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Oklahoma pandemic progress continues

OKLAHOMA CITY – The number of Oklahoma hospital patients with COVID-19 continues to sink. State health officials say under 13,000 patients with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 are hospitalized as of Saturday. That’s 407 fewer than on Friday. State health officials report 779 new coronavirus cases, pushing the Oklahoma pandemic total closer to 424,000. There also were 59 new COVID-19 deaths reported in Oklahoma, bringing the state’s pandemic death toll to almost 4,400. Johns Hopkins University researchers say the state’s average number of daily new cases over the past two weeks has fallen to 773.3, a 48.8% decrease.

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Failed attempt at shutting down Planned Parenthood costs Missouri

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A failed bid to shut down Missouri’s lone abortion provider will cost the state $140,000. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Administration Hearing Commissioner Sreenivasa Rao Dandamudi granted on Friday the request by Planned Parenthood for legal fees as well as $6,600 spent on an expert witness. A four-day trial in October 2019 highlighted the state’s efforts to close the facility by denying it a license to operate based on allegations it had botched abortions. Planned Parenthood contended the state picked a handful of difficult cases out of thousands of otherwise successful abortions.

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Downtown Joplin Alliance seeks volunteers for cleanup effort

JOPLIN, Mo. – The Downtown Joplin Alliance is gearing up to clean up downtown Joplin and they need your help.

The 2021 Downtown Clean Team will be heading out to beautify the downtown area on Tuesday, March 2nd. The DJA is only asking for an hour of your time to help keep downtown looking nice.

You can click here for more information on how you can get involved.

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Honey Badger Gym makes donation to Leffen Center for Autism

JOPLIN, Mo. — He was the Joplin boy who was an inspiration to many.

Jaxon Buerge lost his life in an accident in 2018. But Friday a check from the Honey Badger Gym was donated to the Bill and Virginia Leffen Center for Autism in his honor.

The gym was Jaxson’s second home. He was autistic and it was here where he practiced social skills and learned to be active in an environment away from home. After his death, his parents sent staff members Honey Badger Gym hoodies to honor their son.

This small act of kindness prompted the staff, as well as friends, to make donations in his honor. Eventually $9,000 dollars was raised.

Edie Spera – Leffen Center for Autism Clinical Director, said, “This helps our families be able to pay for those additional supports and receive those services within those communities settings. Also it’ll go to help other community activities to be able to provide those supports in the community.”

Edie Spera adds it’s more than the check, but the impact that Jaxon and the Honey Badger Gym has in their lives.

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Baxter Springs man gives back to his community

BAXTER SPRINGS, Ks. — A Baxter Springs man is taking a creative approach to help his community.

Over the next month, Insurance Agent Todd Webb plans to donate his earnings on new policies to local charities. At first, it will start at 50%, but if he manages to set up 10 or more new policies – he plans to increase the donation to 100%. Webb wanted to use this as an opportunity to help charities who might have been affected by the pandemic.

Todd Webb, Insurance Agent, said, “The last year has been difficult for a lot of these groups, so I just wanted to bring attention to those and also do something that can means on giving to them as well and maybe draw attention to them from the greater community that there’s still a need for these organizations.”

Proceeds will go towards Dream Big Little One, The Foster Closet Cooperative, and local food pantries.

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SWMO elementary finds creative way to keep kids reading

ANDERSON, Mo. — An elementary school has a new way to keep its students engaged with reading.

Anderson Elementary Librarian Kariann Abbott thought of having a vending machine that dispenses books. With the approval of the principal, they were able to use school’s funds and place the machine in the cafeteria. Students can earn special tokens to use on the vending machine if they meet a goal, pass an assignment, or just have good behavior. Books range from early-readers to 5th grade level.

Kariann Abbott, Librarian, said, “We had a lot of positive feed back whenever we shared it on Facebook, and I know some parents told me how excited their student was whenever it opened up and they could start earning tokens to get to use it.”

The school will continue to use the vending machine in future reading assignments and literature programs.

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Neosho School District breaks ground on end zone facility

NEOSHO, Mo. — Neosho School District officials broke ground, Friday, on a rather large project. One that comes with a $5-million price tag.

Billy Snow, Vice President, La-Z-Boy Midwest, said, “We just we just love giving back to the commuity where our employees come from and this was a really good project for us to be able to do that.”

La-z-Boy Midwest is one of the donors that has contributed to the new Neosho School District End Zone Facility. The company donated $400,000 for the 43,000 square foot building.

“We just work with our foundation and let them know what we wanted to do here and how we wanted to help support our school district.”

It will include an outdoor and indoor facility built on top of the former baseball field.

Jim Cummins, Superintendent, said, “it will have restrooms and locker space, consessions for our football games and then the indoor space will serve band, cheer, dance, and our athletic teams in the off seasons when they need a place inside.”

There will also be additions to the indoor space.

“The indoor space will also have weight rooms, film room, storage space for the equipment, and then on the concession side will have football locker rooms, as well as track locker rooms inside.”

The new facility will keep students protected from the harsh weather.

“Our band practices in all kinds of weather right out on Neosho Boulevard so when you add the traffic and the weather and the soggy ground, but who knows when a car will go off of the roads. So there’s a safety issue there. Our football team practice is there, this will just serve so many purposes. We lose so many practice days from inclement weather. This will give us another option.

Complete construction of the building is set for the Fall of 2021.

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Galena student's artwork to hang in the United Nations building in New York City

GALENA, Ks. — Its always an accomplishment for an artist to be recognized for their work. But when the recognition involves both national and international recognition – well, then you know you’ve got something special.

Dakota Bennett, Galena Middle School Student, said, “Like I still wake up and I’m like, ‘I’m thinking this is a dream,’ because this is just crazy.”

Dakota Bennett is your typical middle school student, but she’s accomplished something huge. With competition from 600,000 young artists worldwide, she’s one of 23 Merit Winners in the Lions Club International Peace Poster Contest. Now her art is heading to a very special spot in New York City.

Danielle Cruse, Galena Art Teacher, said, “To think that her work, that a seventh grade student at Galena schools created is going to be hanging in the United Nations.”

This years theme is Peace Through Service. From there she wanted to honor those people who put their lives on the line, including someone close to her heart.

“My dad was in military,” said Bennett.

“He came back before I was born, but he still tells me stories about what he did.”

Dakota is also honoring public servants in the community.

Steve Billington, Galena Lions Club President, said, “I myself am a combat vet. Numerous people in our group are veterans and first responders, things like that, and we were so happy about it because all we do for our community is try to bring peace and understand and teach the kids what peace really is.”

And while it may be a month away, she hopes to honor them as a grand prize winner.

“The next step would be winning the entire competition which would be mind blowing,” said Bennett.

Until then, she’ll continue painting in galena, with a new found spirit.

“It’s really cool to be able to see that my art is important.”