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Chi-Hi's Ross Kaz

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Fostering hope in Holcombe: A grandparent celebrates 18 years of mentorship

Barb Schemenauer isn’t a typical grandmother. Although she’s raised seven children of her own, her grandchildren number in the dozens – her adopted grandchildren, that is.

Seventeen young students at the Lake Holcombe School crowded around Schemenauer Monday, each excited to present her with birthday gifts. Not only is Schemenauer – fondly known as “Grandma Barb” to the Lake Holcombe students – celebrating her 80th birthday this December, but she’s capping off her 18th year as a foster grandparent for the school district.

“We’re going to surprise her. She doesn’t know anything about it,” said Tracy Geist, one of Schemenauer’s daughters, who came to the school Monday to watch her mother be honored.

As for Schemenauer herself? She remembers all the students she works with, she said. “Every day I’ll hear kids say in the hall, ‘Hi, Grandma Barb!’” she laughed.

Schemenauer has fostered students one-on-one at the Lake Holcombe School District for almost two decades; she volunteers through the CESA 10 Foster Grandparent Program. It’s a national initiative, and the Chippewa Falls CESA 10 chapter currently connects 46 foster grandparents to 14 different local schools.

“It’s a huge impact they have,” said Mary Jo Hanson, the program’s supervisor. “They’re paired one-on-one with kids who could use some extra attention … The kids get that attention academically, and they also get a relationship, so they develop socially and emotionally. It’s all in one package with this older adult.”

The students’ bond with “Grandma Barb” is plain to see. Students from kindergarten through high school greet her with smiles and waves; the younger children compete for her attention.

Joy Webster, a Lake Holcombe School teacher, has taught for the district for 31 years, and said Schemenauer has fostered students in her classroom for 18 of those years.

“She ties everyone’s shoes, and does above and beyond what foster grandparents are supposed to do … She’s had students that are now seniors in high school that will stop in and see her,” Webster said.

She plans to continue fostering children at the school, Schemenauer said.

The program’s volunteers – who must be 55 or older – complete an application and interview process and receive a small stipend if they are income-qualified. All are reimbursed for travel and receive a school meal, Hanson said, and once a month, must attend training at the CESA 10 facility in Chippewa Falls.

“We’re always looking for additional foster grandparents … people who are passionate about working with kids,” Hanson said.

For more information about the Foster Grandparents Program or to apply, contact Hanson at 715-456-8543 or at

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Emerald ash borer found in Eau Claire

Emerald ash borer (EAB), a beetle that kills ash trees by burrowing through the inner bark and intercepting vital nutrients, has been discovered in the city of Eau Claire, the city’s Department of Community Services said Monday. It is Eau Claire County’s first confirmed EAB presence.

The parasite was found “in a dying ash tree on the UW-Eau Claire campus just south of Water Street,” the city said.

DNR staff collected emerald ash borer larvae from the tree on Nov. 27, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) said Monday.

“At this time, City of Eau Claire staff will continue to follow the EAB Management Plan of selective removal and treatments,” the city said Monday.

Chippewa County has been quarantined since September, when emerald ash borer activity was detected in the town of Lafayette. However, until Monday, Chippewa County was surrounded by EAB-free counties. Dunn, Taylor, Rusk, Barron and Clark Counties are still free of infestation, according to a state EAB database.

48 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties are now infected, the DATCP said.

In October, the city of Chippewa Falls began treating several of its healthiest ash trees, and removing and replacing ash trees in city boulevards.

Quarantined counties are under strict orders to avoid transporting firewood out of the county, according to the DATCP. Southern Wisconsin is almost completely quarantined, but infected counties are relatively rare in the northern half of the state.

Signs of emerald ash borer activity include D-shaped holes in the tree’s bark, S-shaped patterns on inner bark, cream-colored larvae feeding beneath the bark and metallic-green adult beetles a half-inch long found on the tree itself.

Information on identifying and treating EAB infestation can be found at Residents of Chippewa Falls can contact the Parks, Recreation and Forestry department at 715-723-0051 or email to find out if the trees in their boulevard are treatable. Residents should contact the department by the spring of 2018 if they plan to treat their trees, department head Dick Hebert said in October.


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Human remains found in Barron County

Human remains were discovered Sunday near a house south of Barron, law enforcement said Monday.

In a press release, Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald said a person had reported that his dog had brought home “what looked like the partial remains of a human skull” on Sunday.

After a search, deputies soon discovered remains of a human body in a wooded area near a house south of Barron on 10th Avenue.

Barron County has no current missing persons cases, Fitzgerald said, and the department is contacting surrounding counties regarding other missing persons cases.

No information has yet been released about identification of the remains.

According to the press release: “The Wisconsin State Patrol, Barron County Medical Examiner, Wisconsin State Crime Lab and the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office in Ramsey, Minn. are all assisting with the case to determine more information on if it is a male or female, how long it has been there and any other way to determine identification of the remains.”