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Camp Courage hosts adults with special needs

A time to relax, play games and bond with other campers is what Camp Courage in Stewartsville, Missouri is all about.

The four-day and three-night summer camp for adults with special needs has been put on since 1977 as a nonprofit organization. This year the camp hosted 52 campers 21 years of age and older.

The camp is full of activities such as dancing, bingo, game shows, team-building, fishing, swimming and hunting for treasure with metal detectors.

The camp also consists of over 50 volunteers who simply come for the enjoyment and assistance for the campers.

Ashley Fields and her husband, Britton Fields, have been the co-directors of the camp for the last five years and volunteers for 20.

“When you meet someone with special needs I think you can see the pure love of a person and when you’re with them that’s what you experience,” Ashley said. “You don’t experience anything else, it’s just happiness and joy and to be able to do something for them and bring that out of them is a huge blessing.”

The camp fills up quickly every year with campers from all over Missouri and Kansas who are usually returners from years before.

“We really try to create experiences that they wouldn’t be able to do in their normal settings,” Fields said. “We try to create opportunities for them to meet new people and just have fun while making a new friend.”

Meredith Baker is from Lawrence, Kansas, and has been coming to Camp Courage for the last five years.

“I think it’s a really good opportunity to come here and hang out and sleep in the cabins and go to breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Baker said. “It’s really, really fun and I really like it and it’s awesome.”

New campers have to go through an interview process before they can join the camp, but once they’re in, most of them come back every year.


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Group gets one step closer to women's shelter

A group working to open a women’s shelter in St. Joseph is another step closer Friday after dedicating their building during an open house.

Sisters of Solace has been working on a building at 1703 S. 12th St. since the beginning of the year, with hopes of opening their shelter by Thanksgiving. On Friday, they invited the public to come see the building before renovations begin.

“We have been talking about the future of our ministry for all of this calendar year and we realized that we’ve never given the community the opportunity to come see and actually get a vision for what we envision for the homeless women in our community,” Sisters of Solace Executive Director Stacy Kerns said.

During the event, Mayor Bill McMurray declared it “Sisters of Solace Day” with a proclamation and a local minister blessed the site.

City staff, council members and members of the public toured the building and looked at plans for renovations.

Sisters of Solace board member and former City Council Member Joyce Starr said she was excited to see how many people were taking an interest in the future shelter.

“It’s wonderful, the people that have come out, the people that are concerned that want to be a part of it, the volunteers. It’s wonderful,” Starr said.

Sisters of Solace President and Founder Barbara Lauritzen said she was grateful for everyone that attended the open house, but was not surprised. She said she believed the turnout would be great.

She said the project was going so smoothly due to the efforts and support of the community. She said many people have donated time and supplies to help open the shelter.

Lauritzen said one man paid for the keys to the site at the hardware store, a woman made cakes to be served at the open house free of charge and one person even donated an unexpected amount of cash.

“A young man that was helping to move furniture one day came up to Stacy and gave her $600 in cash,” Lauritzen said. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg. People have just been giving us all kinds of supplies and such and I just want to thank those people, that they just are moved by their heart.”

Kerns agreed that outside help has been appreciated and said many other groups have helped them out with their vision.

“We have been very pleasantly surprised to find that almost every church, agency, organization and program that we have met with in the community has been more than happy to support us, and encourage us and collaborate with us,” Kerns said. “There’s just a very strong spirit of unity and collaboration among the organizations in our community that serve the poor.”

Lauritzen said the next step is to fully purchase the building, which could be done earlier than expected. Next, the group will be installing a fire safety system and will begin renovations to make the shelter feel homier for the women who will be staying there.

When it is finished, the Sisters of Solace women’s shelter will house up to eight women at a time who can stay as long as they are taking active steps toward stability.


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Clay County jury to hear Charboneau case

The case of a former teacher accused of sex crimes will be heard by a Clay County jury following a ruling by Judge Dan Kellogg on Friday morning.

Cole Charboneau faces several assault charges in Buchanan County, including two counts of first-degree statutory sodomy, two counts of first-degree child molestation, one count of attempted child molestation and one count of sexual misconduct.

The decision to bring a jury of Clay County citizens to Buchanan County for the trial was made in part because of a fear that there would be a bias if jurors were selected from Buchanan County. Judge Kellogg will continue to oversee the case throughout the trial.

Charboneau had made another request to change the venue in August 2018 while the case was under Judge Patrick Robb. During that hearing, Charboneau’s lawyer, Shawn Blair, said that the citizens of Buchanan County are prejudiced against his client due to the amount of media coverage the case has seen.

“My client wants a trial based solely on the evidence in court,” Blair said at the time.

That request was made before the charges filed against Charboneau were dismissed and refiled in February.

The former fourth-grade teacher, who is accused of assaulting two boys, will begin his criminal trial Monday, Nov. 18, at the Buchanan County Courthouse.

A trial date is yet to be scheduled in a civil case against Charboneau, the St. Joseph School District and present and former employees of the district. Charboneau has filed for a change of venue in that case as well, and a trial setting is scheduled for Wednesday, July 31, in Judge David Bolander’s court.


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An ear for explosions
Police: No way to tell the difference between gunshots, fireworks

There’s no real way for the human ear to determine the difference between a fireworks sound and a gunshot. And that means an increase in shots-fired calls to local law enforcement in the weeks around the Fourth of July holiday.

“We get people that call up and say, ‘Yeah, it’s a Glock 22,’” Sgt. Roy Hoskins with the St. Joseph Police Department said. “Well, there’s no way to possibly tell unless you’re standing next to that person what it is.

“They fool us sometimes,” he added. “Very hard to tell the difference, especially in town where they echo.”

According to Hoskins, police still treat any reported shots-fired call as if it is real until they can prove otherwise. He said the problem is there’s an increased risk for officers and the public when police respond to shots-fired calls.

“If it’s not a legitimate shots-fired call and we’re responding that way to fireworks, that puts us at risk and that puts the public at risk,” Hoskins said.

There is some technology, from a company called ShotSpotter, that claims to generally differentiate between the sound of fireworks and the sound of gunshots. The company says its technology can triangulate the location of gunfire within 60 seconds using sensors placed throughout a city. If it’s not clear what produced a sound, an employee from ShotSpotter analyzes the data.

“This process can involve not only listening to sound recordings but also looking at the waveform images, which show the visual representation of an audio signal. Gunshot waveforms tend to look distinct, resembling pine trees tipped on their sides,” Ralph Clark, CEO of ShotSpotter, said in a release.

According to the company, the technology is in place in Kansas City and more than 100 other cities. But St. Joseph has to go old school, relying on callers to make reports.

“Some cities have the triangulation devices where they can hone in on a specific area for gunshots, but we don’t have that technology available,” Hoskins said. “So what we rely on is if we have multiple calls say, ‘East of this location I heard a gunshot’ and someone else calls ‘South of this location I heard a gunshot’ we can get some kind of bracket set up.

“If we get any indications it’s a shots-fired call, we’ll look for shell casings, damage, victims and things like that,” Hoskins said. “You get close to Independence Day and they (shots-fired calls) go up exponentially.”

Hoskins said the police department isn’t trying to ruin anyone’s holiday, but they are required to enforce the law when called to do so. City ordinance prevents users from lighting off any fireworks that aren’t “safe and sane,” he said. That includes fireworks that shoot more than 6 feet off the ground.

“Within our city we’re pretty restrictive in what can be shot legally,” Hoskins said. “It’s things that don’t shoot in the air and things that don’t go bang.”

Hoskins said police can confiscate illicit fireworks and arrest those who continue to use them.


Can you tell the difference between gunshots and fireworks?

Can you tell the difference between gunshots and fireworks?

Think you’ve got great ears? Visit newspressnow.com to listen to gunshots and fireworks and find out if you can hear the difference.