RHINELANDER - People love spending Thanksgiving with loved ones, stuffing themselves silly and watching football. But for others it's a time to give back.
"Some people don't really have the opportunity to do this stuff so rather we give to them than just be selfish with our own time I guess," says Sarah Craig.
That's the premise behind today's event. Grace Four Square Church and North Country Vineyard have been distributing Thanksgiving meals for other people for five years now.
"We're taking them turkey, and stuffing, and beans and corn, and mashed potatoes to all the people who can't celebrate at home with their family," says Gavin Wallmow.
"Most of the time people don't have food that are working on Thanksgiving day," says Ryle Lewis.
They also take meals to everyone at Ministry St. Mary's Hospital, and households where people can't cook, or get out to be with family.
"People are just extremely grateful that someone cares about them on this particular day, Thanksgiving," says co-organizer Molly Ditzler.
"I think this is important so that we can be useful and so that we can share God's word to others, and to just be blessings in our own community," says Elise Ditzler.
The effort has grown over the years. They started by making 150 meals, and now make double that. Their volunteer numbers grow each year as well.
"We have roughly 50 volunteers today. It's a few more than last year; it's a real blessing to have them," says Molly Ditzler.
Everyone has their favorite part.
"It would not be the 101 potatoes that I shucked. It would probably be putting the turkeys in the roasters," says Wallmow.
"Everything. Just the thankfulness of the day," says Lewis.
"The best part to me is getting together and making meals with my friends and other people in my church. Making meals for others who cannot make their own meals today. That's my favorite part," says Elise Ditzler.
Online healthcare enrollment numbers up, still behind expectations
ACROSS WISCONSIN - More people enrolled into Obamacare during the month of November compared to October, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Statewide, 4,426 people enrolled into the federal health program in November.
Glitches and technical issues on healthcare.gov made coverage signup difficult in its early weeks.
Fewer than 900 people in Wisconsin signed up for insurance on the federal exchange in October.
The Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance says the November numbers are an improvement. But J.P. Wieske, Office of the Commissioner of Insurance public information officer, says they're still shy of expectations.
"The numbers aren't nearly enough from our standpoint, and hopefully that will improve," Wieske said.
But Wieske believes that not completely because people aren’t buying insurance.
"A lot of people took advantage of the early renewal process, either small businesses or individuals." Wieske said. "So in a lot of cases while they have the ability to certainly shop on the exchange, they've already locked in a plan for next year."
Estimates say more than 550,000 Wisconsinites were uninsured before the federal law took effect. The state hopes about half of them will get insurance through the federal exchange.
Wieske says they’ll use regional enrollment networks instead of general advertising to get the word out.
"And have people available to staff those, talk to people and to get them where they need to go." Wieske said. "This stuff, while we have simplified it as best we can, it's certainly complicated."
Website improvements have helped more people access information on rates and access to purchase coverage. Even though more people are getting through the site Wieske encourages buyers to double check their coverage.
"I can't emphasize enough that you think you have coverage, you've signed up through the exchange and you haven't received any confirmation, it's worth your time just to call the insurer that you signed up with to make sure they have your information correct," Wieske said.
According to Department of Health and Human Services statistics, 47,173 applications have been submitted. Those applications cover 85,863 Wisconsinites.
Between October and November, 5,303 Wisconsinites have successfully selected and enrolled into a marketplace plan.
MADISON - Gov. Scott Walker's administration plans to schedule round table discussions around Wisconsin for people to discuss the state's tax code and propose changes.
Walker says he wants to lower the overall tax burden every year he is in office. The round tables are to discuss the state's tax structure, not any specific proposal.
Walker and the Republican Legislature this year passed a $650 million income tax cut and a $100 million property tax reduction.
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Revenue Department Secretary Rick Chandler hosted the first tax reform round table discussion on Monday at Beloit College. Walker says more will be announced in coming weeks.
Help signing up for the affordable healthcare website
RHINELANDER - Most people can now successfully get through the online healthcare website. The Obama administration announced today about 365,000 people have successfully signed up.
That's well behind what the administration had hoped for at this point. Some people are still having trouble because the website isn't completely fixed. But the federal marketplace is paying some people to help.
Aylee Herr is a certified application counselor. He helps people navigate the healthcare.gov website. Today he was helping people sign up in Rhinelander.
In two months three workers in his office have only signed up 30 people in Northcentral Wisconsin.
"The number is actually going up and we are enrolling more people not just them but through our educational processes people are able to do this on their own, that's actually helping these numbers go up and the website is actually working a lot better now," says Aylee Herr, a Certified Application Counselor.
The website was designed to be at a sixth grade level. Before logging onto the site, it’s important to understand your family arrangement and household income.
“Once you get that number worked out the second step we want you to do is figure out what hospitals and doctors you prefer," says Herr. "Once you have those two in a way figured out its very easy for you to navigate the website."
The Obama administration and counselors like Herr will continue their enrollment push through the New Year. People enrolling by December 23rd can get coverage by the first of the year.
RHINELANDER - Logging means more to people in the Northwoods.
The industry helped many people form the towns we know today.
That's why the Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce is planning an event to honor the logging history.
The first annual Boom Lake Log Jam will be this summer.
The chamber hopes it can use the jam as an exciting way to honor Rhinelander's logging history.
Lara Reed, the executive director of the Chamber, is excited about the upcoming jam.
"We just have a very rich logging history. Even looking at the Hodag, he is our town mascot and he comes from the tradition of logging," said Reed. "Gene Shepard was a logger, and the name Hodag comes from the name that they was used for one of their pieces of logging equipment. It really is just the history, culture and heritage of our community."
The Boom Lake Log Jam will also bring local restaurants and businesses together.
"We'll also do some different activities during the day, one of the big things we're working on right now is our Boom Lake Burger Battle contest. We're going to have all the area restaurants. If you think you've got the best burger, we're going to have information to get that burger in our competition," said Reed.
Local logging businesses and paper mills will also be involved in the event.
Some of those business will bring machines that simulate logging and tree cutting.
The event is set for Saturday June 21, in Hodag Park.
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