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Drinking for a cause
 Saphara Harrell  / 

COOS BAY — Area residents gathered at 7 Devils Brewing Co. on Tuesday afternoon to drink a glass, or two, to help those affected by the Chetco Bar Fire and Hurricane Harvey.

7 Devils Owner Carmen Matthews said the fundraiser was organized with the idea that there are disasters occurring both in Coos Bay's backyard and beyond. That, and it was a fun way for the community to band together.

“Just watching things kind of go down around us we just wanted to make sure that we had a way to help even though we’re not directly in the line of fire or in the disaster area,” Matthews said.

The brewery, usually closed on Tuesdays, was packed Tuesday.

“We wanted to try to get as many people coming out as they're on their way to, hopefully, the Music on the Bay, and give them a place to wet their whistle and maybe get a bite to eat and do a little donation at the same time,” Matthews said.

Rick Cooper, President of North Bend Professional Firefighters, said he helped teach the Oregon National Guardsmen before they were deployed to the Chetco Bar Fire.

After a long day of teaching in Salem, he was talking with a group of guys about the devastation from the fires.

“Coming home I was thinking ‘man what can we do as an association to help those people?’” Cooper said.

So, he got in contact with 7 Devils owners Annie Pollard and Matthews.

The pair was on board with the fundraiser, donating all of the breweries sales to both the United Way of Greater Houston and the Humbold Foundation Victims of the Chetco Bar Fire Fund.

Employees and live bands donated their time as well.

Carly Otis was one of the employees who volunteered her time.

“It was just the right thing to do and I have the time to spare,” Otis said.

Outside, there was also a donation table where patrons could choose which charity they wanted to donate to.

Marcia Hart, Executive Director of United Way of Southwestern Oregon, was manning the donation table.

She said the community is incredibly helpful.

“7 Devils is just awesome that they stepped up,” Hart said.

Matthews said he hopes that the event shows that victims are being supported, even from as far away as Coos Bay.

“These unexpected events really make it hard for people to, as a whole community, bounce back at hopefully a sustainable rate,” Matthews said, “We’re hoping that even though this is just a small fundraiser we're able to show them that they have support even if it’s not right in front of them.”

New teacher is reinvigorating the art program
For the first time in years, art classes at Marshfield are full
 Jillian Ward  / 

COOS BAY – In the art room at Marshfield High School, cabinets are filled with dusty remnants from discontinued jewelry and photography classes.

When art teacher Heidi Ositis took the job, she didn't realize she was walking into a dying program. Now she is bringing it back to life, leading six packed classes. Some of her courses have over 30 students, meanwhile she is still surprised she even got hired.

“I didn't think I was going to get the job when I did my interview,” Ositis remembered. “I didn't ask the right questions and just came back with the attitude that since I'm not going to get it, I'll just be me, and that's when I got it.”

Principal Travis Howard said that after just the first two days of school, kids were clamoring to be in her classes and that she is “reinvigorating the program.”

Hearing that intimidated Ositis.

“That's a high bar to reach and surpass,” she said. “I'm scared, but it's a good fear. We're building something great here.”

After being hired, Ositis went to the school counselor and begged her to stock every art class with as many students possible. If they wanted to drop them later, they could, but it gave her a chance to show them what they'd be missing if they did.

“In my classes I stress self-regulated learning strategies, which means students are encouraged to get up and get their own pencils,” she said. “I want them to have the experience of creating their own time restraints. As they do this, they will become more self-sufficient and build confidence in their art.”

In fact, Ositis is working on an action research project for her grad school thesis at Western Oregon University. The thesis follows the theory that art programs have this aspect to them that can't be found in other classes, which is self-regulation.

“I want to build that into this program so it is a major facet,” she said. “That way when I have an advanced class, these students can be self-sufficient and invested in their own work. These are skills they can take with them everywhere.”

So far, Ositis has noticed students willing to think outside the box and push themselves on projects. Though she is starting everyone out on basic lessons, she plans on increasing the complexities of those projects as the year goes on. Often in art classes, students will repeat courses. For them, she also plans on giving them separate projects that are more challenging to keep them engaged and broaden their perspective on art.

Currently, her classes include basic design, prep, homeroom, creative art, intro to drawing, painting, and ceramics. However, Ositis is also working to bring back Marshfield's AP Art classes.

“We used to have college credit courses through SWOCC (Southwestern Oregon Community College),” she said. “I'm going into the application process now in order to get that college credit for some kids. It will take a couple years to get that done, but it's being worked on.”

Ositis gained her passion for teaching after working with adjudicated youth, but said since working at Marshfield, she finds high school students more challenging.

“High school kids run more of a gambit, and I enjoy the challenge,” she said. “I appreciate that I was hired, that the school is taking a chance on me. I hope I don't disappoint anyone.”

FEMA estimates 25 percent of Florida Keys homes are gone

LOWER MATECUMBE KEY, Fla. — With 25 percent of the homes in the Florida Keys feared destroyed, emergency workers Tuesday rushed to find Hurricane Irma's victims — dead or alive — and deliver food and water to the stricken island chain.

As crews labored to repair the lone highway connecting the Keys, residents of some of the islands closest to Florida's mainland were allowed to return and get their first look at the devastation.

"It's going to be pretty hard for those coming home," said Petrona Hernandez, whose concrete home on Plantation Key with 35-foot walls was unscathed, unlike others a few blocks away. "It's going to be devastating to them."

But because of disrupted phone service and other damage, the full extent of the destruction was still a question mark, more than two days after Irma roared into the Keys with 130 mph winds.

Elsewhere in Florida, life inched closer to normal, with some flights again taking off, many curfews lifted and major theme parks reopening. Cruise ships that extended their voyages and rode out the storm at sea began returning to port with thousands of passengers.

The number of people without electricity in the steamy late-summer heat dropped to 9.5 million — just under half of Florida's population. Utility officials warned it could take 10 days or more for power to be fully restored. About 110,000 people remained in shelters across Florida.

The number of deaths blamed on Irma in Florida climbed to 12, in addition to four in South Carolina and two in Georgia. At least 37 people were killed in the Caribbean.

"We've got a lot of work to do, but everybody's going to come together," Florida Gov. Rick Scott said. "We're going to get this state rebuilt."

In hard-hit Naples, on Florida's southwest coast, more than 300 people stood outside a Publix grocery store in the morning, waiting for it to open.

A manager came to the store's sliding door with occasional progress reports. Once he said that workers were throwing out produce that had gone bad; another time, that they were trying to get the cash registers working.

One man complained loudly that the line had too many gaps. Others shook their heads in frustration at word of another delay.

At the front of the line after a more than two-hour wait, Phill Chirchirillo, 57, said days without electricity and other basics were beginning to wear on people.

"At first it's like, 'We're safe, thank God.' Now they're testy," he said. "The order of the day is to keep people calm."

Irma's rainy remnants, meanwhile, pushed through Alabama and Mississippi after drenching Georgia. Flash-flood watches and warnings were issued across the Southeast.

While nearly all of Florida was engulfed by the 400-mile-wide storm, the Keys — home to about 70,000 people — appeared to be the hardest hit. Drinking water and power were cut off, all three of the islands' hospitals were closed, and the supply of gasoline was extremely limited.

Search-and-rescue teams made their way into the more distant reaches of the Keys, and an aircraft carrier was positioned off Key West to help. Officials said it was not known how many people ignored evacuation orders and stayed behind in the Keys.

Monroe County began setting up shelters and food-and-water distribution points for Irma's victims in the Keys.

Crews also worked to repair two washed-out, 300-foot sections of U.S. 1, the highway that runs through the Keys, and check the safety of the 42 bridges linking the islands.

Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Brock Long said preliminary estimates suggested that 25 percent of the homes in the Keys were destroyed and 65 percent sustained major damage.

"Basically, every house in the Keys was impacted," he said.

In Islamorada, a trailer park was devastated, the homes ripped apart as if by a giant claw. A sewage-like stench hung over the place.

Debris was scattered everywhere, including refrigerators, washers and dryers, a 25-foot fishing boat and a Jacuzzi. Homes were torn open to give a glimpse of their contents, including a bedroom with a small Christmas tree decorated with starfish.

One man and his family came to check on a weekend home and found it destroyed. The sight was too much to bear. The man told his family to get back in the car, and they drove off toward Miami.

In Key Largo, Lisa Storey and her husband said they had yet to be contacted by the power company or by city, county or state officials. As she spoke to a reporter, a helicopter passed overhead.

"That's a beautiful sound, a rescue sound," she said.

Authorities stopped people and checked for documentation such as proof of residency or business ownership before allowing them back into the Upper Keys, including Key Largo, Tavernier and Islamorada.

The Lower Keys — including the chain's most distant and most populous island, Key West, with 27,000 people — were still off-limits, with a roadblock in place where the highway was washed out.

In Lower Matecumbe Key, just south of Islamorada, 57-year-old Donald Garner checked on his houseboat, which had only minor damage. Nearby, three other houseboats were partially sunk. Garner had tied his to mangroves.

"That's the only way to make it," said Garner, who works for a shrimp company.

Although the Keys are studded with mansions and beachfront resorts, about 13 percent of the people live in poverty and could face big obstacles as the cleanup begins.

"People who bag your groceries when you're on vacation — the bus drivers, hotel cleaners, cooks and dishwashers — they're already living beyond paycheck to paycheck," said Stephanie Kaple, who runs an organization that helps the homeless in the Keys.

Marshfield Pioneer Cemetery to join statewide event
Volunteers needed to help with the clean-up
 Jillian Ward  / 

COOS BAY – Volunteers are being sought to help clean up the historic Marshfield Pioneer Cemetery on Friday, Sept. 22.

“We are participating in the first Statewide Historic Cemetery Clean-up,” said Cricket Soules, Pioneer Cemetery volunteer.

The event is being sponsored by SOLVE and the ODPR Historic Cemeteries Commission. Many of these cemeteries are from the 1800s and need help to clear out invasive species, debris, and care for headstones. At the Marshfield Pioneer Cemetery, Soules said attention will particularly be paid on headstones of people involved in the maritime industry or who served during WWI.

“Our new fence is nearing completion too, although we still need to raise some funds to pay for the remaining section,” Soules said, referring to the fence being put up around the cemetery. “The U.S. Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team has been helping with many of the 'heavy lifting' jobs to restore some of the monuments, but we can always use more help as well as additional information that relatives are willing to share.”

The clean-up runs from 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

“At 4:30 p.m., join us to appreciate the progress that has been made in erecting the new fence as we toast the accomplishments of our volunteers and sponsors with root beer floats,” Soules said.

To help finish the new fence, a dedicated account has been set up to take donations at Marshfield High School. To donate, call the school at 541-267-1405.

Advance registration for the clean-up can be done at