William Loeffler is a playwright and journalist from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked 15 years writing features for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He has also written travel stories based on his trips to all seven continents. He and his wife, Michelle, ran the Boston Marathon in 2009.
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WOODBURY — There is still time to help a foster child by donating new backpacks, baby items, pajamas, stuffed animals and books to Crossroads Church in Woodbury. They are bundling these items to make "placement bags" that will be given to children who have been placed in the foster care system. The public can donate backpacks, pajamas, books, toothbrushes, toothpaste and blankets in three age categories: Baby — ages newborn to 2; elementary — ages 3-9; and teen — ages 10-18.
Guddu Chinta spent the month of August getting his feet wet in a tent in Rhinebeck, N.Y. The Woodbury High School sophomore joined 60 other students from around the world at Rising Sun Camp, an intensive four-week, leadership program. "Every morning it was humid so the ground would be completely wet," he said. "I went through 15 pairs of socks in four days because of ... all the dew."
COTTAGE GROVE — Our country's military veterans deserve more than just our thanks, DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar told a capacity crowd in the Park High School gymnasium on Nov. 10. The senator spoke at the Wolfpack Air Force JROTC Veterans Day Ceremony. It was held on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I in November 1918.
Newport Elementary School is overcoming one of the biggest obstacles to learning: poverty. The school's improved scores on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment test earned them a spot on the annual "Beating the Odds" report that was published in September by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It was the school's second consecutive year on the list. "Newport has historically been one of the lowest performing schools," Principal Rich Romano said. "That's not the case anymore."
East Ridge High School's fall musical, "Les Miserables" opens Friday, Nov. 9 and runs two weekends through Nov. 18. "Les Miserables" chronicles the journey of French peasant and ex-convict Jean Valjean as he tries to build a new life and be a surrogate father to a little girl named Cosette. But he also must stay one step ahead of Javert, the relentless police inspector who is determined to put him back in prison.
ST. PAUL PARK — A neighborhood Halloween attraction signed off Oct. 31 after more than 30 years. The Nelson family's tricked-out yard display in St. Paul Park attracted generations of costumed kids with its rows of tombstones, hanging skeletons and gallery of glowing jack o' lanterns. Family members would dress up as witches and vampires. "I've never been at my own home for 33 years to pass out candy," said Dawn Walker of Hastings. "'Cause I'm the head witch here."
Republican incumbent Tony Jurgens beat DFL challenger Tina Folch in the state house race to represent District 54B. Jurgens, an insurance agent who lives in Cottage Grove, finished with 9,951 votes. Folch, a Hastings City Council member, received 9,531 votes. As a member of the state house, Jurgens helped to carry the HERO Center, for which bonding was approved this session, into the bonding bill as members of the capital investment committee.
SOUTH WASHINGTON COUNTY — Voters flocked to the polls in today's state general election, braving rain, sleet and a bitter cold wind that seemed to echo the country's acrimonious political divide. As of midday, a polling place at Newport Elementary School had been averaging about 85 ballots an hour, according to one election official. By 1:12 p.m. Tuesday, 537 ballots had been cast, election clerk and assistant to Newport City Administrator Travis Brierley said. By 6:30 p.m. the number of ballots had swelled to nearly 1,200, he said.
Representatives from Old National Bank presented teachers, staff, students and parents with a $1,000 grant Oct. 24 at Pine Hill Elementary School. The grant was awarded thanks to the efforts of the school's parent teacher association. They collected the most online votes in the bank's Tools for Schools competition, which took place in September. One school from each of the bank's 17 regions in the Midwest received a $1,000 grant based on the number of votes they generated. Pine Hill was the only school in Minnesota to win.
"Once Upon a Mattress" is the fall musical at Woodbury High School. Based on the children's story "The Princess and the Pea," it features a dictatorial queen, aptly named Queen Aggravain, who decrees that nobody in the kingdom can marry until her son, Prince Dauntless, finds a wife of his own. That's not likely to happen anytime soon, thanks to the queen's interference. The kingdom's maidens and bachelors seemed destined for a life of singlehood until a feisty princess named Winnifred blows into the kingdom like a hurricane.