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. 

Keith Williams/ Courier Journal

The Kentucky native known as “The Greatest of All Time” is the focus of a photo exhibition opening Monday, March 11, at Western Kentucky University.

The photos of Muhammad Ali were taken by more than a dozen staff photographers for the Courier Journal, who had extensive access to Ali during his rise to fame, and later during his fight with Parkinson’s Disease.

WKU photojournalism professor Tim Broekema said the exhibition is not just for people interested in Ali’s success as a boxer.

Rhonda J. Miller

Feeding Kentucky, a nonprofit with a mission to alleviate hunger across the Bluegrass State, reports that food insecurity is a reality for one in 10 residents age 60 and older.

Elder refugees  in Kentucky face an ever higher risk of hunger due to language barriers and lack of transportation.

On a recent rainy afternoon in Louisville, refugees--some of them in their 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s--lined up at outdoor tables filled with fresh leafy green lettuce, bright red bell peppers, cucumbers and mushrooms.

John Gowling, a volunteer for Kentucky Refugee Ministries, began enthusiastically offering mushrooms and other food items to the refugees.


Michael Blackshire

All the attention focused on migrants at America’s border with Mexico convinced a Western Kentucky University photojournalism student to pack up his camera and head to Tijuana.

Michael Blackshire’s creative instincts are to head toward people facing difficult situations and document how their struggles play out day-by-day. He did a previous photojournalism project on gun violence in Louisville, focusing his lens on emotional images of people who lost loved ones.

Blackshire said during his 10 days in Tijuana he focused on the daily struggles of migrants hoping to cross into the U.S. and some who have already been deported, as well as local residents.


Feeding Kentucky

The organization previously called the Kentucky Association of Food Banks has a new name and it’s pledging to continue initiatives to alleviate food insecurity. But even with the continuing support of many state leaders, the initiatives aren't making much of a dent in the state’s problem with hunger. 

In Kentucky, one-in-six people is food insecure. That’s a number the organization with the new name ‘Feeding Kentucky’ is determined to whittle down.

Executive Director Tamara Sandberg said many families and individuals aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from.

Bowling Green Housing Authority

A new grocery store is coming soon to what the U.S. Department of Agriculture has determined is a Bowling Green ‘food desert,’ where it’s difficult for residents to buy affordable or good quality fresh food. 

It’s one of 12 projects in the nation, and the only one in Kentucky, that’s just been awarded a grant from CSX railroad and The Conservation Fund. It’s not a brick-and-mortar grocery, it’s a renovated school bus.

The freshly painted white bus has bright green letters and pictures of fruits, vegetables and milk. It’s called the Mobile Grocery Store and it’s a project of the Bowling Green Housing Authority. 

Kentucky Center for School Safety

One year after a student shot two classmates to death in Marshall County, Kentucky and a former student massacred 17 students and educators at a high school in Parkland, Florida, communities continue to search for ways to bring a sense of safety back to the classroom.

Kentucky has a free school safety tipline created by a former teacher and administrator who worked in the district where  a deadly high school shooting occurred more than two decades ago. 

Karen McCuiston was a teacher in McCracken County schools  prior to becoming the district’s public relations director in 1997.  She never expected that three months into her new job she would be the spokesperson for a tragedy that, until that time, was unimaginable in rural Kentucky. A 14-year-old student shot three classmates to  death at Heath High School in West Paducah on Dec. 1, 1997.


Feed My Sheep Ministries/Mitzi Dowell

There’s a new soup kitchen and warming center in Somerset and the homeless and the hungry are quickly finding their way there.

While she was volunteering at the Living Bread Soup Kitchen in Somerset for more than a year, Mitzi Dowell saw the community’s need for a place for the homeless to get out of the cold – not a shelter with background checks, but a warming center open to anyone when the temperature gets below 32 degrees.  

The door remains open as long as no one interferes with the safety of others.  

Dowell is a member of Somerset First Church of the Nazarene and felt the call to set up a soup kitchen along with the warming center.

She collaborated with the pastor, Mike Grant, and Feed My Sheep Ministries was born three weeks ago, with Dowell as director.

Two dozen overnight guests have already stayed at the warming center at Somerset First Church of the Nazareen. Dowell said the guests are a reminder that unexpected circumstances often cause a person to become homeless, like one man who showed up after serving in the military in Afghanistan. 


Chris Conley/twitter

The high water level of the Ohio River has the Owensboro-Daviess County region under a flood warning until Friday, Feb. 22.  Many roads are closed and the county is handing out sandbags on Saturday morning.

The Ohio River in Owensboro is in a prolonged ‘minor flood’ stage caused by excessive rain, with the flood warning in effect due to the on-and-off small amounts of rain, snow and sleet predicted to last through the weekend. 

Daviess County Emergency Management Director Andy Ball says this is not a flash flood situation like the one that put much of the Owensboro riverwalk and many roads and acres of farmland under water last February. 


USsoy.org

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that Kentucky soybean farmers harvested a record breaking crop last year, with 103 million bushels. That’s up one percent from the previous year. The increase was due mainly to more acreage, with 50,000 additional acres of soybeans planted across Kentucky last year.

But that record harvest is facing market forces impacted by America’s tariff and trade disputes, especially with China.  Some Kentucky soybean farmers are storing the beans, trying to wait until market conditions improve. 

Feeding America Kentucky's Heartland

America’s trade disputes have decreased the export of many food products, so the U.S. Department of Agriculture is buying surplus from farmers and distributing it through what’s called ‘trade mitigation’ programs. 

One Kentucky food bank director said the organization is short on funding required to get the perishables to families in need.

At Feeding America Kentucky’s Heartland in Elizabethtown, two tractor-trailer loads of apples from Michigan arrived recently, as well as a tractor-trailer full of potatoes. USDA surplus coming in also includes oranges, almonds, pistachios and canned pork in the form of barbecue or taco filling. More milk and cheese are due in.


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.

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