An interesting weekend

If you need another reminder about the positive things that are happening around our area, you only have to look at some events that were held during the last couple of weeks.

One was the 29th-annual Alumni Awards Banquet and Ceremony held Oct. 6 at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and another was this year’s edition of the Off the Beaten Path bus tour held Oct. 7 by the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District.

Five alumni were recognized for their contributions and service to the school, the community and the church during the dinner. Each of the four honorees who were present — Rocco Ambrosio, Rosemary Anderson, Stephen Wallace and Dr. Frank Petrola — shared memories of the lessons learned while in the city and on the campus. Also honored was the Rev. Jeffrey Kirby, who was not able to attend the dinner.

And one, Petrola, who stayed in his hometown for his undergraduate education and came back to practice medicine, discussed how that background has helped him to become a respected doctor in our community and a leader in the field of medicine.

That includes his contribution as one of the founders of the Upper Ohio Valley Health Center.

All of those who were recognized described the university as a special place, for its classroom teaching and spiritual lessons.

“We all need the relationships that give us the freedom to live,” Wallace said while accepting the school’s alumni citizenship award.

Those who were honored are examples of the “joyous disciples who have gone out in the world and are making a difference,” the Rev. Sean Sheridan, TOR, president of the university, said in his closing remarks.

The evening reminded us once again of the impact the university and the lessons learned in Steubenville can have on the rest of the world.

Oct. 7’s tour offered another chance to see more good things that are happening around us, and the positive impact that’s felt when area residents are willing to step up and take on the challenges — and appreciate the rewards — of running their own businesses.

Included in the stops was Packer’s Orchard, which sits along U.S. Route 250 just outside of Adena.

Owner Bill Packer discussed the work that goes into growing apples and peaches and the constant battles against nature and government regulators.

The farm, he explained, has been in his family since 1824, and the roadside store has been serving area residents since 1917.

Later in the day, Clint Finney, who operates a farm with his wife, Bobbi Jo, and family, detailed the effort that goes into raising sheep, cattle and pigs.

And, while nature can throw the occasional curveball, there are many other concerns the Finneys face, including labeling restrictions on their products and a lack of processing facilities in our area.

Like all successful business owners, though, they are willing to take chances because they enjoy what they do and find the work rewarding.

And, while that passion and motivation can be seen in the people who run Packer’s Orchard and the Finney farm, both of which have served area residents for many years, it’s also very evident when you meet the people who run Hightower Brewing Co., which started operations in May.

Located just outside of Rayland, the craft brewery was the final stop on the tour.

Owner Greg Whiting, an electrician by trade, explained that he and his wife, Megan, opened the brewery after deciding that it was better to take a chance on something new while they were in their 30s, as opposed to waiting until they were older. He said the operation takes its name from the nickname his fellow electrical workers have given him.

Hightower uses as many local ingredients as it can source, Greg said while explaining how the brewing and canning process is accomplished in the relatively small room that sits in the rear of the Whitings’ home. It’s a very efficient system and very little goes to waste. In fact, Finney collects the used mash from the operation to use as feed on his farm.

And, while Greg works on the brewing process, Megan is busy in the operation as well, even designing the labels for the cans.

The product is available in select area locations, Greg said, adding their beers were featured at last weekend’s Half Hills Music Festival in downtown Steubenville. Plus, the brewery is open from noon to 9 p.m. every Friday, and at other times by appointment only. There you can pick up a growler of one of your favorites, with six-packs of some offerings available.

Are there problems in our area?

Yes, sadly there are. But there also are many positive things happening and many people who are working hard every day and who have a commitment to making our area better. They’re all around us — all you have to do is look.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is the executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)