When Michelle Siegel picks up the phone in a small office off State Road in Westport, she never knows what she will face. What she does know is that she can help.
“Samaritans, can I help you?”
A Dartmouth resident, Siegel, 58, has been a volunteer at The Samaritans of Bristol County for five years. She lost her mother to suicide when she was 17. It was a difficult time for the family, especially in the 1970s when the subject of suicide was wrapped in shame and secrecy.
“There was no support,” she said. So volunteering on a suicide line was always something at the back of her mind, she said.
With her daughters grown, Siegel signed on with the non-profit Samaritans and a five-hour-a week commitment. She got 35 hours of free training before she had to take her first call. Whenever she had a tough one, there was a more experienced Samaritan next to her to provide help.
“I’ve gotten calls that made me think I have made some kind of improvement, that I was there for someone,” she said.
Executive Director Del Ferus, the only paid employee, said volunteers such as Siegel keep the hotline going. But while the need is greater, with more people fighting depression, substance abuse and suicidal feelings, Ferus said the number of Samaritan volunteers has been decreasing.
“We cover entire Southeastern Massachusetts and we offer the service 15 hours a day, every day. But we need more bodies,” said Ferus.
Begun locally in a basement in Fall River in 1989, the hotlines ran 24/7 in the 1980s and had more than 50 volunteers at one time. Now there are about 25 volunteers signed up and four phone lines, with shorter shifts and fewer required hours. There are days when Ferus is the only one in the office.
The free and confidential hotline now operates seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Given the lack of volunteers, the local hotline isn’t staffed overnight; callers are automatically referred to state or national hotlines.
Last year, the Westport office fielded more than 19,000 calls. It is funded by United Way in New Bedford and Fall River.
“They are a wonderful organization. I cannot say enough about them,” said Michelle Neves Hantman, president of the United Way of Greater New Bedford. “Their work is all the more crucial now because of the statistics we see around suicide and depression.”
As of 10 a.m. last Friday, Ferus said during this year to date, there had been 27,541 suicides across the country. By 1:30 p.m. there were 13 more.
“It goes up every few seconds. It’s unbelievable,” she said.
The Samaritans also note that teen suicide is rising rapidly and is the second leading cause of death for ages 15-19. And those 65 and older have the highest suicide rate of any age group in the country.
Young or old, a voice at that time of crisis can save someone from making an irreversible decision, said Rev. David Lima from the Greater New Bedford Suicide Prevention Coalition
“Ninety percent of people who receive intervention will not make an attempt to commit suicide so the work they do is tremendous,” he said.
The calls can be as simple as a person having a bad day at work or it could be someone fighting depression. Siegel said being a volunteer isn’t as difficult as people might think.
“You don’t have to have a degree in psychology or a crisis management background. We just need ordinary people who are good at listening and can befriend the caller,” she said.
“Suicide is preventable and there is help out there,” said Ferus.
As she heads out to another day at the volunteer job she has come to love, Siegel said she thinks of her mother.
“I always wonder, if she had The Samaritans to call would she have thought twice about what she was about to do?”
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Diane Bolton was seriously rattled by the news last week about a house in Blackstone in which a 31-year-old mother and her three neglected children were living in filth and squalor, with three dead infants hidden away.
Bolton started the Baby Project in New Bedford eight years ago because of the possibility of something like this nightmare.
“I am just trying to keep myself calm. This is just horrendous. The whole mission of the Baby Project is to bring awareness of the horrible situation babies are in across this state,” Bolton said.
Bolton was a bit ahead of the curve when she started her nonprofit, collecting donations and distributing baby supplies, including diapers, high chairs, bassinets and the like, out of her apartment.
There is little government help available for such things. The WIC program is nutritional. The SNAP food stamp cards won’t pay for diapers.
But parents must have diapers for their children, and Bolton has seen how many people in this city and elsewhere face monumental problems doing this.
“The No. 1 thing that happens … is that they just won’t change the diaper for 24 hours. That’s the kind of thing that happens,” Bolton said.
“You go to BJ’s and you will see boxes of diapers ripped open. People are stealing them. They’ll steal diapers right out the door at the Rite-Aid. Some are prostituting themselves. It’s incredible.”
It costs $936 a year to pay for disposable diapers for one child, Victoria Grasela of the United Way of Greater New Bedford said with a note of incredulity. Newborns need to be changed 10 times a day. That drops to four or five for children about ready for potty training, according to figures supplies by the agency.
That’s why the United Way has picked up where Bolton leaves off, and is including a diaper and baby supplies drive to go alongside the agency’s annual food drive this year. On Friday, the United Way’s Hunger Commission truck was parked at the Fairhaven Stop & Shop, where WBSM and Fun107 were broadcasting to bring donations in.
It was working. For example, an Audi SUV pulled up in the afternoon, and the couple inside unloaded six large cases of diapers and a case of baby wipes. Cars stopped by all day. Some shoppers came by to see what was needed, then went inside the store and bought it for the drive.
These baby supplies will be handed over to a new local nonprofit called Diapers ‘n’ Things, which will do the distribution with the help of a $1,675 mini-grant from the United Way, according to United Way President Michelle Hantman.
Meanwhile, Bolton said that her diaper money ran out last July and she had to disappoint dozens of mothers who had been coming by the PAACA building on Route 18 where they could get a supply from her in the free clothes room.
She now spends her time advocating wherever she needs to, getting the word out about a dire need that most people don’t really think about, though it could potentially start a spiral into a horror like the house in Blackstone.
She said she assists mothers in getting help from the Department of Transitional Assistance, or to find housing, or to get help for a baby, she said. “I go to meetings at area social service agencies and I advocate at the Statehouse, for foster children especially,” she said. She also works with the United Way’s family programs.
“Everyone thinks babies should be helped. People think someone else is doing it,” she said.
Bolton is highly critical of the state for letting things get out of hand with endangered children. “The state really is negligent in this whole horrible thing in Blackstone, she said.
Years of budget cuts at the Department of Children and Families have done it, she said.
“The chickens are coming home to roost.”
Steve Urbon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508-979-4448. Follow him on Twitter @SteveUrbonSCT
Events planned throughout the area to raise awareness and
to encourage community support
What do you HOPE for our community? We hope you will join United Way of Greater New Bedford during the annual LIVE UNITED WEEK September 8th – September 12th. Members of the community are encouraged to GIVE, ADVOCATE or VOLUNTEER through a variety of events and activities that have been planned to allow everyone the chance to participate.
“This is always an exciting time of the year for us,” said Michelle N. Hantman, President. “LIVE UNITED WEEK brings so many of our supporters together and shows that together, UNITED, we can accomplish great things. As our United Way embarks on a new community initiative, we are asking everyone to share their hopes for the community with us.”
Each day during LIVE UNITED WEEK there is a different activity or event that everyone is welcome to participate in. The schedule is listed below. LIVE UNITED WEEK is sponsored in part by BayCoast Bank. To make a reservation for the Kickoff event, register for Day of Caring or to purchase a Live United T-shirt, visit United Way’s website at www.unitedwayofgnb.org or call 508-994-9625 ext. 15.
LIVE UNITED Sign Day – Volunteer to hold signs throughout the day to raise awareness about United Way. Volunteers will be out and about in New Bedford, Fairhaven, Dartmouth and Wareham. Interested in joining us? Contact us at email@example.com or 508-994-9625 ext. 15!
Campaign Kickoff & Wine Tasting – Enjoy live music by Grace Morrison (sponsored by Ed Sylvia, CPA, CFP), wine tasting, food from Ninety Nine, Stop & Shop, M&C Café, Alianca, No Problemo, and the premiere of our 2014 Campaign Video! Hosted by Running Brook Vineyards and Winery, $10 per person. To RSVP, call 508-994-9625 ext. 15.
Black & White Day – Show your United Way spirit and wear your LIVE UNITED t-shirt or anything black & white! Also, share your hope for community by using #whatIhopeforGNB
Day of Caring – Volunteer your time helping at a local nonprofit to show you care. Build a shed, work on a farm, or do some painting! Sign up for a project by September 3rd by visiting www.volunteersouthcoast.org! This year’s Day of Caring is part of the National Day of Service.
Stuff the Truck – Help us stuff the Hunger Commission Truck by dropping off non-perishable food and baby items all day sponsored by Townsquare Media WFHN/WBSM who will be doing live broadcasts at the truck throughout the day. The truck will be parked in the parking lot of Stop & Shop Fairhaven. Stop & Shop locations in New Bedford, Dartmouth, and Wareham will also be collecting items throughout the week.
United Way of Greater New Bedford welcomes Scott Dubois to the Board of Directors.
Dubois is the President & Co-Founder of pidalia, a content driven agency that provides advertising, software design and business process management solutions. He specializes in media selection, campaign strategy and analytics.
“Scott’s skill set will provide United Way with the tools we need to stay current with evolving media trends. His guidance will be invaluable as we market our message and move forward with new initiatives,” states Michelle N. Hantman, President of United Way of Greater New Bedford. “He has already been a tremendous asset and friend to our organization and I look forward to working with him more closely.”
Dubois currently serves on the Advisory Committee for Moving2Mastery.org and is an internationally recognized speaker on the topics of marketing strategy, user engagement and cross-media communications.
United Way’s Board of Directors operates entirely in a volunteer capacity, directing the organization’s strategic plan as well as their policies and procedures.
The United Way of Greater New Bedford is a non-profit organization that was established in 1953. The United Way brings together volunteers, community leaders, and corporate partners to provide quality programs and initiatives that achieve positive results. Its service area, which has a population in excess of 194,000, includes the City of New Bedford and surrounding towns of Acushnet, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Freetown, Marion, Mattapoisett, Rochester and Wareham.
August 22, 2014 12:00 AM
NEW BEDFORD — The United Way of Greater New Bedford is tackling the problems it has been dealt by the weak economy and the plunge into social media, President Michelle Hantmann said Thursday.
Heading into its next annual fundraiser in mid-September, the agency is taking steps to stretch each declining dollar that is being contributed, she said.
One of those steps is to work more closely with other agencies to see where efforts overlap or could be leveraged by combining efforts.
Maureen Sylvia, as director of resource development, is in charge of finding money.
“The people who do payroll deduction are retiring,” she said. Because of restricted incomes or uncertainty, younger workers may not be able or willing to commit to a yearlong monthly deduction from their pay, she said.
Meanwhile, Hantmann said, many corporations are not as generous as they used to be with their donations, although they continue to welcome United Way officials in to pitch the agency’s case.
The problem in many cases is that there just aren’t as many employees at these places as there once were, said Sylvia.
Total contributions last year were $930,000 when a decade or two earlier they peaked at well over $1 million. So far, the drop is being offset by an increase in grant money, said Sylvia.
Hantmann said that after consulting with Bridgewater State University, other area United Way agencies and the UMass Dartmouth Urban initiative, the agency has, among other realignments, made some staff changes.
The coordinator for the Hunger Commission has been replaced by a part-time driver who delivers to food pantries and soup kitchens while the main office handles management, said Hantmann.
The director of the mini-grant program is being replaced with a single director who will handle that and the other grants, including the summer programs and the awards to the 22 agencies the United Way is dealing with.
Sylvia said that the focus is increasingly on measuring results, “return on investment, as they say.” The tallies show that 69,100 people received some sort of services from the 22 agencies last year, Sylvia said.
The United Way is also trying to connect with more people through the website VolunteerSouthCoast.org along with its Facebook page. Volunteers, Sylvia said, are more likely to contribute once they see and experience what goes on in area community agencies.
Follow Steve Urbon on Twitter @SteveUrbonSCT
United Way Awards Grants to Support Community Programs
United Way of Greater New Bedford is pleased to announce the award of over $600,000 in grants to more than 75 non-profit organizations and all-volunteer groups through United Way’s Community Fund, and its Community Building Mini-Grants and Summer Fund Programs.
United Way’s Community Fund will provide $432,782 to 24 partner agencies to support health and human services focused on children & youth, people with disabilities, basic human needs and health. A Citizen’s Review Committee comprised of community volunteers, reviewed proposals from area non-profits and determined the amount granted to agencies based upon need, quality of programs and request, past successes and other accountability standards.
In addition to the funds distributed to United Way partner agencies through the Community Fund, approximately $75,000 will be distributed to donor designated organizations as well as to some of United Way’s direct programs and initiatives like 2-1-1, Volunteer SouthCoast and the Hunger Commission.
The Community Building Mini-Grants Program awarded $35,000 to 37 all-volunteer grassroots groups to complete community projects throughout Greater New Bedford. Projects range from community gardens to exercise and nutrition to cultural events and raising awareness on key issues. The Mini-Grants Program not only provides grants to community groups but also hosts a series of learning and networking workshops to provide these groups with new tools to help them develop.
United Way’s Summer Fund granted $104,000 to 24 non-profit agencies for youth enrichment opportunities. These opportunities include camperships, cultural enrichment and youth employment. Thirty seven youth employees recently attended the Ready 2 Work Conference to prepare them for their positions teaching them basic work skills and financial literacy. Over 250 youth will attend camp this summer and hundreds of youth and families will be able to take part in Cultural Enrichment activities thanks to these grants made possible through United Way’s Summer Fund.
Another one hundred thousand dollars has been earmarked for a new initiative United Way will launch this fall. Through a series of Community Conversations, market research and a regional needs assessment, United Way plans to refocus its community investment strategy in a more targeted approach. “Aside from investing in diverse programs that are making significant and positive impacts in the community, United Way is putting resources towards more focused collaborations to make our community a better place to live” said Michelle Hantman, President. Ultimately, we will help organizations work together and this will allow the community to better track the progress of important community issues.
The United Way of Greater New Bedford is a non-profit organization that was established in 1953. The United Way brings together volunteers, community leaders, and corporate partners to provide quality programs and initiatives that achieve positive results. Its service area, which has a population in excess of 200,000, includes the City of New Bedford and surrounding towns of Acushnet, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Freetown, Marion, Mattapoisett, Rochester and Wareham.
For full listings of grant recipients, to learn more about UWGNB or to make a donation, visit www.unitedwayofgnb.org.
DARTMOUTH — Leadership SouthCoast sent another 24 graduates of its training academy out to begin using their professional skills for community service at its annual commencement exercises on June 13 at Hawthorne Country Club.
The graduation ceremonies honored the 10th class to complete a nine-month program of professional development aimed at providing the region with an ongoing source of diverse leaders committed to serving as catalysts for positive change in their hometowns and business circles.
The program consists of two one-day leadership workshops, seven monthly full-day sessions, and participation in team projects benefitting their communities.
The occasion also marked the final graduation day for LSC executive director Michael Metzler, former president of St. Anne’s Hospital, “retiring” from the post to make way for the organization’s first full-time director.
Metzler’s service to LSC was recognized by an official citation from the state legislature, delivered by State Senator Michael Rodrigues, who hosts the LSC classes’ annual visit to the State House each year to learn how the legislature does business.
“As we all know, an important part of Leadership SouthCoast is governance, and whether you’re in the private sector or the public sector, or the nonprofit sector, government does play a role in everyone’s lives. All of our true leaders know that, and you have instilled that in them,” Rodrigues said before presenting the citation.
LSC Chairman of the Board Jennifer Downing had similar words of praise for Metzler’s service to the organization over the past half dozen years, and recognized his importance as a role model for members of numerous classes passing through the leadership academy.
The 10th class of graduates swells the LSC list of alumni to over 225 members since its founding in 2004.
This year’s graduates included Dartmouth residents Andy Herlihy, executive director of the Community Boating Center, Dartmouth Building Commissioner Paul Murphy, and Sylvia Group insurance executive Jill White.
The other graduates were Marion Institute Development Manager Robyn Branco, 3rd Eye Executive Director Jennifer DeBarros, People Inc. Vice President of Adult Services Mark Duval, SouthCoast Media Group Regional Digital Sales Manager Meghan Feeney, and United Way of Greater New Bedford Communications & Development Associate Victoria Grasela.
Also receiving their diplomas were BayCoast Bank Officer Jonathan Gruca, Dog Tag Navigators coordinator Cecil Hickman, New Bedford Environmental Planner Ray Holberger, Southcoast Physician Group Director of Operations Julie Karcsinski, Island Foundation Senior Program Officer Sarah Kelley, and BCC New Bedford Campus Dean Paul Wesley Lundburg.
Other graduates included Lockheed Martin Business Development Associate Nisa Mehta, YWCA Development Associate Elizabeth Moorhead, Artworks staffer Alicia Moretti, Marion Institute financial services staffer Elizabeth Russell, BankFive Lending Officer Stephanie Primo-Simons, and BayCoast Bank Market Officer Donna Sinclair,
Also graduating were UMD Urban Initiative graduate assistant Ekaterina Starostina, BayCoast Bank manager Dina Tabicas, St. Anne’s Hospital medical social worker Christine Valente, and Southcoast Hospitals Group chief physicist Sheri Weintraub.
Honorary Graduate Awards went to Bristol County Sheriff Hodgson and Fall River Public Schools Superintendent Meg Mayo-Brown. Distinguished Alumnus Awards were presented to Class of 2005 members Rev. David Lima, executive minister of the Inter-Church Council of Greater New Bedford, and Robert Canuel, CEO of People Inc.
Special recognition was also given to Charles and Christina Bascom for their Major Pacesetter Gift to LSC’s Engage, Empower, Educate Campaign; to BankFive for being a Champion Donor, to Margie and Michael Baldwin for being Advocate Donors; and to St. Anne’s Hospital for being a Supporting Benefactor.
For more information about the Leadership SouthCoast program, an application to enroll in the Class of 2015, or highlights of the 2014 team projects, visit www.leadershipsouthcoast.org.
The Standard Times – Source: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140627/PUB02/406250338/1001
NEW BEDFORD — The 20th annual Clambake with Lobster to benefit the United Way of Greater New Bedford will be held at 5 p.m. Friday under a tent on Pier 3.
“This event has grown each year since it was started in 1995,” said United Way President Michelle N. Hantman in a news release. “It is really our only fundraising event of the year and we depend on the proceeds to help provide programs in the community.”
The event is catered by Foster’s Downeast Clambake of Maine and will be prepared on the pier. In addition to the bake, there will be a full cash bar.
Entertainment is by the band WIRED performing classic and alternative rock for listening and dancing.
There will also be a professional photo booth; a silent auction with an array of items including a trip to Hawaii, pro sports tickets; and more.
“An event of this size and importance is only possible thanks to the support of local companies and individual volunteers who work hard to ensure its success,” said Chris Hodgson, United Way Board chairman, noting numerous sponsors have stepped forward.
Tickets are $80 per person or $750 for 10 tickets. Tickets can be purchased in advance online at www.unitedwayofgnb.org or by calling 508-994-9625, ext. 15.
The Standard Times: Source: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140609/NEWS/406090324
Sharpen your pencils and get out your calendars (if you’re analog), or your smartphone (if you’re digital), and take note of these upcoming events to intrigue every foodie.
Next Wednesday, the Friends of the Acushnet Library will present Amy Fowler, director of beer advancement at Buzzards Bay Brewing, at the Council on Aging building.
There won’t be any sampling (darn!), but Fowler will answer all of your questions about beer, from the history of brewing to the process, the types of beer and what makes them distinctive.
There will be a drawing for a tour of the brewery in Westport and other related items. The program at 159½ S. Main St. is planned to run from 6 to 8:30 p.m.
United Way of Greater New Bedford will kick off Father’s Day weekend with its 20th annual Clambake with Lobster. Supporters will enjoy a full New England-style clambake with lobster catered by Foster’s Downeast Clambake of Maine starting at 5 p.m. June 13. The fundraiser will be held under a tent on Fisherman’s Wharf (Pier 3) on the New Bedford waterfront.
A cash bar will be available, featuring the signature cocktail, Lobster Lemonade Martinis. The four-piece band Wired will play classic and alternative rock, and a professional photo booth will add to the fun. A terrific silent auction will await your bids.
Tickets are $80 per person or $750 for 10 tickets. Purchase in advance online at www.unitedwayofgnb.org or call (508) 994-9625 ext. 15.
June 19 will bring a dinner inspired by Karen J. Covey’s cookbook, “The Coastal Table,” at How On Earth in Mattapoisett.
Chef Chris Chaput has created a four-course menu based on his take on recipes by Covey, a Mattapoisett resident. Diners may choose from alternatives in each course. Pairings of beers and wines with the food will be suggested by Fowler and by Corey Nuffer of Westport River Vineyard.
The dinner will begin at 6 p.m. at How On Earth, 62 Marion Road, Mattapoisett. Seats are priced at $50, which includes a beer or wine pairing with each course and coffee or tea with dessert. Reservations are being taken. Call Tim Cole, manager of How On Earth, at (508) 758-1341 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 21 will bring the third annual Wine, Cheese and Chocolate Market to Westport. The event will feature tastings of wines from all 10 of the Coastal Wine Trail’s Vineyards and an opportunity to sample wares from more than 20 local food vendors. Attendees also will be able to purchase those goods that they find they like.
Besides wine, chocolate and cheese, other foods will be available, such as brick-oven pizza from The Gilded Tomato Company, Aquidneck Honey and Dell’Orto Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
The event features three sessions: 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., 2:30 to 5 p.m., and 6 to 8:30 p.m. The event takes place at the Westport Fairgrounds, 200 Pine Hill Road, Westport. Tickets can be bought through the Coastal Wine Trail website, http://bit.ly/U7tpKn. Tickets are $25 in advance and $40 at the door.
In April, the 30th anniversary of the Southeastern New England American Viticultural Appellation (SENE AVA) was achieved, a landmark that is being celebrated along the Coastal Wine Trail.
Joanna McQuillan Weeks is food editor of The Standard-Times. Contact her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at JoannaWeeks@SCT
The Standard Times- Source: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140604/LIFE/406040310
NEW BEDFORD — It’s the neighborhood they live in and they want to clean it up — and to make it happen they’re printing flyers in Spanish and asking local shops for donations.
“I feel that each business owner on the avenue should be responsible (for) the front of their store,” said Ken Rapoza, an organizer with the Community Economic Development Center.
Rapoza said he went to Bourassa Hardware and asked for a donation of 100 brooms to pass out to shop owners along the avenue. Bourassa took him up on it.
“I’m going to personally go to each business and hand deliver it, and say, ‘Take some pride in front of your store,'” Rapoza said.
Dozens of community organizers gathered Tuesday evening at a meeting of the Acushnet Avenue Great Neighborhoods Project. The group has multiple projects underway, including a system for mapping muggings and plans to clean up the community block by block.
On June 14, the group will paint a mural near the 7-11 on Acushnet Avenue. Rapoza said in exchange for the donated brooms, the CEDC will purchase supplies for the mural.
On hand Tuesday were members of the Bullard Street Neighborhood Association, who shared their plans to clean up the area block by block. The association was awarded a $332 mini-grant from the United Way of Greater New Bedford to buy tools including shovels and bags.
Starting in July, each Saturday the association plans to tackle a different block, starting with those in the worst shape.
Ken Resendes, chair of the Bullard Street group, said he wants to include the community’s Latinos in the effort.
Joy Trudeau, the group’s treasurer, suggested it could be a language barrier that prevents Latinos from coming to community events.
“What’s there to communicate?” Resendes responded with a smile. “Shovel, clean, sweep. That’s a universal language.”
To bring in more Spanish-speaking folks, the association will print flyers in both languages announcing the block by block initiative.
Claudia Kirk, who heads the Community Building Mini-Grants Program, said the United Way is giving out grants totaling $35,000 to 37 different groups. She said they will go to volunteer-based groups rather than paid employees.
“The exciting thing about this is it really does have collective impact,” Kirk said. “It’s one by one, little tiny projects that collectively make a better place to live, work and play.”
One eyesore on the avenue is the dozen-or-so planters that have become more trash receptacles than flower pots. Rapoza said he went to seven local nurseries to ask for plants; six of them responded positively. The Acushnet Avenue Great Neighborhoods Project plans to organize a planting event with children from the community and will include with the plants name tags of the nurseries that donated them.
Corinn Williams, executive director of the Community Economic Development Center, said a lot of work has already taken place.
“There’s a lot of really positive stuff happening here in the Acushnet Avenue neighborhood.”
The mural painting, set for June 14, is open to the public and will take place at the intersection of Coffin and Acushnet from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The group’s next meeting will take place in early September.
The Standard Times- Source: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20140604/NEWS/406040377
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