Raising money to bring Connie McCallister home Submitted: 11/17/2013
Story By Shardaa Gray

ATHENS - Connie McCallister went missing nine years ago.

She was 16 years old when she went to a party with her 22 year old boyfriend in Milwaukee.

That's when her family believes she was drugged and taken to Mexico by her boyfriend.

It was nine years before police we're contacted by McCallister this September.

Since that, the family has been trying to get her and her three kids back in Wisconsin.

But some claim the family knew where she was all along.

"That is completely untrue and unfounded. But now I'm not looking back, only forward and I'm looking forward to her coming home." said Connie's aunt, Florence Volzka.

McCallister's aunt is leading the effort to get McCallister home.

But that could cost thousands of dollars.

That's why Trinity Lutheran Church in Athens held a soup dinner to raise money today.

"It is not inexpensive. There's a lot of legalities. She had no proof of identification, so it's very hard." Volzka said.

Volzka first talked to McCallister on Skype in September.

She now talks with her every day on the phone.

"On her first one, she was ecstatic, nervous. We both cried. And I got to see her on that one," said Volzka.

"Now it's all through telephone. She's a tough young lady I'll tell ya. From a lot of things that I know now that I didn't know then."

Volzka doesn't know when McCallister will come home.

Wausau police are working with the FBI and her family to help her get back home.

You can help by sending donations to Trinity Lutheran Church in Athens or Athens Area Credit Union.

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PARK FALLS - Many people in the Northwoods go to church on Sunday mornings, and for some of them it may be begrudgingly.

But there are plenty of people, often elderly or sick, who want to go to church but have a hard time doing so.

Peace Lutheran Church in Park Falls wanted to change that. Since May, they've been undergoing some construction. On Sunday, the church had a dedication ceremony for a special new addition—an elevator.

Now people like 100-year-old Ruth Olson can worship with greater ease.

Before the elevator, Olson said she would get to church by literally pulling herself up the stairs using the railing.

Olson's story is like many. As the older population grows, church buildings don't evolve with them. The buildings are often old and sometimes lack accomodating features for the elderly or disabled, and takes money to update the buildings.

"We have churches where the people are getting older and it's very hard for people to get around," said Rev. Dwayne Lueck, the district president for the North Wisconsin District Lutheran Church- Missouri Synod.

Some parishoners couldn't do what Ruth used to do, and so they would have to worship at a service held across the street in the day care center, instead of in the beautiful church.

"Now all the services can be over here," said Rev. Dale Heinlein, the pastor of Peace Lutheran.

The congregation at Peace Lutheran believed in an elevator, so they paid for it.

"We been talking and planning this for...a long time," said Dick Ross, president of the congregation. "Pretty hard for some of the people, and I think you saw them, pretty hard for some of the people to worship here, so it was time."

"You can see it in their eyes more than anything when they know they have access and when they come up here and just enter the building and no steps, it's a great thing," said Buzz Peters, a parishoner who helped design the new elevator and space.

"We can finally have access for everybody to get into the worship facility, free access, that's what this is all about," Heinlein said. 

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