Thursday, February 8, 2024

OZARK SHARE AND CARE EXPEDITION!

I remember decades ago, when I lived in Harrison, Saturday morning was the day of the week set aside for local organizations to stage a fund-raising event in the center of the town.    I first saw this put into practice when my Girl Scout troop would gather up donations from folks who had "too much", or had outgrown shoes/clothing, then have a "Rummage Sale".  Back in the fifties and sixties of the last century, the courthouse lawn was the location for these Rummage Sales.  We would string rope between the maple trees on the lawn, to make a place to hang up the clothes that were donated.  The endeavor taught us girls that something we had grown tired of, could be a treasure to someone else.  Over the years, as the economy flourished and Americans began to experience the "Affluence Affliction" (sometimes nicknamed Affluenza), individuals began to have SO MUCH STUFF, there was no need to wait until an organization was asking for donations for an annual rummage sale.  Instead, they could simply lump their abundant possessions they no longer needed, into piles in their garage, and have the then-trending "Garage Sale".  However, most people who were having garage sales, did not sell everything.  So, someone hypothesized that if there was a central place where people could take these unsold items, and they could be given away free of charge;  or, if sold, the funds received could be used for charitable purposes.  Eventually, a non-profit, 501c3, was formed, that would meet these criteria.  That organization was called "Ozark Share and Care".   A member of their staff is shown below, along with one of the trucks the organization uses to pick up large  items being donated.
But then they found that if they had a bigger truck, they could pick up bigger loads, and hence you see the truck below, that has an elevator lift, for loading large/heavy items.
To maximize the effectiveness of the service they provide where they come to the donor's home to pick up large items, they try to schedule them only on certain days of the week.

The colorful cornucopia basket, with produce flowing out of it, is a familiar logo, for indicating abundance.  It is a reference to the Share and Care main focus, of providing nourishing foods (at little or no cost) for families in Boone County, but will not turn away someone in need from outside the county. 


After the workers finished getting items out of the garage of the donor's home, they determined the items on the bottom floor could be more easily loaded, if they backed their truck down the slope, so that the lift attachment on the back would be at ground level.

These are the two very congenial Share and Care staff members, who came to assist our project.  The photo was taken in front of the empty truck, BEFORE they had worked diligently to fill it to the brim.  However, I can assure you they still had pleasant attitudes to the very end, despite the hard work!

Their kindness is especially remarkable, considering they were loading furniture from three stories, up and down these steps!

And there were several narrow hallways, twists, and turns they had to navigate as well!

So I want to commend the "pioneers" who originally saw the need for  Share and Care, (way back in 1987!), and worked to bring it to fruition.   Ozark Share and Care began, and continues to be "Faith Based".  They are supported by at least 14 local churches, as well as several schools, businesses, organizations, and private donors.  The services they provide, in the name of Jesus, are remarkable! You can find out more at their website, www.ozarkshareandcare.org or phone 870-741-3130.  In addition, they post photos of new donations of items to their thrift store, as well as menus for  the weekly meals they serve, on their Facebook page. 

One of my First Place 4 Health (www.FirstPlace4Health.com)  memory verses relates to this attitude of "Share and Care".  It is the quote from Matthew 19:21 :  Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow Me."  Perhaps this verse can be a reminder that Share and Care also takes CASH donations, and they are tax deductible, since this is a 501c3 entity.  You can find them at 102 Highway 62-65 Bypass, Harrison, Arkansas  7260l, phone 870-741-3130.   I predict helping this organization through donations of physical items, cash, or, your time as a volunteer, will give you "MILES OF SMILES", just as it did for me!  Tricia

 




Thursday, February 1, 2024

SYMPOSIUM EXPEDITION!

Each year, the College of the Ozarks hosts symposiums for the students and the public, that feature well-know individuals, with a variety of backgrounds.  This blog is about the visit I made to College of the Ozarks, to attend the program featuring James "JB" Brown.  I arrived at the college several hours before the event start time, so that I could take a stroll around the campus, seeing some "new-to-me" locations, (and get in my 10,000 step activity goal!).


College of the Ozarks is a fully accredited, Christian, liberal arts college, located just outside Branson, Missouri.  The vision of College of the Ozarks is to develop citizens of Christ-like character who are well-educated, hard-working, and patriotic.  To achieve this vision, the College has Academic, Vocational, Christian, Patriotic and Cultural goals.  The reminder of that patriotic goal , can be seen in Patriot's Park, near the entrance to the college.  This photo shows a plaque at Patriot's Park.

There is an impressive array of flags at Patriots Park.  The park also includes other types of memorials, such as bronze monuments and a grove of over 100 sugar maple trees, planted in honor of specific veterans. 

The picturesque waterfall landscaping shown in photo below, can be found in front of the Keeter Center, the College's largest workstation (hence, a part of the vocational goal of the college).  The facility was recently voted a Top Small Hotel in the U.S., by TripAdvisor.

 
Inside the Keeter Center, there is a gift shop that sells a wide variety of student-made products, such as those shown in gift box below:
Student-made fruitcakes are a signature item of the college, and I can testify that they are delicious!  Groups and individuals who take guided tours of the campus, get to visit the fruitcake kitchen, and are given a complementary sample of this luscious treat!
The statue of our country's first president, George Washington, stands in front of the Center for Patriotic Education.
Near the front door of this building is a metal partition, with stars cut out of it, in a nod to our nation's "stars and stripes" flag.  I speculate that this custom item was made by students in the college's metal shop.
There was a charging station for electric vehicles that sat in front of the engineering building, and it had a Tesla hooked up to it.  I asked a staff member inside the building if there were other charging stations around the campus, and he replied, "not that I know of."  He went on to comment that the engineering department had received this particular charging station from a grant that was provided,  to promote the use of electric vehicles.  With thousands of cars, belonging to students, faculty, and visitors on the campus every day, there would be a very long line to use this one charging station, if, indeed, the use of gasoline-powered vehicles is completely outlawed!

The symposium I was attending was being held inside Keeter Gymnasium, and the photo below shows the view I had from my seat on the gymnasium floor.  This building has seen some very famous world figures as speakers, including Great Britain's Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush, General Norman Schwarzkopt, Colin Powell, Newt Gingrich, Dr. Ben Carson, Tim Tebow, Arkansas Governor Sara Huckabee Sanders, and television personality, Mike Rowe. 

Since I enjoy photography, I chose a seat behind the seat that was reserved for the official photographer of the event, because I thought it would be interesting to see what kind of equipment he was using, and to observe his "modus operandi" for capturing great images. 
 
 
 I was not disappointed, because I was able to observe him using a variety of lenses, and I carefully studied the "work harness" he was wearing, that had storage bags for a variety of cameras, back up batteries, flash equipment, etc.  When I attended the Tim Tebow and Governor Sara Sanders speeches, I sat in the area cordoned off for the media, to the immediate left of the platform.  Those seats put the media guest closer to the speaker, but I would agree with this designated event photographer's philosophy, that the "official photographer" gets the best view points, directly in front of the stage. 
The event moderator reminded the audience that James "JB" Brown comes from a sports background, and as an athlete himself in the past, was used to walking into a gymnasium with the roar of the crowd, led by cheerleaders and team mascots.  So, College of the Ozarks had their cheerleaders and mascot, get the crowd "fired up", with applause and rousing rhythms, as Mr. Brown entered the room.  It was a very fitting tribute, to an athlete with such a remarkable sports record!
Before I went to the event, I wanted to get background information, so I checked out Mr. Brown's social media platforms.  Screen shots of these are shown below:




The talk Mr. Brown gave that evening, through a "Q and A" type format, was informative and inspiring.  I could see that despite his many accolades, he remains humble and service minded.  Since one of the awards he has received is being named the recipient of the National Association of Broadcasters Distinguisheded SERVICE Award (the organization's highest honor), it seemed fitting to use this symposium featured speaker, as the visual aid for one of my First Place 4 Health (www.FirstPlace4Health.com) memory verses, that deals with SERVICE:  "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave--just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."  Matthew 20:26-28


I felt doubly blessed because I not only got to be present at Mr. Brown's symposium appearance, but I was also invited to attend the reception afterwards, at the Keeter Center. Since my Master's Degree is in Foods and Nutrition, I find it intriguing to see the creative ways the food service team at the Keeter Center captures the eye, and the appetite, with their dazzling array of refreshments.  For example, notice this custom-crafted metal "tree", designed to hold individual cones, packed with colorful appetizers!


Likewise, platters full of  "S'MORES ON A STICK" were a perfect treat for a chilly fall evening.

The students in charge of the hot apple cider service, also had a lovely display.
The student shown below is the one I asked to take a photo of me, and she kindly allowed me to also take a photo of her, as well!
Besides wanting a photo to remember what I wore to the reception, I also wanted a photo that showed the variety of harvest-time produce and flowers, that the school grows on their own campus.  Visitors can see a variety of plant species, including fabulous orchids, at the Hoge Greenhouses on campus. 
There was another giant "centerpiece" arrangement in the reception area, that I wanted to remember with a photo.   I hope the photo of the harvest-themed decor, and my smiling face, illustrates that this fantastic experience at College of the Ozarks, gave me "MILES OF SMILES"!  Tricia




Monday, January 1, 2024

WOKA EXPEDITION!

This is the building and sign that you see, when you enter the campus of WOKA.  The word "WOKA" is a reference to "the Waters of Oklahoma and Arkansas" Whitewater Park.

The photo below shows the entry gate cars must go through, to enter the park.  It only accepts credit cards, as the park is listed as a "cashless" facility. As you can see from the photo I took through my windshield, it was raining on the day that I went, but the park does not close just because it is raining.  However, on busy days when the weather is nice, there will be many visitors.  To prevent the park from becoming dangerously overcrowded, the gate will not open when the parking lot is full. 
I was the only one in the park that day, so this gentleman had time to come out and give me a tour.  His name is Jared Skaggs, Director of Outdoor Experience.  This waterpark is a result of a cooperative working arrangement between the city of Siloam Springs (www.siloamsprings.com), and the Grand River Dam Authority (www.GRDA.com). 

The rain drops clinging to one of the hand rails on upper viewing platform, serve as a frame for the waters flowing in the distance.  Rain does not prevent the park from being open to visitors, UNLESS, there is so much rain that the Illinois River is in flood stage.  The water level of the river is shown in real time, on the WOKA website (www.visitwoka.com).
The autumn leaves in photo below, serve as a reminder to say the park is open year round.  I was there on a chilly day in November.  Just three days earlier, on Thanksgiving Day, several paddlers came to the park (wearing wet suits), and enjoyed playing on the rapids .  (I had seen photos of them on the WOKA Facebook and Instagram pages.)

The repurposed railroad cars contain concession amenities, that are open during the warmer parts of the year.  Stairs lead up to viewing decks on the roof of the concession stands, equipped with picnic tables.  They provide a great overlook of the entire water park.  The canopy on a stand at ground level can provide shade to the picnic tables underneath, on days when it is hot and sunny. 

This is the view from the rooftop, when looking towards the beginning of the rapids.  WOKA is a 1200 foot long, 100 foot wide, side channel of the Illinois River, and features 8 drops/whitewater features. 
The photo below shows the rapids, and boulders, that one must navigate to get to the end of the water park.  These obstacles might be thought of as "trials of many kinds" to challenge one's paddling navigational skills on rough water.  So I am using this as the visual aid for one of my First Place 4 Health (www.FirstPlace4Health.com) memory verses that says, "Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."  James 1:2-4


There is a very colorful mural painted on the side of the railroad car that faces the river.  I like the way the artist incorporated the letters "w  o  k  a" into the art work to make them "flow" with the river!
 
Photo below shows the picnic tables and Adirondack chairs on the rooftop viewing area of the railroad cars.  Visitors may bring outside food and drink, but no alcohol.  This would be a very scenic location for a picnic in nicer weather!

The second railroad car also has an appropriate message, since the park is located on a "channel" of the Illinois River!  Likewise, a paddler needs to "channel" their concentration to make it though these challenging water features!


There are placards that show the elevation drops of the rapids, so that paddlers can know what exciting challenges await them!
There are temperature-controlled restrooms, lavatories, and changing stations at the park.  Likewise, water fountains are provided, that even have a place for refilling water bottles.  A series of photos on a timeline, adorn the covered porch between the restrooms.  I was thankful that Jared alerted me to these photos, because they answered many of the questions I had about the history of the park.  I would encourage visitors to be sure to check out the history timeline when they visit.
Jered told me the channel was blasted out of solid bedrock, to construct the whitewater drops.  Since these are rocks newly exposed to running water, their edges have not been smoothed from hundreds of years of flowing water.  Therefore, I determined when I return to "shoot the rapids" in warmer weather, I am going to wear the dive skin or wetsuit I had from scuba diving, to protect my skin from scrapes with the rocks. 
For those who do not want to come by car, you can walk or bike this three mile paved path between Siloam Springs and WOKA, then brag you walked from Arkansas to Oklahoma!  The photo below shows the walking/biking path that you can use.  As a reward for your efforts, there is no entry fee if you arrive at the park via walking or biking!  The trail and the whitewater park owe a debt of gratitude to the Walton Family Foundation (aka, Walmart ) for the generous grant that made this a reality. 

WOKA is located in an area that used to be called Lake Francis, which was created by a dam across the Illinois River.  There were numerous issues with the dam, so eventually, it was taken out.  The orange balls on the left of this photo mark the boundary of the remains of Lake Francis, that leads to the remains of the former dam. 


Photo below shows former Lake Francis Dam, that has been modified to "stair step" down to river below, so that if a paddler accidentally were to go over it, there is no strong undertow that might cause a drowning hazard.  Speaking of drowning, there are NO LIFEGUARDS at the park.  Each person is responsible for their own safety.  Life jackets, secure footware, and helmets are REQUIRED. (This translates to "no flipflops".) One can bring their own kayak, IF it is designed for whitewater.  Rental kayaks, standup paddleboards, helmets, and round intertubes are available for rental in season.  Lifejackets are included with all rentals.


Paddlers know where to get out by this exit flag, which is very helpful!

There is a very wide slab at the takeout location, which can accommodate more than one visitor at a time. 
This is the view downstream, where the Illinois River continues its meandering .

This is the only sign you will see, as you are traveling south of Siloam Springs, on Highway 59, to alert you to the place you need to turn off the highway to drive to the park.  

Before visiting, you will want to take a close look at the safety rules, and other tips, that are available on their website at www.visitwoka.com   Some of these guidelines are shown in photo at end of this blog.

 The physical address of the park to put in your navigation system is 474986 Twin Falls Road, Watts, Oklahoma.  Their email is woka@grda.com and the phone is 918-610-9652.  

A visit to this new attraction in the Ozarks gave me "MILES OF SMILES"!!