Gresham Post Office earns recognition

Photo by Carol Wagner The Gresham Post Office was recently rated as one of the best places to work in the Lakeland District, which includes hundreds of post offices. The staff includes, from left, seated, Kay Reminger, Gresham clerk, Melanie Everson, associate/Gresham rural carrier, and Myron Bartz, route driver; standing, Penny Fehrman, Gresham clerk, Greg Peterson, Neopit route driver, Sherry Voelz, Tilleda clerk, Karen Kersten, Gresham postmaster, Gary Gutowski, manager of Lakeland District post office operations, Wayne Hintz, associate/Gresham rural carrier, and Brenda Hintz, Gresham regular rural carrier. Not pictured is Neopit clerk Rachael Mielke.

Take it from the people who work at the Gresham post office — they enjoy their jobs.

The employees recently recognized for being employed at one of the best places to work. Gary Gutowski, Lakeland District manager of postal operations, visited the Gresham post office last week for the recognition, which was based on a Gallup survey where the employees graded their work environments.

“It means a lot,” Gutowski said, addressing the employees. “Thank you for what you do every day.”

Karen Kersten, Gresham postmaster, said her employees all know what their job responsibilities are and understand how to work together to accomplish the necessary tasks.

“It’s a pleasure to be around each and every one of them,” Kersten said.


Wee Care takes care of kids

Photo by Carol Wagner The Wee Care Food Packs program at Zion Lutheran Church in Shawano is holding a silent auction basket sale to earn funds for the program. Preparing the baskets for viewing are, left to right, Mitzi Moesch, Diane Rugalski, Karen Childs, Christie Wegner, and Mikki Moesch.

The Wee Care Food Packs program through the Church in Society at Zion Lutheran Church in Shawano is holding a basket raffle to earn funds to continue to send food home on the weekend with school children who qualify.

The program provides nutritional support to students most in need on the weekend when school breakfast and lunch programs aren’t available.

“Zion Lutheran Church started a community program to help support the hungry children in our community in October of 2015 because 58 percent of the students qualify for the free or reduced hot lunch program in our local schools,” said Mikki Moesch, Church in Society committee chairperson.

Per county health rankings, 20 percent of those children live in poverty. The school social workers let Wee Care know how many packs are needed. They are currently sending out packs for 52 students who are at Hillcrest Primary School, Olga Brener Intermediate School and Shawano Community Middle School.


Meet Alex Konen

Photo by Carol Wagner Alex Konen is appearing in the play, “Church Basement Ladies” at the Mielke Arts Center. He has medals around his neck from several half marathons he has run in the area.

Alex Konen is appearing in the play, “Church Basement Ladies” at the Mielke Arts Center in Shawano.

Konen was born in Fond du Lac, graduating from Fond du Lac High School. He attended the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities for a year, then University of Wisconsin-Fond du Lac, and then earned a degree from UW-Oshkosh with a major in secondary education and English and a minor in theater education. He was a long term sub for the Fond du Lac schools until coming to Shawano in 2013 where he teaches English, speech, and theater education courses at Shawano Community High School.

Konen is also the distance coach for track at the high school and has run several area half marathons. He lives in Shawano.

Q How long have you been acting at the Mielke Arts Center?

A “This will be my second show. I was in South Pacific last summer. I helped this past fall with some of the set at the ‘Best Christmas Pageant Ever.’”

Q How did you get started?



Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski Singing about the joys of church are, from left, Alex Konen (pastor), Sue Kluge (Karin), Miriam Nelson (Vivian), Cheryl Folkerts (Mavis), and Marie Kluge (Signe). “Church Basement Ladies” opens Friday at the Mielke Arts Center.

Wherever there’s a church function, there’s a good chance that there’s a group of faithful women toiling away in the basement, making sure the food’s perfect.

Now, the untold story of those proud women is revealed in “Church Basement Ladies,” a musical comedy based on the book “Growing Up Lutheran” by Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Nelson. The Box in the Wood Theatre Guild’s rendition hits the stage next week at the Mielke Arts Center.

Dubbed as the “steel magnolias” of the church, the show follows follows four women in 1965, ranging from the elderly matriarch to the young bride-to-be learning of the proud traditions of other church women. The women organize the food and fix the woes of a rural Minnesota church.

If they’re not prepping for a record breaking Christmas dinner, they’re fixing food for the funeral of a dear friend. If they’re not saying “Aloha!” to a Hawaiian-style Easter dinner, they’re baking alive as they prep for a hot July wedding.


Farmers market back in June

The Shawano Farmers Market will open for the summer 2018 season on June 16.

The market will again be held at Franklin Park (200 block of South Washington Street between Division and Presbyterian streets) in Shawano. The open-air market will be open 8 a.m. until noon Saturdays until Oct. 6.

Products sold include fruits, vegetables, flowers, landscaping plants, maple syrup, bread, fish, meats, and select high-quality crafts. Local musicians perform and master gardeners are also available to answer gardening questions. Family-friendly activities are also available during select market days.

The mission of the Shawano Farmers Market is to nurture the community’s health, social and economic growth by providing a vibrant marketplace for local food producers. For information or to apply to become a vendor, visit


Free seeds helping vegetable gardens grow

Contributed Photo Area community gardens are receiving free vegetable seeds from the FRESH Project. The program is working with five local gardens.

Gardens are a great way for everyone to grow their own fresh vegetables, and the FRESH Project is making that even easier by growing local gardens and giving out free vegetable seeds.

Through partnerships with area farmers, the Ho-Chunk Nation, and the Stockbridge-Munsee Community, the FRESH Project is sponsoring local gardens in five locations within the Shawano County area. Gardens locations will include Ho-Chunk Nation (Educational garden), Ella Besaw Center (Stockbridge-Munsee), Redmond’s family garden (Gresham), Hennigan’s Farm (Red River), and The Church on the Hill (Educational garden in partnership with the Hillcrest Primary School’s summer school program).

Produce harvested from the gardens will be donated to food pantries in Shawano County, FRESH Project’s Share the Bounty tables, Safe Haven, SAM25, and used for community dinners and food demonstrations, ensuring others in our community have access to healthy produce.


Walk (or run) away from depression

Talking last week with Jennifer Frost from the Shawano County Department of Human Services about the biggest challenges she sees in our county as the manager of behavioral health services, she put depression at the top of the list.

The latest Wisconsin statistics put the rate of major depression at nearly 10 percent, and also show it to be rising. What can be done?

Everyone knows that exercise improves physical fitness, but new research shows that it can also help relieve the symptoms of depression. It is estimated that more than 19 million American adults are living with depression. One in four women and one in six men will suffer from depression at some point in their lives.

It is not unusual to feel sad, blue, unhappy, or down-in- the-dumps from time to time. In contrast, depression is characterized by prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness that interfere with everyday life for an extended time.


Aspiring journalist becomes Homme teacher

Leader Photo by Miriam Nelson Blair Reitzner, 27, is enjoying an unexpected career path as a teacher at Homme Youth and Family Programs in Wittenberg.

While going to college and living in Oshkosh, Blair Reitzner was an English major thinking of becoming a journalist. A job as a youth counselor at a Lutheran Social Services’ residential treatment facility changed the career path of Reitzner, now a teacher at Homme Youth and Family Programs.

“I never thought I’d be working in an alternative school setting, serving the troubled youth,” Reitzner said.

From youth counselor, Reitzner worked his way up to become a care advocate specialist. He discovered that he really enjoyed working with kids and went on to get his master’s degree in secondary education.

In August 2016, when the opportunity to teach at Homme Youth and Family Programs opened up, he jumped at the chance and landed his first teaching job.

“I enjoy working here,” said Reitzner, who teaches English and social studies to middle and high school-aged students. “I have a good rapport with the kids.”


ID card allows veterans to show proof of service

Being a veteran can bring perks such as discounts and special services from businesses, but these perks often require demonstrating proof of service. One way to prove veteran status is by presenting a discharge paper; however, carrying around this document is impractical and carries a risk of identity theft.

Fortunately, there are three options in Wisconsin to obtain an identification card that shows proof of service. Veterans can request that the state Department of Motor Vehicles put the word “veteran” as an identifier on their driver’s licenses/state ID cards. They can apply online at for a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs-issued identification card, or they can enroll in the VA health care system.


Humor, positive attitude help ease road to recovery

PHOTO BY MIRIAM NELSON Annette Elsmo and Shawn Barke enjoy their home in Birnamwood. He had a spinal stroke and was recently diagnosed with stage four metastasized prostate cancer. There will be a benefit April 21 to help with his medical expenses at the Wildlife Bar & Campground, N4597 Willow Lane, Birnamwood.

Optimistic and hopeful are not the first words that come to mind when you hear of someone battling stage four metastasized prostate cancer and then getting hit by a drunken driver while on vacation.

Shawn Barke, of Birnamwood, has had more than his fair share of bad news in the past year, but his optimistic nature and his girlfriend, Annette Elsmo, make this rocky road a little easier to travel.

“If anyone had told me I’d have a stroke, cancer and a car accident all within six months, I’d’ve told them they were crazy,” Barke said. “Goes to show, you just never know what’s in store for you.”

Barke, 47, hadn’t been feeling well in November but thought it might be the flu. His doctors speculated he might be experiencing the start of arthritis.

The doctors did not run the specific test needed to detect the type of prostate cancer he has, as it’s generally only tested in men over 50.


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