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Pink walls represent her victory over cancer

COLUMBUS — The walls inside Imagine That Scrapbooking and Gifts are unapologetically pink.

Owner Audra Jedlicka, who lives near Schuyler, said the color was selected partly because of a marketing plan.

The other reason is even more important.

“I chose pink because I am still alive,” Jedlicka said.

In 2006, Jedlicka went to her annual check-up at the doctor's office. After a full exam, the doctor didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.

When he got to the door to exit the room, he turned back to look at Jedlicka and hesitated.

“He said he wanted me to come back for a mammogram in two weeks,” Jedlicka said. “He just wanted to make absolute sure I was OK. That split-second decision saved my life."

During the mammogram, a lump was discovered in her breast.

“It wasn’t a very big spot, but the cancer was aggressive,” Jedlicka said. “When they caught it I was in stage 2. I had no history of cancer in my family and I was in my 30s. It made no sense for me to get it at all.”

She didn’t waste any time after hearing the diagnosis. Rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatment were administered.

“It was exactly as they all say,” Jedlicka said. “I was sicker than sick and all my hair fell out — and hair is just a big thing for us girls. It was just mortifying. The whole thing of it.

"Cancer is a bad word. That really is the best way to describe it. It runs rampant, it’s non-discriminative, and it doesn’t care who you are or what your age is.”

Jedlicka went through the normal mental stages of trauma.

“First there’s that, ‘Why me?'" she said. “Then comes being mad about it and the imminent anger. But then comes the fighter part. I knew I had to fight with every being of myself. I looked at my kids and I thought, I want to be part of their weddings. That’s when I went into battle.”

Five days a week for four weeks, Jedlicka made the trek to Norfolk for radiation.

“Those drives were exhausting,” she said. “On top of being sicker than sick and my hair falling out, there was also my sense of taste. Nothing tasted good to me. It was like I had metal in my mouth all the time. But with all that goes on with cancer and treating it, you just have to go through it.”

As a woman of God, she used her strong faith to guide her through the treatment process.

“I know that God has a plan for everybody,” Jedlicka said. “And if He wanted to take me at that time, that was just the hand I was going to be dealt. I didn’t want to disrespect that. Turns out He had other plans for me.”

Eleven years later, Jedlicka is still going to yearly exams. The fear of the cancer’s return still haunts her, but she also knows she has the strength to beat it.

Jedlicka said the support communities give to breast cancer survivors and patients is amazing. After all, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“It is a great cause to fund research and hope to find a cure,” she said. “But people need to remember each patient is always thinking of the death sentence they were given. People need to understand their fear. It’s the time when those patients need to figure out what they are going to do.”

Jedlicka learned what she wanted to do after her treatment was over.

“I have always loved to scrapbook,” she said. “So since God gave me more time, I opened this shop to make sure I’m doing something I love. The walls were painted pink to remind myself that I am still alive, that breast cancer did not win.”

Jedlicka said she lives every day a little differently now and is beyond grateful for each one.

“If there is anything I’d like to share, it is this,” Jedlicka said. “If you’re fighting cancer or anything else, please keep believing. You have to keep believing. If you don’t, then you are the first battle to fight.”

Library starts new chapter under White

Schuyler Public Library has started a new chapter under Jenny White, who replaces MeMe Smith as library director.

White, a Kearney native, recently moved back to the United States after spending eight years in Hong Kong, where she worked for the American International School as a librarian and gathered many new ideas and programs that could be used in Schuyler.

“It all depends on what Schuyler wants,” White said. “I love book clubs, reading programs, study groups and all the different kinds of resources we can have. I would just love to see that all come together for Schuyler."

White calls one of her plans for the local library “one seed of an idea."

“We have a huge collection of cake pans,” White said. “I think it would be a lot of fun to have cake decorating classes. Especially at the new location, I mean we would have so much more space to be able to do it.”

Reading has always been a part of her life. Every year her mother would ask White to join the library’s summer reading program. Through reading, White said, she was able to learn there's much more to life than what lies within the Kearney city limits.

“There’s this one quote by Mason Cooley,” White said. “It goes like, ‘Books give us some place to be when we have to stay where we are,' and I think that sums it up succinctly. Reading can take you anywhere from outer space to the ocean. It can take you anywhere you’d like, whether you’re an old reader or a young reader.”

As far as Hong Kong goes, White found it to be interesting.

“In some ways it was very modern and urban,” White said. “In other ways it was very behind the times. But it was pretty easy for a foreigner to get around. It was also very bilingual — every sign there was in Cantonese and English, so that made it much easier to go about your day.”

The native wildlife certainly threw her for a loop. Beetles the size of a fist, millipedes and gargantuan spiders never failed to keep White on her toes. And the bugs weren’t the only animals to alarm her.

“I remember I was waiting on the bus to get into town one day,” White said. “Out of the corner of my eye I see this thing moving around and I thought it was a dog. I turned around and saw a monkey digging through the garbage."

Along with her transition back into American life, White has also been finding her flow as the new library director. She's excited about the new library building that's expected to open next year along Colfax Street and hopes to bring more people to the library to learn, grow and become an even closer community.

“Stop by and introduce yourself,” White said. “I’m new to town.”

But she's not unfamiliar with it.

Her husband Bill is a Schuyler native. His job took the couple to Hong Kong and back to his hometown.

Church, rural community come together for harvest supper

LEIGH — St. Paul’s Lutheran Church sits prominently atop a hill among the rolling fields of corn and soybeans in northern Platte County.

It’s been there for more than 130 years.

Each year when the leaves begin to change color and those crops turn from green to gold, the tiny, white church becomes the hub of activity for this rural community.

On the second Sunday in October, people come from miles around for the annual harvest supper, a tradition started decades ago that remains just as strong today.

“The community looks forward to this every year,” said Jean Wendt, who has been in charge of organizing the meal for about a decade.

Wendt joined the church southwest of Leigh around 1997, when she and her husband Bruce, a lifelong member at St. Paul’s Lutheran, moved from Columbus to his family’s farm about 2 miles down the road.

She’s part of a new generation of church members working alongside their children and grandchildren to ensure the annual gathering keeps going.

On Sunday, a group of dedicated volunteers packed the small kitchen in the church basement to feed a hungry crowd that started filtering in around 4:30 p.m.

It takes a group effort from the roughly 100 members of the congregation to prepare and serve a meal for 200 to 250 people, counting takeout orders. That includes those who make food ahead of time at home, a crew that started cooking around 2 p.m. Sunday at the church, young children who bus tables and husbands working along an assembly line formed to wash dishes.

“It pretty much takes the whole congregation. Everybody does something,” said Denise McAfee, who’s known for her gravy-making skills.

She’s been helping out at the harvest supper since she was young, when the church’s Ladies Aid group still ran the event.

“I started out scraping plates when I was probably 7 years old,” McAfee said. “I’ve been at it a while.”

Nobody is quite sure when the dinner first started — a good guess is sometime during the 1950s — but they all agree on what’s kept it going.

“Tradition,” McAfee said.

“It brings us all together,” added Karen Hillen while working alongside McAfee in the kitchen on Sunday evening.

The turkey, pork loin, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy and an assortment of homemade salads and desserts get people in the door, and the conversation with friends, neighbors and fellow church members keeps them there well after the meal is finished.

“They just don’t eat and leave,” said Wendt.

The Rev. Marsha Jark-Swain, who is in her 15th year with St. Paul’s Lutheran, called the event the “glue” that brings the congregation and rural community together.

“It gives them an opportunity to see the church,” she said of the non-members who come from Columbus, Creston, Leigh and other area towns to enjoy the meal.

The supper is also a fundraiser for the church. It replaced the food stand the Ladies Aid used to operate each year at the Platte County Fair.

Norene Kuhr, who was joined at Sunday’s supper by a niece from Wisner, was part of the Ladies Aid when it still organized the event.

At age 80, she still makes food for the meal at home but stopped working in the church kitchen two years ago.

She said the harvest supper brings a “togetherness” to the area.

“They come once and they usually come back,” said Kuhr, one of four women who still meet as part of a quilting group that formed when the Ladies Aid dissolved.

Kuhr knows times are changing and people seem busier now, which makes it increasingly difficult to fill the pews for church services, but there’s one Sunday in October that will continue to bring people to St. Paul’s Lutheran.

“It’s an event like this that helps us remain,” she said.

Local youths take swing at volleyball

Schuyler Elementary School has a new sports program for its students.

Assistant Principal Darin Kovar noticed there was a number of students at the elementary level who wanted to learn how to play volleyball. This gave him an idea.

“We already have a strong youth soccer and wrestling program,” Kovar said. “So I just wanted to fill in the gaps with youth football and volleyball. So far, the idea has been working well.”

This school year marks the first season of youth volleyball.

Four grade levels are participating on two teams with 30 players total. One team is fifth- and sixth-graders with two coaches and another includes third- and fourth-graders with three coaches.

Susana Carias coaches the third- and fourth-graders.

“I played volleyball in middle and high school,” she said. “Now I volunteer coach for my son’s basketball team, but volleyball is my zone."

"This is already a great place for kids to be. I want to encourage parents to get their kids more into different activities. Kids desire to explore and there is no language barrier," Carias added.

Before the middle school field house opened late last year, a lack of space limited youth volleyball's ability to take off.

“There were 65 middle school girls who wanted to go out for volleyball last year,” Kovar said. “But because there wasn’t enough space we would have to bus them to the elementary school.”

Since the program is only in its first year, Kovar and the coaches are still making adjustments as time goes on.

Kovar said Schuyler Community Schools is also looking to start youth tackle and flag football programs.

Youth basketball begins this winter, allowing students from kindergarten to sixth grade to participate.

“We are all working to develop youth sports for students as they move up to middle school and high school,” Kovar said.