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South Strabane woman journeys to Jamaica for Mustard Seed Communities

Gentle, warm, Caribbean breezes nudging towering palm trees. The music of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Dreadlocks. Maybe the scent of marijuana.

These are almost certainly some of the things that come to mind when those of us in the United States ponder Jamaica. But the reality of Jamaica is, of course, much more complicated, and no one knows that more intimately than South Strabane resident Cheryl Hettman.

Since 2002, Hettman has traveled to Jamaica at least once every year as mission nurse for Mustard Seed Communities. Founded a little more than 40 years ago by a Catholic priest, the organization has a mission in the Jamaican capital of Kingston, where they tend to children who have severe disabilities or have contracted HIV.

It’s hardly the stuff of postcards and tourist brochures, but Hettman has found tremendous personal fulfillment in the biblical mandate to “open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor ...”

“It’s part of who I am,” Hettman explained last week. She recalled that the first time she went to the Mustard Seed mission, she had to go around the corner and cry at the sight of a child twisted like a pretzel, and would “pray to God to give me the strength to go on.” Hettman said she soon realized that helping these young people “helped me understand who I’m supposed to be.”

Hettman’s first journey to Jamaica grew out of a discussion about tissue perfusion while she was teaching nursing students at Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. While discussing what can happen when fluid passes through the body to an organ or tissue, a student brought up the idea of going on a mission trip. The idea grew from there, and before too long she and the students were on a flight to Jamaica.

Along with Franciscan University, over the years Hettman has taken students with her to Jamaica from the campuses of Penn State University, California University of Pennsylvania, Gannon University in Erie and Washington & Jefferson College. The daily routine on the mission trips entails waking up as early as 4:30 a.m., bathing and dressing the residents of the mission and getting them ready for the day. Much of the work centers on training local caregivers at the mission. The turnover rate can be high, Hettman explained, so new hires at the mission need to learn basic techniques and treatments.

There’s not much time for touristing around – “We usually don’t do anything like that. That’s not the purpose of the trip,” Hettman said – but they do get an opportunity to stop at a restaurant or visit a beach. Though a trip to a Jamaican resort can be idyllic, Kingston itself has notably high levels of crime, and caution in the city is necessary, Hettman explained.

She added, however, “The majority of people who steal are doing so out of a need to help their families.” Hettman also said the Jamaican people are “some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met in my life.”

A native of Erie, Hettman came to the Washington area to attend classes at the Washington Hospital School of Nursing in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Her resume includes work on the faculties of Duquesne, West Virginia and Rutgers universities, and she also chaired the nursing program at Cal U. In 2011, she was recognized by Cambridge Who’s Who for leadership and excellence in nursing.

Mustard Seed Communities also has outposts in the Dominican Republic, Malawi, Nicaragua and Zimbabwe. New branches could be on the horizon in Guatemala, Gambia and Cuba. Hettman says she would like to visit them.

The organization “gives the people a sense that people care for them,” Hettman said.

For additional information on Mustard Seed Communities, go online to

100 Objects

Can you guess the significance of this object? Hint: It is part of the collection of artifacts housed by the Washington County Historical Society. Check back next Monday for an explanation as well as a new object to ponder.

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Three men killed in Greene County wreck

Three men were killed in a one-vehicle accident in Franklin Township, Greene County, Saturday night.

According to Pennsylvania State Police, the vehicle being driven by Matthew L. King, 27, of Waynesburg, was traveling on state Route 19 when it failed to negotiate a curve and struck a guardrail on the right side of the road. The vehicle then became airborne and hit a tree before overturning and coming to a rest on its roof in the northbound lane facing west.

King was killed, as were passengers Derek A. Lohr, 27, and Daniel D. Paletta-Davis, 25, both of Waynesburg.

The accident occurred about 9:13 p.m., police said. The Pennsylvania State Police and the Greene County Coroner’s Office are investigating.

Ex-SC Gov. Sanford adds name to GOP long shots against Trump

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Mark Sanford, the former South Carolina governor and congressman, joined the Republican race against President Donald Trump on Sunday, aiming to put his Appalachian trail travails behind him for good as he pursues an admittedly remote path to the presidency.

“I am here to tell you now that I am going to get in,” Sanford said in an interview on “Fox News Sunday.” ‘’This is the beginning of a long walk.”

When asked why he was taking on an incumbent who’s popular within the party, Sanford, who has acknowledged his slim chances by saying he doesn’t expect to become president, said: “I think we need to have a conversation on what it means to be a Republican. I think that as the Republican Party, we have lost our way.”

Sanford joins Joe Walsh, a former tea-party-backed, one-term congressman from Illinois, and Bill Weld, the former Republican governor of Massachusetts, as primary challengers to Trump.

“This vanity project is going absolutely nowhere,” said Drew McKissick, the South Carolina Republican Party chairman.

Sanford tweeted that he respects “the view of many Republican friends who have suggested that I not run, but I simply counter that competition makes us stronger.”

“Humbly I step forward,” he said.

The 59-year-old Sanford has long been an outspoken critic of Trump’s, frequently questioning his motivations and qualifications during the run-up to the 2016 presidential election and calling Trump’s candidacy “a particularly tough pill to swallow.”

Ultimately, though, Sanford said he would support Trump in the 2016 general election, although he had “no stomach for his personal style and his penchant for regularly demeaning others,” continuing a drumbeat that the then-candidate release his tax returns.

As Sanford sought reelection to his post representing South Carolina’s 1st District in 2018, drawing a primary challenger who embraced Trump, the president took interest in the race. State Rep. Katie Arrington repeatedly aired ads featuring Sanford’s on-air critiques of Trump and attached the “Never Trump” moniker to Sanford, a condemnation in a state that Trump carried by double digits in 2016.

Although unlikely to have had a significant impact on the results, Trump endorsed Arrington just hours before the polls closed, tweeting that Sanford “has been very unhelpful to me in my campaign” and that “He is better off in Argentina” – a reference to Sanford’s secret 2009 rendezvous to South America for an extramarital affair while his in-the-dark gubernatorial staff told reporters he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Asked Sunday if that incident could be a distraction to his campaign, Sanford said that the aftermath had forced him to attain a new “level of empathy.”

“I profoundly apologize for that,” he added, noting that South Carolina voters subsequently forgave him politically and sent him back to Congress.

Days after his first-ever political loss, Sanford described Trumpism as “a cancerous growth,” warning the GOP that the cancer is spreading.

“We have a president that will tell numerous dis-truths in the course of a day, yet that’s not challenged,” Sanford said. “What’s cancerous here is in an open political system, there has to be some measure of objective truth.”

Sanford won three terms for U.S. House in the 1990s, then two four-year terms as governor before the affair marred the end of his second term. He returned to politics a couple of years later and won a special election to his old U.S. House seat in 2013, holding on twice more.

Throughout his political career, Sanford has played up his outsider credentials – both in the U.S. House, where he supported a box to check on federal tax returns to put $3 toward the national debt, and as governor, bringing a pair of squealing pigs to the state House and Senate chamber to protest what he call pork spending.

As the main focus of his presidential bid, Sanford has said he plans to zero in on holding down federal spending, an issue on which he has railed since his initial stint in the House. Known during his Capitol Hill years as a deficit hawk, Sanford expressed a determination to bring debt and fiscal restraint into the national conversation.

“Let’s go out and try to force a conversation about that which is not being talked about in this country,” Sanford said Sunday.

Sanford won’t be able to compete in his home state of South Carolina, which on Saturday – along with Nevada and Kansas – announced it won’t hold presidential nominating balloting in 2020, erecting more hurdles for the long shot candidates challenging Trump.

Sanford’s possible presidential motivations immediately drew skepticism from a primary opponent and some South Carolina political observers who have watched him plot a political comeback before and questioned whether he was merely seeking publicity and relevance.

“This is about Mark Sanford looking to raise his political career from the grave, not him wanting to advance ideas,” said McKissick, the state party chairman.

Last month, Sanford acknowledged his motivations in an interview with The Associated Press .

“It’s not as if I’m saying, you know, I think I can become president,” he said. “But I think you can change the debate, and you might even have an impact on the general election.”

Walsh said he welcomed Sanford’s candidacy but questioned his commitment.

“How the hell can you say ‘I’m going to primary the president of the United States, but I don’t think I can win, it’s not about winning’?” Walsh said in Manchester, New Hampshire. “That makes no sense to me. ... Why would you do this unless you really had a good reason?”

But Weld, in a tweet, proclaimed himself “so excited” that Sanford, “an experienced and thoughtful fiscal conservative,” was in the race.