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Mitten tree brings warmth to Merrill community for 32nd yearSubmitted: 12/18/2013
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter
bmeyer@wjfw.com

Mitten tree brings warmth to Merrill community for 32nd year
MERRILL - You could call Sandy Hull a committed woman.

For 32 years, the Merrill woman has helped keep kids warm with hats, mittens, and scarves.

Again this year, she's in charge of the mitten tree at Miller Home Furnishings in Merrill.

People donate things to keep kids warm.

Hull brings them to schools in Merrill, who distribute them to kids who need them.

"It's gone up to at least 500 pairs of mittens every year. The tree behind you was just cleaned off two days ago. Completely cleaned off two days ago, and was taken to the kids at the schools. Now, it's completely full again," Sandy says.

Hull is grateful for the caring Merrill community.

It helps make the mitten tree a success every year.

"I'm so heartfelt that they would do this for our little children, do this for them year after year. It just tickles my heart. I'm just so fortunate to be able to do this," she says.

The mitten tree has partnered with Miller's for each of its 32 years.

Hull encourages your donations at the store in Merrill through Christmas.

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MERRILL - One hundred years ago, Finland gained its independence from Russia. As part of Finland's birthday, a sauna will travel the United States.

On Thursday, the traveling sauna stopped in Merrill. Since January, the sauna has been traveling around the country.

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RHINELANDER - After nearly 40 years as a pharmacist, Tom Welke has been robbed, threatened at gunpoint, and had his pharmacy burgled.

"It just kind of goes along with the job, in a way," Welke said in Rhinelander's Apothecary Pharmacy on Thursday afternoon.

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RHINELANDER - Nicolet College's Motorcycle Basic Rider Course teaches folks to safely hit the road on their bike.

The class is in full swing for the season.

Nicolet College Rider Coach Mike Murray says even experienced riders can use a "safety brush-up" this time of year.

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It's also important to keep your eyes moving for critters that come out of the woods,especially deer.

"If you know you're going to hit it: let off your brakes, hit it with your handle bars straight ahead looking straight ahead so that your bike stays straight up," says rider coach Mike Murray.

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LAC DU FLAMBEAU - Thursday, volunteers faced mosquitos, ticks and rain to conserve 96 acres of land.

The Marshall Wildlife Conservation Center in Lac du Flambeau hosted a volunteer work day to dismantle a deteriorating pier and platform on a new conservation land donation.

Northwoods Land Trust Executive Director Bryan Pierce says the land has a creek and pond with many swans and beavers.

"We're going to be installing a brand new pier, so it will be a real nice wildlife observation area for people to look at the water, the swans and cranes," said Pierce.

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There were thousands of pounds of sand dropped off and spread out. There was a high need for this because of all the rain we've had this season.

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CONOVER - June 22 makes it the 14th day of rainfall for us this month, and it's not been very convenient.

People all over northcentral Wisconsin have had to deal with storm damage or flooding in some way.

Pioneer Lake in Conover has had a particularly tough time with flooding not only because of the rain, but also because of a dam upstream.

"We've got 20 piers here, and they're floating away, they're underwater," said Maple View Resort and Campground Owner Tony Osiecki. "I've never seen it like this in fifty years."

Osiecki blames the deluge of rain we've gotten in the past few weeks for the flooding in his resort. But he and many others on the lake also blame a dam upstream.

It's located on the southwest side of South Twin Lake in Phelps. It's owned by Wausau-based Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company, and it's meant to maintain the levels of the Twin Lakes. Peter Hansen, the company's Vice President of Operation, admits they are releasing a lot of water--because they are federally required to.

"We are releasing an amount of water that is more than the 500-year rain event," Hansen said. "That means the rain that we've had, according to our calculations, is only supposed to happen every 500 years...We're doing everything within our federal license to lower the water level on Twin."

Downstream of the dam is the Twin River, which flows into Pioneer Lake. Hansen says the company is not responsible for what happens downstream.

That leaves some people frustrated

"[People] have been calling wanting to know what we're doing about the water and what they've got to do to fix it," said Pioneer Lake Association President Terry Wright. "If it's affecting us we have to have somebody we can call to change it."

In the meantime, Osiecki deals with the flooding.

"Move everything back a bit and try to get someone to close the dam and compromise," Osiecki said.

Hansen says the company has been able to cut back on the water release in the past few days, but with more rain in the forecast, that might change. He says Pioneer Lake does not have a controlled structure to help with the lake's water levels.


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