Tuesday, March 31, 2020

INL announces Equal by 30 campaign

Idaho National Laboratory announced today it has signed on to Equal by 30, a campaign where public and private sector organizations work toward equal pay, equal leadership and equal opportunities for women in the clean energy sector by 2030.

Twelve nations, including the United States, and over 100 public and private sector organizations from around the world have signed on to the Equal by 30 campaign. INL is the first national laboratory to join the campaign.

The laboratory has been taking concrete steps toward being an inclusive employer of choice for several years. It was recognized as a Top Employer by Professional Woman’s Magazine in 2019 and joined the Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy initiative earlier this year. Signing on to the Equal by 30 campaign is yet another step in the right direction.

“At INL, we are working hard to be more inclusive and diversify our staff, and we are absolutely committed to ending gender inequality in the workplace,” said Dr. Mark Peters, INL director.

Equal by 30 asks organizations, companies and governments to endorse high-level principles, then commit to measurable goals to accelerate the participation of women in the clean energy sector and close the gender gap.

INL already performs regular pay equity assessments and allows flexible working hours and telecommuting arrangements that help to support family-related responsibilities.

In addition, as part of its commitment to the initiative, INL will provide inclusive hiring training for all managers, continue to conduct laboratory-wide unconscious bias and inclusive leadership training to increase psychological safety and build trust, monitor INL’s inclusive culture and develop actions plans via a biennial survey, and continue to support the Idaho Women in Nuclear (IWIN) chapter of U.S. Women in Nuclear.

“Joining Equal by 30 is an affirmation of INL’s strong commitment to gender equality: It is the right thing to do! A diverse workforce helps ensure that INL is fully prepared to serve the national and international communities as we work to resolve the world’s pressing energy and security challenges,” said Dr. Marianne Walck, INL deputy laboratory director for Science and Technology and chief research officer.

Southeastern Idaho Public Health offers COVID-19 guidelines, strategies for coping

COVID-19 is a serious health threat, and the situation is evolving daily. The risk varies between communities, but given the increasing number of cases in southeast Idaho, the risk for community spread is increasing.

Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in a specific area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected. “Community spread is often a trigger to begin implementing new strategies tailored to local circumstances that slow the spread of COVID-19,” said
Maggie Mann, Southeastern Idaho Public Health District Director. Some areas are reporting
transmission of the virus due to travel or exposure to a known case of someone with the virus. Other
areas of Idaho such as Blaine and Ada counties are reporting community spread.

A COVID-19 outbreak could potentially last for a long time in your community. Depending on the
severity of the outbreak, your community may recommend community actions designed to help keep
people healthy, reduce exposure to COVID-19, and slow the spread of the disease.

Creating a household plan can help protect your health and the health of those you care about in the
event of an outbreak of COVID-19 in your community. Here is what you can do to prepare your family in case the virus spreads in your community:
  • Talk with the people who need to be included in your family plan.
  • Plan ways to care for those who might be at greater risk for serious complications.
    Know where to find local information on COVID-19 cases such as coronavirus.idaho.gov or
    Following the Governor’s Stay-Home Order
  • Establish ways to communicate with others (family, friends, co-workers and neighbors
  • Plan for potential changes in your workplace.
  • Discuss sick-leave policies and telework options.
  • Identify aid organizations in your community.
“As COVID-19, continues to spread around Idaho we are urging our communities to actively prepare
for the potential spread of coronavirus. We know that the spread of COVID-19 will occur. However,
everyone can do their part to slow the rate at which this virus is spread,” said Mann.

Continue practicing everyday preventative actions such as:
  • Limiting close contact with others as much as possible (about 6 feet)
  • Avoiding people who are sick
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and
  • water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Stay home if you are sick
  • Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough or sneeze.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs
  • using a disinfecting solution.
For more information, visit www.siphidaho.org or cdc.gov; call Southeastern Idaho Public Health’s
hotline at 208.234.5875; or watch SIPH’s Facebook Live segment every Monday – Friday at 11 a.m.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Bank of Idaho, INL help establish Community Commitment Fund

Jeff Newgard, Bank of Idaho CEO
Bank of Idaho and Idaho National Laboratory (INL), in connection with local non-profit leaders and public health team members, have initiated a public- community commitment fund in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

As of Tuesday, any person can visit a local Bank of Idaho branch and donate to the East Idaho Community Commitment Fund. This fund has been set up to help non-profit agencies and community partners who need emergency, rapid funding to continue operations, and help individuals in need or solve immediate issues caused by coronavirus (COVID-19). Agencies are asking individuals to consider donating to the fund. Any amount helps and will immediately be distributed to local non-profits with urgent community needs.

In coordinated efforts, Bank of Idaho and INL have both pledged $5,000 to kick off the fund and help local non-profits with immediate needs. “This Community Commitment Fund will provide the necessary immediate support, resources, and funding for nonprofits to continue serving our communities respectively during this very difficult time," said Monica Bitrick, Idaho Falls Family YMCA CEO and community liaison representing non-profits in east Idaho from Ashton to American Falls. "We truly appreciate the leadership and commitment from Bank of Idaho and Idaho National Laboratory to provide the very generous lead donations for the East Idaho Community Fund. We hope additional business and community leaders will consider supporting our non-profit community during this difficult time.”
Mark Peters, INL director

“The coronavirus is creating some very interesting times," said Jeff Newgard, Bank of Idaho President and CEO. "Much of the activity and response we are seeing to the spread is unprecedented. I’ve been in touch with many local officials and non-profit teams and the coordination, planning and preparedness throughout Idaho has been awe inspiring. We are committed to the communities we serve. After all, we are the bank with a heart.”

"At INL, we are committed to our communities, and proud to join a partnership that will help those in need as a result of disruptions caused by the COVID-19 virus,” said Mark Peters, INL Laboratory Director. “I encourage everyone to contribute what they can, while we protect our most vulnerable community members through social distancing. We appreciate our partners coming together. Looking out for each other, we will get through this, and make sure no eastern Idahoans are left behind."

A committee of business and non-profit leaders has been created to allocate funds appropriately to those with the greatest need. Agency leaders include Karen Baker, Museum of Idaho; Christine Wiersema, Idaho Falls and Bonneville County United Way; Karen Lansing, Habitat for Humanity; Misty Benjamin, INL Community Relations; and Tyler Kraupp, Bank of Idaho.

You can donate to the fund online or drive though any local Bank of Idaho branch and mention you’d like to make a deposit to the Community Commitment Fund. To view where the dollars are going and to learn more about the community partners involved, visit bankofidaho.com/community.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Mahana Fresh franchise planned for Idaho Falls

Although you may think you're never going out to eat again, so here's something that might remind you that life goes on and things might actually return to normal someday: Mahana Fresh, a healthy fast-casual chain based in Florida, is coming to Idaho Falls.

The building permit filed with the Idaho Falls Building Department shows plans for a remodel at 429 South Utah Avenue. The owner is listed as MCMM Utah LLC, and the permit applicant is Morgan Construction.

Mahana Fresh offers three sizes of bowls with customers choosing from fresh ingredients in a service line. There are bases like basmati rice, spinach salad or sweet potato noodles; veggies such as oven-roasted mushrooms, honey sriracha Brussels sprouts or Buffalo cauliflower; proteins ranging from Key West chicken or Hawaiian steak to ahi tuna or miso roasted tofu. Sauces are citrus ginger, creamy wasabi or coconut sweet potato, among others and topping it all are roasted almonds, avocado or cheeses.

The Big Mahana bowl that comes with two bases, two proteins, two veggies and choice of sauce costs $9.99. The Mahana bowl for $8.29 includes one base, one protein, two veggies and choice of sauce. There’s also a Lil Mahana option for $6.99. An upgrade to steak or tuna costs $1.50. For dessert, Mahana Fresh provides zucchini brownies, chocolate chip cookies or snickerdoodles.

Based in Sarasota, the company has been offering franchises since 2018. The company's website shows locations in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas and Colorado. The Idaho Falls location will be the first in Idaho.

5 Generations of Service | Brian Wood, Wood Funeral Home

Brian Wood
Although Jon Wood did not want his children to feel pressured to go into the family business, his son, Brian, was drawn to it. “As a kid the only thing I knew about death was what I learned in scary zombie movies,” Brian said. “It wasn't until I was going to college that I started to help on Saturdays.” It only took a few weeks of helping out before he knew that he wanted to be a part of what his family had done for generations.

Brian trained in mortuary science in Arizona after completing a business degree locally. He was able to do an apprenticeship within the family business before going into the program. The emphasis within the program was very science-based, but there was also a portion of the program that was focused on counseling and grief support. “The counseling base is so important, to be able to guide people and help them through [grief],” he said.

Navigating death and dying might seem like it would be too hard for many people to do. “One generation after another has seen the great blessings and the great character it has built,” Brian said about why his family has been a part of this work for so long. “A lot of people wonder if we get desensitized to death, but that is not a good explanation of what happens to us. Death to us is as common as birth is to a nurse that works in the birth center. It's something that we see every day, but each family we serve we realize this is a new experience for them. We go in each time and assure them that we will care for their loved one like they are a part of our own family. We make sure they know we care,” Brian said. “Our staff is here to serve and care for them.”

Although you'd think that being in the funeral business would be so sad and hard, Brian feels differently about it. “Something about being in this business your body naturally learns how to compartmentalize the stress. Over time we have a place to tuck it and we can go home at night and be a dad or a husband. Depression and anxiety are important to recognize. We go through some really hard things,” Brian said. “Because we are so involved in serving mankind you'll see that funeral directors are a happier people. I don't feel the depression or the sadness, I feel the blessings. It's more of a feeling of being grateful to help other families. I have so much growth through this and it brings a lot of happiness.”

Feeling pride in the work he does through the service he gives to the community helps him to love the work he does. He admits that he feels the pressure of being the torch holder of the fifth generation but comes to work everyday knowing that he's here to serve others and no matter the outcome. Self-doubt is normal, and he feels you just have to do the best you can and move forward.

Just two years ago, Wood Funeral Home added a building to their Ammon campus that houses the crematorium. Brian is proud to be able to offer similar services to the loved ones of those being cremated as they do for those having burial, something he feels had been lacking in the community.

Brian has a son who, at age 11, is already talking about going into the family business. Wood Funeral Home very well may be working on the sixth generation that will continue to navigate the citizens of east Idaho through some of the hardest times of their life with dignity and respect.

For more information on Wood Funeral Home, please visit their site at https://www.woodfuneralhome.com/

Monday, March 16, 2020

Accidental Influencer | Mindy Rees, Hope on the Horizon

Mindy Rees
“I never intended on sharing anything,” says Mindy Rees. “For three years, the only people who knew he was sick were family and close neighbors.” After deciding to seek answers at the Mayo Clinic, Mindy finally posted on social media that she needed the prayers of others to help them find a diagnosis. That's when the flood gates opened and people were interested in their story and how they could help.

Soon after her husband Wyatt's diagnosis of ALS (amytrophic lateral sclerosis), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's Diesease, Mindy said she would post short but powerful updates, and it was at that time a friend encouraged her to start a blog. Blogging was popular then. Her friend said, “every time you post on your page it means a lot and people would like to know more.” Mindy said, “I realized that I liked to write and it was helping me to get all of these feelings out.”

The December after starting her blog in 2017, East Idaho News visited them with a surprise from Secret Santa. They told the story and then directed people to the blog who were interested in learning more about their story and about ALS. Mindy felt like it was perfect timing as the blog was already set up and going when they suddenly had the spotlight directed toward their story.

“There's nothing special about us,” Mindy Rees says as she relates the journey of her family and their challenges with ALS. “I started realizing it was helping other people. You don't realize how other people are going through something hard and saying ‘if she can do it, I can do it.'” Mindy explained that the blog helped her to visualize her blessings and think about all the positive in her challenging circumstances.

Mindy has been positive throughout this journey, “I'm naturally positive, but I saw so many other people going through things and so I never thought ‘why me'. I knew my own capabilities and I knew I could do it. This [disease] doesn't make Wyatt any less of a husband and father. I was determined that I would try to make things as normal as I could.”

Wyatt did not have a diagnosis for three years and there was no resources to help him. “I had to figure it out,” she says, “there was no one there to help us.” Mindy feels that her life experiences living on a dairy farm and being a gymnast taught her tenacity and problem-solving. “I've always had the attitude of if I'm going to do this I've got to figure it out.” That problem solving was what got her through when she had to get him in and out of cars and showers and other things they had to problem solve along the way. “I realized what I was capable of doing, I can do this.” Once they received his official diagnosis things got easier, resources were there and adaptive equipment gave him some freedom.

Despite the challenges of being a caregiver Mindy never considered placing Wyatt in a care center. “We all have our own threshold of physical, emotional capabilities of caring for somebody. My kids were little and even though they didn't have their dad in a normal way, they could run in after school. Everything we did was in my bedroom. I hope for my kids they saw that taking care of each other was how [we] loved each other,” she explained. The kids helped with caregiving activities including suctioning, feeding, and keeping blankets on him.

“The thing that gets you down the most is when you start feeling like you're the only one that knows what this is like. Even when you are at your lowest point or when you are going through something hard you have to be strong enough to still reach out and find somebody. I still had to reach out and find my tribe,” she said about others going through trials. “I had to find people I could relate to. You form a relationship and you get support.” This is another thing that the blog did for her, it helped her find her tribe. “When he passed away it was a sigh of relief. I'm not going to let this keep dragging me down. Yes, he's gone. Yes, it's hard. But he's better now,” she said.

Mindy recognizes that she made plenty of mistakes being a caregiver especially with not taking care of herself. Looking back she's not sure she'd do it differently. She does admit that it took a toll on her and she could have been more emotionally healthy but there are no regrets in how she took care of him. “I know I did my very best. I did all that I could do.” She sees how every situation is different and each caregiver has to do what is best for them and their loved ones.

Mindy's future includes nursing school, something she's always wanted to do even before Wyatt got sick and writing a book. Mindy starts school in the fall. She's recently started on the book. “I think it will help me in my healing.”

Mindy recognizes that ALS will always be a part of her life. During this journey, she has met many people and has great empathy for other's struggles. “I hope it makes me a better person. To not judge, just love people for who they are.” She believes that the lesson in this journey is to be a more loving and compassionate person and to teach her kids that although life isn't fair you shouldn't give up and there is always hope on the horizon.


You can find Mindy's blog at https://hopeonthehorizon6.wordpress.com/.

To learn more about ALS visit the ALS Association website at http://www.alsa.org/.

Ball Ventures announces plan for paid sick leave

In accordance with recommendations released Friday by Idaho Governor Brad Little, Ball Ventures, LLC, affiliates and partners announce plans to extend paid sick leave to employees who may contract COVID-19. Although Idaho does not require employers to pay workers who take a sick day, Ball Ventures management agrees with the recommendation from the governor and will take steps to help employees who may contract COVID-19 or employees taking time off to care for family members who contract the virus.

“The health and safety of our employees is our number one priority. They are our most valuable asset,” said Ball Ventures CEO Cortney Liddiard. “With the uncertainty of this unprecedented week, we hope to lessen the stress on our employees by extending paid sick leave to those who may contract COVID-19, as well as to employees who may need to care for ill family members without the additional concern about their next paycheck. As the governor says, it’s just good business practice.”

The announcement included affiliates and valued partners, including Tommy Ahlquist, CEO of Ball Ventures Ahlquist Development; Rusty Townsend, CEO of B&T Hospitality Management Services; Mario Hernandez, CEO Teton Auto Group; Ed Castledine, CEO of Saltzer Health; Rory Williams, COO of Sunterra Springs; and Mike Vickers, CEO of Rexburg Motor Sports. Collectively Ball Ventures, affiliates and partners employ over 1,200 people in Idaho and more than 650 people outside the state.

No employees of Ball Ventures or affiliated companies have tested positive for the virus, but the company is taking this opportunity to be proactive and plan various scenarios that may lessen the
impact on communities in which it does business. This proactive planning includes implementing a work-from-home policy for employees for whom their job duties permit, in order to contribute to containment efforts.