A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Gena Bigler: Imagine how communities would thrive if we all followed ‘Team Torp’s’ example

Christian and Tanya Torp (Photo provided)   Lexington’s Team Torp is a force to be reckoned with; Tanya and Christian actively work to improve the world.   Owners of Justice House, they host Heinz Breakfast where they open their doors to the public and make enough pancakes to feed a small army. The most recent brought together 45 diverse hungry people. Along with the locally sourced...

Gena Bigler: Turning your back on a problem is not a solution; questions lead to answers

How do you make something stronger? You test it, push its limits and reinforce the weak spots. No matter what the “it” is you are testing, the process is not comfortable. When the “it” is an industry or profession and the individuals that form the body of the industry or profession, then the process is even more uncomfortable. No one likes someone, especially an outsider, looking over their...

Gena Bigler: Elf on the Shelf should focus
on generosity, not on who’s naughty or nice

After weeks of repetitive requests from my six year old, I succumbed to the pressure and bought the very creepy Elf on the Shelf.   If you have been lucky enough to not know about the Elf on the Shelf, they are little elf dolls packaged with a book. The story explains that the elf watches over the children and magically flies home to give Santa a report every night.   My reasons for...

Gena Bigler: Surprise, surprise! New Orleans is a city packed with family-friendly adventure

New Orleans is probably best known for Bourbon Street shenanigans. It is not the first place that comes to mind when thinking of “family fun,” but it should be. Besides the drunken debauchery of the French Quarter tourists, there are huge parks and plenty of child-friendly fun to be found.   What could possibly be more fun for a child than dancing in the street with her parents? Dancing...

Gena Bigler: Gone are days of homemade Halloween treats; holiday creativity needed

Popcorn balls were the ultimate trick-or-treat delicacy. Once upon a time, there was a sweet lady who made them every year and they were divine.   That was long ago in the tiny town of Hyden, Kentucky. Before parents had to sift through Halloween treats looking for razor blades and arsenic, some people hand made delicious treats.   Non-food treats are also an option for those with allergies....

Gena Bigler: Ride-along with police gave me look at treatment all citizens should expect

Gray skies and drizzling rain set a grim backdrop. The constant voices on the radio were nothing more than background noise until Officer Eric Taylor told me we had a call. After that, I listened more closely and eventually understood some of the unfamiliar speech patterns and terminology during my recent ride-along with police.   We parked in a busy intersection already partially blocked by a...

Gena Bigler: Kentuckians' generosity hard to measure but easy to see in AmeriCorps' faces

When staying with my grandparents in Hyden, it was common to come home to find some random gift on the front porch. Sometimes it was fresh vegetables someone was sharing from the garden, or morel mushrooms someone had foraged.   My grandparents modeled that same generosity, sharing meals with neighbors, leaving vegetables on other people’s porches or sending a plate down the way to the friend...

Gena Bigler: Kentuckians’ generosity hard to measure but easy to see in AmeriCorps’ faces

When staying with my grandparents in Hyden, it was common to come home to find some random gift on the front porch. Sometimes it was fresh vegetables someone was sharing from the garden, or morel mushrooms someone had foraged.   My grandparents modeled that same generosity, sharing meals with neighbors, leaving vegetables on other people’s porches or sending a plate down the way to the friend...

Gena Bigler: ‘Beef. It’s what’s for dinner’ doesn’t have to be true seven days a week

Mujaddara is a popular Middle Eastern dish of lentils, fried onions, spices and rice. This is a customized version made with a fried egg on top. It is commonly served with plain yogurt or a garnish of diced tomatoes, parsley and lemon juice. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)   In America, and especially in the South, it is not uncommon to have some form of meat in every dish served for any given...

Gena Bigler: Low-wage workers can’t afford housing anywhere, especially not in Lexington

Indentured servitude is supposed to be a relic of our country’s past, but a version of it is alive and well in the east end neighborhood of Lexington where tenants are working for $20 a day and paying hundreds of dollars to their employers for one-room apartments without air conditioning.   (Photo from Wikimedia Commons) Some tenants have reported to authors of a new city report on housing and...

Gena Bigler: Hope Center is there for those whose one bad decision changed their lives

Men at The Hope Center provide drumming entertainment this spring. (Photo from Hope Center)   “One little decision can change the rest of your life,” Jake, a peer mentor at the Hope Center, told a group of students from Sphinx Academy as he shared about his life.   After a motorcycle accident, he was prescribed pain medication that ultimately led the former athlete and artist down a path...

Gena Bigler: Just ’cause you can isn’t good reason to make negative Internet comments

“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” This is a popular phrase. I’m sure I heard it as a child, but honestly, sometimes not nice things need to be said.   A lot of good has come from not nice discussions. Child abuse and domestic violence have both come into the light and by shining a light on those not nice topics, things are beginning to get better.   (Photo...

Gena Bigler: Knee socks, door-to-door sales, camp; who wouldn’t want to be a Girl Scout?

(Photo from GSA)   I still remember the brown polyester uniform, brown knee socks with orange flash sock guards and a brown sash that constantly slipped off my shoulder. Being a Brownie was a memorable milestone in my life. It was more years ago than I care to confess, but I still remember some of the activities we did as a troop. I still remember selling cookies and begging my mom for just...

Gena Bigler: Let’s follow Tennessee’s example and provide two years’ free college tuition

Access to a free public education is a founding principle of our nation.  Thomas Jefferson, one of our nation’s founding fathers said, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” Our southern neighbors in Tennessee are working on a way to expand on this basic principle to keep up with educational expectations.   The proposed “Tennessee Promise”...

Gena Bigler: Nonprofit helps single mothers dare to dream by taking them Step By Step

Many of the young mothers at Step By Step expressed an interest in exercise, so the organization partnered with Immanuel Baptist in Lexington for its Zumba classes. The church provides free childcare with the moms exercise. “Tonight, a few of us got our picture taken with our instructor, Kelly. I am so proud of these moms!” wrote program director Tanya Torp. (Photo from Step By Step)   Dare...

Gena Bigler: Malpractice rarely means doctors pay; medical review boards lessen that rate

(Photo from St. Pius X College)   Accidents happen; it’s a fact of life. Some can be prevented.   We as a society do what we can to put a stop to accidents whenever possible. We outlaw texting while driving; we make drinking and driving illegal; and we set standards and write policy. We fund protection agencies to watch over certain industries to maintain those safety policies. Somehow...

Gena Bigler: Rather than impose penny-ante fines, hold corporations truly accountable

General Motors’ response to the defective ignition switch was to take other keys off the key ring so it wouldn’t be heavy and “accidentally” turn off the car while driving. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)   If it weren’t for accountability, we’d be in trouble for society is built on being held responsible for one’s actions.   We have a complex justice...

Gena Bigler: Find fun and traditions while coping with children, cold and cabin fever

Kentucky has had more than its share of snow days this winter. Coping with cabin fever can be challenging when you reach the second or third unexpected day at home.   With children, it can be even more challenging. When it’s too cold to go outside for the usual winter activities, the hours stretch out into a seemingly unfillable void. Here are some tips on how to fill that void:   This...

Gena Bigler: Sometimes giving back means donning green skin, a helmet and a pink tutu

Not much gets your attention like an old friend painted green wearing a Viking helmet and a tutu. It was a pink sparkly tutu that contrasted nicely with the Hulk green of his exposed skin.   Why was this middle-aged professional decked out in such outrageous attire? For a much more respectable reason than you might have guessed. He was raising money for the Special Olympics.   Nathan White...

Gena Bigler: Kentuckians need financial literacy; House Bill 223 can provide it

Nearly 70 percent of Americans are in debt. The average American family has over $7,000 in credit card debt and a recent study by the Brookings Institute found that 21 percent of Americans and 38 percent of those with incomes under $25,000 thought that winning the lottery was the most practical strategy for gathering money for retirement. Americans need financial literacy programs.   Kentuckians...