NIRPC Public Comment Period

NIRPC to hold public comment period on new documents & amendments
The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) will hold a 30-day public comment period on the Greenways + Blueways 2020 Plan, and amending safety performance measure targets into the 2018-2021 Transportation Improvement Program and the 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan. The comment period begins today and will end March 2, 2018.
Greenways + Blueways 2020 combines the 2007 Greenways + Blueways Plan, the 2010 Ped & Pedal Plan, and environmental elements of the 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan. It is the first time that the areas of conservation, recreation, and transportation have been combined into a single document for Lake, Porter, and LaPorte Counties. The plan sought input from public listening sessions and stakeholders with an interest in conservation of natural areas and open lands, hiking and paddling, and non-motorized transportation such as biking and walking.
The safety performance measure targets being amended into the TIP and 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan are required by the federal 2015 FAST Act transportation bill. The targets adopted were set by the Indiana Department of Transportation, and the NIRPC board supported the targets at their January 18, 2018 meeting.
NIRPC will host a public comment open house to gather comments on the Greenways + Blueways 2020 Plan and the proposed 2018-2021 TIP and 2040 Comprehensive Regional Plan amendments. The meeting will be on February 15, 2018 at NIRPC, 6100 Southport Road, Portage, IN from 5:00-7:00 pm. The meeting will be an open house format and attendees are welcome to come anytime during the meeting time. Comments may also be submitted until March 2, 2018 in the following ways:
  • Email:
  • Phone: 219-763-6060, ext. 160
  • United States Postal Service: NIRPC, 6100 Southport Road, Portage, IN 46368
All comments received during the 30-day public comment period will be compiled into a public comment report and responded to. This report will be made available to the public and distributed to the relevant NIRPC committees prior to any action on these items. It is anticipated that action will be taken at the March 13, 2018 meeting of the Technical Planning Committee, followed by the March 15, 2018 meeting of the NIRPC Commission.
Documents and information will be available for review at the public meetings, as well as NIRPC’s website at Requests for alternative formats may be directed to Mary Thorne by calling 219-763-6060, ext. 131, or by email at TTY users may use the Relay Indiana service by calling 711 or 800-743-3333.
NIRPC is the Metropolitan Planning Organization and regional council of local governments for Lake, Porter, and LaPorte Counties.  NIRPC provides the forum for local elected officials, regional, leadership, and citizens to address regional issues relating to transportation, the environment and community and economic development.  NIRPC seeks to develop consensus solutions with the broadest participation.

First Farmers invited to State of the Union

First Farmers Bank & Trust invited to the State of the Union

 Gene Miles and Chelsee Hatfield to attend as guests of Sen. Todd Young of Indiana  


(Converse, IN) First Farmers Financial Corp(OTCQX:FFMR), parent company of First Farmers Bank & Trust, released a public announcement last month regarding a new corporate wage and community support program in response to federal legislation affecting corporate tax rates.  The goal was to reinforce commitment to local communities and to employees.  The response to the announcement exceeded expectations and the organization received national media coverage. Inquiry from the office of Senator Todd Young led to further discussion on the new programs and their expected impact to First Farmers employees and local communities.  As a result of the discussion, bank CEO Gene Miles will represent bank leadership and shareholders and Chelsee Hatfield, Windfall, will represent bank staff impacted by the new wage program at the Presidential State of the Union address in Washington, DC on Jan 30, 2018 as guests of Sen. Young.  “Both Gene and Chelsee are proud to be representing the organization. Their goal for the trip is to demonstrate the hard work and dedication of our employees and extoll the virtues and corporate philosophy of First Farmers Bank & Trust. We are going to do our best to share this unique experience with our staff and customers by documenting the trip on our corporate website and social media”.

– Tade J. Powell, VP of Communications.


First Farmers Financial Corp is traded on the OTC Markets Group, Inc. “OTCQX” exchange under the linked ticker symbol: FFMR  

First Farmers Financial Corp is a $1.69 billion financial holding company headquartered in Converse, Indiana.  First Farmers Bank & Trust has 27 offices throughout Carroll, Cass, Clay, Grant, Hamilton, Howard, Huntington, Madison, Marshall, Miami, Starke, Sullivan, Tipton, Vermillion, Vigo and Wabash counties in Indiana and 7 offices in Coles, Edgar and Vermilion counties in Illinois. More information can be found online at:, ,

New Interim Director at Starke County Economic Development Foundation





Starke County Economic Development Foundation Names Interim Executive Director



Starke County, Indiana – The Starke County Economic Development Foundation (Foundation) Board of Directors has named Larry Wickert Interim Executive Director.  Larry succeeds Charles W. Weaver, J.D., who recently retired after serving as Executive Director since 2005 and, prior to that, as the Foundation’s Attorney.


Mr. Wickert was raised in Starke County and has lived and worked in Starke County his entire career.  After receiving his BS degree in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University, he returned home and worked as Plant Manager for a retail fertilizer plant.  Most recently he has been self-employed as an agronomy consultant.  Mr. Wickert is also a former Starke County Commissioner.


Mr. Wickert has been a Foundation board member for seven years, serving two terms as Board President.  He stepped in informally as Interim Director of the Foundation during the summer of 2017.  He recently attended the Ball State Economic Development Course, the Economic Development Director’s Course at the Indiana Economic Development Association (IEDA), and several IEDA educational conferences.  Mr. Wickert was instrumental in initiating the Foundation’s newly formed Agriculture Committee, and he helped start the Quality of Life initiative in partnership with the Starke County Chamber of Commerce.


In his role as Interim Executive Director of the Foundation, Mr. Wickert will be responsible for leading the Foundation, whose mission is to assist in the creation, retention and reinvestment of resources that increase the economic opportunities and improve the quality of life for Starke County citizens.  The Foundation partners with Starke County communities, the State of Indiana and other economic development entities to be the leader in creating a business-friendly atmosphere that makes it easy for companies to develop and grow in Starke County.  The Foundation works closely with Starke County industries to provide necessary and viable assistance so they become more competitive in the world marketplace.  The Foundation is also responsible for marketing the advantages and opportunities of Starke County.


A formal job search to fill the full-time Executive Director position will be initiated in the near future.


Mr. Wickert can be reached at the Starke County Economic Development office at 1915 S. Heaton Street (Christo’s Plaza), Knox, IN  46534, by calling 574.772.5627, or at



The Starke County Economic Development Foundation is a not-for-profit local economic development organization (LEDO) providing economic development opportunities on behalf of Starke County, Indiana, the City of Knox, and the Towns of North Judson and Hamlet through the development of industrial parks, rail spurs, greenfield sites, shovel-ready sites, infrastructure and workforce development. For more information regarding the Starke County Economic Development Foundation, visit

Casino Trip

The Chamber will be hosting a trip to the Blue Chip Casino.   January 29th we will leave Knox in an Executive Party Bus at 9:00 AM and return about 3:00 PM.   The cost of the trip is $35 and includes the ride to the casino, buffet lunch, and $5 slot machine money.   Tickets must be purchased in advance are available at EventBrite as well as directly through the Chamber office (574-772-5548).

Terry Armstrong Exhibit at Donaldson


MoonTree Studios and Gallery


Terry Armstrong is a Hoosier-born artist. Greatly influenced by visits to his grandparents’ Indiana farm and the natural beauty of the area, he uses the spontaneity of watercolor, dry brush, and egg tempera to capture the true essence of the Midwest. Terry strives for balance between realism and abstraction – where these images excite and evoke a strong feeling or memory.  Although his paintings focus on the simple life of rural America, the artwork is also representative of the changing seasons and his childhood memories.


Having spent most of his childhood in Columbia City, Indiana, Terry graduated from Carroll High School, Ft. Wayne, and earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in both fine art and commercial art from Indiana University/Purdue University, Ft. Wayne.  He retired from Biomet, Inc., an orthopedic company in Warsaw, after 25 years of service in marketing communications to pursue his passion of fine art.  Terry also taught watercolor at Grace College in Winona Lake.

Terry now focuses on painting full time. His work has captured many honors, among which are the People’s Choice Awards and Best of Show in numerous art exhibits, including Best Watercolor three years in a row at the Hoosier Salon, and  inclusion into the 2008, 2010 and 2012 Biennial Contemporary American Realism exhibit at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. Terry’s paintings have been exhibited in numerous galleries in the United States, including the Castle Art Gallery in Fort Wayne, Indiana and Courtyard Gallery, New Buffalo, Michigan.  Terry is a member of the Lakeland Art Association, Warsaw; the Hoosier Salon, Indianapolis, Indiana; and is juried into the Indiana Artisan Program.

The Terry Armstrong Watercolor Studio and Gallery is located in their historic 1870’s brick home located on twelve acres near Warsaw, Indiana, where he lives with his wife, Mary. They have a daughter, Teryn.  Terry is also an avid runner and enjoys fishing, hiking and the outdoors.


Terry Armstrong / Terry Armstrong Watercolors, LLC.

2277 E. 8 Square Road, Warsaw, IN  46582

Tel: 574-267-2209    E-mail:  Website:


Terry Armstrong’s artwork, Landscapes and Nature, will be on display at MoonTree Gallery from January 13 through February 24, 2018.  MoonTree Gallery is open Monday through Friday 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.  EST.  Call MoonTree Studios at (574) 935-1712 for group tour arrangements or for an appointment at times other than these.

Twelfth Night at Moon Tree

Twelfth Night and Wassailing the Apple Trees at MoonTree Studios—Celebrate with Us!

MoonTree Studios invites you to a come to an end-of-the-holidays and return-to-work party on Sunday, January 7, 2018, from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. Twelfth Night has been celebrated since antiquity; it’s a time to show and tell, share, trade, play games, and partake of food and good company. Centuries ago, Twelfth Night invoked the bonds of close community at the close of warm yuletide celebrations—the last feasting and merry-making before the community returned to the daily working grind for the rest of the winter. So let’s have fun, enjoy community and start the year off right! We’ll be spinning and doing fiber work, breaking bread, and playing games. Bring your spinning wheel, knitting, crocheting, or portable loom,. Observing another tradition of Twelfth Night, at 4:00p.m. we’ll take a walk to wassail the apple trees on MoonTree prairie to ensure a good apple harvest in 2018. This tradition dates back to the Roman Saturnalia, a festival marking the onset of winter solstice–that point in late December when the sun, whose daily arc had reached its lowest, darkest, coldest point, began its rise toward the longer, warmer days that would ultimately cause trees to bud and seeds to sprout in the spring. Our wassailing will involve drinking warm apple cider, visiting the trees, and singing carols to the good spirits of the orchard. Twelfth Night at MoonTree will be a festive time to gather together to relax, create with our hands, tell stories, play games, and partake of food and good company. We invite all to bring food to share—we’ll have a soup pot going, so bring a veggie to add or bread, a salad, or dessert. Bring your fiber work or hand work, or just come to enjoy community with us. If you like, bring a white elephant gift or something to trade (such as ready-to-spin fiber only, please!) “Love and joy come to you, and to you your wassail too; and God bless you and send you a Happy New Year, and God send you a Happy New Year!”




Press Release 12TH nIGHT 2018

Poor Handmaids Celebrate 150th Anniversary!



DONALDSON, IN – In 2018, the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ are celebrating 150 years of their presence in America (1868 – 2018).


Many activities are planned in 2018. An opening prayer service and reception is scheduled at The Center at Donaldson on December 31, 2017 from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. ET to begin the year-long celebration and is open to the public.


In the aftermath of the Civil War in America, Catherine Kasper, the foundress of the Poor Handmaid congregation, missioned the first Poor Handmaids to America, in response to the invitation of Bishop Luers of Fort Wayne. Eight German Sisters were selected from among the two hundred that volunteered to come to America. These eight Poor Handmaids arrived on August 28, 1868 in Hessen Cassel, Indiana to begin their ministry with the German immigrants. By September 10, the Sisters had taken charge of the parish school, were assigned to nursing the sick in the area, and assumed the responsibility of caring for the needs of the parish church.


In the first five years of the Sister’s arrival in America they not only managed the rapidly growing Angel Guardian Orphanage in Chicago, they also founded St. Joseph Hospital in Fort Wayne, taught in the already existing St. Paul School in Fort Wayne and St. Mary School in Carlyle, Illinois. These were followed by nearly 400 ministries responding to emerging needs in America.


During 2018, other celebratory events that are open to the public include a presentation on the Canonization process of Blessed Catherine Kasper on April 21, 2018. On July 21, 2018, the Poor Handmaids host “Life, Spirituality and Beatification Process of Sister Aloysia Löwenfels,” a Jewish Poor Handmaid killed in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. A two-day event, August 18 and 19, 2018, offers several opportunities for the public to celebrate with the Poor Handmaids including a Eucharistic Liturgy with Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades. September 14 and 15, 2018, David Haas, who is regarded as one of the preeminent liturgical music composers in the English-speaking world, will present a Taizé Prayer Service, a retreat, and a concert.  A closing prayer service and reception will be held on December 30, 2018.


More information on the Poor Handmaids and these events can be found at

Christmas Concert at Ancilla

Ancilla College invites you to welcome the holidays with a Christmas concert, Saturday, December 9, 4:00 pm in the Ancilla Domini Chapel. Performing groups include the Culver Academies Orchestra, Concert Band, and Choir.

O’Reilly Auto hosting drive

O’Reilly Auto of Knox is hosting both a food drive for the food bank locally, as well as a Toys for Tots drive.   Stop in and see me at the Chamber with your donation, or go directly to O’Reilly Auto (discount coupon available at O’Reilly with donation).    Help this great company support our local kids and families!