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A BERRY GOOD TIME: Reynoldsville community enjoys weekend festival

REYNOLDSVILLE — Nobody in Reynoldsville was feeling “blue” over the weekend, but they sure enjoyed some festive blueberry activities.

The Fifth annual Red, White and Blueberry Festival took over Reynoldsville on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, offering everything from pounds of blueberry pancakes to pie eating contests, trolley rides, musical performances, contests and fireworks.

Beginning on Friday, area businesses like S&T Bank, New Rathmel House Country Store, and the Reynoldsville Rollerdome offered free treats and discounted specials in the spirit of festival weekend.

Saturday offered many activities for area youth, such as the Children’s Blueberry Pie Eating Contest, the bike parade and the sidewalk chalk art contest in front of Community First Bank that morning.

Children were seen covering the playground with painted faces, balloons and popsicles all afternoon. Trolley rides took families to and from local blueberry farms throughout the day.

Crowds gathered in front of the Kunselman’s Park stage Saturday afternoon, where 15 children competed in the Blueberry Pie Eating Contest. Parents cheered and took videos as competitors dug their noses into blueberry pies provided by Mike’s BiLo. The contest is sponsored by the Reynoldsville Historical Society. There were $100, $75 and $50 winners.

The Reynoldsville Community Association also presented a plaque to Jack Price for his efforts and dedication to the festival throughout the past five years.

Sunday was also the very first National Pie Eating Contest for competitive eaters, something the festival committee was excited to bring to town.

Other area businesses participated, including The Sub Hub, Sarah’s Soft Serve & Food, Main Street Pizza and more. Throughout the weekend, many held events at their own venues, in order to draw people in from the festival.

Festival Committee Chairman Sam Bundy said one of the festival’s biggest goals is to draw people into the town of Reynoldsville and to its businesses.

Activities offered regularly throughout the weekend included camping, free swimming, scholarship awards, baking contests, vendor sales and bingo.

NELLIE'S JOURNEY: Search unit rescues dog to rescue people

BROOKVILLE — The Pine Creek K9 Search Unit has added a new floppy-eared friend to its hardworking and dedicated team of canine search heroes.

Pine Creek K9 Search Unit is a nonprofit organization covering most of Northwest Central Pennsylvania, assisting in any missing person search. The group’s specially trained search dogs are an essential part of these searches, since they can use scent to narrow down the area and help find the target.

PCK9SU Co-founder Tracy Hidinger recently adopted little Nellie from Appalachian Mountain Man Trailing and Rescue — an all-hounds nonprofit organization with West Virginia and Maryland locations.

Nellie was the result of an accidental litter. The owner did not spay her mother. The owner reached out to AMMAR Hounds for rescue help, which is where Nellie came along.

Nellie is the second Bloodhound rescue to be taken in by the Pine Creek K9 Search Unit. The first, Karma, was rescued in 2015.

“It takes a lot of work and dedication to train and run a search K9,” Dimmick said. “Tracy and Nellie will work and train together daily.”

Dimmick said training will start with getting Nellie excited about playtime and getting her familiarized with treats. Tracy will then graduate to running short distances and hiding around corners, so that Nellie can no longer see her.

After Nellie gets the “FIND” command, she will go to wherever the treats are naturally, and receive a reward when she finds it. They call this the “party” — a celebration for the puppy’s progress.

“You always reward your dog for a job well done with lots of treats and love,” Dimmick said.

After the short trails, the training is moved on to longer trails and more difficult start, middle and end points.

“If you are truly dedicated, it takes about one year to train and certify a dog properly to become a search K9,” Dimmick said.

Each of the dogs is tested yearly by the International Bloodhound Training Institute, and both the dog and the handler must be up-to-date on their certifications to work live searches.

Dogs don’t have to be a Bloodhound to join the search unit — any canine 18 months or younger is invited to join and start search training.

“The dogs with longer noses and droopy ears seem to do well for holding scent, but we have mixed breed dogs and other full blooded dogs on our team,” Dimmick said.

There are also plenty of opportunities for people who don’t have dogs to volunteer with things like fundraising, mapping, navigation and radio communications.

Nellie has become a forever family member for both the search unit and the Hidinger family.

There is something meaningful to be said about these rescue dogs being trained to rescue people, Dimmick said.

“Everyone deserves a second chance,” she said. “How ironic is it that a dog with a second chance has the opportunity to give a human a second chance?”

Pine Creek K-9 Search Unit and AMMAR Hounds can be found on Facebook.

Photo by Chris Wechtenhiser 

Members of the St. Marys Junior League All-Star softball team begin to celebrate Sunday after recording the final out in a 5-3 win against Frairchance in the state championship game.

Empathy & Understanding: Agency trains local law enforcement in crisis intervention

An annual training program is offering local law enforcement and other officers the tools to better understand individuals with mental illness.

Bill Mendat, who is the Behavioral Health Director for Community Connections of Clearfield and Jefferson Counties, said this is a 40-hour training program for local police officers and correction and probation officers.

The Crisis Intervention Team is a police-based intervention program that involves community healthcare and advocacy partnerships.

CIT came about because too many officer and community member injuries were occurring due to behavioral crisis situations. The first class was held for Clearfield and Jefferson Counties in 2012, and has since trained 98 officers.

Officers work with mental health providers and professionals, as well as individuals who struggle with mental illness, Mendat said. This helps them develop empathy and understanding for these individuals, as well as be prepared for encountering a behavioral crisis situation.

Last year, 14 Clearfield and Jefferson County police, corrections, parole, Drug and Alcohol, Pentz Run and Safe Haven program officers completed the training.

Program participants are also educated on what resources are available locally for people struggling with mental health.

“We do site visits to get the officers familiar with people with mental illnesses, so they can build empathy for what it’s like,” Mendat said.

Officers also work on building communication skills to help deescalate individuals during a crisis they may encounter in the line of duty.

After implementing this program, communities have reported “significant reductions in police officer and mental health consumer injuries.” There have also been more healthcare referrals made instead of arrests.

“Once they recognize that someone has a behavioral health condition, they can reduce that crisis to a different level,” Mendat said. “Rather than it leading to an arrest, they can make a referral to a behavioral health service.”

The training takes place throughout the month of August every Thursday. This year, hospital security officers and other security personnel, along with EMS responders, are welcome to attend the training. They have also had 911 operators participate, as well as drug and alcohol staff.

The program is being opened to different avenues, since most policemen and correction and probation officers in Brookville and Punxsutawney have already been trained.

On Aug. 30, at the end of the class, there is a ceremony to recognize the graduates of the program. They receive a pin that signifies they’ve been trained in mental health awareness.

“Once people in the community see an officer wearing that pin, they recognize it and calm right down,” Mendat said.

On July 26, the Community Support Program will host a picnic at Parker Dam. Anyone struggling or dealing with mental illness is welcome to attend.

The Clearfield/Jefferson Suicide Prevention Team also is planning its Walk for Prevention and Awareness in September at the DuBois City Park.

To register for the walk, visit

For more information, call Community Connections at 814-371-5100 or visit