Just Juniors Journal
Serving Lock Haven for a twenty-fifth of a century.
"What're those, kids? I don't know anything about dealing with kids...."
-Lou, 1986, upon being shown the first group of kids he would ever take care of
"Okay, guys, let's roll. Vesta, you'll owe me an article, and Debbie, no threatening to kill anyone. Let's show them who we're dealing with, okay? In a positive way."
-Lou, 2001, on a project with the LS Kids
Part Two Of Two
FOUR YEARS TOGETHER
Editor's note: We decided to do this, the four-year-anniversary article, together. Four years---Four kids. It seemed like a good idea. Keep reading for the history of the JJJ, as told by the members. -L.
From Vesta Jones: This month is the fourth anniversary of the LS Kids newsletter, the JJJ. The whole thing started in 1996, when Lou and his fiance broke up. He got on a plane and came back here from Utah. After he got back to Lock Haven, he met up with an old friend, who took him to a meeting of a community service group she was in. He decided to join, and got offered a position as leader of the kids' branch of the group.
Lou's favorite thing to do was work with kids, and his other was journalism. So, why not incorporate the two? Ta-da, the newsletter!
He got the newsletter going, with Jason Long as President, in early 1997. In the first year of newsletters, we wrote about our first dances, the Regatta, and other things. Lou wrote an Endnote that would stick with him forever, in his third month of writing! It had to do with rabbit-bashing (See Endnote, below.)
The kids loved this newsletter, and still, four years later....here we are.
From Brenda Geyer: In the second year of our four-year story on the history of the LS Kids, from May 1998 to April 1999, well, let's say it wasn't a boring year!
First of all, it was the year we changed our masthead style, along with adding cover photos for the very first time. The first headline to go with a cover photo was of Lou, "Kidnapped by the Warren Teenagers." If that doesn't say enough....
Remember our first out-of-town trip? It was down to Lou's parents' Christmas Tree farm. We needed a tree to give to a poor family, and what better place to get one than from the leader's home?
And our first multi-part storyline in the newsletter, a story entitled "Budget Cuts."
Yeah, there were definitely some good memories from our second year.
From Staci Wyland: During the third year of the newsletter, Lou and the kids ran a three-part storyline entitled "In Too Deep." Lou says,"It could have had a better ending, but we got outlawed at about that time from the former group." The previous organization held a meeting, and tried to disband Lou and the kids.
Staying in action and hiding everything from the former group was not easy. Lou would sneak down to their meeting place, photocopy newsletters, and and smuggle them out. He also met the kids on Main Street, after school, to give them their copies.
This continued from September to December of 1999. Then, on Christmas Eve, Lou decided to quit the former group and affiliate the kids with Lost Solace.
From Debbie Benfield: Year Four was an exciting year. The LS Kids did a lot of fun and new things. in July, Lou and the kids packed their stuff, and took their first trip to Andover, New York, to visit Claymore and Angel.
In September they had their most relaxing Regatta ever. Vesta Jones was working with the SPCA. Staci Wyland worked at the Heavenly Scents candle booth, and John Mayes was with the Horizon House. Lou stayed mobile, inspecting all the booths and the kids.
In October, the kids took a trip to Slatington, to visit the farm Lou grew up on. Rudy the Dancing Beagle was there, and he begged for food with the strength of ten Dancing Beagles.*
In January, the LS Kids took another trip to Andover. By this time, I had joined, and I was included in that one. It was my first time out of state.
And now, the LS Kids continue to do all sorts of fun, cool stuff.
*Or roughly half a Rottweiler.
A ROUND OF APPLAUSE
For the "Hands On Lock Haven" project, outlines of hands were collected to stand against abuse, and posted up at the Ross Library (see last issue.) One hundred and thirty-one hands were collected. Vesta, Staci, Lou, Debbie, Brenda, and Ginger took part in the collecting, which took place anywhere someone was willing to sign a hand.
The hands were posted all throughout April.
The LS Kids even made the local paper, the Lock Haven Express, for their efforts. Thank to everyone who signed a hand and kept their promise.
THE BIG BOOK SALE
On April 22, we hooked up the with American Association of University Women and some other volunteers to help set up books so they could have their big book sale, to get funds for the AAUW. Lou, Vesta Jones, Staci Wyland, Brenda Geyer, Debbie Benfield, Ginger White, and Justin Shady took part in the project.
All of the books were donated by citizens at the Ross Library. They came in truckloads so we could carry them into the Covenant United Methodist Church.
Then on April 28, Lou, Vesta, Staci, and Justin loaded the books into the AAUW warehouse out of trucks, to store the unsold books for next year.
On April 11, 2001, Lou, Debbie Benfield, and Staci Wyland were invited to a meeting of the American Cancer Society, to help them raise money for cancer research by passing out Luminaria Candle Forms. For five dollars, these forms buy a candle at the Relay For Life, to honor or remember someone who fought a battle with cancer. We left the meeting with two thousand of these forms.
We got a few passed out to local businesses after the meeting, but then it was getting late. So, Lou suggested that on Friday, we would continue.
On Friday, April 13, We started out at ten AM to help light the way to a cure. We walked up and down Main Street, and asked local businesses for a little counter space to leave ten or fifteen of the forms there. All of the businesses agreed to give us the counter space to do their part in lighting the way to a cure.
HELP STOP SCHOOL SHOOTINGS: PATRONIZE RENT-A-GUN
Being in high school these days is a lot rougher than you might think. Recently, there were a couple of school shootings here in our area. The shootings have made me think....And I think I have an idea.
If there were no guns sitting in homes practically waiting to be used, we'd have fewer school shootings, robberies, murders, and other crimes.
So, make it into a business.
Gather up all the guns and put them into a warehouse. On the front of the warehouse, put a sign saying,"Gun Rental." Anyone who wants to use a gun has to go to the store and rent one.
Before renting a gun, people would have to be at least eighteen. They'd have to have a liscense, for hunting or protection. And they'd get a background check, and have to pay the fee for the gun, and have to leave an address and phone number.
People would have forty-eight hours to use the gun. If it isn't returned or renewed, they'd be fined. It would be easier to keep track of the guns, and not as difficult to trace the ones used in a crime.
That would solve a lot of problems, wouldn't it? Just think....The worst problem with guns could be solved with a sticker that says,"Be kind....Reload."
-Angel with a pitchfork
Editor's note: The preceding is an editorial, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the JJJ, the LS Kids, Lost Solace, or any of the affiliated members or organizations. For the record, however, the editor agrees. -L.
WHITE FLAG OVER: Debbie Benfield
Debbie Benfield is the youngest and the newest of the LS Kids. She is also the smallest, possibly the most determined, and arguably the most hyper.
During my interview with Debbie over iced teas, she paused many times to think about her answer. She also paused to look out the window and call to passing boys, turn up the radio, and add a lot more sugar to her tea. Debbie is a cute-looking, all-around entertaining kid.
How did she join the group? "Staci," she says. Staci Wyland brought her to a meeting in late September 2000, and she decided to stay. This little non-joiner has ended up finding something of a home in the LS Kids.
Debbie claims to not do much outside of the group. "Nothing," she says. "Well, I hang out with friends. Watch TV. I listen to music. Nothing much." But within the group, she stays fairly active, having shown up for projects such as the Candlelight Vigil, the Cancer Society project, and the Andover trip.
It is the Andover trip that contains one of Debbie's favorite memories of the group. "When Brenda ate the truck," Debbie claims, adding more sugar to her iced tea. "That was funny! Angel got the truck stuck in the snow off to the side of the road, and then we all tried to push it out. Brenda slid right into the back end of the truck. It was really funny. My favorite memory."
The Just Juniors Journal Is:
President, Ethical Advisor: Vesta Jones
Vice-President: Brenda Geyer
Secretary: Staci Wyland
Staff: Debbie Benfield, Ginger White
Usually, on these anniversaries, I go back and write an Endnote about how the group began, and how I got involved. But I've told that story so many times that I'm even getting sick of it, and I decided not to go into it again. If you really haven't heard the story yet, there are always back issues.
No, for this issue, I thought I'd go back a few years, and tell a story about one of my earlier attempts at column-writing. It ballooned into an embarrassing, and highly amusing, incident that still bugs me when I think about it.
The rabbit-bashing bit.
I still cringe to say it.
In the early days of the newsletter, I had the idea that nobody was really reading this stuff. This was partly due to my own insecurities, and partly to the fact that my organization introduced the newsletter in a blaze of absolutely no publicity at all, and I was even paying for the staples out of my own pocket. I was also younger then, and took some things less seriously.
To get volunteers for an event, in the third issue, I dashed off a column asking for help. I thought I'd do it in a clever, amusing way, and get some attention. I ended up with much more attention then I had intended.
This column involved smacking rabbits off of a desk---It's hard to explain. If you'd like to see the original, it's here, but please bear in mind that I was younger, and not as skilled yet. This column became known as the Rabbit-Bashing Bit, among all of us on the inside.
The first mistake I made was in thinking that this was funny. My second was in assuming that nobody of any importance was really reading it, and even if they were, they wouldn't be paying much attention.
I learned different really quickly.
Two days after this issue hit the mail, the hate letters and calls started coming in. It seems a lot of people are out there with no sense of humor, and they assumed I was really pounding rabbits on a desk. The office was logging ten or twelve calls a day, all of which ran along the same lines: What is this cruel animal-abusing psycho doing working with kids? Among the kids,"No rabbits were harmed" became our battle cry.
Some of the people were really hostile. I learned rapidly that some people take everything too seriously. We even got a call from the SPCA, and had to explain to them that it had all been a joke.
They guys I reported to reamed me. They wanted to me to show them every column I wrote before printing for the next six months. I, at this time convinced that my contract hung by a thread, didn't figure on ever getting another issue out. I felt like the most vilified person in the state at this time.
Even the positive attention I got was embarrassing. At conventions, people were coming up to me and saying,"Hey! You're the rabbit guy!" At one point, when the State President heard I was attending, she called me up to the front of the room and introduced me to everyone as "Lou---You gotta read what he does with rabbits." I was mortified.
All of this attention had two positive effects: One, it got me out of chairing the annual Easter project for the next two years (rabbits---Get it?); and two, it gained some more readers for the newsletter.
That's right. When all the chaos had died down, and I got back to work, it seems there were more people reading, eagerly picking up the JJJ to see what I'd try to pull next.
So overall, I screwed up badly, made myself look like a jerk in front of hundreds of people, and then went on to even greater popularity.
Yeah....I gotta like this job.
-No rabbits were harmed....Sigh.