David & AJ Jackson—1936 Ford pick up truck

I’m learning as a writer to use social marketing to find stories. A few months ago, I put a note on Facebook that I was looking for owners of antique vehicles to do profiles for an auto publication. Lo and behold, a friend from Taylor University-Ft Wayne contacted me about her husband’s truck. “Is 1936 old enough?” she asked. It was and better yet, AJ took my husband and me for a ride on a hot summer afternoon when we went to her house for photos. Fun, despite no air conditioning! I’m still looking for people to interview so if you know of someone with an old car/truck/tractor, please let me know.

A person may have to wait decades for a dream to come true. But it can be worth it.

AJ's, husband, David Jackson, bought this 1936 Ford pick up truck in 1971 and restored it.

In 1971 David Jackson bought a 1936 Ford pick up truck from a friend. The truck did not run and Jackson, who was just out of high school, purchased it with the idea of making it into a hot rod. “I wanted something to drive on the highway,” he said.

Jackson worked on the truck’s repairs at a friend’s body shop, trading his skills for use of the shop. “I did mechanical work for him on his vehicle and he did body work on my truck,” said Jackson.

That arrangement worked well, but then life intervened. Jackson courted his now-wife, Ardonna. They married, had two children, and moved twice. Jackson worked on the truck as time and finances allowed. In 1991 David Jackson finally had his truck in running order.

He kept the truck’s body original, but added a late-model transmission and drive line. The Jacksons, who live in western Wells County, have driven their Ford truck in the Bluffton Free Street Fair old car parade and attended car shows where the truck won many trophies.

Jackson has driven the truck to local car events, like the Muddy River Run in Fort Wayne where he was part of the National Street Rod Association’s safety team. “We promoted vehicle safety to drivers who attended the show,” said Jackson.

Other driving tours included trips to Canada and Missouri with a group of male friends who also owned and drove restored old cars.

In recent years David Jackson has chosen not to drive the maroon truck much, except for a two-week get-away to Florida in 1999. It was a special occasion – his and Ardonna’s 25th wedding anniversary. The truck had no air conditioning, but thankfully, the Jacksons traveled in October. It was a great trip, according to Ardonna, but a tight squeeze within the truck’s interior. “We had the truck packed to the limits,” she said.

Ardonna admitted she likes driving friends and family (they have three grandchildren) around in the truck for the noise it makes. “It has a nice hum in the engine,” she said.

Another benefit to the truck’s purchase, besides providing a fun means of transportation, was its influence on Jackson’s career choice. He developed such an interest in vehicle mechanics while fixing the car that he attended Lincoln Technical Institute in Indianapolis. Today Jackson works for a contractor that supplies fleet vehicles for the city of Fort Wayne.

The Jackson’s Ford truck was featured in a calendar issued by the Snap-On tool company in 2001.  “Customers could submit photos of their vehicles for possible use in the calendar,” said David Jackson. No payment was forthcoming from the company for use of the Jackson truck photo, or even a discount in purchasing future tools.

That’s OK with David and Ardonna Jackson. “It’s been a fun vehicle to own,” said David. “I’m not trading it in.”

The End

Stories of Hope


“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.”  I Timothy 1:15

These books contain stories I’ve written about God’s love


As a writer, I love to write stories of how God has worked in people’s lives. Donna and Thad divorced and later remarried when they allowed God to become central in their marriage. Joe didn’t believe God loved poor kids and became a tough individual until an evangelistic crusade preacher showed him God’s care in his life. Each of these people cried when telling me their stories, overcome by the problems of their past actions.

Paul called himself “the worst of sinners”– not once, but two times (v.15,16)

Earlier he referred to himself as a “blasphemer”, “persecutor”, and “violent aggressor.”  I wonder if after writing these words Paul also cried with remorse. If so, he didn’t dwell on the past.

He stated twice that he was shown mercy by God (v 13,16), adding that he knew his life story could be used by God to win people to Him.

Donna, Thad, Joe, and Paul let their lives be used as an example to win others to Christ. 

Does someone need to hear your story today?

Lord, help me to share my story of how You saved me. I love and trust you. Amen.

Harlem Globetrotter ‘Handles’ Franklin Interview

While on assignment for the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel newspaper recently I had the opportunity to interview Harlem Globetrotter ‘Handles’ Franklin. The Globetrotters were in Fort Wayne to play at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.

To say Mr Franklin values education would be an understatement. Read to discover how much this athlete cares about kids.


Harlem Globetrotter ‘Handles’ Franklin has earned a Masters degree in Social Work

 “When I was a kid in the 1970s, I watched the Harlem Globetrotters and Scooby Doo cartoons,” said Chris “Handles” Franklin. “My goal in growing up was to either play basketball or be a crime fighter.”

Franklin saw his dream come true in 2007 when he became a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, the 85-year world-famous, fun-loving basketball team known for such talented ball players in the past as Meadowlark Lemon and Curly Neal.

Don’t mistake the Globetrotters as static, just because they as a group have nearly reached the century-old mark. “We are continually re-inventing ourselves,” said Franklin. “Years ago we popularized the slam dunk shot and 3-man weave. Now we’re bringing in the 4-point shot. It’s 12 feet farther away from the basket than the NBA’s 3-pointer. It’s never been done before but the Globetrotters are known for making long shots. We’re adding a new dimension and hoping it could catch on.”

Harlem Globetrotters

Athletic skill is not the only thing the Globetrotters want to be known for. One program they have implemented to re-enforce to kids a productive lifestyle is a program they call “CHEER”. This stands for cooperation, healthy mind and body, enthusiasm, effort and responsibility. “When we speak at schools, we tell kids how they can develop these characteristics and why they should listen to their parents and teachers about staying away from drugs and earning an education,” said Franklin.

“As a kid, I thought that kind of talk was wrong, but it was the most valuable advice they could have offered me. With my Masters degree I have an education to fall back on.”

The 6-1, 175 lb. guard of the famous basketball group was raised in a family from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, that stressed community involvement. “My dad was a policeman and my mother worked in a hospital,” he said. “They taught my brother and me to be involved with people and to value our education.”

After high school, Franklin attended Lock Haven University (Pa.) where he majored in social work. He later earned a Master’s degree in the same field.

As an undergraduate student Franklin played basketball, becoming the school’s second all-time assist leader, along with ranking in the top 10 in the nation in assists and steals. In talking to him you sense he is more thrilled with the way his education, not his ability to handle a ball, has benefitted him.

“The great thing about being a Globetrotter is that not only do we have to be good basketball players but good role models,” he said from his hotel room while on tour with the Globetrotters in Kentucky. “We are good will ambassadors, especially for education. All of us Globetrotters have been to college and a high percentage of us have degrees. We strive for excellence and education.”

Franklin’s passion about education carries through to another subject. “I tell kids to  believe in themselves and what they want out of life,” he said. “No matter what anyone says, they should strive to achieve what they want. In my life people said I could not be a Globetrotter. But with hard work and persistence I did it. That determination was instrumental in making me who I am today.”

After graduating from college, Franklin sent audition tapes to the Globetrotters. As he tells it, they were not completely interested.

“I didn’t get in right away,” he said. That didn’t faze Franklin who made a name for himself with Nike freestyle ads as the world’s best ball handler. Finally, after much persistence and patience, Franklin was selected as a member of the team. ‘Sometimes you have to be creative and come up with ways to show your desire to excel,” he said.

Just as at every point in the team’s 85-year history, the Globetrotters’ approach to entertaining people transcends nearly every obstacle. “We have the ability to emotionally connect with every person,” said Franklin. “They don’t have to be into sports. We speak a universal language which crosses age, gender, race, culture and language barriers. That message is that you can have wholesome fun at an athletic event. If we can teach something valuable to kids at the same time, it makes it all worthwhile.”

The End

Originally published at www.news-sentinel.com

Teen Court volunteers judge juvenile offenders

 Angie Dial is an amazing lady running an amazing program. She’s influencing teens to stay out of trouble and possibly enter a career with the justice system. No job gets better than that.


Teen Court director Angie Dial and Marissa Bracke, a local attorney, review the jury verdict form

Teen Court, organized in Wells County in December 1998, has offered hundreds of local teens the opportunity to see how the criminal justice system works, according to director Angie Dial. “Teen offenders may choose to appear before a jury of their peers on charges including shoplifting, battery and many other offenses,” she said. “Teen Court volunteers can what happens when kids make poor decisions and how those decisions affect the community, their families, and themselves,” she said. “That could influence a young person’s decision about choosing between right and wrong.”

The first and third Monday nights of each month Dial directs Teen Court sessions at the Wells County courthouse in Bluffton. Dial has been a part of Teen Court since January 1999 when she began volunteering for the program which had begun a month earlier.

In December 1998, Angie Dial of Ossian read about a new program beginning in Wells County that would eventually change her life.

The program was called Teen Court. “Its goal was to allow local youth to govern each other’s actions in a legal setting,” said Dial. “Teen offenders may choose to appear before a jury of their peers on charges ranging from shoplifting, battery, theft, receiving stolen property, residential entry, minor in possession of alcohol and/or tobacco, telephone harassment, auto theft, curfew violation, disorderly conduct, driving while intoxicated, and trespassing. Referrals to Teen Court are at the discretion of the probation department.

Dial, whose father had been a deputy with the Wells County Sheriff’s Department, had earned a Criminal Justice degree at IPFW. For several years she had stayed home to raise her three children. Upon learning of the new Teen Court program, she volunteered to manage crowd control in the hallways outside of the courtrooms.

Dial continued to volunteer until May 2001 when she accepted the position of director for the program. She has been there ever since.

Two cases are scheduled on Monday nights beginning at 6 p.m. and again at 8 p.m. Students who volunteer with Teen Court represent each of Wells County’s three public schools, as well as homeschooled and Christian school students. “We’re always looking for volunteers to replace seniors and students who find jobs,” said Dial. She currently has 71 teen volunteers.

A Teen Court volunteer in Grades 6-12 may serve as court clerk, bailiff, jury member, prosecuting attorney or defense attorney for offenders age 17 and under. “At age 18 they are considered adults and tried in a different court,” said Dial.

Teen Court volunteer attorneys are given the police report and other information to prepare. Six attorneys from the Wells County area participate as judges for Teen Court and occasionally offer training for volunteers. There is no cost to volunteers to participate in any Teen Court session or training.

Dial believes Teen Court volunteers gain an advantage by working with the program. “They see what happens when kids make poor decisions and how those decisions affect the community, their families, and themselves,” she said. “Being a volunteer with teen court could influence a young person’s decision about doing something that could get him or her in trouble.”

Angie Dial and Lindsay Reusser, former teen volunteer with Teen Court and college intern, review the jury verdict form.

Dial said another advantage to the students who volunteer with Teen Court is the opportunity to fulfill community service. “Some students need to fill a certain number of hours for a class or organization like the National Honor Society,” she said. “This program counts towards that requirement.” Dial records the hours in court for each volunteer.

A juvenile many choose to participate in Teen Court for various reasons, said Dial. “Sometimes their probation officer recommends it. A friend may have gone through it. Some think a jury of their peers will understand the pressures they experience. Those who participate in Teen Court don’t carry the offense on their juvenile record.” According to the rules of Teen Court, parents of offenders must attend the sessions with their child.

Restitution decided upon by the jury is usually something that relates to the offense, such as writing a letter of apology to a store owner that has been vandalized. “In nearly every case the judge rules the restitution agreed upon by the jury as appropriate for the crime. I’m impressed each time I sit in on a session of Teen Court. It never gets old.”

The End

Reprinted with permission of Ossian Sun Riser

Jerry Hook, Model A owner

If it seems I’ve written a lot of Model A profiles, you’re right. For some reason there are several people in my town who own them. And they just happen to be some of the nicest people around. This couple I’ve known most of my life. Sonja Hook was my piano teacher for several years. Small world, as they say.


Jerry & Sonja Hook with their Model A

When some people buy an antique car, it’s the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. For Jerry Hook of Bluffton, Indiana, it was a dream with an encore.

Years ago, Hook, a Wells county native, had purchased a Model A car, paying only $50.00 for it. The car ran well and since the previous owner only lived 12 miles from Hook’s home, he drove it home. The problem was, Hook was only 15 years old and didn’t have a driver’s license. He didn’t let that minor detail stop him. The car needed some restoration and over the next few years he completed those repairs.

Hook eventually sold the Model A when he was in his 20s to help support his family. He had known before the sale he would regret getting rid of the car and he did.  

Over the next several decades Jerry and his wife Sonja raised four children. Today, their family includes 11 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Jerry never stopped thinking about owning a Model A and knew he could use it to entertain his family.

Hook solved the problem in 2009 by deciding to purchase a Model A. He called Bill Milholland from Ossian to ask for advice. Milholland belonged to a Model A club in Fort Wayne and Hook thought Milholland would know of someone with a restored Model A for sale.

Milholland knew of just such a car. It was a 1930 Model A in fine shape, needing no restoration, a fact that thrilled Hook.  “I went through that with my first one,” he said.

Jerry Hook purchased the car and as he had predicted, he drives the car for fun, often putting his grandchildren in the rumble seat for rides. The car has no power steering or brakes. The windshield tips out to allow ventilation. The car’s back window rolls down so air can flow through.

The car’s body is painted maroon while its fenders are the traditional black color. Jerry admits he doesn’t drive it in the rain. “I’m afraid it will melt,” he quips. The gas tank holds 11 gallon, a change from the 1928 and 1929 models which held 10 gallons each.

The Hooks joined the Old Fort Model A Club in Fort Wayne. “Most of the antique car owners I knew were members and it always looked like everyone was having a lot of fun,” he said. Recently the Hooks embarked on a tour with the group to Newcastle, Indiana.

“I plan to keep the car until I die and I hope my boys will take good care of it,” said Hook.  “It would be nice to keep it in the family.”

The End

Reprinted with permission of Indiana Autos/RVs magazine

In the Midst of Fear


This devotion came after I’d read a diary kept by a friend during a hiking trip to Europe years ago. From that same diary I wrote two more stories – both religious — about Sharon’s thoughts and feelings during her stay in Europe. All were published with her permission and I gave her copies of the published articles.


While backpacking alone through Europe, Sharon had to board a boat in Northern Ireland that would take her to Scotland. Hostile glances from the other passengers came her way as she stood in line to pay the fare. Sharon realized that because she was a stranger and traveling by herself, the people in the war-torn country saw her as a threat. For the first time on her 21-day journey, she began to feel afraid for her safety.

Sharon sent an urgent plea heavenward. “Lord, please take care of me in this place full of strangers. Show me You are beside me, watching over me.’

When it was time to pay the fare, the white-haired captain of the boat asked Sharon, “Where’re you headed, Miss?”

“Scotland,” she replied.

“That would be the third stop for you, Miss.” Sharon nodded and moved to the side.

Once at sea, the boat’s engine made a deep chug-chugging sound that filled the air around the boat and carried out over the waves. The captain’s deep voice could be heard clearly above the noise: “If you’re a-wantin’ Scotland, it’s the third stop. Ya’ don’t be a-wantin’ the first or second stop, but the third stop for Scotland.” Every few minutes, he repeated the announcement, looking around at all the passengers and smiling in a friendly manner.

After two or three similar announcements, Sharon caught on. As the only American on board, she was obviously the only one who needed a reminder. Sharon tried to maintain an outward look of calm, even though her nerves felt frayed. Would the other passengers grow angry with the captain’s attention towards her?

When Sharon looked around, the faces of the crowd surprised her. Instead of frowns, people smiled. A few people chuckled as their heads swiveled between her and the captain. Sharon relaxed, more relieved than she wanted to admit, that the earlier tension was gone, dissolved under the captain’s care.

Once the boat arrived in Scotland, Sharon gathered her belongings and stood in line to disembark. She thanked the elderly captain for his help. His ruddy face revealed gentle understanding as he wished her a safe trip.

Sharon also thanked God for His help. Never again would she doubt His care for her in a tension-filled situation.

The End

Penny Gay — teacher with a desire to serve

While writing a weekly column about a small town in a rural community, I’ve learned to keep my ears open for possible leads. I also ask former subjects of stories for hints of anything or anyone they might know who would be good to write about. This story came as a result of a lead from a former teacher at Norwell High School, Terri Worden, whom I had interviewed and written about last year. She thought what high school math teacher Penny Gay did with her summers was interesting. I think so too. She and her husband are amazing. Could you do what they do to help people?


Penny Gay, Norwell High School math teacher, and her husband Bill travel to Alaska each summer to help villagers grow gardens.

“We both give a lot of time,” said Penny Gay. “That’s why we’re together.”


Penny Gay of Monroe is referring to the sacrificial living that has been a part of her and her husband’s lives. Penny Gay, math teacher at Norwell High School, and husband, Bill, have been married since 2007. During much of that time, they have served with various groups as volunteers.


While growing up, Penny Gay attended Pleasant Dale Church of the Brethren. The denomination’s Christian teaching of helping others in crisis created a strong desire within Gay. Over the years she traveled to Nicaragua and Peru for mission work.


After graduating from Adams Central High School, Penny Gay attended Huntington College. Gay chose to become a teacher and majored in Physical Education with minors in math, health, and world history.


Gay’s first teaching assignment was in Middlebury, Indiana, where she taught middle school math for five years.


In 1993 Gay decided to return to her roots and accepted a position teaching eighth grade math at Norwell Middle School. This job continued until 2005-2006 when Gay was approved for a one-year leave of absence. “I wanted to do mission work,” she said.

Penny Gay taught one year at the American Indian Christian Mission in Show Low, Arizona.

In 2005 Gay combined her desire to tell people about God with her teaching skills by serving as an instructor at the American Indian Christian Mission in Show Low, Arizona. “I taught fifth grade and wrote curriculum,” she said. “It was a stretch for me, but I’m glad to have done it.”


Upon returning to Wells County in 2006, Gay was offered a position as math teacher at Norwell High School. She accepted the position and began teaching geometry and algebra, a position she holds today. She currently teaches seven classes daily.


Gay’s motivation as a teacher is simple. “I always liked school and hope to convey to students that same enjoyment,” she said. “I also want to teach traits like responsibility, working hard, and treating people the way they would like to be treated.”


In addition to teaching full-time, Gay coaches a girls basketball team at Adams Central High School. She also teaches girls junior varsity softball at Norwell High School. Gay believes it is easier to accomplish her teaching goals via sports. “I can impress to students a hard work ethic easier at basketball practice than in class,” she said.


Between teaching and coaching, Penny, whose maiden name was Beer, stayed involved with her church’s missions trips. It was during one of her trips that Penny met Bill. In 2007 they both were serving as volunteers in Mississippi with separate groups as part of relief efforts due to Hurricane Katrina.


Bill Gay, a self-employed carpenter, was serving as a long-term project coordinator. It did not take the couple long to get to know each other. After meeting in March, Penny and Bill married in October 2007.


Since then, their volunteer efforts have not flagged. The summer before their marriage Bill Gay traveled to Arctic Village in northeastern Alaska to work with residents of the village, who are Athabaskan Indians, on the development of gardens. The village serves as Ground Zero for a national global warming station. According to Penny, Bill Gay was concerned about the residents’ location for reasons other than global warming.


“The people eat a lot of meat from animals which they catch,” she said. “That’s not healthy for their digestion.” She added that Bill taught the people how to begin growing seeds in greenhouses, then in June transplant them to the ground. Despite a short growing season, the residents of Arctic Village grew cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, and tomatoes.


Penny Gay joined Bill in summer 2008 and each of the two summers since to assist with the work. It is not easy living in Arctic Village. The town is located 215 miles northeast of Fairbanks. After flying to Fairbanks, the Gays complete the trips on a bush plane. Electricity for the residents of Arctic Village is supplied from diesel generators. Two buildings have running water–the school and washeteria (laundry $5 a load, showers $5 each).



Temperatures in the summer averaged 60 degrees with snow occurring a few times. Each summer, the Gays, who choose not to use electricity, have lived in tents and cooked their food outside over open fires. “The mosquitoes were awful,” said Penny Gay. “I learned to appreciate a comfortable chair.”


What about the wild animals Alaska is known for? “We saw evidence of bears and wolves,” said Penny Gay, “but we camped within the town’s limits and the people  kept the animals away.”


Plans are for the Gays to return to Arctic Village in 2011. They hope to obtain grant money to purchase more greenhouses for residents. Already fundraisers through the Pleasant Dale Church of the Brethren and others in the area have provided some funds for this purpose.


Penny Gay admitted she and Bill have considered moving to Alaska. Careers such as theirs are needed around Arctic Village. A couple of factors prevent the migration north. “We want to stay close to family,” said Penny. “And the weather in Alaska has been recorded as low as 70 below in winter. That’s something  we’re not ready to deal with,” she said.



The End

Reprinted with permission of Ossian Sun Riser