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Bellwood photographer helps grieving families

The loss of a child, either midway through pregnancy or shortly after being born, can be devastating. But, Angie Wellman is trying to aid with the grieving process through a photography outlet.

The Bellwood resident volunteers for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, a nonprofit organization providing free heirloom portraits for families whose child has either passed away at or near birth. Co-founded by Sandy Puc in 2005, the organization has thousands of volunteer photographers working in more than 40 countries, according to Puc’s website.

It was almost 10 years ago that Wellman was introduced to the organization while attending a workshop led by Puc. The Bellwood resident runs a photography studio, New World Designs. Although most of her work revolves around weddings and high school senior portraits, it was Puc’s workshop that inspired Wellman to volunteer with the program. To date, she has provided photos for 15 families through the organization.

Wellman said when a family loses a child, typically they don’t think of taking any photos of the baby. But Wellman said having these portraits can help a family remember their lost child and heal.

“You're not thinking of that when it’s happening, that's the last thing on your mind,” Wellman said about the photos. “So I put myself in their position and kind of think for them.”

Right after a child is either stillborn or discovered to not have much time to live, the hospital contacts a regional NILMDTS representative upon the family’s approval. That person then reaches out to a volunteer photographer, such as Wellman.

“It’s emotional. You feel for that family that just lost a baby or is going to lose a baby, Wellman said. "You have to put yourself in their position and think of how hard that is and how they’re probably not going to want to smile in a picture, and how these are probably the only pictures they’re going to have (of that child)."

Driving to the hospital, Wellman said she mentally prepares herself.

“You have to hold it together during the session,” Wellman said. “Usually when I leave is when I break down.”

The family can request to have the photo of the baby either with or without the parents. All photos are edited to make the baby look flawless and free from any bruising, wounds, or sores they may have. The photos are in black and white to avoid any harsh coloring the baby may have, Wellman said.

Many of the families post these photos online during the anniversary of the child’s death.

“They’re so appreciative and they're so happy because this is the only photos they have of their baby,” Wellman said. “They can look back and see that picture and remember what their baby looked liked.”

Wellman’s husband, Kenny Wellman, said doing this kind of work can put a strain on many, but helping others is just what his Angie is all about.

“I think it's something she needs to be commended for, I don’t think it's for everyone," Kenny Wellman said. “Not everyone is up for that, but at the same time she feels like there’s sort of a calling for that.”

About two months ago, Wellman gave birth to her third child. The baby was born five weeks prematurely, and there was grave concern over whether the child would survive. With her daughter pulling through, Wellman said the experience gave her some new insight.

“Being that close to losing ours kind of put me in their position a little more,” Wellman said.

And with this new found perspective, Wellman plans to continue volunteering with NILMDTS for as long as she can.

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at

Work continues on St. Mary's Early Learning Center

Parents in Butler County will soon have new child care options.

The Holy Family Early Learning Center will be located on the St. Mary’s Catholic School campus in David City and provide child care for kids as young as 6-weeks to pre-kindergarteners. Construction began in August and Chief Administration Officer The Rev. Sean Timmerman said officials hope to have it finished by July 2019.

“We see this as a great opportunity to have a (child care) facility right next to our preschool,” Timmerman said. “We want this to be an early childhood development center, but also with our Catholic faith formation included in that, too. So we want it to be a nice stepping stone for children as they go from Holy Family to St. Mary’s School then up here to Aquinas.”

St. Mary’s principal Sarah Zook said the center will have four rooms, each one separately dedicated to infants, toddlers, preschool and pre-kindergarten-age children. Currently, St. Mary’s is using a building on its campus as a daycare center for 12 children. The new facility will have a maximum capacity of 80 students. Zook said with 20 students on a waiting list along with the current 12, the new center will immediately see use upon completion.

“One of the big things is just the ability to have all your kids in one place,” Zook said about the center and its proximity to St. Mary's. “To be able to do one drop for all your kids is just really convenient.”

The property, located on a corner lot on North Sixth and J streets, was donated to the school by its previous owners. The house previously residing on the property was torn down to make way for construction, Timmerman said. Once completed, St. Mary’s will possibly hire two additional staff members to help run the center, but Zook said it will depend on the number of students enrolled.

The lack of childcare options in the county is what Zook said encouraged the school to begin work on the project.

“That’s what prompted it, the community was desperately short of childcare, especially drop-in child care,” Zook said.“That need kind of percolated up over the last two years.”

Gary Meister Construction of David City was brought on as the general contractor for the project. The center will have modern security systems in place in order to protect students. A storm shelter will be built into the building in the case of an emergency, Zook said.

The current estimated cost of the project is about $600,000. Timmerman said all funds for the project come from private fundraising events and donations, with nothing coming out of the school’s budget. A $2,500 grant was recently awarded from The Butler County Area Foundation to help purchase playground equipment for the center.

Aquinas High School’s Building Trades course is assisting with the construction of the center. Since 1999, the program has had students learn hands-on skills by building houses that were sold to members of the community to recuperate the construction costs. Students are now focusing their energy on helping with different components of the Learning Center.

The daycare center is scheduled to be open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Timmerman said this facility will not only provide education and child care but also instill Catholic values.

“We want this to be more than a glorified day care center,” Timmerman said. “It’s a great way for us to help parents in the Catholic formation of their children and also for a lot of early childhood development things as well.”

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at

Located at 595 S. Fourth St. in David City, the clinic serves clients from as far as Lincoln. Right now, Schawang said he’s currently in the process opening a second clinic in Ulysses that would be open two days a week. 

Aquinas' Creighton Redler attempts to score an escape against Scotus' Jackson Neville in a dual on Dec. 13. 

Questions in David City: Concerns raised over union and water plant

David City Water/Wastewater Supervisor Travis Hays resigned from his position, according to David City government officials during their Dec. 12 council meeting.

Water/Sewer Operator Aaron Gustin presented the council with a list of recommendations from himself along with fellow plant employees C.J Novak and Nathan Styskal on how to move forward in Hays' absence.

“Obviously, this is going to leave a hole with Mr. Hays leaving,” Gustin said. “This is going to leave the water plant and the wastewater plant in a bit, not necessarily a bind, but a situation that will have to be resolved in terms of operations management.”

Mayor Alan Zavodny said he appreciated the effort, adding the council needs some time to make a plan for how to fill the position. Gustin said he hoped the presented list of ideas would help answer any questions the council had in regard to the plant moving forward.

“What I would want to do is avoid a lull in any of the things that we do. We need to make sure we’re on top of our reporting, of our testing, of any of those things,” Gustin said. “We know that we have the licenses, the skills, the talent to move forward. After Travis Hays had submitted his letter of resignation, I didn't want there to be any questions for us from you guys to go unanswered. I didn’t want anything out there to be in limbo.”

Not only was Hays a plant supervisor, but he served as one of two representatives of the city employee labor union. The group formed during the summer and is affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 1536, as previously reported by The Banner-Press. Negotiations between the city and the union are currently ongoing.

This fact was brought up by Zavodny while the council discussed approving a new health insurance plan for city employees. Zavodny said this was mutually agreed upon by both him and the union.

“In our discussion with the union rep, this is basically what we agreed upon,” Zavodny said. “That’s where we find ourselves, this is our compromise.”

The council unanimously voted to approve the plan. It also unanimously approved hiring Jerry L. Pigsley of Woods and Aitken LLP to represent the city in negotiations with the union.

Later during the meeting, the role of the city's Employee Committee was put into question. The group made a request for the council to allow city employees to have all of Christmas Eve off. This request has been made and approved on several occasions throughout the years, but this time there was a discussion among council members if the request had to come from the union now that it was in place. Ward 1 Council Member Skip Trowbridge confirmed all requests coming from city employees for the council had to come from the union.

“I don’t believe that we’re properly prepared to take action on this request by the Employee Committee,” Trowbridge said. “The relationship with our employees has changed significantly as of late.”

Street Department Employee Matthew Asche, who was present to represent the committee, said to the council that the union did not speak for all city employees.

“Not all the employees are agreeing with going with the union,” Asche said. 

Zavodny said the union had to be the one to make the request to the council.

“The union representative did tell us that he represents everybody, whether they’re union or not,” Zavodny said. “I hate that we are in this position, I mean that sincerely.”

City Attorney James Egr said from his understanding that the city could not grant such a request unless it came from the union.

“Once the union is in place, that’s who has to go in and negotiate that,” Egr said.

Trowbridge said he wondered if the Employee Committee had a purpose with the union now in place. Asche agreed with his sentiment. The council eventually decided to vote upon the request under the assumption the union would not object to employees getting time off. All voted in favor except for Trowbridge.

Eric Schucht is a reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at