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FORGET ME NOT: Volunteers attend purple picnic for Alzheimer's Walk

DuBOIS — Passionate volunteers in purple gathered at a picnic Tuesday evening, never forgetting the cause that brought them together.

The “Forget Me Not” picnic included members of teams for the upcoming “Walk to End Alzheimers” fundraiser on Sept. 15. It was held at Marcy Murphy’s house. Murphy is leader of the “Marcy’s Little Friends” team, and Chairman of the walk event.

The annual picnic is a time for volunteers and committee members to get together and discuss plans, sponsorships and fundraising, while enjoying fellowship and purple-colored food dishes and desserts.

“I used to participate in the walk when it was small,” Marcy said. “Last year, it was awesome, and this year I want it to be even bigger.”

Marcy has a personal connection to the cause, since her mother, nicknamed “Guppy,” suffered from dementia. Marcy also works in marketing for Penn Highlands Behavioral Health, where she has seen first-hand what this disease can do to patients, families and caretakers.

There are even situations where people suffering from Alzheimer’s wander away from home, potentially putting themselves in danger, which happened with her mother, Marcy said.

There are almost 20 teams for the upcoming event, said Alzheimer’s Association Constituent Events Manager Melanie Phillips. In 2017, the Walk raised $30,847.

Phillips’ grandmother also suffered from the disease, so it has been part of her mission to advocate for others — everyone’s story and situation is different.

“I always tell people that if you’ve heard an Alzheimers story, you’ve only heard one,” she said.

Rick Nenneau, who is Penn Highland’s Behavioral Health’s service line director, said it was important for him to attend the picnic, since he has worked with older individuals and in geriatric psychiatry throughout much of his life.

“We see the disease in our inpatient units all the time, and we know the struggles patients have,” he said. “Our job is to provide the highest-quality care that we know how.”

Over the past 20 years, diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia have been very frustrating to witness, since there is still no cure, Nenneau said.

Geriatric psychiatry services are a big part of caring for people with these diseases, he said. They also are looking to give more support to families and caretakers who help provide these people a better quality of life.

“Caregivers put forth the heroic effort in caring for their loved ones,” he said. “These folks need support, too.”

The Alzheimer’s Walk is a national effort overall, but the little communities that participate all add up to make a difference.

“These folks are doing good in the community,” he said. “It’s the volunteers who carry the banner and spread the word — hope comes from them.”

The Walk will begin at 10 a.m., with registration at 9 a.m., at DuBois Memorial Park. For more information, visit the 2018 Walk to End Alzheimer’s Facebook page.

Red Lobster manager reflects on crew, customers upon retirement

DuBOIS — For as long as people have known the DuBois Red Lobster, they’ve known Laurie Sliwinski.

Her journey began as a server when the East DuBois Avenue restaurant opened in January of 1995. She received the General Manager title in February of 2004 and has held it ever since.

Sliwinski officially retired on Tuesday, after 20 years in local leadership. Regional managers, crew members, friends and family attended a huge surprise party in her honor at the restaurant, where emotions ran high as co-workers and friends said “Goodbye.”

Sliwinski, a Reynoldsville native, has dedicated much of her life to Red Lobster employees and regulars, while carrying out the standards and values of the franchise.

“It’s the crew working every shift, every day, the ones doing what they need to do to take care of our guests,” she said. “They are Red Lobster.”

She has received five Lighthouse Awards — an honor given to the restaurant in each division that performs in the top 5 percent, meeting the requirements of nine categories. In 2010, the DuBois Red Lobster was No. 1 in the entire company.

Something that has always been near and dear to Sliwinski’s heart is giving back to the community. She continuously held raffles and fundraisers for employees in need — any time they faced a crisis and needed a hand, she was there.

Every holiday season, she and other managers and crew members also contributed to families and children in need, buying bicycles or giving out shopping money for gifts.

During her last few weeks, employees filled a jar full of their “favorite Laurie memories” — slips of paper she has taken home and will treasure forever. Some referred to her as a role model, friend, mother figure and most importantly, a friend.

“It’s always been a family,” she said. “Ever since I can remember, that’s how it has felt here.”

It’s also the regular customers she will never forget — the people who come in for a meal daily or weekly, Sliwinski says. Learning more than just their meal order, she followed their lives and their stories over the years.

“When I think of the people I came into contact with, whether it be the crew or guests, that’s what I’m going to miss.”

She finally felt she was ready to retire when she knew she had the right person to leave the business to, Laurie says. John Pompa, a dear friend of hers and Red Lobster employee of 21 years, has been handed the general manager title.

“I’m leaving things in very good hands,” she said. “I see John, the management team and the crew as the future of Red Lobster.”

She has been married to her husband, Tom Sliwinski, for 36 years. They have three boys together — TJ, Nick and Matt — and five grandchildren. She attributes a lot of her success to them, too, the family who has supported her every step of the way.

Sliwinski plans on living life to the fullest after retirement, watching her grandchildren grow up and traveling with her husband. She also hopes to continue to give back to the community by volunteering in her free time.

Life after Red Lobster will still include the crew that became her family — the ones with whom she has laughed, cried and built memories every day, Sliwinski said.

“I hope the friendships we have fostered here will continue to grow,” she said.

Red Lobster has passed through many phases and changes, all of which have shaped who she is, Sliwinski says. The restaurant’s steady success is thanks to the people who have made it her home for 23 years.

“I’ve been very blessed in meeting so many wonderful people,” she says. “And I hope our paths will cross again.”

DuBois Area United Way ready to send out pledge cards

DuBOIS — The intensity of the 2019 DuBois Area United Way campaign is about to ratchet up a notch.

“As everyone knows, we kicked our annual campaign this year at the United Way Wing Fling,” said Executive Director John “Herm” Suplizio. “We have two excellent co-chairpersons this year in Bobbie Shaffer and Marla Minns. Now it’s time to get into the heart of the campaign, and in the near future, we will be mailing out the cards and corporations and also businesses will be getting their United Way cards in the near future.”

Suplizio said he hopes the community will take a good, hard look at the agencies that are served by the United Way and see it in their heart to make a donation, no mater how small or how big.

“Every little bit counts. And the money we raise stays right there locally in our community,” said Suplizio.

The goal of this year’s campaign is to raise $420,000 to help 25 member agencies, Suplizio said. Though the same as last year, Suplizio said it is still a very aggressive goal.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to hit our goal each and every year, but we can’t do so without help from everyone in the community,” he said.

The member agencies include: Agape Community Services, American Red Cross (PA Mountains), ARC –Recreation and Respite Club, Bucktail Council (Boy Scouts of America), Camp Confidence, Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services, Children’s Aid Society, Clearfield County Area Agency on Aging Inc., Clearfield County League on Social Services Inc., Clearfield Society for Handicapped and Disabled Citizens, Cultural Resources Inc.–Reitz Theatre, Dickinson Mental Health Center’s–Autism Center, DuBois Area Fireman’s Training, DuBois Area Honor Guard, DuBois Area YMCA, DuBois Ministerial Food Pantry, DuBois Public Library, Parkside Community Center, Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania, Mengle Memorial Library, Mid-State Literacy Council Inc., Passages Inc., The Salvation Army and Young People Who Care (Marian House); and Guardian Angel Center.

Suplizio said the United Way gets new agencies to help all the time. Any interested organization has to submit an application and have to go in front of the board.

Anyone wanting to know more about the DuBois Area United Way, to volunteer or to learn how they can make a donation can call Suplizio at 371-5011.

The co-chairwomen are positive the community will once again make this year’s campaign a success.

“This community is amazing,” Minns said in a previously published Courier Express article. “They’re just such a giving community. I don’t expect that to change. We have learned that over the years.”

DuBois Main Street Streetscape project progressing well

DuBOIS — Despite the not-so-great weather this summer, the DuBois Main Street Streetscape Project is progressing well, according to city Manager John “Herm” Suplizio.

“The Main Street project is coming along very well,” said Suplizio. “The weather has not cooperated as much as we would like it to cooperate, but we are moving along smoothly.”

The project is expected to be completed by the beginning of October if all continues to go well, he said.

“Probably one of the last things we will do will be mill and pave Main Street,” Suplizio said. “That’s both North and South Main Street.”

The project includes replacing broken or missing sidewalks and driving surfaces throughout the neighborhood and downtown. In addition, lighting will be installed and utilities will be replaced as needed, including a new traffic signal at the intersection of Long Avenue and Main Street.

The sidewalk project on Main Street and DuBois Street is also coming along very well, he said.

In the next phase, residents will see the sidewalk work being done from Main Street to Long Avenue to State Street. A section in the downtown from High Street to Brady Street will also be done.

“We ask again for the people to be patient when traveling on those roads,” Suplizio said. “Please respect the workers. We are doing our best to get the job done as soon as possible. These things take time.”

“We also have a water line that needs to be extended up Grant Street from North Main Street and also the sewer line on Shaffer Alley from Grant Street to Myrtle Alley,” said Suplizio.

The cost for the project is about $3 million, Suplizio said.

The city was selected to receive $1.5 million in funding from the State Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program to aid with the beautification project linking a residential neighborhood with Downtown DuBois and DuBois Penn Highlands Hospital, Suplizio said.

RACP is a Commonwealth grant program administered by the Office of the Budget for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational, and historical improvement projects.