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Coal Twp. woman charged with involuntary manslaughter

COAL TOWNSHIP — A Ranshaw woman is facing felony charges of neglect of a care-dependent person and involuntary manslaughter after she allegedly failed to care for her 83-year-old husband, who was suffering from dementia and died Nov. 2.

Debora Avellino, 57, of 421 Webster St., was arraigned Tuesday morning by Magisterial District Judge John Gembic and remanded to the Northumberland County Jail in lieu of $20,000 cash bail.

According to police, Avellino did not properly care for her husband, which led to the formation of a large abscess on his buttocks that required emergency surgery once medical attention was received. Vincent Avellino died after experiencing post-surgery complications, police said.

Court documents show Vincent Avellino’s attending physician, Dr. Christopher Exner, told police that the abscess had progressed to the bone and that the formation likely took weeks to occur.

Jean Quinn, a registered nurse at Geisinger-Shamokin Area Community Hospital, told police Avellino’s wound had likely developed over “an extended period of time,” and not in three to four days as Debora Avellino had suggested.

Police said Debora Avellino was employed as a home health aide at Family Home Medical, Mount Carmel.

Doctors told police that Vincent Avellino’s abscess had likely formed from remaining stationary in a chair at his home and not receiving proper attention.

Police were alerted to the situation by Angela Maschuck, of Area Agency on Aging. On Oct. 30, Northumberland County Judge Hugh Jones granted emergency guardianship and power of attorney for Vincent Avellino to Senior Care of PA, three days before he passed away.

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Pa. proud online: Virtual Farm Show still celebrates agriculture

HARRISBURG — This year’s Pennsylvania Farm Show is a far cry from the traditional version, but opportunities still abound for youth and those involved or interested in agriculture.

The state decided back in August that this month’s event would be all virtual, due to the spread of COVID-19.

No in-person events or competitions will be held. Rather, exhibits can be accessed online, from the relative safety of homes and classrooms.

“There are times in the life of a farmer when the risks are too great or uncertain, requiring farmers to make the tough decision to leave a field fallow. To protect our assets — both our people and our resources — from incalculable losses, we have made the tough decision to take a year to lie in fallow,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said last summer as he explained the decision for a virtual event.

Butter Up!

New this year is the Butter Up! contest, open to any Pennsylvania resident who wants to craft their own butter sculpture creations. Winners in five age groups will be eligible to a win one of a variety of gift cards from members of the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association (PFMA).

“Each year, Pennsylvanians come from near and far to marvel at the 1,000-pound sculpture that has become a keystone to the annual Farm Show,” Redding said. “It’s a symbol of Pennsylvania’s hard-working dairy industry that works 24/7/365 rain or shine to nourish Pennsylvania.

“Now, we invite you to try your own hand and gain new appreciation for the art of butter sculpting. So Butter Up, Pennsylvania!”

Submissions are due no later than 8 p.m. Saturday. The guidelines state that individuals:

• Can use up to 5 pounds of butter;

• Are allowed to use chicken wire, sculpting wire and a base to support the design;

• Cannot use food dye or coloring of any kind to enhance the butter; and

• Must devise unique, individual sculptures.

While not a requirement, the department suggests individuals look for Pennsylvania butter to support Pennsylvania’s dairy industry, when purchasing supplies to sculpt their entry. Pennsylvania butter can be identified by looking for the PA Preferred logo, plant code 42, or purchasing directly from a local farmers market that sources from a Pennsylvania dairy.

Entrants will be judged in five age group categories, including elementary school (ages 5-10), middle school (ages 11-13), high school (ages 14-18), adult (ages 19-64), and senior (ages 65+).

The winners and runners up will be judged by fans of the Pennsylvania Farm Show Facebook page by total reactions (likes, loves, wows, cares, etc.).

To read the full rules and regulations, including eligibility, contest period, how to enter, guidelines, and judging, visit farmshow.pa.gov.

Members of the Pennsylvania Food Merchants Association have donated $50 and $25 gift cards for the winners and runners up in all five categories, participating merchants include GIANT, C&S Wholesalers, Wegmans, Square One Markets and Giant Eagle.

“The new at-home butter sculpture competition is an awesome opportunity to keep kids and adults engaged and learning virtually with the Pennsylvania Farm Show in a new and safe way this year. We’re excited that many of our PA Food Merchants Association members value this project and have contributed prizes to those who participate,” said Alex Baloga, president and CEO of the PFMA. “Pennsylvania boasts a strong agriculture industry, and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and annual Pennsylvania Farm Show work hard to showcase all our state has to offer.”

On Tuesday, Redding announced $500,000 in the Pennsylvania Farm Bill’s Ag and Youth Grant Program is available to fund projects such as ag education and workforce development programs, seminars and field trips, agricultural safety training, capital projects, or equipment purchases that will help to build a strong future workforce for the state’s leading industry.

“We predict a shortfall in the agriculture workforce in the coming years as more older farmers retire and new, more technological jobs are created,” Redding said. “The remedy is education and awareness. By sparking an early interest in agriculture through hands-on programs, we cultivate future industry leaders.”

The funding will go toward two types of grants — direct, non-matching reimbursement grants of up to $7,500 to defray costs of a project and matching reimbursement grants of up to $25,000 to defray the costs of an eligible capital project or equipment purchase, where the grant covers no more than 50% of the project cost.

Applications may be submitted beginning Jan. 25 and through 5 p.m. March 5. A link to apply and more information will be provided at agriculture.pa.gov/pafarmbill.

Ag education takes many forms in Pennsylvania. Some schools expose students to agriculture careers by including it in their lesson plans. W.B. Saul High School in Philadelphia centers its entire curriculum around a working farm on the school’s campus.

Saul High School senior Asjah Thomas credits the school with bringing her career goals into focus.

“I chose Saul High School because I was interested in agriculture,” Thomas said. “It started off with me in sixth grade. I told myself I wanted to be a marine biologist. Since then I’ve been living up that dream. I still want to be a marine biologist. I’m an environmental science major. I want to go into the Navy for engineer reasons, but that also goes hand in hand with what I want to do.”

She intends to work on climate change through marine biology.

Great careers start with early interest and that can be spurred through strong agriculture education programs.

“The sooner you can plant that seed of interest about what the food and agriculture system is, the better. Jobs in agriculture are found everywhere across the country,” Redding said. “It’s key to have a school that inspires you and teachers that inspire you, who can articulate a vision for learning and opportunity. I see that converging within our ag science programs.”

Education for food production continues into college.

Darian Poles, a junior agriculture student at Delaware Valley University, has career ambitions involving beef cattle.

“When I graduate, I hope to work on a big cattle ranch,” Poles said. “Beef cattle is my passion. My goal is to work around the United States and figure out where I fit best. The goal after college is to get more experience, to work and get some dirt on my hands and, eventually, become a cattle manager at a ranch.”

Ultimately, Poles would like to have his own cattle ranch.

The next generation is eager to take its place, Redding notes, and expanding agriculture education can help them reach their goals and assure a sustainable food system.

The PA Farm Bill is Gov. Tom Wolf’s bold, aggressive and necessary investment in Pennsylvania agriculture to grow opportunities and resources, remove barriers to entry and inspire future generations of leaders for the industry.

Also on Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Farm Show Scholarship Foundation presented 15 students enrolled in college agriculture programs with scholarships totaling $52,500.

The foundation has awarded more than $1.7 million to assist young agriculturists in preparing for the workforce.

“We look forward to watching these students’ careers in agriculture grow as they join us in ‘cultivating tomorrow,’” Redding said.

This year’s recipients were each awarded $3,500. Ten students currently enrolled in Pennsylvania State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences will receive an additional $2,000 from the university.

The scholarship recipients are Ashley Dobbin, Halifax, Dauphin County; Mikara Anderson, Three Springs, Huntingdon County; Kaitlin Bell, Nottingham, Chester County; Jaren Bomgardner, Annville, Lebanon County; Ethan Brummer, Millerstown, Perry County; David Buckwalter, Elizabethtown, Lancaster County; Killiann George, Newport, Perry County; Haley Jo Hess, Saegertown, Crawford County; Brooke Kline, Newport, Perry County; Madison McGinnis, Indiana, Indiana County; Roarke Miller, Annville, Lebanon County; Renee Svonavec, Rockwood, Somerset County; Marley Stonesifer, Lewisberry, York County; Geovanni Swartley, Friendsville, Susquehanna County; and Madison Weaver, Ephrata, Lancaster County.

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'That was enough for me': Elysburg health care worker gets vaccine as global effort continues

DANVILLE — Until COVID-19 hit close to home, Leanne Ryan, of Elysburg had been on the fence about whether she wanted to be vaccinated against the virus.

Ryan was one of 100 health care professionals not employed by the Geisinger Health System to be vaccinated against COVID-19 at a center, which the health system opened Tuesday in Danville.

Ryan, a school nurse in the Mount Carmel Area School District, said she was initially unsure about whether she wanted to be vaccinated against the virus due to uncertainty about the long-term impact of the virus, and vaccination.

“Christmas morning my mom called, not able to breathe,” Ryan said. “She was admitted to the hospital with COVID pneumonia.”

Shortly thereafter, Ryan’s college-age son was diagnosed with COVID-19.

“That was enough for me,” she said, adding that she realized it was in her best interest to receive the vaccination.

Allison Hess, vice president of Health Services with the Geisinger Health System, said in addition to the vaccination center, which opened Tuesday in Danville, the health system opened similar centers in Pittston, Jersey Shore and Lewistown.

Those centers are for non-Geisinger employees classified as Tier 1A health care workers. Geisinger employees continue to receive the vaccination at on-site locations.

According to information provided by the health system, Tier 1A workers as identified by federal and state guidelines, who are eligible to receive the vaccination, include chiropractors, individuals who work in school or university clinical settings, dentists, dental hygienists, direct-support professionals, EMS providers, medical students, nurses and nursing assistants, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, phlebotomists, physicians, technicians and therapists.

Hess said those visiting the vaccination center on its opening day were pleased with the opportunity to receive the vaccination.

Noelle Gotshall, a licensed practical nurse who works at Bloomsburg University, flashed a “thumbs up” as she was vaccinated. She was immediately praised the health care professionals administering the vaccination in Danville.

“The process was efficient, smooth, it was COVID safe,” Gotshall said.

As part of her position at Bloomsburg University, Gotshall said she administers flu vaccinations to students.

By receiving the COVID-19 vaccination, Gotshall hopes she can inspire Bloomsburg students to also be vaccinated when the opportunity opens up for them.

Hess explained the vaccination process, noting that Geisinger receives vaccines weekly from Pfizer and Moderna. They must be kept cold.

Each Pfizer vial contains 10 shots, while each Moderna vial contains five shots Hess explained. Once a vial is opened, she said the vaccinations must be administered within six hours.

While 100 health care professionals were scheduled to be vaccinated at the center in Danville on Tuesday, Hess said that number will expand. She expects the vaccination process to be ongoing and hopes the health system receives the necessary approvals to administer it to other segments of the community.

“There is no cost to the individual when they come through the center (to be vaccinated),” she explained. “(The vaccines) were released to us by the state and federal governments.”

Prior to being vaccinated, individuals who visit the center have their temperature checked. After receiving the vaccine, they wait at the center for 15 minutes to make sure they don’t have a reaction to it.

For more information about the vaccination centers, or for eligible health care workers to schedule an appointment to be vaccinated, visit geisinger.org/COVIDvax.

Shamokin’s Brent Reed passes the ball while defended by Montoursville’s Josh Burger in the first quarter of a game Tuesday night in Coal Township.

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City moves forward to replace blighted buildings with pocket park

SHAMOKIN — Plans are moving forward to replace two blighted buildings with a pocket park that city leaders hope will be the start of a makeover for the business district.

The city anticipates that 118 and 122 E. Independence St. will soon be razed and a public space, tentatively called “Illumination Station,” created to promote Independence Street. The buildings, which are in an advanced state of disrepair, were recently acquired by the city.

Improving downtown, starting with the 100 block of East Independence Street, is an integral part of the Shamokin Area Implementation Plan prepared for SEDA-COG on behalf of the city. The plan is in response to a community-driven desire to proactively reinvent itself.

Betsy Kramer, SEDA-COG revitalization coordinator, said that Keystone Community funding will be utilized to rip down the buildings and a $100,000 grant from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) will pay for such things as benches, greenery and sidewalks.

A third source, the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program, which provides annual grants on a formula basis to municipalities, will also be used. It was unclear how much funding from CDBG will be allocated toward the project.

The implementation plan identified the 100 block of East Independence Street as the most strategic block to focus efforts because of its location in downtown, pending redevelopment of the former Jones Hardware Building at 115 E. Independence St., active businesses and the need to address the blighted properties.

Public spaces for special events, the plan states, can serve as major drivers for economic development and used to support brick-and-mortar retail establishments by generating foot traffic and expanding the draw of their facilities.

Council has agreed to enter into an agreement with the Economic Development Authority (EDA), formerly the Shamokin Industrial Development Authority, to oversee the DCNR portion of the grant. The EDA, Kramer said, consists of business owners, investors and entrepreneurs.

“They will be working with council, namely Councilwoman (Jennifer) Seidel since she is in charge of parks,” Kramer informed council during a meeting Monday night. “The DCNR (grant) is $100,000 and there are no admin fees. So, the EDA will not be receiving any money from this nor will I be receiving any money from this as the coordinator of the efforts.”

The EDA’s role, she said, would include making sure guidelines are followed. She noted that the project must be completed by Dec. 31, 2022.

Mayor John Brown stressed that city money will not be used for the project. He said although it is taxpayer money, it is through other funding sources and does not require a match from the city.

Kramer said the EDA will be requesting input from the general public on what the pocket park should feature, adding that it can be used for recreational and economical purposes.

The 85-page implementation plan is broken into four parts — multi-modal transportation, parks and public spaces, branding and signing, and policy and programs. Each phase of each project includes an estimated cost to the city, with a cost of $5.4 million for multi-modal transportation improvements, at least $1.8 million for parks and public spaces, $461,000 on branding and signing, and $134,000 on policy and programs.

The plan notes that much of the funding required for implementation of the plan could come from government grants and other avenues.

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Levine: Next phase of vaccinations will happen 'soon'

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania health secretary Dr. Rachel Levine Tuesday said the state is would be following federal guidelines that are expected to be released by U.S. Health and Human Services.

She said she also expects the state to be advancing into Phase 1(b) of its vaccination protocols “soon,” which would include the inoculation of several different categories of “essential workers” and those aged 75 and older.

On Tuesday, press reports indicated new federal guidelines would recommend vaccinating those 65 and older as the next group of Americans to receive the vaccine, which Levine said the state would follow.

“We will work to implement the federal guidelines,” Levine responded when asked if the 1(b) group would be amended to include Pennsylvanian’s aged 65 and older as opposed to the current guideline of 75 and older.

“My information is they’re not recommending going to 1(b) but they’re recommending we start vaccinating those 65 and older,” she said. “That is one portion of 1(b) but not the entire portion. We will study that and look at the impact on Pennsylvania and follow federal guidance.”

Pennsylvania is currently vaccinating health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities through Phase 1(a) of the program.

To date, 251,133 individuals in Pennsylvania have received the first dose of either the Pzier-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines that have been approved for use by the Federal Food and Drug Administration. There have been 30,172 people in the state that have been fully vaccinated with two doses.

This week, Pennsylvania was allocated 138,000 additional doses of the vaccines, 107,600 of which have been received with more expected to arrive throughout the week.

“Pennsylvanians are ready for the vaccines,” Levine said. “Here’s what you can do to get yourself ready: Talk with health care providers to confirm you are a candidate for the vaccine and they can answer questions about it.”

Levine asked state residents to have patience with distribution efforts due to the limited amount of vaccines available.

During the press conference, Gov. Tom Wolf praised Dr. Levine and the health department for a job well done on vaccine efforts.

“They have done a phenomenal job of getting this out under really tough circumstances,” he said.

Wolf said the state’s percentage of vaccinated population is in line with the rest of the country, around 2%, and said the ratio of vaccine deliveries to vaccinations is slightly better than the national average at just over 33%.

“They are doing a really good job and it’s thanks to the leadership of the folks at the Department of Health,” he said.

North’d CountyIn Northumberland County, COVID-19 cases increased by 90, bringing the total to 5,855 since the pandemic began. There have been 254 deaths in the county attributed to COVID-19.