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Wintersville Woman’s Club learns about Legislation Day, Hellbenders

GUEST SPEAKER — Aaron Dodds, watershed coordinator, Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District, was introduced by Tyra Timmons, left, second vice president, and greeted by club President Mary Beth Allan, at the February meeting of the GFWC Wintersville Woman’s Club. His program focus was the hellbender salamander. Jefferson County is home to the largest population of known Hellbenders in the state of Ohio. -- Janice Kiaski

WINTERSVILLE — A busy week approaches for the GFWC Wintersville Woman’s Club, which will hold its regular meeting Thursday and then host the annual GFWC/Ohio Federation of Women’s Club’s Southeast District Legislation Day.

The latter will be held March 23 at St. Florian Center in Wintersville with the club welcoming federated club women from throughout Southeastern Ohio. It begins with registration from 9:30 a.m. and features a continental breakfast before the session is called to order at 10 a.m. Lunch will be served at noon.

The meeting will be conducted by Pat Ketzell, Southeast District president, and Sheryl Kay Peckens, district junior director. Wintersville club member Joyce Palmer is event chairman.

The guest speaker at 1 p.m. will be Theresa Golden, city director of Refuge for Women, Ohio Valley.

Legislation Day is held each year throughout the state in each of the five districts.

The club’s luncheon and business meeting on Thursday, meanwhile, begins at noon at St. Florian. In addition to club business and reports, the meeting will include a program presented on Dr. Seuss by Mike Gray, director of the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County. Ella Jane Burns will give the meditation and prayer. Claudia Dorich, Aimee Jaros and Sandi Santicola are listed in the club program booklet as hostesses.

At the last meeting, which was held Feb. 21, club President Mary Beth Allan presided, beginning with a moment of silence observed in memory of club members Barb Thermes, Helen Reed and Juanita Wallace.

Tyra Timmons, second vice president, led in opening exercises. Reports were given by Joan Doan, recording secretary, and Karen Hill, treasurer. Members also were briefed on a number of thank-you notes for donations made, including to Wintersville Good Neighbors, Urban Mission Ministries and Indian Creek High School’s food pantry. Members were reminded to bring baby bottles distributed at the beginning of the club year as a collection of change for the Aim Women’s Center, 248 N. Fifth St., Steubenville.

Allan gave a reading titled “Life Is So Short,” which was followed by committee reports. Natalie Doty, arts chair, noted 152 Valentine’s Day cards were taken to area nursing home residents. Doty reminded members to bring signed Easter cards to the March meeting, explaining they also will benefit area nursing homes. She reported that one poem and three essays had been sent for the creative writing contest.

Barb Grimm, conservation chair, encouraged members to bring aluminum cans to the March and April meetings for recycling.

In an education report, Chair Joyce Palmer said school supplies donated and valued at about $220 were taken to various schools. She asked that members continue to collect used ink cartridges and Box Tops for Education, heeding expiration dates on the latter.

Ella Jane Burns, home life chairman, said she had seen the Indian Creek High School food pantry and said club donations were appreciated.

For international outreach, Marjean Sizemore suggested members give consideration to what animal to purchase as part of a global outreach project that addresses hunger and poverty in third world countries, providing animals such as chickens, cows and goats as a means of providing self-sufficiency.

Ketzell discussed the Operation Culinary Canteen program, the emphasis of the GFWC president with the USO as the benefactor. USO is an acronym for United Service Organizations, which provides morale, welfare and recreation-type services to uniformed military personnel. The USO of Northern Ohio travels to installations during drill weekends to serve lunches and breakfasts to the troops. A food truck/mobile canteen or food trailer would be helpful in that project. Ketzell said generating money to have a canteen is a goal, and approaching businesses for sponsorships is a fundraising option club members can pursue.

The program featured Aaron Dodds, watershed coordinator, Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District, discussing “The Hellbender and Jefferson County.”

Dodds explained that the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District has been working with several agencies to promote the conservation of the Eastern Hellbender population in Ohio, noting that Jefferson County is home to the largest population of known Hellbenders in the state of Ohio. Hellbenders are the oldest living animal found within Jefferson County with fossils being discovered of them from 160 million years ago, he said.

Through the district’s efforts, the county has played a vital role, he said, in saving the state-endangered species and working to increase the population as part of an overall effort of agencies known collectively as the Ohio Hellbender Partnership. It includes the Columbus and Toledo zoos.

The Eastern Hellbender is the largest salamander found within the United States. Also known as Devil Dogs, Mud Cats and Snot Otters, the Hellbender is very much in its primitive form and is purely aquatic. They can reach lengths of 29 inches and live into their 50s. Although they’re not poisonous, they have sharp teeth, Dodds said he can attest to from having been bitten on more than one occasion. They have terrible eyesight but a terrific sense of smell. The males create and guard the nests and are known to stay under the same rock for their entire adulthood, never moving more than half a mile from the place they hatched, he said.

The last Hellbender that was surveyed in 1937 was found in Yellow Creek in northern Jefferson County. “From 1937 until 2009, there are no official records of Hellbenders,” he said, “and for years all Hellbenders were thought gone from Ohio and this area.”

When the Hellbender was feared to be no longer residing in Ohio, Yellow Creek was deemed its best chance, Dodds explained, and a tiny population was found within the watershed. They have since been found in Cross Creek, Little Beaver Creek in Columbiana and Captina Creek in Belmont County.

Every September, Dodds said eggs discovered in snorkeling the waters of Yellow Creek and Cross Creek are taken to one of the zoos where they are raised for three years, then released back in the wild. Seventy-three percent of the eggs collected as part of this program are from Jefferson County. Through preservation efforts of Hellbenders, any work done adjacent to their habitats is monitored, and that, Dodds noted, ultimately benefits all life within the watershed. The Hellbender has directly contributed to investments within the watersheds of the county, including the Cedar Lick Bridge in Wayne Township, $133,000; Toronto Band Camp, $148,500; and Riparian plantings in Yellow Creek and Cross Creek, $7,500. Dodds said the Hellbender has directly contributed to investments within the watersheds of the county, citing Quaker Ridge property in Salem Township, a $590,000 investment. The almost 100-acre parcel will serve as an area for stream restoration, wildflower/pollinator habitat, outdoor classrooms and trails.

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