Rhonda Miller

Reporter

Rhonda Miller joined WKU Public Radio in 2015.  She has worked as Gulf Coast reporter for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where she won Associated Press, Edward R. Murrow and Green Eyeshade awards for stories on dead sea turtles, health and legal issues arising from the 2010 BP oil spill and homeless veterans.

She has worked at Rhode Island Public Radio,  as an intern at WVTF Public Radio in Roanoke, Virginia, and at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Rhonda’s freelance work called Writing Into Sound includes stories for Voice of America, WSHU Public Radio in Fairfield, Conn., NPR and AARP Prime Time Radio.

She has a master’s degree in media studies from Rhode Island College and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University.

Rhonda enjoys quiet water kayaking, riding her bicycle and folk music. She was a volunteer DJ for Root-N-Branch at WUMD community radio in Dartmouth, Mass. 

Rhonda J. Miller

The president of Western Kentucky University said one of the priorities for the future growth of the region is to encourage a community of entrepreneurs. President Timothy Caboni laid out his vision for the next 10 years during a speech at the Bowling Green Noon Rotary Club on Jan. 30

Caboni said WKU has the potential to be the center of an 'innovation hub' that combines its strategic location in Bowling Green, affordable living and the talent emerging from the school. 


United Soybean Board

Kentucky farmers will soon be getting crops reports they use for market information and to make decisions about spring planting. The U.S. Department of Agriculture office in Kentucky that does those reports was closed during the government shutdown, but now - it’s open.

David Knopf is regional director for the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, based in Louisville. He said crop reports that were due out on Jan. 11 are now scheduled to be published Feb. 8.

Knopf said the report on corn, soybeans and wheat that’s in storage is especially valuable to Kentucky farmers. 

Jonathan Irish/Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park is open again, now that the government shutdown is over. Park staff jumped back into gear as soon as federal officials gave the OK.

Park spokesperson Molly Schroer said the Green River Ferry was back in service as of 2 p.m.  Saturday, Jan. 26 and cave tours began on Sunday, Jan. 27.

Schroer said initially, notification emails were sent out to ticket holders, and online reservations left open for spring and summer visitors, with alerts that the lapse in federal funding could affect cave tours. But she said that changed while volunteers from Friends of Mammoth Cave were staffing an information table at the park during the shutdown.

“We did receive notice from one of our volunteers that a group had showed up that had recently bought cave tour tickets," said Schroer. "So we immediately shut the reservation system down for everyone, and it has reopened, now that we’ve reopened.”

Salvation Army Bowling Green/facebook

Shelters and organizations across Kentucky are preparing to count the number of homeless people in their communities on Jan. 30. 

It's called K-Count and it's a 24-hour statewide count of homeless who are in shelters or 'unsheltered,' meaning staying outside in what’s described as "a place not meant for human habitation." 

K-Count is part of the annual count by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that’s required as a condition of funding for programs that serve the homeless. 

The Daniel Pitino Shelter in Owensboro will take part in the statewide project. The shelter serves women and families and can house up to 65 people a night. It also has a soup kitchen that can serve up to 175 people, seven days a week. 


Credit Somerset Pulaski County Development Foundation

Plans for a Texas-based company to locate a $75 million plant in Somerset appear to be in limbo over efforts to secure funding for the project.

Somerset officials announced a preliminary agreement with Houston-based Extiel in February 2017. Economic development leaders said the new state-of-the-art Somerset Energy Center was a main factor in attracting the 75-million-dollar project to Pulaski County.

Extiel would use its unique technology to convert natural gas into ultra-clean synthetic fuel products, waxes and industrial hydrogen.

Rhonda J. Miller

When elder refugees arrive in America they leave behind violence or religious persecution, as well as family, culture and their native language. A program in Louisville, Kentucky helps refugees who are 60 and older transition to American life and avoid isolation.

This is a protection against isolation – a social hall alive with music that inspires clapping and dancing among refugees in their 60s, 70s, 80s and early 90s. It’s part of the Louisville Refugee Elder Program that serves arrivals from countries including Bhutan, Congo, Cuba, Iraq and Sudan.

The musician is 31-year-old Leiser Tito, a refugee from Cuba who came to the U.S. two years ago. One of the elder refugees comes up and enthusiastically introduces herself. 


Tri-State Food Bank/facebook

The partial federal government shutdown is sending unpaid workers across the country to food pantries as they struggle to pay essential household bills. 

In Kentucky, more than 600,000 residents get some of their food from the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The USDA issued February SNAP benefits earlier than usual. It’s unclear whether money will be  appropriated for SNAP in March if the shutdown continues.

Glenn Roberts is executive director of Tri-State Food Bank in Evansville, Indiana, which distributes food to soup kitchens and food pantries in parts of Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. He said local food pantries are starting to see more people come in, but that could be just the tip of the iceberg.

Federal Medical Center Lexington / facebook

Workers at federal prisons in Kentucky are among those feeling the financial pressure of the partial federal government shutdown. A nurse who works at a prison in Fayette County said working without pay is raising the level of stress for employees.

Robin Goode works at the Federal Medical Center in Lexington. It’s a prison for about 1,500 male and female inmates who require medical or mental  health care.

Goode is president of Local 817, the local union with about 400 members that’s part of the American Federation of Government Employees.

She said she’s heard a lot of sad stories from prison workers since paychecks were suspended during the shutdown.


Kentucky Association of Food Banks/WKMS

The partial government shutdown is beginning to affect Kentucky food banks as federal workers struggle to live without paychecks. 

Federal workers in Kentucky who are furloughed and or working without pay are feeling the financial strain on their grocery budgets.  

“What we are noticing is a large increase in inquiries," said Tamara Sandberg, executive director of the Kentucky Association of Food Banks. "People are calling, they’re sending social media saying, 'I’m impacted by the federal shutdown. What do I need to do to get help?' That’s why food banks and food pantries are here, we are here to help between paychecks, as you’re waiting for your next paycheck to come.”


Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial

A project to recognize slaves buried in unmarked graves in the Lake Cumberland region is taking another step forward as part of the activities surrounding Martin Luther King Day. The groundbreaking will be held Jan. 18 at Somerset Community College.

The idea for the Lake Cumberland Slaves Memorial took shape after a young white man fatally shot nine African-Americans during a Bible study at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015.

Some Lake Cumberland area residents were at a sunrise service at Somerset City Cemetery and discovered that what looked like a vacant area was actually a site where slaves were buried. 


Rhonda J. Miller

More than 33,000 Kentucky students and their families will now have access to assistance for concerns ranging from school supplies to mental health counseling. State and local leaders were at Moss Middle School in Warren County on Jan. 14 to announce the opening of 28 new Family Resource Centers across the state.

Melissa Goins is the director for the Division of Family Resource and Youth Service Centers. That’s part of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.  Goins said the $8 milion grant is a breakthrough in funding.

“Our Family Resource Youth Service Centers are funded all from state dollars so this is the first year in a long time, in about 10 years that we’ve been able to expand our centers,” said Goins. “We haven’t opened any new ones in about 10 years, so this is really big deal.”


Rhonda J. Miller

One of the biggest barriers refugees face when they arrive in America is learning English.  A program in Louisville, Kentucky helps refugees who are 60 and older cross the language barrier.

“How long has she been in the United States?”

(Conversation in Kinyarwanda language) One year and five months.”

“So she came here when she was 88 years old?”

“She was 89.”


Friends of Mammoth Cave

The partial government shutdown has suspended visitor services at national parks, but the message has not reached many people arriving at one of Kentucky’s most popular sites.

A volunteer group is greeting visitors who continue to show up at Mammoth Cave National Park, including some from other countries.

Friends of Mammoth Cave set up a temporary information table at the national park after some members of the volunteer organization saw many people surprised to find locked doors at the visitors center. Volunteers are offering brochures on area attractions provided by tourism groups from Barren, Edmonson and Hart counties, where the national park is located.

active.com

The partial government shutdown is having an impact on some outdoor enthusiasts in the southern Kentucky region. The Green River Ferry at Mammoth Cave National Park is closed and that’s affecting some hikers and cyclists.

The visitors center at Mammoth Cave National Park is closed and no tours are being held as a result of the government shutdown, but the hiking and bicycling trails at the park are still open the public.

Eddie Bruner is director of Cave Country Trails, a group that promotes cycling, horseback riding, canoeing and hiking in the cave area of southern Kentucky.

WKDZ Radio

The partial shutdown of the federal government has impacted U.S. Department of Agriculture offices in Kentucky. 

One victim of the government shutdown is the USDA Rural Development program. Some of the services in that program include mortgage loans and grants to individuals in rural areas; investment in rural broadband and electric infrastructure; improved roads and ports; funding for water and wastewater treatment facilities.

Here’s part of the recorded message from a call today to the USDA Rural Development Kentucky State office:

“We are on furlough due to the lapse in federal government funding. Please leave a voicemail or email. Please note that we do not have access to email or voicemail due to the current lapse in funding. We look forward to returning your message once funding has been restored.”


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