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Book keeper
OUR NEIGHBORS | Woman shares love for reading with inmates as jail librarian

Though Kathy Pauls no longer works as an elementary school teacher, her passion for education and reading has never diminished. Now, though, she shares that knowledge and enthusiasm with inmates at the Riley County Jail.

Pauls, 58, of Manhattan, volunteers regularly at the jail as its librarian.

Once a week, Pauls visits the jail to organize the shelves, trade in new books and help inmates find books they’re looking for. The work is a family effort, as well. Her eldest son also assists with those tasks on a monthly basis. Her daughter helped create an organization system, and she also recommends trending books or authors to add.

Pauls began working at the jail about five years ago after a church friend, Riley County Police Department’s jail commander at the time, let her tour the library and she asked if she could be its librarian.

Interim Jail Commander Capt. Derek Woods said inmates check out and return a couple books once a week — twice a week if they’re avid readers. He said officers used to straighten up the library, but there was no “rhyme or reason” to the shelves, and Pauls gave the library a purpose when she arrived.

“(Kathy brings) a different aspect since she’s not a police officer,” Woods said. “She brings a mom feel to it. She has not once cared what an inmate is charged with. She’s always cared for who the person was and what they were interested in reading, and that’s always been key to her. She has a caring, compassionate voice when she talks to them, and they just want to open up and request things, so that’s helped move the library along.”

Pauls said it’s important to interact with the inmates because sometimes they request books she would’ve never thought of including.

The books are provided entirely by donations.

“It’s just fascinating the things that they ask for that I don’t think about like mythology, poetry, a book on chess or a book on card games,” Pauls said.

“Lately, some of them are trying to learn Spanish, so I’m doing the very easy learning Spanish books. (Narcotics Anonymous) is one I’m looking for, so it’s always something new. I’m all for education.”

Pauls said they also ask for self-help books, like ones on anger or money management. She said she’s heard stories of former inmates being inspired to continue reading.

“I’ve had the lady at this used bookstore tell me that at least two people have come in and said that they got hooked on reading in jail, and they were at her store buying their favorite author,” Pauls said. “If you start reading, it just has to help you educationally.”

Pauls said one of the things she’s tried to do is destigmatize lower level reading, so she started an easy reader program. She added graphic novels, comics, picture books, workbooks and more.

There is a section with fifth- to sixth-grade-level titles, and Pauls more recently added third and fourth grade levels to the mix. She said she tells all people, no matter what their reading level is, not to discount the books in those sections because there are interesting themes or topics that can appeal to anyone.

Pauls said while she didn’t quite expect to see herself volunteering at a jail, it wasn’t a stretch because she also started a library at her church, Faith Evangelical Free Church.

“I do like books,” Pauls said. “Books are very important, reading is very important and as a teacher, you can’t be a good student if you can’t read.”

Pauls taught third and fourth grade in Kansas City and Wichita schools but quit after her children were born. The family moved to Manhattan about 26 years ago when Pauls’ husband received a job in town.

Pauls said while she appreciates the community’s generosity, the library is not large enough to take everyone’s donations.

She said the jail has an account at the Dusty Bookshelf, so interested people can take their donations there and let staff know they are making a donation toward the jail. The bookstore will add credit to the account, so Pauls can purchase specific books as needed. Manhattan Public Library has also shared its donations with the jail.

Woods said volunteers like Pauls, who help with things like recreational, educational, and religious services, all play a part in helping inmates succeed after getting out of jail.

Pauls said she hopes to make any impact she can in helping others.

“God wants us to show our love and his love to the world,” Pauls said. “I do this for that reason. I think we’re all supposed to try to make the world a better place.”

FHCS celebrates National School Choice Week with help from military, first responders

With a 30-foot American flag draped above them, more than 150 students and staff at Flint Hills Christian School and several members of the military and first responders, many of them parents of students, recited their way through three pledges Monday morning.

At the Christian school, the students start each day with the Pledge of Allegiance, the pledge to the Christian flag and the pledge to the Bible individually.

But Monday’s celebration was special. They were celebrating the start of National School Choice Week, and just like the week that highlights parents’ ability to choose between traditional, private, charter, online or homeschool education, the presence of military and first responder personnel was intended to show the children that they can choose their own careers as well.

“Having soldiers and first responders join in our celebration shows our students just how important options are in education, and that’s exactly what we are — an option,” school principal Josh Snyder said.

After the pledges, Snyder led the school in a short prayer, and the children invited the uniformed adults to join them in a dance. U.S. Army Capt. Amber Grimsley danced with her daughter Corianna, a fourth grader at the school.

“I think it’s good to teach the kids that they do have choices,” Grimsley said. “They don’t have to follow their parent’s path or a path that somebody might tell them they have to. They get to explore and see what’s good for them.”

U.S. Army Sgt. Dennis Coleman, who has two children at the school, said it was important to show the children that college isn’t the only option after graduating from high school. He said he chose to send his children to the school for its quality of education and Christian values.

“As parents, we can send them to Sunday school, church or Wednesday night services, but to me, it’s a cool experience that I didn’t get to have when I was a kid, sending them to Christian school,” he said.

Snyder said 35 churches are represented at the non-denominational school, which helps contribute to a diversity of perspectives.

“We understand just how important the decision is to select the right school,” he said. “We are a private Christian school that is rigorously academic but 100% non-denominational.”

The school’s festivities continue later this week with decorating contests, a pep rally and an open house Thursday afternoon.

Bryant's helicopter flew in fog that grounded other choppers

CALABASAS, Calif. — The helicopter carrying Kobe Bryant and eight others that crashed into a rugged hillside outside Los Angeles was flying in foggy conditions considered dangerous enough that local police agencies grounded their choppers.

The helicopter plunged into a steep hillside at about 9:45 a.m. Sunday with an impact that scattered debris over an area the size of a football field and killed all aboard. The accident unleashed an outpouring of grief from admirers around the world who mourned the sudden loss of the all-time basketball great who spent his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Thousands of fans, many wearing Bryant jerseys and chanting his name, gathered outside the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, home of the Lakers and site of Sunday’s Grammy Awards where Bryant was honored.

The 41-year-old Bryant, who perished with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, was one of the game’s most popular players and the face of the 16-time NBA champion Lakers.

The cause of the crash was unknown, but conditions at the time were such that the Los Angeles Police Department and the county sheriff’s department grounded their helicopters.

The Los Angeles County medical examiner, Dr. Jonathan Lucas, said the rugged terrain complicated efforts to recover the remains. He estimated it would take at least a couple of days to complete that task before identifications can be made.

Bryant’s helicopter left Santa Ana in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, shortly after 9 a.m. and circled for a time just east of Interstate 5, near Glendale. Air traffic controllers noted poor visibility around Burbank, just to the north, and Van Nuys, to the northwest.

After holding up the helicopter for other aircraft, they cleared the Sikorsky S-76 to proceed north along Interstate 5 through Burbank before turning west to follow U.S Route 101, the Ventura Highway.

Shortly after 9:40 a.m., the helicopter turned again, toward the southeast, and climbed to more than 2000 feet (609 meters). It then descended and crashed into the hillside at about 1400 feet (426 meters), according to data from Flightradar24.

When it struck the ground, the helicopter was flying at about 160 knots (184 mph) and descending at a rate of more than 4000 feet per minute, the data showed.

The chopper went down in Calabasas, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy in nearby Thousand Oaks was holding a basketball tournament on Sunday.

Federal transportation safety investigators were on their way to the scene. Among other things, they will look at the pilot’s history, the chopper’s maintenance records and the records of its owner and operator, said NTSB board member Jennifer Homendy at a news conference.

Kurt Deetz, a pilot who used to fly Bryant in the chopper, said the crash was more likely caused by bad weather than engine or mechanical issues.

“The likelihood of a catastrophic twin engine failure on that aircraft — it just doesn’t happen,” he told the Los Angeles Times.

Justin Green, an aviation attorney in New York who flew helicopters in the Marine Corps, said pilots can become disoriented in low visibility, losing track of which direction is up. Green said a pilot flying an S-76 would be instrument-rated, meaning that person could fly the helicopter without relying on visual cues from outside.

The National Transportation Safety Board typically issues a preliminary report within about 10 days that will give a rough summary of what investigators have learned. A ruling on the cause can take a year or more.

Colin Storm was in his living room in Calabasas when he heard what sounded to him like a low-flying airplane or helicopter.

“It was very foggy so we couldn’t see anything,” he said. “But then we heard some sputtering and then a boom.”

The fog cleared a bit, and Storm could see smoke rising from the hillside in front of his home.

Firefighters hiked in with medical equipment and hoses, and medical personnel rappelled to the site from a helicopter, but found no survivors, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said.

News of the charismatic superstar’s death rocketed around the sports and entertainment worlds, with many taking to Twitter to register their shock, disbelief and anguish.

“Words can’t describe the pain I am feeling. I loved Kobe — he was like a little brother to me,” retired NBA great Michael Jordan said. “We used to talk often, and I will miss those conversations very much. He was a fierce competitor, one of the greats of the game and a creative force.”

Bryant retired in 2016 as the third-leading scorer in NBA history, finishing two decades with the Lakers as a prolific shot-maker with a sublime all-around game and a relentless competitive ethic. He held that spot in the league scoring ranks until Saturday night, when the Lakers’ LeBron James passed him for third place during a game in Philadelphia, Bryant’s hometown.

He was the league MVP in 2008 and a two-time NBA scoring champion, and he earned 12 selections to the NBA’s All-Defensive teams. He teamed with Shaquille O’Neal in a combustible partnership to lead the Lakers to consecutive NBA titles in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

His Lakers tenure was marred by scandal when in 2003, Bryant was accused of raping a 19-year-old employee at a Colorado resort. He said the two had consensual sex, and prosecutors later dropped the felony sexual assault charge at the request of the accuser. The woman later filed a civil suit against Bryant that was settled out of court.

Bryant went on to win two more titles in 2009 and 2010, and retired in 2016.

Among those killed in the crash were John Altobelli, 56, longtime head coach of Southern California’s Orange Coast College baseball team; his wife, Keri; and daughter, Alyssa, who played on the same basketball team as Bryant’s daughter, said Altobelli’s brother, Tony, who is the sports information director at the school.

Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley tweeted that the dead also included Christina Mauser, a girls basketball coach at a nearby private elementary school. Her husband, Matt Mauser, founded the Tijuana Dogs, a popular Orange County band. In a Facebook post he said: “My kids and I are devastated. We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash.”

Big Lakes to open new group home Tuesday

The Big Lakes Developmental Center plans to move two of its clients into a new group home Tuesday, and the facility has space for two more.

Lori Feldkamp, president and CEO of Big Lakes Development Center, told Riley County commissioner about the new home on Monday during a routine update.

“So very excited to get in there,” Feldkamp said. “We’ve had a little bit of delays here and there. You know the bureaucracy always kind of catches up with you; fire marshall and getting everything approved that we had to get approved. But we finally got that finished.”

D & R Construction of Manhattan completed this project for Big Lakes, The Mercury previously reported.

Big Lakes provides services and assistance to people who have intellectual or developmental disabilities.

In other action Monday, commissioners:

  • Recognized Beth Kellstrom, Riley County Health Department social worker, for her 21 years of service at the health department. Kellstrom is retiring.

“Riley County has been a wonderful employer,” she said.

Marvin Rodriguez, chairman of the Riley County Commission, thanked Kellstrom for her dedication and service to the county.

  • Recognized Super Bowl Sunday, which is Feb. 2, as Souper Bowl Sunday. Manhattan grocery stores are taking canned food donations from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Feb. 1. Dave Ekart of St. Thomas More Knights of Columbus said he hopes to gather 10,000 pounds of food this year for people in need in Riley County.
  • Held an executive session for about 15 minutes to discuss pending litigation with Clancy Holeman, county counselor. The commission did not take any binding action during or after the executive session.
  • Held a second executive session on pending litigation with Holeman for 15 minutes. Commissioners did not take any binding action during or after the executive session.