Pine Barn Inn Hosts Holiday Charity Buffet

The Pine Barn Inn has always been known in our area for its rustic feel, delicious food, and excellent service. This holiday season the Inn and its staff will also be known for something more: generosity, kindness, and concern.

On Saturday 24 December, from 11 AM to 3 PM the Pine Barn Inn will host a free buffet for not only victims of the September flooding, but for all people in the local community who may find themselves in need. Reservations are highly recommended due to limited seating.

Pine Barn Inn General Manager Norman Mael explained that he took inspiration for this event from a similar experience when he worked at the Hotel Magee in Bloomsburg. “I believe this is the first event of this kind, but when I was working at the Hotel Magee we had a Bartenders’ Night Out for charity. I got the idea from that.”

Mr. Mael emphasized that this Christmas Eve Day lunch buffet is a charity event sponsored by the entire staff of the Pine Barn. “Everybody is donating their own time, contributing to help prepare and serve.”

“The employees, everybody thinks this is an excellent idea,” said Mr. Mael. “It really hits home for them to help out. One of our servers just returned to his home [a victim of the recent flooding]. They’re behind this.”

Mr. Mael also noted that this Charity Buffet is not only for flood victims, however, but for anyone or any family that may find themselves in need this time of year. “Someone who lost his job, has an uncertain future,” said Mr. Mael, “it’s not for me to determine who should be helped.”

At present The Pine Barn Inn has taken over 200 reservations for the event and still has room for about 150 more.

This Holiday Buffet is offered at no charge and will be held on 24 December from 11 AM to 3PM. Reservations are Highly Recommended because seating is limited.

If you wish to make reservations, please contact the Pine Barn Inn in Danville at 570-275-2071.

Details and a Full Menu of the buffet can be found on The Bloomsburg Daily’s Event Calendar or at the Pine Barn Inn website.

Bloomsburg Natives Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro (Part 3 of 4)

New Hope OrphanageKilimanjaro. Africa’s highest mountain. Wishing to raise money for health care and education for the children of Kenya, the sister and brother team of Veronica and Richard Smiley, in partnership with the March to the Top Foundation, climbed Kilimanjaro this past August, raising $25,000 in the process.

Veronica at New Hope OrphanageThis is Part Three in The Bloomsburg Daily’s Four Part series on Bloomsburg natives Ronnie and Rick. This third installment looks at the New Hope Orphanage and the Children that Veronica and Richard were inspired to help.

Richard Smiley at New Hope OrphanagePart One of this series detailed the inspiration and preparation for the climb and can be read here.

Veronica at New Hope OrphanagePart Two tells of the climb itself and the difficulties faced along the way.

Silly BandzA complete Photo Gallery of the trip is available as Part 4

The Bloomsburg Daily – What images or moments from the non-climb part of your trip stick with you the most?

Veronica Smiley – The trip was truly eye opening for me. I’ve done the usual kinds of vacations the past several years, but was craving something different, something more meaningful. This trip did something I didn’t think was possible. It really immersed me in another world. The kids who are so happy with so little, they have a potentially life threatening disease, yet they are so happy because of the simple stuff: people who love them, safety, food and the chance to run around and be kids. Sounds cliche but it makes you think hard about what really drives happiness, and how much we really need.

I think another thing it did for me is put into perspective all the things that I think are such a big deal in my everyday life (a flight running late, stressful deadline at work, finding the perfect gift for a friend, etc). My friend Barbara [March, of the March Foundation] told me that I should meet the children before I did the climb so I could really be inspired when climbing Kilimanjaro. Well she was totally right. It was the perfect sequence to stay at the orphanage, get to know the caretakers, the farmer, the animal caretakers and of course the kids. I let it all soak in during the 6 days on the mountain. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience or way to spend my vacation.

Richard Smiley – I completely agree with everything Ronnie said, and I would add that what was most memorable for me were the people.

Certainly, the children at the orphanage, but also the volunteers at New Hope orphanage, all from Italy, who contribute so much of their personal time to help keep the orphanage running. Then there’s the local help (housemothers, farmers, maintenance folks), who clearly recognize the special opportunity they have to help these kids.

There were also plenty of experiences along the way, starting with our stay at the orphanage and the simple accommodations they had prepared for us, complete with mosquito netting on the beds. We were in the same housing as the children, and each night as the generator was turned off to conserve fuel you could hear as the building settled into a quiet slumber. Then, throughout the day we were invited to join in with various activities with the children. A couple of memories stand out. One was when I sat cross-legged on the floor and was surrounded by children as I blew up balloons for them. Yes, it was like a mini-mob of sorts, but there were also smiles and laughter and you could not help but be consumed by it.

The other one is when I distributed the gifts I had brought for the children. There were over 70 kids, so I needed to bring something I could fit in along with all my mountain equipment. My kids suggested I bring Silly Bandz. So, in preparation for the trip, my kids pulled out their own Silly Bandz collections and we collected 70 bundles of the bands to bring as gifts.

The kids of New Hope had never seen them before and were so excited when we distributed them. Of course the best part was bringing the photos home to my kids so they could see the result of their efforts, that their toys were now on the wrists of children halfway around the world.

We were also invited to participate in the celebration for the opening of the Esiteti Primary School in Amboseli. Although this is a March to the Top project, the donations for our climb did not go towards this particular effort. Still, Barbara and Roy invited us to come along for the experience, and what an experience it was!

Although the Masai people are very connected to the modern world, a great many of them choose to live their life by their old traditions and practices. They live in mud hut villages surrounded by barriers of thorny bushes. They wear the traditional bright-colored garb and beaded jewelry. They rely on walking as their primary mode of transportation, walking great distances across the vast savannah to reach their destinations. This school opening was considered a monumental event for the Masai, and hundreds of them walked 5-10 miles to join in the festivities.  When we arrived, we were greeted by a long line of Masia women on the hillside who were in constant song. Then, we sat down for a four hour celebration of song, dance and speech to commemorate the occasion.

One speaker, an older Masai woman, made an interesting comment in that the Masai people had survived this long through a careful balance and respect for the animals around them, and that this school’s opening was directly attributable to the animals. From the animals comes the tourism, and from the tourism comes the increased visibility of the needs of the Masai people. We needed to leave before the dinner festivities began, so I have no stories of slaughtering my own goat or drinking the ceremonial mixture of milk and warm cow’s blood.

But, one of the funniest moments occurred when a Masai warrior approached Ronnie, introduced himself, and gave an opening line of, “Are you on Facebook?”. I’m sure [Facebook founder Mark] Zuckerberg would be gleaming.

NellieTBD – How much money did you raise? What was the impact of your effort?

Esiteti Primary School - AmboseliRS – We were extremely happy to have raised over $25,000 from the climb.  Because March to the Top covered all of the administrative expenses, the entire amount went towards the New Hope Orphanage. We even got to sit down with the heads of the orphanage to determine the allocation of funds to each of their initiatives.

Esiteti Primary School - AmboseliThe money raised was used to pay for one year of medical insurance for each of the 70+ children. In addition, we wanted to use some of it to help one of the children, Nellie, who had had an improper medical procedure prior to arriving at New Hope. This poor girl was left with a hole in the side of her neck, where her saliva would drain out. And the correcting procedure would need to be done at the better facilities in Nairobi. I believe she is preparing now for her operation so she can lead a more normal life.

The remaining funds went towards the new medical facility being built on the grounds. This facility is critical as the orphanage tries to increase its capacity.

TBD – How do you feel now that it is done? What are your future plans related to the charity?

VS – Now the question keeps popping into my head about what’s next. I don’t think it has to be big trips or dramatic fund raising. Barbara March and I were talking recently about ideas to help spread the word with a newsletter, photos, making it easy for anyone to volunteer at their projects, everyone can play some kind of a role. Maybe I waited too long to begin my volunteer efforts, but it’s never too late for anyone to start.

RS – I agree with Ronnie that what we do next doesn’t have to be such a big event to help make a difference. However, I know that a future trip to visit New Hope will come. Only, this time, I’d like to share the experience with the rest of my family.

TBD – Can you relate what you did with how you grew up in Bloomsburg? This was clearly an amazing effort. What gave you the strength to do it?

RS – I think the main point for me here is just that, growing up in a small town in central Pennsylvania I could have never imagined one day having the opportunity to affect the lives of these children on another continent. I think I’d view it the same way my kids do when they see their Silly Bandz, now on the wrists of these children. I know we’ve done a little to help these kids, but they’ve helped me as well.

Part One of this series detailed the inspiration and preparation for the climb and can be read here.

Part Two tells of the climb itself and the difficulties faced along the way.

A complete Photo Gallery of the trip is available as Part 4

Founded in 2006, the March to the Top Foundation was established by the March family in order to help the less fortunate in Africa, focusing on improving education and healthcare, specifically with regards to HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis. Veronica Smiley is a member of the March Foundation Advisory Board.

Bloomsburg Natives Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro (Part 2 of 4)

Kilimanjaro ClimbKilimanjaro. Africa’s highest mountain. Wishing to raise money for health care and education for the children of Kenya, the sister and brother team of Veronica and Richard Smiley, in partnership with the March to the Top Foundation, climbed Kilimanjaro this past August, raising $25,000 in the process.

Kilimanjaro ClimbThis is Part Two in The Bloomsburg Daily’s Four Part series on Bloomsburg natives Ronnie and Rick. This second installment recounts their climb to the top and the difficulties faced along the way.

Kilimanjaro ClimbPart One of this series details the inspiration and preparation for the climb and can be read here.

Part Three looks at the New Hope Orphanage and the Children that Veronica and Richard were inspired to help.

A complete Photo Gallery of the trip is available as Part 4

Kilimanjaro ClimbThe Bloomsburg Daily – What were the biggest challenges during the climb? How long did it take? What happened?  What images or moments from your climb stick with you the most?

Kilimanjaro ClimbVeronica Smiley – One thing I learned was that you should never be overly confident! On the climb, I almost felt guilty that the first 5 days were so easy for me! Then, the day of the last summit, I met my match. My steps were painstakingly slow, and reinforced by a sweet Tanzanian guide who stabilized my shoulders with every step so I didn’t fall back. It took everything I had to make it up.

Kilimanjaro ClimbWhat kept me going was the thought that quitting was not an option. I wasn’t throwing up due to altitude sickness, and I wasn’t injured, so I had to work through the discomfort and haul my body up that mountain. Sure it’s just a tiny bit of strife compared to the lives that these kids have led, but it was a wake up call that just seemed to fit with the theme of the trip. And wow, it felt amazing to reach the summit!

Richard Smiley – We took the Machame Route up the mountain, which is a 30 mile trek to the top. So it was a bit of an adjustment and all of the guides stressed “pole, pole”, which is Swahili for “slowly, slowly”. This was the best way to acclimatize for first time climbers.  From the first day, we walked at a very measured snails pace. One foot in front of the other.

The crew however would speed past us to set up camp, carrying 45 lbs. of camping gear balanced on their heads. The crew was amazing, and they were doing this with not nearly the level of hiking equipment that we had.  Some wore sandals, sneakers, even dress shoes! Each day started very early to beat the crowds, each evening we had simple but satisfying meals waiting for us at the camp.  By nighttime, we were exhausted and slept early to prepare for the next day.

Along the way we experienced a very diverse landscape.  We began in rain forests, but that quickly switched to a more mountainous terrain.  One of the most challenging and interesting days was scaling the Barranco Wall, where you had to navigate around the “kissing rock”.  The ledge around it was so small that you had to hug (or “kiss”) it was you carefully stepped around it.

I’ve been holding off until now to get to this, but I started to experience altitude sickness about three days into the climb.  If you’ve never had this before, it’s not something I’d wish upon anyone. The worst moments were at night, when the headaches were so severe and the nausea was weakening.  I would have to get up multiple times during the night to unzip the tent and throw up.  Many times I’d have to ask Ronnie to unzip the tent before I sat up, so I could make it out in time.

After the first night of this, I thought I would not continue.  Ronnie, on the other hand, did not get hit at all, at least not until the last day.  Everyone in the camp would hear me, and every morning they were surprised that I was ready to keep going.  The problem was that with all the nausea I found it difficult to eat or drink the recommended amount of water each day.

Finally, on summit day, I started off with the group, but realized I was too weak and dehydrated to continue to the peak.  Ronnie and I had always had the agreement that if one of us could not continue, the other would still push ahead, so that’s what we did.  So, I started to make my way down the mountain while Ronnie kept going to reach Uhuru Peak.  I waited at the final camp until Ronnie returned with the great news that she had reached the top! I couldn’t be more proud of her.  At least one of us made it to our goal.  As for me, I have absolutely no regrets.  I did what I could to prepare, but the mountain affects everyone differently.  It took nothing away from the fact that it was an amazing experience.

VS – In all, I learned a lot about how you can be so passionate about a cause, but everyone has their own cause they care about so it isn’t so easy or straightforward to get others to care in the same way you do. I had a lot of friends who did support us, and it wasn’t about the amount of money but about the support.

I also had many friends who offered only emotional support which was what they had to give. You cant be judgmental with these things, you just think that others will have their moment and have their eyes opened like I did. Even if people just went on the website and learned a little that they didn’t know before, that’s a win.

Kilimanjaro Climb
Veronica Smiley at Kilimanjaro's Uhuru Peak, The Highest Point in Africa

Part One of this series detailed the inspiration and preparation for the climb and can be read here.

Part Three looks at the New Hope Orphanage and the Children that Veronica and Richard were inspired to help.

A complete Photo Gallery of the trip is available as Part 4

Founded in 2006, the March to the Top Foundation was established by the March family in order to help the less fortunate in Africa, focusing on improving education and healthcare, specifically with regards to HIV/AIDs and Tuberculosis. Veronica Smiley is a member of the March Foundation Advisory Board.

Bloomsburg Natives Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro (Part 1 of 4)

Veronica and Richard SmileyKilimanjaro. Africa’s highest mountain. Wishing to raise money for health care and education for the children of Kenya, the sister and brother team of Veronica and Richard Smiley, in partnership with the March to the Top Foundation, climbed Kilimanjaro this past August, raising $25,000 in the process.

This is Part One in The Bloomsburg Daily’s Four Part series on Bloomsburg natives Ronnie and Rick. This initial installment tells of the inspiration and preparation for their climb.

Part Two, detailing the difficulties of the climb can be read here.

Part Three looks at the New Hope Orphanage and the Children that Veronica and Richard were inspired to help.

A complete Photo Gallery of the trip is available as Part 4

The Bloomsburg Daily – What led you to the idea of climbing this mountain?  Was it the challenge of doing it, the reward of who you might benefit, or a combination of both?

Veronica Smiley – I’d always wanted to climb Kilimanjaro, since I was in college. A few years ago, I was looking into a job in global children’s health with non-profits supporting Africa. A couple years later, as luck would have it, the two interests would collide. I meet Barbara March [of the March to the Top Foundation] at a girlfriend’s dinner and, poof!, the idea became reality for our “Smiley Climb To The Top”.

Richard Smiley – For me, the idea began when I was considering joining a friend who was planning a climb to the base camp of Mt Everest.  This may have been a bit ambitious as a first climb, but it got the wheels churning for a more adventurous type of vacation.  Then, when I shared my idea with Ronnie last Christmas, it turned out we had the same idea, except that she substituted the idea of climbing Kilimanjaro instead.

Similar to Ronnie, I had also been considering a career switch where I could combine my job with something where my efforts could help others.  I had already been looking at various non-profits to see if there was a fit for my skills.  To be honest, the idea of merging the two only came about with Ronnie’s ‘serendipitous’ meeting of Barbara March at a dinner. We’ve used that word quite a bit in reference to the whole experience, because so much of this trip just seemed to come together as if it was something we were supposed to do.

TBD – Who did the climb benefit?  How did you make the connection with that group and what will the money you raise do for them?

Veronica Smiley at New Hope OrphanageRS – The climb was organized by March to the Top Foundation, whose goal is to help underprivileged people of Africa by providing support in health care, education and conservation.  The specific project we were focused on is the New Hope Orphanage, which provides shelter and health care to children living with HIV/AIDS.

The orphanage itself is operated by AINA (the Italian Association of Nomades of Love), with March to the Top being the primary benefactor.  The money raised would go towards various initiatives for New Hope.

TBD – Were you both on board from the beginning, or did one of you have to talk the other into doing it?

VS – I did a lot of volunteer work at Georgetown University but then got whisked into the working world and was limited to making donations here and there. For me, this trip was all about living it and seeing it for myself, not just reading weepy articles or hearing other people talk about the need.

Lo and behold, my brother said he wanted to do it together!  Well no doubt about it, the trip would never have been the same if we hadn’t done it together. Fate works in funny ways and I really believe this was in our cards.

RS – Yes, we were both on board from the beginning!

TBD – How long did it take to plan?  What did that involve?

RS – So, the initial idea to climb Kilimanjaro evolved last Christmas, 2010.  Over the next couple of months, we started to research different outfitters who would organize the climb.  It was in April that Ronnie made the connection with Barbara March and the March to the Top organization. That is when everything started to fall into place.  However, even with Barbara’s help, there was a lot to coordinate.

We had to organize the standard stuff such as flights, lodgings and visas, but also get numerous shots (yellow fever was a must, typhoid, Hepatitus A & B, etc.) and various medications (Cipro, malaria pills, Diamox for altitude sickness).  Plus, we had to gather our equipment for the climb.  The outfitter supplied a recommended list of what we’d need, but it was still a big task in and of itself to gather all the items we would be dependent on once we were on the mountain.

And finally, there was the training for the climb itself!

TBD – What kind of training did you have to do to prepare?

RS – Ronnie and I approached the training a bit differently.  Ronnie already does a lot of cardio, so she was more focused on training hikes to become accustomed to terrain and to help break in her boots.  I was also focused on cardio, but being based in Florida, I had the disadvantage of having virtually no access mountains for hiking.  I was basically left with doing all of my training at sea level.

I had researched a great deal on combating altitude sickness, and all of the advice pointed to using Diamox (which does not always help) and doing everything I could to make sure I was ready physically.  I could not train for altitude, but I could at least do what I could to remove fitness from the equation.

TBD – When did you make the trip?  What did you do while you were there and when did the actual climb start?

RS – The overall trip was from Aug 12th to Aug 29th this year, and the climb itself was from Aug 21st to Aug 26th.  The trip was really divided into three amazing experiences. The first part of the trip was when we flew from Nairobi to Meru to visit New Hope and saw firsthand the facility and children we would be helping.

KilimanjaroThen, we flew to Amboseli, where Barbara and Roy March invited us to take part in another March to the Top project, the opening of the first Masai school in Amboseli – the Esiteti Primary School.  We took part in the Masai ceremonies for the opening, which was an experience in itself.  On a side note, we did go on safari in Amboseli which was also an incredible experience. While in Amboseli on safari, we had our first glimpse of Kilimanjaro, beckoning in the distance!

At that point, it was pretty hard to believe that in less than a week, we’d be well on our way to the top of that very mountain.

Part Two, detailing the difficulties of the climb can be read here.

Part Three looks at the New Hope Orphanage and the Children that Veronica and Richard were inspired to help.

A complete photo gallery will be published on Wednesday.

Founded in 2006, the March to the Top Foundation was established by the March family in order to help the less fortunate in Africa, focusing on improving education and healthcare, specifically with regards to HIV/AIDs and Tuberculosis. Veronica Smiley is a member of the March Foundation Advisory Board.

Flood Relief Bake Sale on Friday, October 7th

Bloomsburg University’s Flood Buddies will hold a bake sale Friday, Oct. 7, during the Bloomsburg High School homecoming game at Redman Stadium. The bake sale will begin at 6:30 p.m. and all proceeds will benefit more than 60 Bloomsburg Area School District families displaced by the recent flooding. Flood Buddies, a group of senior-level public relations students at BU, also will accept donations for flood relief during the football game.

BU students involved in Flood Buddies include Jessica Ames, Kimberly Cox, Hillary Gorgone, Bethany Homiak, Deanna Kellett, Brittany Kelly, Samantha McFarland, Samie Richart, Brooke Samsel, Brittany Scharr, Jennifer Sensky, Julie Sterner, Natalie Wagner, Amanda Whitford and Erika Zaborny.

Event information courtesy of Bloomsburg University

Photo courtesy of Cuizoo