Importance of community |

Importance of community

Steve Ranson
Firemen battle a house fire.

At the New Year’s Eve bonfire as the blaze roared and hundreds of people inched toward the fire to keep warm, a longtime resident mentioned the importance of community, saying it was “neat” to see so many people at the fairgrounds supporting the event.

Two weeks earlier when parents received toys from the Wishing Tree program, a young mother whose family has been struggling financially, said since an 18-wheeler slammed into an Amtrak passenger train north of Fallon in June 2011, she felt the community has become stronger when assisting their neighbors whenever the occasion arose.

That was the case in 2013 when people and organizations such as the American Red Cross and Salvation Army, churches and thrift stores — to name a few — helped their neighbors with clothing and bedding, shelter, food and money. The help, for example, came after fire destroyed homes or when cancer patients needed financial assistance or when families were down on their luck.

Additionally, hundreds of people — including those who never attended Churchill County High School — lined U.S. Highway 50 waving signs and anything green and white as two school buses taking the Greenwave football team headed toward Reno to play in the state football championship.

Thousands more attended the state championship football game to root for the Wave.

Thus, 2013’s No. 1 story is not of a single event but rather an accumulation of people’s generosity and support. The Lahontan Valley News’ top story of 2013 selects our residents and friends of Churchill County for restoring our belief that those who live in the Lahontan Valley are not only good but also great, caring people.

These events are just a sampling of this year’s giving:

Heading into 2013, a fire destroyed two family residences south of Fallon. Because of the efforts displayed by Kevin Jeppsen Jr. and subsequently through his call for help on social media and the LVN website, scores of people donated clothes, toys, money, food, furniture and gift cards.

Toys and clothing filled three bedrooms at his parent’s house.

“We’re trying to separate the toys,” said Jeppsen at the time. “We also received some from Toys for Tots, and we even had kids who took their presents that still had their name tags on the packages and donated them.”

The community response acted as a domino effect in 2013 as residents — many of whom were complete strangers — rallied around other families who lost everything because of fire including the year’s last major fire on Potpourri Drive 10 days ago.

Two terrible incidents in December signaled a call for help. An explosion at Bango Oil critically injured 24-year-old Daniel Snodgrass, while a furnace explosion in a Fallon apartment seriously burned Trent Workman. Families established bank accounts, and scores of people donated clothing and money to Workman, whose apartment was gutted out.

As members of the community, law enforcement agencies, fire departments and paramedics from Banner Churchill were there to assist.

The second annual Redneck Shindig hosted by Cancer Warriors for Central Nevada helped raise more than $5,000 for Shelly Hubbard and Skylar Cervantes to assist them in their fight against cancer. Hubbard’s colleagues at the middle school held a spaghetti feed and silent auction that raised $7,000. A talent show also raised money for Hubbard to help her meet her medical expenses.

Fundraising efforts also continued during the year for two middle school students who are undergoing treatment for leukemia.

Two weeks before the day for toy distribution, both Toys for Tots and Wishing Tree fell short of their respective goals. When word was published that these two organizations needed help, the community responded, thus providing enough toy.

Residents and Naval Air Station Fallon sailors ensured Relay for Life met its goal of raising money to fight cancer and to assist victims. Other programs receiving the valley’s and base’s help, for example, included Domestic Violence, Fallon Youth Club, Daily Bread, Recovery Day and Suicide Prevention.

When former Fallon resident Carolann Ketten died unexpectedly in Kentucky, four children survived her. Her friends and classmates raised more than $4,000 to help her family. They also helped the family with a memorial service.

“This will go directly to her children to help with arrangements to put Carolann to rest, so her family can have the time they need to grieve instead of stressing because of finances,” said friend and classmate Alicia Woods Stadler.

In November, the community showed such overwhelming support for an athletic team that no one in recent memory every recollected.

The Greenwave football team compiled an outstanding record during the regular season and then won its playoff games against Fernley and Moapa Valley before playing Faith Lutheran for the championship. The last time Fallon played in a state title game came in 1978 when the Wave defeated Yerington.

Enthusiasm for the team swelled with each day leading up to the championship. A motorcade led the team out of town on U.S. Highway 50 with scores of people waving placards and shouting encouragement. When the buses arrived in south Reno and were heading to Damonte Ranch High School, the site of the game, fans lined the main street with green and white balloons and signs.

Hundreds of people posted on social media and followed local accounts of the game. Although the team lost, the fans, the coaches and the young men on the team all proved that Fallon was a big winner no matter the outcome.

Not every event in Churchill County that received great community support is listed, but they are also part of this community groundswell of support that makes Churchill County a great place to live.

2 — Western Nevada College President Dr. Carol Lucey resigned and finished her last day on Oct. 9 after 15 years. With immense pressure of the community college and its future, along with a diminishing budget, things became overwhelming for Lucey, which ultimately was one of the reasons for her resignation.

The WNC budget dropped from $15 million to $14.2 million in 2013, and it appears the decline in funding keeps occurring. According to Ron Knecht, a regent for the Nevada System of Higher Learning, in 2014-2015 the actual funding could be $13.6 million.

A committee has been put together to find a new WNC president. Knecht said an acting president will be named while the search process takes place and the new goal is to have a new president in place by July 1.

3 — The uneasy tension with Bango Oil Company has been there since the facility opened in 2007 and it didn’t get any better this year. Residents again made the county and Omega Holdings officials aware of the foul odors that are emitted from the plant in hopes they can come up with a solution for it. Residents said even with the new scrubbers that have been installed the air quality has not improved and residents are becoming sick from the odor.

If Bango wasn’t having a hard enough time with Churchill County resident’s disapproval, the refinery 15 miles west of Fallon suffered an explosion on Dec. 9 and critically injured a 24-year-old man, Daniel Snodgrass of Fallon. Snodgrass was taken to the University of California Davis burn center where he is still being treated and making progress every day.

The cause of the explosion is still being investigated.

4 — Fallon was exposed to a year’s worth of extreme weather in 2013 including record high temperatures, diminishing levels in Lahontan Reservoir and smoke from the Rim Fire.

Residents tried to keep cool this summer when temperatures soared up to the triple-digits, breaking numerous records for record highs. The high temperatures pushed residents to local swimming pools and lakes to cool off. Unfortunately, Lahontan Reservoir didn’t fare so well with the high temperatures and the lack of runoff from the snowfall. Water levels in the reservoir continued to drop all summer to the point where Truckee-Carson Irrigation District made the decision to shut it down early in September.

On top of the record-breaking temperatures and the drought heavy smoke from the Rim Fire near Yosemite National Park had a big impact on the valley. Advisories were sent out warning residents about air quality and the health risk that were associated with it. Schools restricted students from going outside to play during recess. Flight restrictions were set at the Navy air station as well.

5 — The federal government hit the military hard this year with sequestration and the shutdown.

Both events hit close to home in Fallon with severe budget cuts and a shutdown that lasted 16 days and took a hit of $24 billion out of the U.S. economy according to an estimate from Standard & Poor’s. The furloughed active duty servicemen and women, some civilians and defense contractors were granted their pay without interruption.

The sequestration has done a number on the economy and the readiness of our military. Cuts were made in the following areas: domestic and defense programs, defense spending, Social Security, Medicaid and domestic spending.

Although the sequestration and shutdown slowed Naval Air Station Fallon it did not stop the work that commences there on a daily basis. It still opened it’s gates and fields to air wings that came in to do training and offered the essentials that the base needed.

LVN reporter Christine Kuklica provided stories 2-5.