Bluffton University and MMH to share $1 million

Former Bluffton residents, James and Frieda Basinger left their estate, estimated to be valued at $1 million, to Bluffton University and Mennonite Home Communities. A joint press conference was held Tuesday, February 9, to announce the donation.

“On behalf of the university and especially our students, I am grateful for the wonderful generosity of two Bluffton alumni and former residents of our local community,” said Dr. James Harder, Bluffton University President. “We look forward to honoring the Basinger’s wish to provide enhanced support for student scholarships for current and future generations of Bluffton students. This legacy gift will make a difference in the Bluffton community for many years to come.”

James and Frieda were both raised in Bluffton, graduated from Bluffton public schools and were members of the Bluffton University class of 1940. James was always very interested in flying and transferred his senior year to Parks College (Illinois), a school specializing in aeronautics. He and Frieda were married in 1940 and he spent time overseas in the service. He taught at Purdue University and then worked in the aeronautics industry in design and research in Los Angeles, California, before returning to teaching at a community college in Douglas, Arizona, for 17 years.

The couple lived in Bisbee, Arizona. James Basinger passed away in 2005. Frieda was a loving wife who enjoyed gardening and nature. She died September 21, 2009.

James and Frieda made what may have been their last visit to Bluffton in 1986 for their 50th high school class reunion. Joanne and the late Dean Niswander, Bluffton University Ambassadors, visited them in Arizona in 1996.

“We thought they were very interesting people,” said Joanne Niswander. “It was the first time we had ever met them, but we had a great conversation.”

Laura Voth, chief executive officer of Mennonite Home Communities, had been in contact with Frieda Basinger over the past few years.

“In her written correspondence over the past four years, Frieda talked about how many of our residents she knew being a hometown girl,” said Voth. “During her life and even after her death, she wanted to do what she could to make the lives of her friends here at Mennonite Home Communities more joyous.”
 
The donation to Mennonite Home Communities is the largest in their history and will be used to improve the quality of life for the residents.
 
“Our Fund Board will be meeting to finalize how this money will be used, but I’m sure we will use it to ‘make residents’ lives brighter’ as Frieda often said,” said Voth.
 
The gift made by James and Frieda Basinger is also one of the largest gifts ever made to Bluffton Univeristy. The University’s Board of Trustees will formally allocate the money, but President Harder said that the gift will have a lasting impact to the Bluffton community and students of the university.
 
“The Basingers lived most of their lives away from Bluffton, but recognized the value of their formative years here in Bluffton,” said Harder.

Ada's claim to fame

Employees of Ada’s Wilson football factory anxiously watched the American Football Conference (AFC) and National Football Conference (NFC) championship games January 24, 2010 to see which two team names would be stamped on NLF Super Bowl XLIV footballs.

This region’s best-kept secret, Wilson’s Sporting Goods football factory has been the exclusive supplier of footballs to the NFL since 1941. The Ada factory has been the sole producer of Wilson footballs since 1955. The NFL is the only professional sports league in the country to use balls made in the United States.
 
The crew of about 150 full-time employees worked around the clock last week to turn out footballs to be used in this Sunday’s Super Bowl game in Miami, Florida. The plant normally operates four days a week, with employees working ten-hour shifts.
 
Superbowl XXVI game balls left the factory on January 26, 2010. Fifty-four balls are given to each team to use during the Superbowl game. There will also be approximately 100 balls on the sidelines.
 
On a typical day, the plant produces 3,000 to 4,000 handmade footballs. Each football is weighed, measured and individually inspected in the final steps of the production process. Only footballs meeting the exact requirements of the NFL are used in games; the others are packed and shipped to be sold in retailers across the country.
 
Wilson’s Sporting Goods football factory is the second largest employer in Ada, behind Ohio Northern University. Factory workers are paid per piece, increasing output and overall factory efficiency. Each step of the production process is completed by hand, with very little heavy machinery.
 
The football making process begins with authentic leather cowhides from various Midwestern states, commonly Iowa or Nebraska. The cowhides are dyed and stamped with traditional pebbling, including the Wilson “W”.
 
“Every Wilson football has small W’s stamped into the leather,” said plant manager Dan Riegle. “We have to do certain things to protect our business and set ourselves apart from our competitors.”  
 
Riegle has been the plant manager for twelve years, and has been with Wilson Sporting Goods for more than thirty years. He’s not alone, the average career of a worker at the Ada factory lasts more than twenty years, with several employees retiring after more than forty years of service.
 
One aspect of the Ada plant’s success and ability to keep their workers steadily employed is its resistance to swings in the economy.
 
“We’ve only seen a small reduction in our retail sales. Eighty percent of what we make is for teams, both NFL and college, and are used in games,” said Riegle.
Wilson Sporting Goods Co. is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.
 
The Super Bowl will be played this Sunday evening at 6 p.m. The matchup is between the Indianapolis Colts (14-2) and the New Orleans Saints (13-3).

Community members to appear on WTLW TV 44

Phil and Sharon Zimmerly will be featured on their reopening of Common Grounds Coffeehouse and Café after it was closed last summer. Bluffton Pastor Jim King, of Ebenezer Mennonite, will be discussing reaching youth in today’s post-modern world. Finally, certified financial counselor, Beth Boehr-Miller will talk about her recently launched new business, Beyond Budgeting after more than 20 years of working in the financial industry.
 
If you would like to see these exciting stories, then tune in to WTLW TV 44’s, Grace for Today program during the week of February 1st through February 3rd at 9 a.m. each morning. Starting on Monday, February 1st Pastor Jim King of Ebenezer Mennonite Church will discuss the insight he gleaned from serving with Youth for Christ for over three decades.
 
On Tuesday, February 2nd, Pastor King will be joined by Common Grounds Coffeehouse and Café, co-owner, Phil Zimmerly to share how the reopening of the Bluffton coffee shop occurred. Finally, on Wednesday, February 3, 2010, Beth Boehr-Miller will share wisdom that she has gleaned throughout her years as a financial counselor and planner.
 
Guest producer and host for these Grace for Today programs is Christina Ryan Claypool, a Bluffton University graduate. The shows will air one time only at 9 a.m. each morning.
 
Check your local TV guide for WTLW TV 44 channel information.

Plaughers return from Haiti

A Bluffton couple has returned from Haiti after an earthquake early last week left the country in a state of devastation.
 
Arliss and Barbara Plaugher, of Bluffton, left for Haiti on January 10 to participate in a VOSH-Ohio mission. VOSH is an acronym for Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity and is comprised of optometrists and others who volunteer their time and services to provide eye care for people in underdeveloped countries all over the world.
 
While in Haiti, 2,256 patients were cared for by the Plaughers and their team of VOSH volunteers.
 
Dr. Darrell Groman, of Bluffton, co-founded VOSH-Ohio in 1987. The basement of Pandora United Methodist Church is the headquarters of the local VOSH movement.
 
Many of the eyeglasses donated come from Lions Clubs. Barbara Plaugher is a former president of the Bluffton Lions Club and she and her husband, Arliss, are both current members.
 
The couple was safe during their time spent in the torn country, but had difficulty finding a way to get home after they completed their mission in Haiti. They were located more than 100 miles away from the capital city of Port-au-Prince and had trouble getting to Port-au-Prince due to blocked roads.
 
Barbara reported that she and Arliss, along with other Americans waiting to get back to the states, stood in various lines for hours at a time. The Bluffton couple took a cargo plane from Haiti that carried news anchors Ann Curry, Brian Williams and Katie Couric.  
 
After being evacuated by the U.S. Air Force cargo plane, the couple returned home late Saturday night, January 16.
 
*Photo above is courtesy of Barbara Plaugher.
 
 
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