by Eric Stearley
Tuesday, Sept. 2 was a day of celebration and congratulation as Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann visited Wabash for the official “Stellarbration.” The event was a chance for Ellspermann to congratulate Wabash on its Stellar Communities designation and for Mayor Vanlandingham to recognize the community leaders who made it possible.
Originally scheduled to take place on the Honeywell Center Plaza, the event was moved to Legacy Hall due to weather concerns. With nearly 200 in attendance, the event began with a performance of the national anthem by Wabash High School’s Symphonic Voices and an introduction by Mayor Vanlandingham.
“I’ve been trying to think through the last few days how I want to go about doing this. This is what I think is a real Wabash introduction and a real Wabash welcome,” said Mayor Vanlandingham. “First off, our Lieutenant Governor is a wife and a mom, and if I remember right, you’re married to a high school or middle school administrator, so I know she’s intelligent,” Vanlandingham, a former school administrator, joked. “She’s honest and hardworking. She’s tough, but she’s fair. She’s easy to talk to, because she listens. She’s consistent in making decisions. She has a Ph.D. in engineering. I thought, ‘Man, she’s intelligent,’ then I found out it was from Purdue! Only joking.
“She’s no stranger to Wabash. She’s been here many times and is always welcome,” said Mayor Vanlandingham. “What I really like is she’s a champion for small communities, and today, she’s our champion.”
With that, the Lieutenant Governor took the stage and addressed the crowd.
High school soccer coach inducted into Indiana Soccer Hall of Fame
by Kalie Ammons
“I was inducted into the soccer hall of fame on Feb. 8 of this year, and I have to tell you that this is the highest honor I have received in my soccer career,” Coach Olman Sánchez said in his acceptance speech.
Sánchez has not only impacted numerous students he has coached, but is a huge reason that soccer programs exist at all in the Wabash area.
Olman Sánchez grew up in the beautiful Central-American country of Costa Rica.
“In Costa Rica, the main sport is soccer,” said Sánchez in an acceptance speech on Feb. 8. “When I was growing up, soccer was the only thing you could think about. We did not have many facilities - you just got together with a bunch of kids and found a place to kick the ball around and have fun. Soccer balls were hard to find and I could not afford one, so we used whatever was available.”
Sánchez was inducted into the Indiana Soccer Hall of Fame earlier this year. He taught Spanish at North Miami High School for 24 years before retiring, but continues to coach the boy’s soccer team, with 14 seasons already under his belt.
Sánchez compares the soccer of his simple past to the modern sports world.
“In our formal practices, we did not have very many [soccer balls],” he said. “It was difficult, but we survived. Today, it is a different story, in our practices, we provide a ball for each player.”
Sánchez started playing soccer as a child, and joined more serious clubs as he approached his teens.
“When I was about 12 years old I played for a few years on private clubs,” he said. “I remember our team leaving on Sunday mornings from my hometown, sitting on two small benches in the back of a pick-up truck to San José, the capital of Costa Rica, to play against big clubs.”
Sánchez was not necessarily the best player on the field, but to him soccer held a higher meaning.
“I was not a great player at all, but, it was fun,” Sánchez said. “I was proud to be part of the team.
While Sánchez continued to play soccer throughout his life, it was never a serious choice as a career.
“Then, when I was a teenager and in my early twenties, I played more soccer, but it was just for fun,” Sánchez added. “Some of my friends were really good, they were more serious about it, and some of them ended up playing professional soccer -not me, boy! Not me!”
Sánchez recalls one of his fondest memories of soccer in Costa Rica.
“The super star Pelé was playing,” he said. “So I figured out how to be there. Before the game, they turned the lights off of the stadium, and the best player in the world, stood there, in the middle of the field, with his beautiful white uniform and a spotlight, and did all these amazing soccer tricks! During the game he scored a goal or two, and of course they beat the Costa Rican team, but I will never forget this terrific soccer experience!”
After meeting his wife, Thelma, in Costa Rica through a mutual love of music, Sánchez moved with her back to her home town of Lagro and was disappointed to see the lack of interest in soccer.
“I started getting involved in the community, and by the end of the 1970s, with the help of some parents, we decided to do something about it,” he said. “We advertised in the paper about signing up for soccer. One Saturday morning, we set up a table in the middle of a soccer field. That year we had about 80 kids signed up. In our second year the program tripled and then two years later we had several hundred kids playing soccer.”
This program spurred the creation of Wabash’s modern soccer program. Before Wabash had the YMCA, there was a program called Wabash Community Service, which is where Sánchez and others helped to begin the teams.
“Recently I talked to Mr. Bill barrows, YMCA director, and he told me about the wonderful things going on in their soccer programs,” Sánchez said. “According to him, during spring, they have around 350 kids playing soccer. They have around 400 kids playing soccer during fall.”
After setting Wabash County and Huntington County up with soccer teams, Sánchez found another nearby area lacking the world’s most popular sport.
“In 1985, the North Miami community schools hired me as a Spanish teacher,” he said. “And you know what? No soccer up there. I had already gotten involved in Wabash County and in Huntington County, and now, my new challenge was to do something in Miami County. It was not easy. It took 15 years to get the program going. During that time I was really busy with my teaching job, but I did not give up my soccer either.
“So besides my teaching job, I was officiating, plus coaching a soccer traveling team,” Sánchez continued. “In order to promote my soccer program at my school, I invited some of those who wanted to play soccer to join my traveling team. Then, finally, with the help of the parents and some of the administrators, in the year 2000, the school’s board officially approved the boys and girls soccer programs.”
Sánchez emphasizes that creating these programs takes more than one person.
“To me, parents were the key to success, for the following reasons: number one, the bottom line is, no parents, no kids,” Sánchez said jokingly. “Number two, many of them were involved in many of the administrative duties in order to keep the program running. Number three, many of them were coaching a team, plus doing a referee’s job, and number four, some of them were involved in keeping the fields and equipment in good condition. During my years at Wabash, the Wabash community service played a big roll in our great success.”
Sánchez explains the pay offs that come with creating these programs.
“Soccer is my passion and I love what I have been doing for years and years,” he said. “I have had the opportunity to teach hundreds of players of all ages this beautiful sport. I am so pleased to see many of those little ones growing up and playing soccer in colleges-some of them becoming referees, and some of them coaching other kids. To me, as a coach, these are the best rewards, because after years, and years of hard work, now you are able to see the final product of that small seed you planted long, long time ago.”
Sánchez’s passion for soccer goes beyond coaching and playing. He keeps all aspects of soccer in his life, and sees how it affects him daily.
“I guess there is something magical in this sport, because knowing that I am getting older and older every day, soccer keeps me feeling younger, younger, and younger,” he said. “So for years and years, I have been involved in just about everything in this sport: playing, coaching, officiating, attending soccer clinics, summer camps, you name it, and I have to tell you this: I feel real, real, good!”
Sánchez ended his acceptance speech with some advice that we can all strive to live by.
“Do not quit doing the things you love to do, and please keep supporting the soccer programs in Indiana because soccer is growing… growing… and… growing.”
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of nine articles outlining each of the proposed projects included in this year’s Stellar Communities application.
by Eric Stearley
A decade ago, downtown Wabash was lackluster. Many old buildings, which once housed thriving businesses, were vacated and in a state of disrepair.
“When you drive through a town, that first opinion, that first thing you see, is the impression you get, and something had to be done with that in our downtown,” said Mayor Robert Vanlandingham. “We had old buildings, and they were in need of help. Marketplace stepped in and has just done a heck of a job.”
Four years ago, Wabash Marketplace awarded grant money to building owners looking to improve the façades of their buildings. It was a catalyst for the remodeling of Charley Creek Inn, Eagles Theatre, and nearly two-dozen other buildings
Downtown building owner Lisa Gillman took advantage of the program, using the grant as part of larger project to remodel the buildings at 41 and 47 West Market Street. Since completion, two new businesses, Lost Treasures in Tyme and Bash Boutique, have opened. The second floor of both buildings was remodeled, creating two luxury apartments. An open house is scheduled Sept. 25 from 5-8 p.m.
All told, the $174,000 grant total leveraged more than $30 million in downtown investment and brought over 100 jobs to Wabash. With the help of the Stellar Communities designation, Phase 2 will be much bigger.
by Eric Stearley
In true Wabash fashion, three organizations are collaborating to offer a constructive environment with healthy food to students after school. The Access Youth Center, which provides a safe place for kids after school, was recently approved as an off-campus site for Wabash City Schools’ afterschool snack program. In addition, the Wabash Rotary Club recently applied for a grant, which will be used to purchase a commercial freezer and refrigerator to store food at The Access.
“Studies show that the most dangerous time for any kid is the time between when school lets out and mom and dad get home,” said Wabash High School Principal Josh Blossom. “There’s really hardly any supervision at all, and if we can insure that they’re here with people that care about them and getting something to eat, that means they’re going to be safe.”
The Access started an afterschool program almost five years ago. Open from 3:45-5 p.m., students of all ages head toward the downtown building to hang out with friends, play games, get help with homework, and get a snack.
“It started out with us having six to eight kids a day,” said Executive Director Liz Hobbs.
“If we had 10 kids, we thought that was great, and one day we had 15 about three or four months into it, and we thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we’ve got 15 kids in here!” Assistant Director Laura Helm added.
“And now, our two-month average is 38 kids per day, and the six-month average is 31, so we’ve seen a huge increase in that amount of time,” said Hobbs.
Wabash County Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Lance Agness recently announced Schlemmer Brothers Metalworks as the 2014 Business of the Year.
“We recognize their longstanding dedication to Wabash County and their ongoing support and investment within our community,” said Agnes. “Schlemmers’ continued business growth and expansions in recent years has helped enhance our downtown area and benefited many within our region. Please help us celebrate and honor Schlemmer Brothers as our 2014 Business of the Year.”
In 1903, John Schlemmer opened an implement, harness, and buggy business at 108 and 114 West Canal Street. He was joined in the business shortly thereafter by his brother, Jacob. Five years later, two more brothers, Clarence and George, rented the east room on the second floor of the building and opened a sheet metal shop, which they called Schlemmer Brothers. They eventually bought the implement, harness, and buggy business from John and Jacob and added a line of hardware.
In 1931, George became ill and Clarence bought his half of the business. Clarence’s son, Elton, came on board in 1936 and served as salesman for a new line of appliances that had been added to the retail mix, including washers, dryers, refrigerators, and small appliances.
In 1945, two more of Clarence’s sons, Byron and Sam, returned to Wabash, and with their brother Elton, bought the business from their father. The three brothers operated the business together until 1955, when Sam sold his one-third interest to Byron and Elton in order to open Sam’s Sport Shop on Market Street in Wabash.