Tara Bitzan is the Life and Special Projects editor at the Echo Press. She joined the company in 1991 as a news reporter.
A lifelong resident of Douglas County, Tara graduated from Brandon High School. She attended Moorhead State University where she earned a bachelor of arts degree in mass communications and English with a minor in Scandinavian Studies.
She and her husband Dennis and their children live near Alexandria.
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Memory is the ability to store, retain and recall information and experiences. It is an amazing gift, especially when memories are shared with others. Residents of Bethany Community in Alexandria recently received a unique opportunity to share and document some of their memories. They were part of a program called Playing With Memories created by local actress, playwright and director Kathy Ray of Barrett. Last fall, Ray began meeting with about eight residents of Bethany Community once a week individually and in group settings.
In the next 15 years, an estimated 500,000 autistic children will cross a major hurdle and graduate out of school systems in the U.S. Sadly, this won't bring the gold medal reward most parents of autistic children hope for. Instead, the accomplishment will bring these families to the start of a new obstacle course that may prove more challenging than the one they just worked their way through. Gene and Mary Rossum of Brandon found themselves asking, "Now what?" when their autistic grandson, J.J., finished high school a couple of years ago. J.J. was born in 1988.
The residents of Brandon can rest a little easier, knowing they will now likely hear the alert of pending disaster. A new civil defense siren and pole were recently installed to replace the existing siren, which has served the community for 75 years. The original siren was installed at the same time the Brandon Auditorium was built in 1936. Residents in Brandon's newest addition were not able to hear the siren when the wind was from a certain direction and the city was planning to upgrade the system. The Brandon Fire Relief Association came to the rescue - to the tune of $20,000 - by dona
DeAnn Runge of Alexandria was a senior in high school when she set her sights on getting a dog. She was looking for more than just companionship - she was seeking greater independence. Runge suffers from spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a genetic disease that causes progressive muscle degeneration and weakness. There are varying degrees of SMA, and Runge says she's "in the middle" of the spectrum.
Spring fever has many Minnesotans itching to get outside. But that's not all that may have them itching - head lice could also be to blame. According to Melissa Bright, Alexandria School District 206 nurse, the number of head lice cases among students seems to be higher this year than normal. Bright noted that head lice are actually very common - second only to the common cold among children ages 3 to 12. "We see cases within the district every year," she said, "so this isn't abnormal. We are definitely seeing an increased number this year, but it's not just our community.
Work is currently under way on the Echo Press' fifth edition of The Churches of Douglas County. We typically come out with an updated version of this publication every three years, and I have been fortunate enough to work on all five of them. I love working on this piece because churches intrigue me - especially historic ones, and Douglas County is blessed with many of these treasures. Many of today's new structures - office buildings, schools and even churches - are built to be convenient, efficient and cost effective.
Shorty Olson has a faithful following. Every day he can be seen with hundreds crowding around him, listening intently to his easy banter and eagerly partaking of the treats he shares. Sometimes they fight with each other for his attention, but for the most part, he says they are "attentive and well behaved." "I have about 28 that I call my own," Olson said of the mallard ducks waddling at his feet. "The rest aren't mine, but they still get a little something." Olson and his wife, BeeAnn, moved back to the Alexandria area about six years ago.
Patricia Peterson of Alexandria recently came across something that made her realize just how much things have changed in the past 60 years. While going through some old papers that belonged to her parents, she found a letter from the St. Paul mayor and St. Paul chief of police, written in 1956, pardoning her mother from a traffic ticket. Along with the letter was an uncashed check her mother had made out on November 5, 1956 to the Traffic Violations Bureau. Apparently, her mother had violated a traffic law and was fined $2, which she paid.
For most of us, there's been a time when we've needed to make a difficult decision that has a win-lose outcome tied to it. Unfortunately, some decisions simply aren't a win-win. In tough economic times like we are seeing right now, there seems to be a lot more of those tough decisions that need to be made. And there seems to be a lot of people grumbling and complaining when they don't think the decisions are the right ones.
An open house is set to announce the reopening of a building that has seen many celebrations since it was built in the early 1940s. It is the hope of owners Jon and Linda Gaugert of Alexandria that it will be the site of many more celebrations in the years to come. About the building The structure was built in the early 1940s and operated as the Hillside Club until 1967. It then operated from 1967 to 1972 as Jimmy Jenson's Hillside Club. It was later sold to a Twin Cities family that leased it to various parties.