ETCETERA - National Guard volunteers spiff up Mill Creek Recreation Area

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Jeremy Nguyen, a park ranger at Mill Creek Dam and Bennington Lake, shot several photos of an April 17 National Guard "Guard the Environment" event at Bennington Lake.

Members of the Washington National Guard held the environmental service day in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Mill Creek Recreation Area, Jeremy said in a release.

Forty National Guardsmen, including new recruits, recruiters and noncommissioned officers, re-routed a section of trail that had become badly eroded.

The new trail curves across the hill on the dry side of Bennington Lake Dam, instead of going straight down the hill.

"It took the National Guard about three hours to do what would have probably taken the Mill Creek staff most of the summer to complete on our own. Volunteers and volunteer events like these allow us to complete projects that otherwise would not get done," Jeremy said.

In 2010, volunteers collectively donated about 1,000 hours, valued at about $20,000, to improvement projects on Corps-managed lands around Mill Creek and Bennington Lake.

The Corps will hold its next volunteer event at 8 a.m. June 4 at Bennington Lake to honor National Trails Day. Volunteers are needed to work on the next section of trail going down the same hill as the trail the National Guard completed.

So far, a few of the Mill Creek Adopt-a-Trail groups, individual Mill Creek volunteers and the Walla Walla Pony Club have expressed interest in volunteering, Jeremy said. Contact Mill Creek park rangers at 509-527-7160 or millcreek@usace.army.mil or online see www.facebook.com/millcreekdam.

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Walla Wallan Susan Janelle is pleased with the turnout for a recent gathering of citizens downtown for a Tax Day rally organized by June McKenzie. About 50 people assembled in Heritage Park, Susan said.

Among those who spoke were June and Norm Osterman.

"The group walked down Main Street to Bank of America, chanting all the way," Susan said. June and Norm went into the bank to speak with its manager, and delivered a letter asking Bank of America to pay its fair share of taxes -- something like $4 billion for the past five years," Susan said.

The manager promised to forward the letter to the bank's corporate offices and praised June for doing her homework on the issue, Susan said.

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Parke Thomas is quite pleased to see so many friends and former Whitman College students making it in theater.

SDLqHarper Joy Theatre alums are taking over New York and Broadway," Parke shared via email.

In recent weeks, on stage ¬?-- or near it -- Mo Brady, "The Adams Family"; Kaliswa Brewster and Ray Chapman, "Comedy of Errors"; Pat Page, "Spiderman"; and Erika Rolfsrud and Libby Winters, "American Idiot." Scenic artist Liza Rankin recently worked on the set of Broadway's "Fela!" And making splashes in New York-based filmmaking are Alden Ford, Ben Kegan and Ricky Price, Parke said.

"I'm a proud papa because Mo, Kaliswa, Libby, Liza, Alden, Ben and Ricky were all theater students of mine! The others are friends.

He added that the list of former students working in theatre or film outside New York is also amazing: Claire Williet, Portland; Daniel Stoltenberg and Val Brunetto, Seattle; Adam Lau, Los Angeles Opera; Anna Bullard, everywhere; Eli Eagle, Los Angeles; Forrest Seamons, New York; Hannah Goalstone, Midwest; Kat Schlemmer, Los Angeles/New York; Mark Kennedy, Philadelphia; Max Reichlin, Seattle; Michael Austin, San Francisco; Tyler Kent, San Francisco; and Ned Thorne, New York.

"So proud of all of them and these are just the ones making a living in theater/film today.

Parke served on Whitman's theater faculty from 1995-2008. He taught acting and auditioning classes, directed plays and musicals and did choreography and dialect coaching.

"I do not take credit for where these kids are now -- that's all due to their gifts, dedication, hard work and luck," Parke said. "And obviously I was not alone on the faculty. Most of those mentioned also worked with Nancy Simon and Debby Holmes, a few of the younger ones with Chris Petit, and the older ones with Jack Freimann up until 1992.

"It is notable, I think, that a theater department in such a small college has been able to field so many productive additions to the American theater scene. It's no wonder that former President Tom Cronin, a true champion of the arts, called it, during his tenure, "Whitman's varsity theater team."

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Walla Walla Community College offers a broad variety of options for senior citizens interested in exploring and widening their horizons through its Department of Extended Learning.

Whether it's keeping chickens, learning culinary tips or Spanish, basic computers (in small bytes), painting, architecture, local history or writing, there are many choices.

The result of some of the writing classes is a newly published collection of personal remembrances, poems and stories written by senior writing class students that have been assembled in the volume "Voices of the Valley II." The first volume, "Voices of the Valley," printed in 2003, is out of print.

Volume II's cover features a landscape painting by Bonnie Zahn Griffith, "Bennington Lake Road."

Writing instructors include Betty Hull, who teaches Write Now! for Quest program at WWCC, and Helen Heavirland, who teaches Story Writing for Posterity, Profit or Pleasure for Lifelong Learning at The Center at the Park.

The description for Betty's class states that writers may indeed take poetic license. She encourages students to discover through reading and analyzing selected works what makes writing effective and apply the knowledge to their own works.

The 22 contributors in the new book include teachers Helen and Betty as well as Nancy Berlier, Dick Clover, Carla Cunha, Esther Lynn Dobrin, Keith Ekblaw, Esther Schmidt Fortney, Marianna Grabhorn, Jeannette Hagerty, Margaret Joseph, John Knowles, Allen Kopf, Polly Livengood, Laurie Manahan, Martin Manahan, Shauna Mosgrove, Sandra Rokoff-Lizut, Aileen Saunders, Lorelei Saxby, Laurice Shafer and Libby Swenson.

Their subjects run the gamut. Among them, Nancy related becoming a forester in a male-dominated field; Carla recalled being caught by a fisherman, whose line wrapped her leg to the tiller of her sailboat; Shauna wrote about the rigors of cattle ranching; and John wrote a poem about his mother Olgie, a hardworking farmer's wife. The soft-cover book is available for $9.95 at the WWCC Bookstore.

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What was once unofficial is now on the up-and-up: Norm Graybeal is the formally appointed, first-ever official historian for AMVETS Jonathan M. Wainwright Post 1111.

In this role, he's assembled newspaper clippings, newsletters, photos and anything else dealing with the post's existence the last 11 years into several scrapbooks, the post's April newsletter reported.

Post Commander Steve Bird said Norm has consistently cataloged nearly all the post's activities. Steve checked out Norm's scrapbooks recently and said he "realized just how much impact our post has had over the years in promoting Americanism and the many other AMVETS programs in our community. Our efforts are real and sustained now for over 10 years."

I'm sure Norm's a popular fellow, too, because he ensures cake and ice cream are on hand at nearly every meeting, specially decorated to reflect the occasion. Norm is a former post commander and has held several officerships, is a post charter member and life member of AMVETs.

In other post news, Sandra Vande Hey wants to start the Wounded Warrior Project here. It was initiated in 2002 at Roanoke, Va., to "honor and empower wounded warriors" of the U.S. armed forces. It raises awareness and enlists public help to the needs of severely injured service people, helps them assist one another and provides unique programs and services to meet their needs. More details are online at www.woundedwarriorproject.org.

The local post provides flags for the downtown core area, including the large flag flown at Land Title Plaza. Because it flies every day, the wind tends to whip it to shreds, so members Kathryn Irwin Fisher, post webmaster; Amil Hoffarth, Norman, Larry Cunnington and Jim and Shirley Irwin retired the old one and a new one is now flying high.

Watch for flags post members will set out along downtown streets on May 15 for Armed Forces Day, May 31 for Memorial Day and June 14 for Flag Day.

The post's membership meetings are on the third Wednesday of the month.

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Word from Eric Quantock with the Department of Defense Commissary Agency has it that groceries will be sold at cost here to those in the military community.

"Many of our military today live in areas that are not as accessible to this tremendous benefit, so we take it on the road to them," Eric said in the release.

The Fairchild Air Force Base Commissary on-site sale will be May 6 and 7 at the Walla Walla Armory, 113 S. Colville St.

These sales are intended for active and retired military and their families who do not live near a commissary. The sales are also for any authorized shopper who may wish to attend. For more information, see Commissaries.com and look for the On-site Sales photo of the military member saluting the flag.

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Just a quick note: I will be out of the office May 2-23. You may continue to email items and events to me that can hold in my absence. For items that are more timely, please email them to Alasdair Stewart at alasdairstewart@wwub.com. I can be reached at annieeveland@wwub.com or afternoons at 526-8313.

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