Monthly Archives: November 2013

Dinner And A Murder 2013

Dinner2013

If you are looking for something to do this holiday season that will make you happy, stimulate your mind, satisfy your appetite and help your community, get yourself tickets to the Dinner And A Murder production of “The Speakeasier,” sort of a sequel to the 2007 show “The Speakeasy.” The show is the main fundraiser for OlyCAP’s RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Program) and, as its name implies, is a dinner theater event. This year will mark the seventh production and will be held at the Oscar Erickson Building at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds on two evenings – December 6th & 7th at 6PM.

The first Dinner and a Murder production was held in 2006 and it has been a winter favorite every year since. Many local businesses take advantage of the season and reserve whole table for safe and sane holiday parties. Families come from across the Peninsula to enjoy a gourmet meal and a live “whodunit” complete with audience participation. And, there are several forms of participation from working with other guests at your table to solve the mystery to having someone arrested by the Dinner And A Murder police and enjoying the fun as they attempt to raise bail among the attendees.

More important than the food and fun, Dinner and a Murder helps support an important program for OlyCAP and for all of us on the Peninsula. The Retired and Senior Volunteer Program is a very active effort that offers area seniors an opportunity for fulfilling volunteer positions and provides area nonprofits and government agencies with experienced and dedicated help. RSVP participants work at area Chambers of Commerce supporting tourism and local business, assist local law enforcement and courts and help staff museums and tourism venues. Many RSVP volunteers are involved in social service, health care and non-profit agencies. They even help working at many events around the peninsula.

Year after year the RSVP folks provide between 60,000 and 70,000 hours of volunteer service. According to Independent Sector – an organization dedicated to promoting volunteerism – the state of Washington values volunteer time at the rate of $22.69 an hour so the RSVP volunteers on the peninsula provide us with about $1.3 million dollars of service every year.

There is another important part of OlyCAP’s program that deserves mention. The RSVP program also supports Vet Connect which is an outreach program for Veteran on the Olympic Peninsula. Vet Connect volunteers make proactive phone calls to local vets to checking on their needs and to help connect them to resources such as counseling, legal aid, education resources and employment opportunities. Volunteers even meet directly with veterans just to listen and to help them make community connections.

Like other OlyCAP programs, RSVP is suffering from the contraction in funding. It is a terrific program that helps all of us; it seems worth it for the rest of us to go out to dinner and show them a little support.

Thanksgiving on the Peninsula: Then and Now

happytday

Thanksgiving is “late” this year and that has retailers fretting over the length of the official holiday shopping season. It’s not the first time. Thanksgiving had been celebrated by local decision since the 17th century and was first celebrated as a national holiday on Thursday November 26, 1789 by proclamation of none other than George Washington. Following this first Thanksgiving, the holiday relapsed to an on again-off again status till it was revived by President Abraham Lincoln who established the last Thursday of November as the official Thanksgiving Day. From that time forward, Presidents would proclaim Thanksgiving Day each year.

The “last Thursday” tradition held on for nearly 75 years until 1939 when the last Thursday would fall on November 30. On the tail end of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt, was urged by businessmen to move Thanksgiving up to provide more shopping days in the Christmas season. FDR did just that, moving Thanksgiving to November 23, 1939. The change wrought havoc. Calendars were incorrect, holidays, Thanksgiving football games and other associated plans had to be revised or renamed and some politicians referred to November 23 as “Franksgiving.” Twenty-three states followed FDR; twenty three others declared for the November 30 date and two states decided to observe both days. The controversy wasn’t resolved until 1941 when congress evidently took a long enough break from World War II to set Thanksgiving as the fourth Thursday of November. Calendrically speaking, the 28th is now the latest day Thanksgiving can occur.

Our forbearers here on the Peninsula a century ago celebrated much as we do today – with family, friends and football and an occasional outburst. The Port Townsend Morning Leader of Friday, November 25, 1910 reported that Thanksgiving had “Passed Off Quietly” and remarked on the fine weather and excellent attendance at church services. A companion story noted that Christmas presents could now be forwarded to be certain of delivery to the east by Christmas. For those concerned about spoiling the Christmas surprise, the paper reported on the activities of C.R. McIntosh – agent for the N.P. Express Company – who had “plasters” that read “Do Not Open Until Christmas” made up to affix to packages.

The Leader’s declaration of a quiet holiday required a bit of revision in the November 27 edition as two soldiers from Fort Worden had been involved in a row on Thanksgiving night that resulted in one being hit over the head with a beer bottle. The assailant was fined $13 dollars – about $300 today – and the peace of Thanksgiving was restored.

The big news for Thanksgiving Day 1911 – November 30 – was the impending struggle between rival high school football teams from Port Townsend and Quilcene. The story was important enough to merit inches in the news section and a larger story on the Society Page, including the probable line-up. The news story noted the game would begin early because the “Quilcene boys wanted to get home before nightfall” and characterized the match as between the “light and fast” Port Townsend team versus a “heavy” Quilcene side. Tickets for the match were 15 cents for students and 25 cents for adults – about $3.75 and $6 respectively in 2013 dollars. For the record, the December 2 edition of the Leader had the outcome of the game as its headline story – 15-0 in favor of the Port Townsend team. It also appears that the Port Townsend High School team at the time was known as the Specials.

Rotary-Lunch-Skit-11-19-13-026-150x150

Rotary Club of Port Townsend Fundraises for Polio Eradication

The Halls Were Alive with the Sound of Music! Last Tuesday several members of the Rotary Club of Port Townsend performed a musical skit with a Sound of Music theme. However, the words and message were changed to support a different goal – raising money to help eradicate polio. This was a closed performance and was highly entertaining to the invitees, their fellow Rotarians. Thanks in part to the carefully selected actors, it appears the Rotary Club exceeded their fundraising goal for the Polio Plus program. The proceeds will be forwarded to Rotary International.

Although the Rotary Club chose a fun-spirited fundraising theme, polio is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease. There is no cure for polio, but there are safe and effective vaccines. The strategy to eradicate polio is therefore based on preventing infection by immunizing every child until transmission stops and the world is polio-free.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is a public-private partnership led by national governments and spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Its goal is to eradicate polio worldwide. The following information comes from the Global Polio Eradication Initiative website.

The development of effective vaccines to prevent paralytic polio was one of the major medical breakthroughs of the 20th century. With the development and evaluation of bivalent oral polio vaccine in 2009, there are now five different vaccines available to stop polio transmission.

If enough people in a community are immunized, the virus will be deprived of susceptible hosts and will die out. High levels of vaccination coverage must be maintained to stop transmission and prevent outbreaks occurring.

Over $10 billion in financial contributions has been invested in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative since its launch in 1988. These contributions have reduced the incidence of polio by 99% and laid the foundations for an infrastructure to be used beyond polio eradication. Rotary International has contributed $1 billion to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

The Port Townsend Rotary is a great group of people who have fun together while working to support and contribute to many important causes. Homer Smith Insurance has been involved with this Club for decades. In this latest fundraiser, Homer was one of the courageous souls who dressed up in shorts and knee socks and sang his heart out as a Von Trapp child. The Rotary Club of Port Townsend has recently raised over $4000 for Rotary International’s Polio Plus program.

For a look at the actors and highlights of the Port Townsend Rotary Club’s show, click on the link below!

ROTARY CLUB POLIO PLUS FUNDRAISING SKIT PHOTO ALBUM

Medicare Open Enrollment – Watch For Scams

We are right in the middle of the Medicare open enrollment period, a time when seniors should be taking a look at their coverage needs and assessing the different alternatives available. If you are a senior and you want to add or change coverage, you have until December 7 to make your decisions. It is also a time to be cautious because open season for enrollment is also open season for the folks who prey on seniors.

This year is more than a little hectic for seniors. First, the introduction of the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – has created some confusion, and not only for seniors. We need to be really clear when addressing seniors who are on, or eligible for, Medicare: the Health Insurance Marketplace that is so much in the news today is not for people with Medicare. If you are on Medicare, you do not need to enroll in a Marketplace plan, period. You can shop and compare Medicare drug plans and supplemental insurance now and while the government shutdown put a delay in releasing some drug plan information, that is over now and plan information has been updated. You can shop around for the plans that best fit your health needs and budget.

There are a lot of resources available to seniors to help sort through coverage options. The official government website is Medicare.gov and you can go there to get accurate information about costs and coverage available here on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. You can also call 1.800.MEDICARE (800.633.4227) for help finding out more about your coverage options or get counseling assistance from State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) – in Washington, the SHIP program is operated through the Washington Insurance Commissioner’s Office.

Seniors have to keep a sharp lookout for scammers during Medicare open enrollment season because there are plenty of unscrupulous people with inventive strategies for using the confusion and concern about insurance to cheat seniors. Scams generally have aim at either cheating seniors out of money directly or cheating them out of the information necessary to steal their identity – and sometimes both.

One prevalent scam involves new or replacement Medicare cards. A caller tells you they are from Medicare and explains that they are updating Medicare cards with barcodes. They need to verify your Medicare number and may even require a credit card number to cover the replacement costs of the new card. Another scam designed to collect money directly is an offer of services. The caller says they are from Medicare and you are eligible for some health care item such as a diabetic meter or blood pressure monitor. They need your Medicare number for verification and a credit card number to cover shipping. Identity theft scams often center around refunds – either from premiums paid or for claims. The scammers promise a refund and all the information they need is your date of birth, Social Security number, and bank account and Medicare numbers.

So, how do you stay clear of these sorts of scams? First, you need to know that no one from Medicare will ever call you unless you have requested the call. If anyone calls you and says they are from Medicare, just hang up. The same is true for “Medicare sounding” names like the National Medical Office, Medicare National Office and National Medicare. As a rule, unsolicited calls related to health insurance or Medicare is almost always a scam unless it is from your own insurance carrier. If you didn’t call them first, then don’t talk to them. You should also know that no official Medicare related organization is allowed to give a gift or incentive or pay for dinner at a Medicare meeting in order to encourage someone to enroll or sign up in any Medicare related program.

Don’t give personal information to anyone who shows up at your home uninvited or makes an unsolicited phone call to sell you Medicare-related products or services – it is almost certainly a scam. As a general practice, you should never give out your Medicare and Social Security numbers, credit card and banking account numbers and your birth date. Finally, if you are a Medicare recipient, always review your Medicare bills to make sure the charges or claims relate to you. If you see a suspicious charge or do not recognize a claim, call Medicare (1.800.633.4277) and let them know.

model-group-at-end-7best-150x150

Jefferson Healthcare Hospital Auxiliary Fashion Show and Luncheon

The Elks Lodge was lively Tuesday afternoon, as the Jefferson Healthcare Hospital Auxiliary held a fashion show and membership meeting in the building.  Volunteers served as models, waiters and organizers, providing entertainment and lunch for the attendees.  Local clothing stores provided winter fashions for the models.

The Jefferson Healthcare Hospital Auxiliary is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to raise funds to help support better health care services for the local community.  The money they raise goes toward the purchase of new equipment for departments in the hospital. They also provide scholarships for local students who plan to work in a health-related field.  The Auxiliary holds a variety of fundraising events, but three major ways that they raise funds are by operating the hospital gift shop, by hosting an annual historic homes tour, and through memorial donations.

Homer Smith Insurance was well-represented at the Auxiliary’s fashion show and membership meeting, with Jim Maupin serving as waiter and Cynthia McNulty modeling clothes from the Maricee store.  It was a fun event and Cynthia captured some of the highlights (see photos in link below).

JEFFERSON HEALTHCARE HOSPITAL AUXILIARY FASHION SHOW PHOTO ALBUM

Some Obamacare Essentials

The past few weeks have seen a real political tempest stirring up around President Obama’s promise that “If you like your private health insurance plan, you can keep your plan.” While we don’t want to touch the political aspects of presidential promises with a ten-foot pole, we can try to shed some light on the circumstances that will make some people’s loss of their insurance inevitable – and even why that may not necessarily be a bad thing.

Health insurance has been regulated by the states and has not been the province of the federal government. Most states – Washington included – have not had a standard definition of what constitutes health insurance. If an insurance company offered it for sale and the state allowed it to be sold, it was insurance. Over time that has led the market to offer a broad range of benefits under the heading of health insurance. Many of these, some even offered by major companies, have been termed “junk health insurance” because the benefits were woefully insufficient in today’s medical care system. Plans were offered at low cost that was so limited they covered only $1000 of hospital costs and $2000 of outpatient costs per year. When the Affordable Care Act was passed, it laid down some basic requirements which essentially set a national “floor level” for what constitutes health insurance. Many individual health insurance policies will not meet these standards.

By January 1, 2014, any new plan sold to individuals or small groups must cover the following benefits:

  • Ambulatory patient services –care received without being admitted to a hospital – for example, at a clinic, physician’s office or same-day surgery center.
  • Emergency services – where failure to treat could lead to serious disability or death.
  • Hospitalization – in-patient care like room charges, fees for care from doctors and nurses and tests and drugs administered during while you are there.
  • Maternity and newborn care given to women during pregnancy and labor and care for newborns
  • Mental health and substance use services to evaluate, diagnose and treat mental health and substance abuse issues.
  • Prescription drugs prescribed to treat an illness, like an infection, or an ongoing condition, like high blood pressure.
  • Rehabilitative services and devices to help people with injuries, disabilities or chronic conditions.
  • Laboratory services to help diagnose a medical condition or monitor treatment.
  • Preventive and wellness services like routine physicals, screening, and immunizations.
  • Chronic disease management to manage an ongoing condition, like asthma or diabetes.
  • Pediatric services, including oral and vision care – the same services, but applied to kids.

In addition, coverage cannot be denied because of preexisting conditions and coverage cannot be cancelled because of illness or errors in applications. Coverage can be cancelled in the case of non-payment of premiums or serious misrepresentation on application.

The Affordable Care Act will certainly result in the cancellation of some people’s insurance policies – even if people like them – contrary to the President’s promise. Many of those policies will be cancelled because they cannot meet the standard of comprehensive coverage required.

A large number of people will benefit from this new set of standards. Around three quarters of US adults have at least one ambulatory care visit each year and over 20% visit an emergency room. The average ER visit expenses now run over $1200. Nearly 10% of us will be hospitalized as an inpatient every year at an average cost of over $9,000. Almost all of us will use prescription drugs in the course of a year and while many of us don’t foresee the need for rehabilitative services, the fact is, accidents, stroke, sports injuries and a host of other problem have the potential to afflict all of us.

Areas such as maternity benefits and mental health or substance abuse issues may look more problematic to an individual. These benefits certainly drive insurance costs higher and some individuals may be reasonably certain they are not needed. However, we can understand the benefits of improving access to mental health treatments for all when we look at some of the recent killing sprees that have involved people with mental health issues.

It is certainly true that some individuals will lose coverage they may have desired to keep; it is also the case that some people may be required to pay for coverage they do not need in an individual underwriting sense. Some of these individuals will pay more for new insurance than they paid before. The hope is that in the long run having a larger pool of people to share the underwriting risks embodied in these new insurance essentials will mean lower costs for most people and lower health care costs in general as providers do not have to adjust their costs to account for uncompensated care.

Saving Energy and Saving Neighbors – Part 2 Home Heating

In the first posting in this series, we suggested you could help folks in need in Jefferson County by donating to the Jefferson County PUD’s Power Boost Program. Funds donated through that program will supplement federal LIHEAP (Low Income Energy Assistance Program) funds when more are allocated. In this posting we will offer you some tips on how to save energy and dollars so you can afford to contribute a bit to the Power Boost Program.

Heating and cooling are the largest energy expenditure for most U.S. households and are over 50% of the total energy use in a typical U.S. home. The things you can do as a householder to reduce your energy costs fall in two broad categories – putting heat in more effectively or efficiently and preventing heat from getting out. We will look at options and opportunities in both these areas.

On the more effective heating end, start with the simple and inexpensive. Perform a preseason check and maintenance on your heating system. A professional service may be helpful in understanding the condition of your heating system and reveal some potential enhancements and for sure if you have steam heat or a boiler you will want to have it professionally checked. If your system involves forced hot air, replace filters and consider cleaning your air ducts to make sure you are getting good air flow. If you have a hot water or steam system, clean the heat exchanger and check for visible leaks. There is a good reference at www.ENERGY.GOV for steps to take to maintain your equipment. Wood burning heaters and pellet stoves should be cleaned thoroughly. Clean out ash regularly, clean the flue vent and brush out the inside with a wire brush. Fireplace chimneys should be checked for creosote buildup and cleaned regularly – for safety and efficiency. You can take advantage of solar power even if you don’t have solar panels. Make sure the curtains are open on all south-facing windows during the day. That will allow sunlight to heat your home naturally; close curtains at night or in bad weather to help reduce heat loss.

Consider the state of your heating system. An upgrade may make sense for many people who have older, less efficient systems. There are new high efficiency systems in all heating areas. Here in Washington State on the Olympic Peninsula our winter temperatures are well suited to heat pump systems and there are systems that can be installed in older homes without the necessity of installing ductwork.

Supplementary heating in the form of fireplace inserts, wood burning stoves and pellet stoves can pay dividends. Modern wood burning stoves, fireplace inserts and pellet stoves are very heat efficient and relatively inexpensive to install. If you use a fireplace as a supplemental heating system, consider installing tempered glass doors and a heat-air exchange system that blows warmed air back into the room. At a minimum, you can buy grates made of metal tubing that help draw cool room air into the fireplace and circulate warm air back into the room.

Even with an efficient heating system, make sure it is tied to a programmable thermostat to give you heat when you need it and savings when you don’t. Good programmable thermostats can be had for less than $100 and can be attached to any thermostatically controlled heating system, even pellet stoves. Turning your thermostat back 10° to 15° for eight hours while you are asleep or out of the house can save as much as 10% a year on your heating bill.

Once you have the heat in your house as efficiently as you can, the next consideration is trying to keep it there as long as possible.

First, plug all the air leaks you can find. Typically these will be around doors and windows, utility cut-throughs for pipes, gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings, and unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets. Caulk or weatherstrip leaky doors and windows and use caulk or insulation around other leaks as appropriate. .

Draperies can be a significant help in insulating. Even conventional draperies can reduce heat loss from a warm room up to 10% when drawn and if they are sealed at both sides and overlapped in the center the reduction in heat loss can be as high as 25%. Insulating draperies will improve the reduction in heat loss even more.

If you have a fireplace, keep the damper closed unless a fire is burning and if you don’t use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue. An open damper is a turbocharged leak – warm air from the room goes right up the chimney. When you use the fireplace a lot of heat goes right up the chimney and that may affect other rooms in the house. Open a window in the room with the fireplace by an inch or so to provide for air circulation, then close doors leading into the room to preserve heat in the remainder of the house.

Storm windows or insulating panels added to a single-pane window can reduce heat loss by as much as 50%. In addition to storm windows, there are many widow insulation kits available at your local hardware store that use clear plastic sheet on a frame or tape system. These are generally very low cost ways to insulate windows and can provide substantial reduction in heat loss.

If you have specific questions about savings resulting from particular heating system upgrades or insulating strategies, there are a number of energy calculators HERE.

City-Council-toasting3-150x150

Sequim’s 100 Year Anniversary – Centennial Finale Dinner

A crowd of more than 150 shared cake and toasted the city with champagne (led by Sequim’s Mayor, City Manager and City Council members in photo above) Saturday night at the Centennial Finale Dinner in Club Seven at the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe’s casino.  Sequim was officially incorporated as a city Oct. 31, 1913, and the Centennial Finale Dinner concluded a full year of celebrations marking the 100th anniversary.

Various events throughout the year in Sequim included a breakfast and kick-off dinner, special recognition during May’s Irrigation Festival, a Fourth of July Picnic, and a Street Dance on July fifth.  The “Street Dance of the Century” was held on Sequim Avenue and was a huge success!  We (Homer and Cynthia of Homer Smith Insurance) attended and had a great time.

We were also able to enjoy the festivities at the Centennial Finale Dinner last weekend.  Speeches were given by Ken Hayes, Ron Allen, Derek Kilmer and Karen Kusnek-Reese on topics from what it was like in Sequim 100 years ago to the present and looking toward the future, as well as the centennial year recap and acknowledgements.  We especially enjoyed the company and conversation at our table with Jim McEntire, Cherie Kidd and Bob Forsman (see photos in link below).

We would like to thank the City of Sequim, the Centennial Committee members, and the volunteers and sponsors for the wonderful Finale Dinner and all of the events of this past Centennial year.

SEQUIM CENTENNIAL FINALE DINNER PHOTO ALBUM

Saving Energy and Saving Our Neighbors – Part 1

A recent editorial in the Port Townsend Leader reminded us that winter brings more than one concern about energy. Homeowners and renters alike are concerned about ways to save energy – and money – during the heating season here. There are plenty of things a household can do to save energy, ranging from behavioral changes and simple home maintenance procedures to larger projects and even the adoption of new technologies. The Leader article pointed out a second concern; many of our neighbors will not be able to afford their energy bills during the coming heating season.

With a little effort from each of us, we may be able to save enough on our own household heating to be able to help others in our community and that is a great additional incentive. Think of it as your own personal carbon offset program – you can reduce your carbon footprint while helping your neighbors get enough carbon to stay warm.

The federal Low-Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is designed to help low income people stay warm in the winter by helping them pay their heating bills. The amount of money available each year varies, but for the last several years it has been going down. In 2012, Jefferson and Clallam Counties received an allocation of about $1.3 million. The 2013 allocation looks like it could be right around $1 million.  In Jefferson County, OlyCAP administers the LIHEAP program, making sure that applicants are qualified and approving payments to heating utility companies. While Puget Sound Energy supplied electricity here, they made grants for energy assistance through the PSE Warm Fund. These grants supplement the federal dollars and added at least another $200,000 a year or so to the amount of energy assistance available. With our new energy provider, the Jefferson County Public Utility District, there has not been time yet to build up the sort of reserves that allow contributions to the OlyCAP program. As it stands today, OlyCAP’s LIHEAP program is out of funds and, even if and when The Other Washington allocates additional funding the total available here may be far less than in years past. As the Leader editorial pointed out, we can help our neighbors by donating even a small amount to the PUD to support energy assistance.

Please consider calling the PUD at 360-385-5800 and asking them to bill you a little bit extra every month to support the Power Boost Program. It only takes a few minutes of your time and a few dollars from each of us to make a major difference.

In our next installment, we will look at some things you can do to save energy in your household – hopefully enough to pay for the contribution to the Power Boost Program. We have some energy saving tips and we can point you to some calculators that will help you estimate the value of your cost savings.

Below-office-3-150x150

Halloween in Downtown Port Townsend

Over 1000 costumed people of all ages gathered at Water and Adams Streets last Thursday for the Downtown Trick-or-Treat and Costume Parade.  The parade began at 4pm just outside our office at Homer Smith Insurance.  It proceeded down Water Street for several blocks, where it dissipated as the kids reversed course and circled back to pay trick-or-treat visits to the downtown merchants.

This is one of our favorite downtown events, and we look forward to it every year.  We were able to capture lots of photos, and some of us commented that the parade line-up reminded us of a scene out of Where’s Waldo.  Take a look at the photo album, and see if you can find (and tag) yourself!

2013 DOWNTOWN PORT TOWNSEND HALLOWEEN PHOTO ALBUM