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Noelle Barrett

Noelle Barrett

Hi! I'm Noelle Barrett, a staff reporter at the Press And Journal. I started here as an intern in January of 2012, before joining the staff last July.

I spend a lot of my time sitting at my desk, clicking away on my keyboard and talking on the phone-- but the reward of this job is getting to meet new people and hearing about their lives.

I really do believe some of the best stories come from people just like you and me. It's probably why I'm such a big reality TV junkie-- I love those shows about the couponers and cheapskates, inmates and hoarders.

I was born and raised in Girardville, a small town in coal country--yes, I'm a "Skook." Ever since I was a kid, I always asked questions, which suits me well in this job, but drives my friends and family nuts.

I sort of stumbled into the world of journalism during my college years at LVC, where I also played on the rugby team (I was a hooker).

That's enough about me, but I'd love to hear about you--so feel free to comment on my blog posts, or send me an email. :)

How happy are you?

Wednesday, 26 February 2014 00:11

It's a simple question really. How happy are you?

Sometimes to answer that, we have to dig deep--really, really deep. We have to find the inner turmoil, regrets, and perhaps find answers we aren't looking for.

But maybe the key is keeping it simple, finding the little things in life that make us happy, or that at least put a smile on our faces, even if brief. Maybe if there are enough of the small things, it will slowly chip away at the imperfections.

So, I'm coming out of my blogging retirement because my college roommate posted a challenge to her Facebook wall: 100 Happy Days.

The key is for each day, to snap a picture of just one thing that chipped away at the sadness, that gave you a laugh or a joy, that helped forget the bad. It can be big or small.

Sometimes, it's hard to stop and smell the roses, even if we spent the hours in the garden ripping out the weeds. I think the key to this challenge for me, is to take a moment to appreciate things in my life.

So here I go. Starting tomorrow, I will post one thing each day that brings joy to my life, or something that happened that made me smile. It should be easy, right?

You should start too, and get your friends to do the same. Let's share our happiness. Here is the link: http://www.100happydays.com/#what

What defines a community

Sunday, 27 October 2013 23:59

I'm always amazed by the kindness of others, the love people have for friends, family, and complete strangers. Not because I don't think people are good; I believe everyone has some sort of good within them, but because even when people have so little, their compassion can compensate in providing a gift to others.

This job offers plenty of opportunities to meet wonderful people, who do good, because they have a desire to change something, to help someone. B{jcomments on}ut at times, it's hard to feel good as a tragedy unfolds.

So Saturday morning when I woke up as my phone went off, there was a bit of a grumble as I learned about a fire in Middletown earlier that morning. That selfish, momentary thought about having to get back to work was quickly subsided, as I learned of what transpired.

No, not the facts of the blaze, but rather, the actions of others after the Radabaughs home was destroyed. It didn't take long for Beth Stump, a family friend, who considers the Radabaughs like family, to start a group on Facebook, "Rally for the Radabaughs" It also didn't take long for people to come together-- for friends and family, acquaintances and strangers, to give what they could spare, to take the time to organize and come together.

A business donated hygiene products. A woman offered up furniture, after she suffered her own loss, that of her mother. Some offered storage for the items. Many offered clothes, money, and most importantly love and support.

It was enough to stir a lot of emotions, to take the time to feel thankful for what I have, to root through my closets and prepare what I could.

The road to recovery and normalcy will be difficult for the Radabaughs, but they will not be traveling alone.

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

DONATE:
-GiveForward Campaign- Donate funds online by clicking here

Items needed:

-Monetary donations
-Gift Cards
-Clothing
The sizes of clothing needed include:
Men’s: pants- 36x34, 32x34, 32x30, 30x30; shirts- small, medium, large, and 2X; shoes- 10.5, 9, 9.5, 7
Women’s: pants- 14 or 16; shirts- L or XL; shoes- 9
Girls’: Shirts and pants- 10; shoes- 1

DROP-OFF LOCATIONS
Beth Stump is accepting donations at 113 Elmwood Drive, Middletown. Please contact Beth regarding large donations, such as furniture, as several locations are being set up for storage. 
You can reach Beth Stump at 717-343-0245 or  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Her address is: 113 Elmwood Drive, Middletown

OTHER PLACES ACCEPTING DONATIONS
-Royalton and Highspire United Methodist Churches taking donations
-GIANT Foods in Middletown- accepting donations (clothing and monetary) at the service desk
-Middletown Youth Club: Monday, Oct. 28-Wednesday, Oct. 30 from 5:30-7p.m. at the practice field concession stand
-Midtown Pizza will have a donation bin

EVENTS/FUNDRAISERS
-Saturday, Nov. 2: The Blue Room benefit dinner- percentage from food will go to the family
-With Kidz In Mind is selling "Raiders United" t-shirts. $6 from each shirt will go to the family. With Kidz In Mind FB Page

PLEASE comment below with any other fundraisers, events, donation drop-offs, collections, etc.

My Saturday: A "Novel" idea

Sunday, 04 August 2013 23:41

Normally I am pretty busy, so initially I was pretty stoked that I wrote "NOTHING" on my Saturday to-do list, literally.

But how could nothing possibly be entertaining? Well, it's not. So I decided to venture out into Hershey/Hummelstown/Middletown.


FIRST STOP: The Hershey Public Library has its annual book sale starting Saturday (it goes until Wednesday). It was INTENSE, to say the least. I didn't take any pictures for this blog entry, and that's one of the many things I did wrong.

However, I left wanting more books, and I'll probably go back again. And while I'm a book hoarder, I'll probably clear some off my shelf for Middletown's next book sale or Hershey's.

Tips:

1. Don't worry about being early: There were TONS of people, and I mean, like Black Friday chaos, although the people in the library are much more civil. You might be able to avoid crowds going later or not on the first day. Also, the wonderful volunteers (friends of the library) continued to re-stock empty spots and will do so all week.
2. Bring cash or check. Thankfully, I remembered to do this as yes, I have racked up a fine or two that I've had to pay by check or cash.
3. Bring a sturdy shopping bag. They have bags there, but you never know if they'll run out, and my bag was tearing by the time I got to the store
4. Bring a list: This is optional. I didn't do this because I liked stumbling upon little treasures, although many around me had lists. I talked to some people who were completing their series or looking for books for a class or summer reading list.
5. Dress for summer: I was REALLY hot because of all the people. It felt like super summer. Maybe even a fan would be good?
6. Be prepared to wait: Some of the lines were long as people browsed. Also, a couple of people were scanning every DVD and book. Be aware.
7. HAVE FUN! Duh, oh and bring someone with you. I took my mom. We had fun and got a lot of books.

I had a bagful, and some maps and spent $25! {jcomments on}


NEXT STOP: All of that shopping and waiting made me HUNGRY. So, we decided to go to Kuppy's. YUM! I had a hamburger and a cup of chicken corn soup. I decided to try the soup since I wrote a story about Charles Selcher, who has been eating that soup every Saturday for 80 years. I figured if he could eat the same thing for that long, it must be tasty. It was perfect! Corn, chicken, egg, and just awesome! Kuppy's is celebrating their 80 years, so shout out to the family. It was really fast service too!

And finally...On our way back we stopped at the Olde Factory in Hummelstown. I wasn't expecting to find anything, but as soon as I walked in, I saw a vase thing for 3 bucks. I couldn't not get it! Then on the second floor I saw a large wooden bench for 20 bucks. What a steal! I decided to use it as my new coffee table...


So, all in all, a successful and fun morning/afternoon, staying close to home. It definitely beats taking a trip to Walmart.

Bottom line: Support your local businesses. :)

 

 

For my dad on Father's Day

Sunday, 16 June 2013 13:38

I'm going to get a little personal. This is for all the kids (young and old) on Father's Day who lost their dads. This is for all the dads who have lost their children. No one should ever have to feel that pain.

Today is Father's Day. To many, it's a day to take out your dads, and tell them how much you appreciate them through greeting cards and dinners. To others, it's a day to wonder, "where is my dad?" or "why did he leave"? And for some, there is an emptiness, because your dad has died and you can't pick up the phone, visit, or shop for one of those silly cards.

It's a club no one wants to be in, but it's what I'm facing for my third Father's Day. My dad died unexpectedly when I was 21. The first year Father's Day rolled around, it didn't feel real. I woke up thinking, oh I have to call my dad. Then the realization hit that I couldn't, and sometimes there are moments when I think of calling, and I remember.

Remembering he's gone is the hardest, but remembering all of the good makes today so much better. My dad was the funniest person I ever met, with a quick wit I couldn't match. He loved the Green Bay Packers and the New York Mets, and I follow him in that regard (through thick and thin with those Mets, of course haha). His laugh was contagious, literally, and he was so smart. He could win so many of those trivia radio challenges. He loved the outdoors, fishing, and camping.

We weren't always close when I was a child, to be honest, but in the last few years we grew a lot closer, and I'm so thankful for that. Those memories I will cherish, although to be selfish, they surely aren't enough. I think anyone who has lost a parent or a child can completely understand that. Just the feeling of wanting more days.

After my dad died, I learned how much he meant to so many other people, and I also learned how much he truly meant to me. It was comforting and heart wrencing all at the same time. He worked for the US Postal Service, and they brought a truck to his viewing and parked it outside. People shared memories, all positive, most funny, and some inappropriate. But that was my dad.

So, I want to wish my dad a Happy Father's Day. To the first man in my life, and the one who always made me laugh. To the man who accidentally caught a nun's habit on fire with a bunsen burner in school. To the guy who would always let me bet each week with him during football season, even though I was awful. And to the person who always loved me, even when I may not have been worthy of that love.

As a writer, I can honestly say it's impossible for me to do him justice through this post.

Some days I wish we had more moments to share, but I'm so glad there weren't less. Thank you. I love you.

And to those who have their fathers, and to those fathers who have their children. They love you, even when they don't show it. Spend the day together, build memories, laugh. Appreciate the day, the moments because as they say tomorrow really isn't promised.

Happy Father's Day!

 

YOU are our stories, so tell us

Tuesday, 04 June 2013 22:01

I have a favor to ask, and I'll ask you, the reader, at the end of my post.

I didn't start writing because I had an interesting story to tell. Reporters spend their days telling the stories of those around them, the stories of what's happening around them.

The truth is we all have a story, and some of those stories splash our pages each week, but there are so many left to tell. We are a small paper, yes, with a small staff, but I believe we have large hearts, and sincerely do our be on top of what's going on in the communities around us.

There are days when I read a Sound Off or a Facebook post questioning why we missed an event or didn't cover something, or feature someone. Sometimes, sure, there are scheduling conflicts. Many times meetings and events overlap. But sometimes, let's be honest, there are times we just don't know.

Occasionally, I'll see a photo or comment that reminds me I missed an opportunity to highlight something important, or feature someone. We try to have our eyes and ears open for everything, but yes, things get overlooked.

I often wonder, why didn't someone shoot us an email, drop by, pick up the phone-- just let us know something is happening, let us know about someone special.

And then I think of the times when we were contacted about something, given the heads up about a potential story. The person might ask, "do you think this would be interesting?," or, "I just thought I would let you know that..." or "I thought this was neat..."

And many times, it is neat. Because without those tips, I would have never met the Nagys, Hendersons, Dingas, and Stichters--four couples married for 60 years, with wedding anniversaries all in the same month. There would have never been a story about Bill Gaudette, a 92-year-old running a 10K for a charity.

And then there are these-

Kaitlin Nolte, a Middletown girl with epilepsy who trains service dogs for others
Michaelann Dievendorf, a LD history teacher that performed archaeological digs around the world
Kathy Michels, a local artist that paints through the pain of lupus, touching lives with her watercolors
Milo Stackhouse- he raised money (and donated a lot himself) to purchase a wheelchair swing in memory of his wife who loved to swing
The Pacella Family who hold a charity golf tournament in honor of their son

And countless others. Sure we find a lot of our own stuff, but some of our best, my favorite stories bloomed because someone took a moment to say, "hey, this is important."

Some people say that's being lazy, not being a real reporter, because sometimes we don't have to dig. Sometimes we're given a hand, and I think that's okay. Because those stories touched me, changed me, and helped me understand things I never imagined. They made me feel inspired, and if someone else gave me the tip, showed me the door if you will, I'm okay with that.

So, I have a job for you.

I want to hear your thoughts. Whether I see you at meetings, in court rooms, at an event, on the streets, or in the office, or if you just send me an email ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) or please, please, please comment below. I want to know:

What's on your mind? What do you want us to write about, what do you want to see? What did we miss?

Is there someone special in your life with a spectacular story? We all have a story to tell.

Tell us. Speak up. After all, the only stupid questions are the ones never asked, right?

Today, I spent part of my afternoon at the Bikers and Belly Dancers Ride Against Cancer event at Memorial Park in Highspire. It's an annual event that raises money for cancer.  When I got there, the sun was beating down, but there was a lot of shade and entertainment to beat the heat-- BBQ truck, different vendors, and of course, Bikers and Belly Dancers.

Court cases and car crashes can be a bit gloomy, so it's always nice to take a break from hard news. The event was a lot of fun, and all I could think while watching the wrestling matches (yes, they had wrestlers!), belly dancers, and bike stunts, was, I can't believe I get paid to do this.  

It's not the first time I thought that, and probably won't be the last, but something else I find myself asking even more often is, where is everyone?

There was a crowd, but it certainly could have been bigger, and I wish more would have stopped out because it was a BEAUTIFUL DAY. More importantly, it was a beautiful cause, and a free event. I wonder if people find they are too busy, too tired from the work week, or just are unaware of the event.

The unique event brought people from Harrisburg, York, Lancaster, amongst other areas, and some of those people who spent the day supporting the cause, were also supporting local businesses. I think that's definitely a win-win situation.

Summertime brings a ton of different events to the area, and I hope everyone takes advantage of it.

So what did you miss? Wrestlers body slamming, belly dancing, motorcycles popping wheelies. But you'll just have to wait for the story to see ;)

 

 

Learning.

Tuesday, 07 May 2013 22:02

What I enjoy about writing for a community newspaper is getting to know people and learn about their lives. I think people have really special quirks and qualities, skills and stories.

But what I think is really interesting, is how sometimes we learn that maybe we didn't know as much about people as we thought.

I think I realized that today, when I read a story in this week's Press And Journal (no shameless plug here- if you're reading this, you've probably read the paper).

Dan Walmer wrote a story about Joe Harkins, a Middletown senior who has a dream of becoming a classical composer. In a sense, he already is a composer, but I digress from my main point.

Before covering municipal meetings and cops and courts as a local reporter, I spent my days in college slinging french fries as a manager at Nathan's in Hersheypark. There in Area 2, I met Joe Harkins, a hard worker and ambitious employee, who I did speak to from time to time.

I never knew he was interested in music, or how talented his was. But that's because I never asked. It's funny when you spend time with people in your daily lives in a job setting how quickly they become friends and in some instances family. It's also just as easy to be strangers with people you encounter day to day.

I've thought of this before- harboring regret for not learning more about my grandparents and my dad before they passed away. I wonder at times a lot, but we really don't have to wonder. We just have to learn to ask, to talk, and to enjoy the company of those around us.

We should take the time to get to know the people we cross paths with, whether it be someone you see each day, or a stranger you meet along your way.

So what are you waiting for? Strike up a conversation, and tell me about it below.

PS. Shameless plug. Here's the story Dan wrote that led to this post: http://pressandjournal.com/newsx/schools/1086-composing-himself-will-joseph-harkins-become-middletowns-beethoven

Keep on rolling...

Wednesday, 24 April 2013 17:46

I have a confession. I don't know a lot about sports.

Growing up, I played the basics, basketball, baseball, softball, volleyball, but they fizzled out of my life over the years. It wasn't until college, that I fell in love with rugby and played it until I graduated. But I digress, because really, I wanted to talk about my experience with sports in this job.

In December, I started to cover Steel-High basketball (mostly the Lady Rollers), and I watched them triumph week by week. During those few months of the season, I learned a little more about basketball, but I learned a lot more what it’s like to be a community.

I won't be the first or last person to say it, but to outsiders, Steel-High doesn't always have the best reputation. Yet, there is this immense amount of pride that fills the bleachers at sporting events and walks the halls in between classes. I'm not a Roller, but I know about their pride- because I've seen it.

Sure the school and the Lady Rollers have a lot to be proud of… they managed to win states two years in a row, and made it to quarterfinals this year, before they were eliminated by a one-point loss.

But even in that loss, the girls heard from their coaches and their community:

"Keep your head up."

They received hugs and praise. There were tears, plenty of them, but there were so many smiles.

It was that pride kicking in.


 



I wrote a story in February about Malia Tate-DeFreitas, the team’s lead scorer who hit 3,000 points this year, reached 1,000+ this past season alone. She’s the second highest scorer of all time in PA (3,368).

But any pride she had was for the TEAM, not herself.

And I think that’s what it means to be a Roller.

They know what it’s like to be successful, but it’s their sense of community that stands out most.

It’s a feeling I get each time I step into the school, snap a picture in the gym. This small school that encompasses about 2 square miles, has a level of pride cities can’t even reach. It makes me smile, feel warm, and in a way, makes me wish I too, could be a Roller.

A lot of the people may not have much, but they have kindness and heart.

And to me, that sure is a lot. So even in their loss, watching the team and entire Steelton-Highspire community come together, is inspiring.

Maybe we can all go out there and do something kind, be a part of and support our communities, use our hearts.

Then, maybe, we can all be Rollers. Keep on rolling.

A lesson about love

Thursday, 18 April 2013 18:52

The best part about community newspapers is getting to meet people in the different communities we cover. It's a chance to highlight the little things that make people special. A few months back, I wrote a feature story about four couples who learned they not only shared friendships, but they were all married within a month of each other in 1952.

The four couples collectively had 240 years of marriage. Yep, each couple was married 60 years.

Three were married in October of 1952, and one in November the same year. It was a great story, how eight friends (four couples) all found their way to the same town. All four men were military men, and the couples met through their church–Seven Sorrows B.V.M. It was certainly special. I keep using the word special because what happened as I met each couple was special. The story began with this little quirk, something cool–four couples who meet to celebrate their anniversaries together. But that wasn’t the story.

As I sat down with each couple, I learned of how they met. I heard of the struggles they shared, and the love they continued to have after 60 years. There were a few tears, but not many–it was a lot of laughs, some smiles, and most importantly, many memories that were relived. Each couple brought those good times, and even bad times to life. My mind conjured up images of those days…

Like when Herbert and Audra Henderson’s went on their first date and something odd happened. On a hayride, the horse pulling them along died.

Or when Ed Nagy was in the military, separated from his love, Rita. She wrote him letters, and they were what he counted on to get through those days.

Their memories are more than that, they are lessons that we should take with us in our own lives. I know I will.

Frank and Mary Dinga emphasized the importance of cherishing every moment.

“The time went by fast. It just seems like it’s moving faster than it was before,” said Frank. “Maybe we’re moving slower.”

They both laughed.

“Every marriage has its ups and downs, but it’s worth it,” said Mary.

They’ve all experienced loss, sadness, struggles, and happiness. They’ve lived every emotion and feeling, and their memories are everlasting. Most importantly they loved. They loved a lot, and they never stopped loving.

When I asked Richard Stichter what he loved most about his wife Dolores, he sat in silence, before saying he wasn’t sure. Dolores and I laughed, and then, something beautiful happened.

“I don’t know,” he said, pausing for a few minutes. “She’s just my beautiful wife. I’ve loved her since I met her.”
Dolores smiled.

“When I saw you, you were the one. You’ve always been the one . . . It’s just there,” Richard added as he placed his hand over his heart.

It’s something I’ll keep with me and remember forever.