said the campaign exceeded all expectations. The agency raised a record $6.6 million in 2022, including more than $3.6 million via its traditional campaign, along with $3 million in grant funding. In partnership with nonprofit agencies, United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley impacts more than 200,000 people.

ORCHID: To staff at Austintown Intermediate School for earning national recognition for closing the achievement gaps among student groups. The school was one of two in Ohio honored this week by the National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators for closing the achievement gap among student groups. ESEA is the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Superintendent David Cappuzzello, school board member Kim Smrek and the AIS administration had a much-deserved surprise ceremony for the AIS staff Wednesday for the accomplishment.

ONION: To those pushing for taxpayers to foot the bill for breakfast and lunch for all school children in the state at a cost of about $20 million per year. The Hunger Free Schools Coalition argues the benefits for Ohio’s children justify the price tag. We don’t deny there are children who are in need of regular meals, and if current guidelines are falling short, then we first should focus on adjusting those rules. But to be clear, there are many very high-income residents and school districts in Ohio that certainly can afford to provide lunch money for their children. Taxpayers should not be expected to foot the bill for everyone.

ORCHID: To U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson’s congressional campaign for donating the $18,000 it received from the political action committee of Norfolk Southern Corp. to the village firefighters association following the Feb. 3 derailment and release of hazardous chemicals in East Palestine. Johnson, R-Marietta, whose district includes East Palestine, said the local firefighters have been working tirelessly to clean up and help rebuild the community, and he wants to help ensure first responders have the support they need for the next call for help. Good decision.

ONION: To Trumbull County commissioners for allowing the number of emergency dispatchers to fall to such a dangerously low level. The county 911 center, which dispatches calls for police, fire and ambulance service countywide, is more than 15 people below its ideal staffing level. The department has only one supervisor for three shifts and no backup supervisor. One commissioner recently noted that the county must stop the drain of talent from this critical department. Talk is cheap. Morale is poor in the department and pay elsewhere is higher. Also, there has been no permanent director since the last director was fired two years ago. What are commissioners waiting for? Urgent, aggressive action is needed now.

ORCHID: To Teri Dutton of Austintown Fitch High School, winner of the Diamond Coach Award, in recognition of her professional career that combines excellence and longevity in speech and debate education. This is the second time Dutton has received this prestigious award, the highest honor coaches can achieve with the National Speech & Debate Association. Dutton will be recognized in June at the National Speech & Debate Tournament in Phoenix, the world’s largest academic competition. Bravo!

ORCHID: To Mahoning County Prosecutor Gina DeGenova for bringing on new staff member, Hope, a 10-month-old golden retriever, being trained as a comfort dog to assist victims and witnesses of crime. What a great way to help ease often-traumatic situations that prosecutors must deal with. DeGenova sought to find a dog from a local shelter to rescue. Dogsmartz Unleashed LLC, Poland Township, Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County, Healthy Hearts and Paws Project, helped play a role in obtaining the dog, and many other local businesses and agencies also got involved to help in a great team effort!


Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To the Cleveland Cavaliers for treating the East Palestine boys basketball team to Monday’s NBA game against the San Antonio Spurs. The Bulldogs were playing in Cleveland against Southern Local that day, and when Cavs’ team members heard about the derailment, they quickly invited team members to attend the game and paid all associated expenses. Through this kind and community-minded gesture, the Cavs proved themselves to be winners on and off the court.

ORCHID: To Youngstown resident William D. Miller who celebrated his 100th birthday, for his variety of accomplishments over the past 10 decades. More than 100 family members, friends and others gathered last weekend to wish Miller well on this milestone birthday. Miller served his nation well in the Army during World War II, as a hard-working mail carrier for 38 years, as a leader at Jerusalem Baptist Church, an exalted ruler for Buckeye Elks, and as a civil rights leader who integrated the post office’s golf club.

ONION: To the shady individual or individuals going door to door in East Palestine promising to provide monetary help to residents to cover costs they incurred from the Feb. 3 train derailment. Village officials reported the scam through their social media. They warn residents not to divulge any personal or financial information and to call police at 330-426-4341 if they are approached. Norfolk Southern Railway is handling all claims at its Assistance Center at Abundant Life Fellowship Church in New Waterford.

ORCHID: To Canfield High School senior and Boy Scout Troop 9022 member Domenic Nacarato for his Eagle Scout project of erecting two attractive message boards on the Village Green to replace others that had grown worn and deteriorated. Domenic’s work is a win-win for the community and for himself. The project benefited the city by making its downtown area more attractive, and it benefited him by teaching him the value of community service among other skills.

ORCHID: To Girard city officials for their plans to purchase and renovate the former Wellman Theater in the heart of that city’s downtown. The potential for theaters to revitalize downtowns has been proven time and time again. Locally, investments in the former Warner Theatre in Youngstown and Robins Theatre in Warren have paid handsome dividends. Here’s hoping the same can happen in Girard.

ONION: To those state House members who have been carrying on intraparty fighting in the GOP stemming from the election of the new speaker of the House this year. Six weeks ago, Republican Jason Stephens, a second-term representative from southern Ohio, scored a surprise bipartisan win for speaker over Rep. Derek Merrin. Republicans who did not support Stephens and some of the Democratic coalition he recruited are up in arms ever since. The longer the feud continues, the longer it will delay meaningful work on important legislation. Ohio can ill afford a do-nothing 2023 session of its General Assembly.

ORCHID: Posthumously to Ralph J. “Jim” Campana, a longtime Struthers firefighter who died in January. Campana was remembered and honored at last week’s Struthers City Council meeting. He had served on the city’s force for two decades, fought several major fires in the city and is remembered for his passion for teaching young firefighters. His family can take pride in his exemplary public service.


Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To Mary Boyd, social worker at the Choffin Career and Technical Center in Youngstown for organizing the school’s “Taste of Black History” event as part of its Black History Month programming. The event featured a large spread of soul-food staples, including cornbread, collard greens, baked macaroni and cheese and peach cobbler prepared by culinary arts students at the school. Not only did students get to sample the tasty dishes, they also were treated to lessons on how dishes became interwoven with African-American culture and history. The event was three years in the making, postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic. To be sure, the “Taste of Black History” was well worth the wait and is well worth repeating.

ONION: To the heartless barbarian who shot a dog in the face last week in Weathersfield Township. After hearing a popping noise, the owner of the dog named Kenda came outside where her pet was tied to discover with shock her dog’s severe injuries. The only good news from this tragedy was the show of generosity of the Healthy Hearts and Paws Project, a nonprofit that financed Kenda’s emergency treatment. Fortunately, too, the bullets struck no major organs in Kenda. Nonetheless, no efforts should be spared in apprehending and punishing the callous cold-blooded shooter.

ORCHID: To Mike Kupec and Ken Purfey for their efforts to recruit more young African Americans into Scouting. The two men who have been involved in local Boy Scout Council for decades have noticed an extremely sharp decline in black Boy Scouts in Youngstown. The two men reflected on the 1960s and 1970s when Troop 18, a predominantly black troop based at the East Side’s McGuffey Centre, produced record numbers of Eagle Scouts — Scouting’s highest rank. Those Eagles have grown to be among some of the most successful professionals in the Valley. We wish Kupec and Purfey success in their quest to reactivate the troop and many benefits it would bring to a new generation of black recruits.

ORCHID: To the ChemCrew team of Canfield High School’s advanced placement chemistry class and instructor Tom Slaven, honored among 60 elite teams nationwide by NASA for its TechRise Challenge program this summer. The industrious students created groups of crystals to zoom 70,000 feet above the earth in the balloon launch, one purpose of which is to stimulate interest among young people in technology and aeronautics. As NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said, the space agency’s accomplishments of tomorrow will ride on those of today by high achievers like these Canfield students.

ORCHID: To the Columbiana Humane Society for leading the charge in rescuing homeowners’ beloved pets during the recent mass evacuation in East Palestine caused by the Norfolk Southern train derailment. Its shelter in Salem was filled to capacity with evacuated animals that could not stay with their owners. Volunteers who rescued the animals provided a major source of relief for displaced and distraught homeowners. An orchid, too, goes to those hotel operators in the Valley who canceled no-pets policies during evacuations to enable Fifi and Fido to stay safe.

ONION: To Youngstown city administrators for rushing through plans for construction of a new safety services complex on the far North Side without much public input. The city’s board of control this week authorized spending $48,000 for predesign concepts for the complex, which would include a new main police station and main fire station. We share concerns of 6th Ward Councilwoman Anita Davis that public hearings on the project should have taken place to gauge citywide sentiment on the project. For example, some residents reasonably may object to the location of the stations so far from the city’s center.

ORCHID: To northeast Ohio native LeBron James for passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s NBA scoring record of 38,387 career points Tuesday in a game against the Oklahoma Thunder. The L.A. Laker and former Cleveland Cavalier’s historic achievement comes atop four championship rings and virtually every other honor available to a basketball player. Lakers’ coach Darvin Ham perhaps characterized King James’ meteoric rise to the pinnacle of NBA talent: “The expectations were all the way out to Pluto, and he went ahead and created his own galaxy.”

ORCHID: To members of the Volunteer Fire Service Task Force appointed by Gov. Mike DeWine for its work in developing a final report on recommendations to improve volunteer fire service throughout Ohio. The plan provides strategies to upgrade the quality of volunteer fire crews common to many communities in the Mahoning Valley and throughout the state. The recommendations include increasing training and expanding grants to volunteer operations. The report was so well received that some of the ideas already have been incorporated into the state’s current budget.


Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To the Austintown Fitch High School choir and its past and present directors for carrying on the wonderful tradition of hosting a choir reunion for students and alumni. The 50th reunion performance took place this week in a show honoring local military veterans. The show involved choir director Bill Klein, who was joined by three former directors. Performers included 50 current sophomore to senior choir members, and more than 80 alumni members from as far away as Texas. Incredible!

ORCHID: To those responsible for commissioning the portrait of 7th District Court of Appeals Judge Gene Donofrio, who is retiring after 30 years on the appellate court bench. Along with his service on the bench, Donofrio was instrumental in obtaining funding for the new courthouse on West Federal Street in Youngstown. Past and present jurists from the 7th District Court of Appeals came together recently to mark the unveiling of the portrait to be hung in the courtroom near other past judges, including Donofrio’s father, Judge Joseph Donofrio, who also served as an appellate judge. We salute Judge Donofrio and wish him well in his retirement.

ORCHID: To organizers and participants in Boardman Center Intermediate School’s new Recycling Club. The club has recycled some 800 pounds of paper in just 12 weeks, collected by students in the school building. The club’s 40 members travel the school picking up paper and cardboard, said Recycling Club adviser Kate Sears. Bravo! What a wonderful way to learn the importance of being environmentally conscious! Bravo also to the Mahoning County Green Team, which picks up the gathered material once a week and takes it to the recycling center.

ONION: To those miscreants who apparently think it’s entertaining to throw rocks and boulders at passing motorists on Interstate 680 from the Mahoning Avenue overpass in Youngstown. Numerous vehicles were damaged recently, and motorists told police the suspects ran into Mill Creek Park near the Fellows Riverside Gardens entrance. The rocks crashed onto vehicles below causing significant damage. Thankfully, no one was injured somehow. Two boys, 12 and 14, have been arrested, and police were looking for another possible suspect.

ORCHID: To Youngstown State University’s Excellence Training Center, which helps students with disabilities earn credentials and apprenticeships. It works in collaboration with the Columbiana County Board of Developmental Disabilities and Columbiana County Educational Service Center as part of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities-Pathways to Careers-Improving Post-Secondary Education Options for Students with Developmental Disabilities project. The effort recently gained a $500,000 state grant to further increase the number of students benefited by the program.

ORCHID: To organizers and student participants in a program at Austintown Intermediate School that teaches about various disabilities, including instilling empathy and understanding. They learn in classrooms and in activities simulating performing everyday tasks with various disabilities, including vision impairment, diabetes, speech impediments and others. This is a wonderful opportunity to teach our youngsters empathy that, hopefully, they will maintain throughout their lives.

ORCHID: To 31 area high school seniors from all over the Mahoning Valley who recently signed letters of intent to compete on the college level next year. The role of athletics must never be underestimated as an important part of teaching local youth so many valuable skills like teamwork, competitiveness and leadership, along with the obvious importance of physical fitness. Bravo to all these students and their families for the support they must have provided throughout their youth.



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